Kicking Us Off Our Public Lands Is
Just Flat Wrong
The Bakersfield Californian | Saturday, Feb 06 2010
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
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
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
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
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
Here's the deal, this is a
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.
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
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