Public Land Closures Are Flat Wrong              Updated 2/7/10

The following article by the Bakersfield Californian provides an excellent overview of the problem with the current plan closing 181 miles of roads and trails. It is worth noting that while 31E78 Mill Creek trail is popular with hikers, it is adopted and maintained by Stewards of the Sequoia motorized volunteers and Backcountry horseman. Just an extra issue to make one wonder why this trail should be closed to many of the volunteers, while those who do not volunteer get exclusive use.

Please submit a letter voicing your opposition to the Fixed Date Seasonal Closure of 181 miles of roads and trails in just two minutes CLICK HERE
These closures are just Flat Wrong

Kicking Us Off Our Public Lands Is Just Flat Wrong
Lois Henry, The Bakersfield Californian | Saturday, Feb 06 2010 12:30 PM
http://www.bakersfield.com/news/columnist/henry/x854214302/LOIS-HENRY-Kicking-us-off-our-own-land-is-just-flat-wrong

I'm sorry to keep repeating myself, but apparently no one's listening and since I have nothing better to do, here I go again:

We, the public, must have access to our own land.
That is, or it should be, the guiding principle behind managing public lands.
Alas, administrators at the Sequoia National Forest apparently disagree.
I mentioned a couple columns ago that I thought they did a relatively good job with the Isabella Lake travel plan, negotiating between vehicle access to the lakeshore and environmental demands.

But the seasonal trail closures included in that plan go way, way too far, aren't needed and, in some instances, appear to favor one group of users over all the rest.
The way it's worked up till now is Forest Service roads were closed to motorized traffic based on weather. Snow on the ground? Trails closed. No snow? Good to go.
In this area, there typically isn't a lot of snow, even in winter, so trails have only been closed sporadically and the system has worked well for years.

Under the plan recently adopted by the Forest Service, however, more than 180 miles of trails in the Greenhorn Mountains north of Isabella Lake will be closed -- snow or not -- from Dec. 31 to April 15.

This isn't just going to affect off-highway vehicles, so don't think you're exempt.
If you have to drive on a Forest Service road to almost any trailhead in the Greenhorns, whether you intend to hike, cycle, horseback ride or hit your favorite secret fishing hole, you're either hoofing it in or you're not going.
Some trailheads and use areas are miles off main roads.

  • The popular roadside fishing spot Bull Run Creek, for instance, will require a five-mile hike.

  • If you like taking your horses to Evans Flat Campground, you'll have to park on the paved road and ride eight miles just to get into camp.

  • Accessing the famous Just Outstanding mountain bike trail will require cyclists to pedal three miles uphill first.

  • Of course, off-highway vehicle users are flat out of luck.

And a new wrinkle just discovered by Chris Horgan, president of Stewards of the Sequoia, a group dedicated to multiple use of forest lands, seems to show the Forest Service is favoring hikers over other groups.

After closely examining the many miles of roads closures in the plan, he found that a section of road 24S15 won't be subject to the seasonal closure. This road just happens to lead to the popular Sunday Peak hiking trail.

"Apparently the Forest Service has the time to open and close this one road as needed based on weather for the hikers, or perhaps the vehicles the hikers drive do not cause the kind of damage that everyone else's vehicle cause," he said.

Over in the Breckenridge Mountains, on the other hand, only one road will be subject to seasonal closure, the Mill Creek road No. 31E78. And its closure will be extended to May 1.

This is a very popular trail for hikers, particularly in the late spring during wildflower season, Horgan pointed out.

"Only this one trail is being closed to allow exclusive hiking use," he said. "It's very selective and indicates the closures are not based on weather concerns at all."

I contacted the Forest Service for comment and was told Forest Supervisor Tina Terrell would get back to me, but I never heard from her.

Here's the deal, this is a bad plan.
But it's already been adopted. Follow up meetings and public outcry haven't budged the the Forest Service at all. So now it's in the "appeal" stage.

Horgan said his group is definitely appealing and Supervisor Jon McQuiston told me the county is also filing an appeal.

I'm urging all of you interested in access to your own lands to appeal as well. But there's a trick. You can only appeal if you're a "stakeholder," meaning you made comments during the environmental review process.
That stinks, if you ask me. It's just one more way to keep the public out of its own government's business. Lame.
But there is a way around it. You can send your thoughts to Horgan and he can add them to his appeal.

You only have until Feb. 10, this coming Wednesday, so you'll have to get busy.
I understand that these lands have to be protected. We can't just let people run wild and tear 'em up without a thought to the future.
But arbitrary closure is wrong on so many levels.

  • First, if people aren't allowed to use the land, bring their kids up and create memories that last a lifetime, they won't give a rip about it.
    Which kind of eliminates any incentive for us to hand our tax dollars to the Forest Service to protect beautiful, pristine places we aren't allowed to see.

  • Second, and more important, it's OUR LAND.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears
Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at people.bakersfield.com/home/Blog/noholdsbarred, call her at 395-7373 or
e-mail lhenry@bakersfield.com

 

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