I have seen the enemy...
Posted August 14, 2002 - 07:32 AM
Ladd Gordon3923 An DriveWest Valley City, UT 84119
Dear Mr. Gordon:
This letter is in reply to your letter of April 13, 2002.
Noblett's Canyon and the South Fork of the Weber River Road have been the source of much interest and controversy for the last two decades. The Kamas Ranger District has been involved in Noblett's Canyon issues to maintain public access to National Forest System Lands in Noblett’s Canyon and further up the South Fork of the Weber River. The Kamas Ranger District was particularly concerned in the mid 1990s because increased urbanization of the private lands in the Weber drainage had the potential to reduce public opportunities to access National Forest System Lands. At that time, guaranteed public access in the Weber drainage, via county road, existed only on the Smith-Moorehouse and South Fork of the Weber Roads.
Nobletts Canyon was designated NON-MOTORIZED in the 1988 Kamas Travel Plan.
In the early 1990s private landowners attempted to close motorized access up to the Forest Boundary in Noblett's Canyon and to the Wasatch-Cache National Forest from the South Fork of the Weber Road. Motorized users litigated this potential closure in Nobletts and Summit County received an easement for access to the Forest boundary.
Summit County then asked the Kamas Ranger District if our intentions were to provide access and parking in Nobletts on forest land. In 1996, the Kamas Ranger District completed an Environmental Assessment and then Acting District Ranger Brian Ferebee authorized the construction of a parking area at the mouth of Noblett's Canyon. We did not analyze motorized access since that decision had been made in 1988.
Concurrent with the controversy over public access to Nobletts Canyon, the Kamas Ranger District completed a MOTORIZED TRAVEL PLAN for the Kamas Ranger District in 1995. This plan comprehensively analyzed all of the potential motorized road and trail routes on the District and made the decision to decommission or keep roads/trails depending on the publics need for motorized recreational access as well as considering soil erosion, wetland degradation, wildlife disturbance, and effects on private land. The 1995 Kamas Ranger District Motorized Travel Plan continued the non-motorized designation of Nobletts Canyon.
The Nobletts Canyon parking was constructed in 1997 and was graveled and a cable fence placed to delineate where motorized access ended and non-motorized access (hiking, mountain bike and equestrian access continued).
A sign was posted to describe the project:
Please be good citizens and neighbors!
Respect the private land rights and boundaries
along the South Fork Road and the Lower Nobletts
Canyon Road to this parking area.
Remember that Noblett's Canyon is open only to
pedestrian, equestrian, and bike users beyond this point.
Within a few weeks motorized users were ignoring non-motorized designation and lifting their ATV's over the cable fence and riding up Noblett's Canyon as well as summer home owners were riding ATVs from Hidden Lake and Pine Mountain down into Noblett's. Initially the Forest Service tried additional signing which was either removed or vandalized. Next we constructed a buck and rail fence in lower Nobletts 1998 and signed upper Nobletts with Carsonite Markers. The buck and rail fence was vandalized at least twice with chain saws and signs removed in the next two years presumably by motorized users so they could continue to trespass in a designated non-motorized areas. In 2000, we attempted to make Snowmobile access to Nobletts easier and again the barrier was vandalized with a chain saw.
In the year 2000, Congress initiated a program to increase the funding for both ROAD MAINTENANCE and for the DECOMMISSIONING OF ROADS that were built to provide for short-term access for commodity (timber) removal. Roads budgets have allowed the Forest Service to do substantial improvements to roads in campgrounds, gravel parts of the Spring Canyon Road, Gravel Moosehorn and Mirror Lake Campground roads, complete extensive water bars on the Mudd Lake Flat Road, and beginning work on the Cedar Hollow Road (several hundred thousand dollars).
In addition, Congress directed that other roads not needed for recreation access and/or causing significant resource damage and covered under a Motorized Travel Plan could begin decommissioning roads not needed for recreation or commodity removal. One has to remember that nationally, the Forest service has between 300,000 miles and 500,000 miles of road ( We don't actually know how many roads we have nationally) most of which are not maintained. The Forest Service has received substantial criticism (from Congress and other sources) that the agency does not know how many roads there are on National Forest System lands, that there are many Ghost roads not in forest inventories, and that it is fiscally impossible to manage the large existing inventory of roads. They provided funding so those roads not authorized in a Motorized Travel Plan could be decommissioned. NOTE: NO ROAD IN FOREST INVENTORIES CAN BE DECOMMISSIONED WITHOUT GOING THROUGH A PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT PROCESS SUCH AS A MOTORIZED TRAVEL PLAN. Of course a road or route pioneered illegally can be removed at any time.
The Kamas Ranger District is in it's third year of road decommissioning having completed approximately 21 miles in 2000 and 22 miles in 2001 in the Cedar Hollow-Lower and upper Mirror Lake Highway-Mudd Lake Flat areas. In 2001, the old roads in Nobletts Canyon above the parking area were scheduled for decommissioning along with areas in the upper Mirror Lake Highway, Pit and Page Hill, and Hoyt's Peak.
In early summer 2001, we reconnoitered the existing roads in Noblett's Canyon that were not authorized for motorized use in the 1995 Travel Plan in preparation for decommissioning the roads. To our surprise, we discovered 1.2 miles of ATV trail constructed illegally by ATV use in on the ridge north of Nobletts Canyon from Pine Mountain, all of our signing was gone, routes across private land from the east and west crossed onto the forest, and a route up Noblett's Canyon was being pioneered up onto Slader Ridge (about two miles). The route up to Slader ridge was up to 45 degrees in steepness in some places resulting in substantial erosion.
Because of the extensive pioneering and obvious disregard by some, but not all ATV users for signing, barriers, staying on authorized routes, staying out of meadows/wet areas, we decided to rip all of the old roads with a trackhoe. We used techniques that we had proven to greatly enhance vegetation growth in other past projects: These included: scarification with a track hoe, seeding, and pushing down trees to both Create Physical Barriers To Motorized Travel but also to provide the 1) Shade, 2) protection from trampling, and 3) increased humidity which greatly enhance plant growth and reduce the occurrence of noxious weeds. (Note: the existing roads were all vegetated with shallow routed noxious weeds). In a year there will be substantial new growth in vegetation and the Forest will look no different that many other areas where wind storms have blown down trees.
While we were working on a single track for horse/bikes/ and foot traffic in lower Nobletts and up to the ridge our SWECO dozer needed repair and several weeks passed without being able to work on a single track wide enough for a snowmobile. We received a number of calls about horse/hiker/snowmobile access and some of those contacts were unnecessarily hostile particularly since a hiking/horse/mountain bike route was under construction. Our plan is to finish this work early in 2002 once the trail has dried out. The work will include a gate at the top of the ridge that will pass hikers-horses-mountain bikes but not ATV's in summer and then to open the gate in winter for snowmobile access. We will flatten the road cut from the bottom to the middle bench and install a low barrier that will stop illegal ATV entry but not impede other users.
It should be noted that from a Forest Service perspective that it is the minority of users who irresponsibly pioneer new routes and cause resource damage. Two other aspects of this problem are the use of ATV's by unsupervised youth and some adults who fail to educate their friends and family about their obligation to conform to the Wasatch-Cache National Forest Travel Plan designations. The Kamas Ranger District plans to maintain an ATV and road system for recreation and access. Reducing road density in accordance with the travel plan will increase the health of wildlife populations (particularly deer and elk), reduce soil erosion, and provide non-motorized areas for recreation including hunting.
I hope this has helped explain the decision process and restoration process as it pertains to the Noblett’s Canyon project. We are trying to provide a balance of recreational opportunities through out the district. Fire protection, today, mostly employs the use of helicopters to effectively fight fire in areas such as Noblett’s Canyon. Fortunately, this methodology enables us to provide protection of the forest while improving vegetation for wildlife and riparian species. If you have any further questions, please contact Mead Hargis at the Kamas Ranger District, 435-783-4338 weekdays.
Posted August 14, 2002 - 10:42 AM
Thanks for the heads-up! For my 2c, there are a few issues I have with this carefully crafted letter:
1. Maybe the public did not want the road at the north ridge above Noblett's Canyon decommissioned. That's why it was established in the first place, maybe that's why many continued to use it. The last time I checked, the public calls the shots in this country.
2. All roads were once "illegally pioneered" by their use of the term here. That's where roads come from. Someone needs access, they begin to make a road after some number of trips. The fact that they forgot to inventory it does not give them the right to treat it any differently than any other road that IS on their maps. Something tells me this road was there before 1988.
3. Mileage of closed roads: if you close a 1 mile section in the middle of a 20 mile trail, you pretty much close the whole 20 miles. They fully understand this concept. It allows them to understate their decommissioned mileage and pretend that they are not lying.
4. 45 degrees? Some professional hillclimb events are not that steep in many places. They're trying to tell us enough "atv's" have used this road to make it into an erosion problem? (By the way, can you define what process created the Grand Canyon, and why it is so bad?)
5. They state that if left alone, their handiwork will look like the rest of the forest where windstorms have blown down trees. Would we rather this, or would we rather it looked like local wildlife left a trail up the north ridge above Noblett's Canyon??? This is indefensible.
6. Early 2002 finish to ATV trails? Hellloooo! It's August 14.
7. Did their SWECO dozer actually break down for a few weeks while they were getting ready to think about maybe moseying over and consider constructing those separate-from-everyone-else ATV trails? Or did they build trails/roads for everyone else, intentionally exclude ATV trails, and then change their minds when the fertilizer hit the ventilator?
8. There is no evidence that reducing roads ever helped any species get healthier. According to most conservationists and hunting-friendly biologists, roads actually help in most cases. They provide access to maintain guzzlers, check and improve habitat, and allow for brush clearing to compensate for our current policy of putting out every fire we can control. Wildfires such as we have seen in the Western US recently are bad for wildlife, not good. Small, localized fires that burn the low underbrush and not the entire forest canopy are the only fires that serve to improve the long-term wildlife habitat.
9. Oh yeah, fighting fires with helicopters definitely did the trick in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Wyoming, Oregon, and even in Utah. That's like using insect repellent on a grizzly bear. It's not going to happen.
These guys think we're stupid. I take issue with a government agency mid-level bureaucrat with a bad comb-over peeing on my leg and telling me it's raining outside.
Thanks for letting me vent, Dodger!
Posted August 14, 2002 - 11:32 AM
I sent a pretty, let's say interesting, e-mail to the USFS. I explained to them all the wonderful things that their organization does for the U.S. people in all states. But I felt the need to call them on this because it still absolutely boggles my mind. Some people just don't impress me with decisions they make, and the thinking used to do so. To think that pulling down trees for miles on end is a great solution to "fixing the area" is obsurd.
These people are so damn worried about how population is changing our planet, which for the most part is fine, if not great. We shouldn't be spilling oil into the oceans, we shouldn't cut down every single tree in the forest, hey, no problem there. But as far as access to places on the planet, it's a total loosing battle as far as I'm concerned. If they really want to limit personal impact on our beautiful lands, they only way is to limit the total number of people allowed to exist on our planet at any given time. I've never heard of anyone lobbying to control the human population, but it's growing exponentially, and soon there will not be enough land on the whole planet to support us all. Ahh, but no one wants to think about that.
That's enough, I'm still pissed !
Posted August 14, 2002 - 12:41 PM
Originally posted by Dan from HB:
Thanks for the heads-up! For my 2c, there are a few issues I have with this carefully crafted letter:...
Dan, that was a great post. I like the way you think.
My dad is a rancher near the Gila Natl. Forest, but thank God we don't butt it or have any grazing permits. That pretty much went the way of the timber industry over the last 15 years...
...God forbid a few cows should dare eat some grass in a Natl. forest...
Posted August 14, 2002 - 05:19 PM
I think there is a large part of the USFS that is on our side, even some in the BLM. I also think there is this new radical enviro mindset among some who are very activist in these agencies. These are the people we need to shut down. We need to find examples of them overstepping their bounds such as this one. I sent this URL along with a letter of criticism to USFS, Sens Boxer and Feinstein, and Rep Dana Rohrabacher. I think we should take a position of cooperation with them in our actions (such as volunteer trail maintenance, etc), but loud vocal citizen protest when they close trails and roads. I think some of this crap is left over from the Clinton-era appointments over 8 years. It takes a while for it to be eliminated, dry up, turn white, and blow away like the substance that it is....