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USFS - Tahoe National Forest

 I have separated my comments for TNF and LTMBU – these are the comments for the Tahoe National Forest portion of the TNF/LTBMU Patrol District Grant Application
 
I appreciate that the TNF supports both OHV and OSV programs, and further appreciate the complexity of maintaining year-round officers and equipment that this entails. With that in mind, I have been disappointed to see how little of the Forest is left to cross-over uses such as OHVs used over the snow, in the DEIS and SDEIS that TNF has released as part of their Route Designation / Travel Management process. There is still some small hope that this oversight will be meaningfully addressed prior to release of the FEIS and ROD, but I am not that optimistic, and that makes me question winter funding for these programs. I do support continuation of winter funding for OSVs like snowmobiles, but expect to lobby for decreased funding if the current trend continues of  ‘managing away’ (a.k.a. ‘closing) roads to use by wheeled vehicles over the snow. Leaving a few scant roads open to wheeled vehicles to use in the winter is a travesty that has received too little attention in Travel Management. Paved roads can be managed for wheeled over-the-snow access in tandem with traditional OSV access – users simply need educated to Share the Road, much as bicyclists and cars share the paved roads in the Forest. Alternately, if the Forest can’t see their way to mandating a road-sharing system, certain areas need set aside primarily for wheeled over-the-snow travel. There’s a balance to be found somewhere short of the current extreme, where nearly every road is designated as legal for OSVs, and wheeled over-the-snow users are outlawed. I challenge LTBMU to drive better balance for these users.
 
I’m most involved with 4x4 OHV recreation, and that seems to be faring passably in the TNF Travel Management process (other than the sweeping seasonal closures mandated by a rogue Regional Forest Office, with minimal accountability to anyone), but I am increasingly concerned about the loss of high-quality single-track motorcycle experiences on all public land, and especially in the TNF. I hope that the enforcement efforts documented in this grant proposal will be matched with an ongoing effort to include trails (especially single-track) that were missed during development of the DEIS and SDEIS, and soon-to-be FEIS and ROC. All Forests have repeatedly emphasized throughout the Route Designation process that the FEIS and ROD are not the end, but rather, are the beginning of a continued management process that will include annual consideration and review of routes for addition into the Forests’ System of Roads and Trails. Other Forests have fallen short of this commitment for annual review, but I hope that TNF will deliver to their commitments.
 
I am excited to see Rattlesnake Road, Gold Valley, Fordyce Jeep Trail, Barker Pass, and Rubicon Jeep Trail prioritized for OHV-related enforcement efforts. In specific context to the Rubicon Trail, I have not yet seen much LEO presence from TNF forest protection officers and LEOs on the trail, but I look forward to it. As enforcement has become more meaningful on the west side of the Rubicon Trail, illegal use has put more pressure on the east side of the trail, since these users have come to expect little law enforcement there. Generally, I have not seen much OHV enforcement on the actual Jeep trails and would hope that this will change as a result of funding this grant – indeed, much of my support is contingent upon it. Some LEOs believe that a highly-modified 4x4 vehicle is critical for enforcing OHV routes, but time and time again we find that officers on foot bring provide the best education and enforcement, followed a distant second by officers on motorcycles or quads. Frankly, I think that 4x4s insulate the officers when they are on the trail and impair their ability to contact, engage, and be most effective. One set of priorities that I don’t think are particularly of value is the stated intention to patrol meadows, cultural area, and restoration sites – unless these are receiving active abuse, I think these resources could best be focused on patrolling the area OHV trails, and in so doing, they’d be in the area to educate/enforce as necessary for any OHV violations on these sites. It makes little sense to me to prioritize enforcement on empty, unmarked, untrafficked sites, otherwise.

I continue to support TNF’s emphasis on engaging enforcement through education, working with local user groups, and hope to see this continue and expand. Informational open houses at major trailheads would work particularly well – depending on the season, a hot cup of coffee or a cold bottle of water are great icebreakers between TNF staff and users, and with so many rules in flux as a result of Route Designation, and so many changes likely to come as the FEIS/ROD is released, informal forums like trailhead discussions will be invaluable to communicating rules changes to the users, most of whom would like to be legal, it’s just that the system is so difficult to understand that it is hard to be fully legal when the rules are in such flux. This sort of visible appearance at trailheads not only helps with educating on changes in rules, but sends a visibly message to criminals that Forest staff is meaningfully present on the trails. This would be especially welcome at the campgrounds, parking, and staging areas that feed Fordyce Trail from Interstate 80. A lengthy string of break-ins continues every year, showing no signs of stopping, and no enforcement agency has stepped up to meaningfully intervene. I’d like to see the Tahoe National Forest step up and lead with enforcement on this issue. Local club meetings are another great way to get education out, and prioritizing attendance by a TNF representative will pay huge dividends in user awareness and buy-in. Please reach out to local clubs in the next years!
 
I'm frustrated with how minimal most of the USFS MVUM maps are, and think it to be unfair that USFS delivers such a minimal map after the OHV trust fund pumped twelve million dollars into the statewide USFS Travel Management process. TNF has a great opportunity to exceed this disappointingly low bar and deliver a USABLE document with lake, river, peak, campground, topographic contours, and other context. Please deliver good maps – it is disappointing to under-deliver so thoroughly on MVUMs, and unconscionable to even consider the Region’s strategy of charging extra for a usable map to be delivered more than a year later. Do the map right the first time, instead of disappointing users first and then charging them more later for what they should have received in the first place.
 
Most of the Direct Expense Line Items look fair, but I am concerned about funding for non-LEO positions, especially those that appear to not impact OHV/OSV use. North Tahoe Backcountry Ski Patrol, Avalanche Forecasters, and etc. should be disallowed unless they can be clearly explained to positively affect OHV/OSV usage. I suspect that the Backcountry Ski Patrol would be displeased that there efforts were being used to support nearly $40K worth of match to OHV/OSV grants!
 
That said, I am generally encouraged by documentation of volunteer matching and heartily encourage Forest management to do even more of this. Many thousands of undocumented hours are spent on the Forest every year by volunteers, and if the Forest works harder to formally document these, it draws them closer to the volunteers and helps with the match to OHMVR. This is truly a win-win-win proposition, since it binds federal, state, and local resources together to work on the trail resources that they all value.
 
This is a modest grant with specific commits and budgets, and I’m looking forward to seeing TNF LEOs on the trail this year. Accordingly, I support this law enforcement grant, even as I hope that these will work well with trail users, displaying appropriate levels of both social and professional interaction. I understand that registration, and insurance (in the case of street-registered vehicles) are necessary, but I hope that TNF enforcement efforts will give higher-priority to enforcing against drunk driving and resource damage. [Randy Burleson - 4/5/10]


 I am writing in support of the grant application for the proposed Butcher Ranch Trail Safety & Enhancement Project.

As the President of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, I (and the organization that I represent) have a deep connection for the area of the Sierra Buttes and the Downieville trail system in particular. The SBTS has provided over 25,000 volunteer hours toward trail maintenance and construction in the areas around the Sierra Buttes and Downieville, CA over the last decade. This area is very important to all of us and we feel a true reverence for this place, its history and unique recreational opportunities it provides.

Considering the new "Trails Master Plan" that has been developed for the Tahoe National Forest, we feel that this project will provide 2 wheeled users a less-trafficked and safer alternative to the current OHV road that will most certainly be receiving an increased volume of traffic once the new Master Plan is put into effect. This new trail will help reduce trail conflicts and should provide 2 wheeled users with an enhanced and safer experience in the Tahoe National Forest.

Please consider approval of this grant application. We (the SBTS) have pledged our support towards the volunteer match requirement specified in the application. [Christian C Feucht, President, The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship  - 4/5/10]



 I support in part the USFS - Tahoe National Forest "Ground Operations" grant request G09-02-20-G01.

Generally I support this grant request with one caveat.  The $32,000 request for a Rubicon Jeep is excessive considering its intended use is very limited.  This grant request states that the primary use of such a vehicle would be to patrol the Fordyce Jeep Trail.  According to users of the trail, a good jeep driver with an appropriate vehicle will complete the Fordyce trail in a jeep in approximately eight hours, a more typical user will take longer.  Consider that the Fordyce is approximately 12 miles in length, that makes the average speed to complete the trail 1.5 miles per hour - less than walking speed.  I have to ask how often the Forest Service would patrol the Fordyce trail if it takes two days to navigate the trail out and back in a jeep.  On the other hand, users of the trail state that a good motorcycle rider can complete the trail in just under one hour, and in two to three hours with a less experienced motorcycle rider.  One has to ask which vehicle is more suitable to patrol difficult trails; a jeep or a motorcycle?

The grant request also states that the jeep would be used to accomplish search and rescue missions.  Informed with the information above, I would suggest that if a rescue were required on the Fordyce that either a helicopter or ATV rescue would be more suitable and efficient than a jeep rescue.  Even a rescue team on foot would likely be more successful than a team in a jeep.

Instead of funding expensive equipment for very specific objectives I would suggest funding maintenance and upkeep of existing equipment that can complete the objective of a wide variety of uses. [Kevin Liles - 4/5/10]



 I oppose the USFS - Tahoe National Forest "Parking and Facility Expansion" grant request  G09-02-20-P01.

The trail system adjacent to this planning project is already stressed with the current amount of OHV users using these trails.  ATV and motorcycle riding in the Tahoe National Forest is concentrated into a few small riding areas, and this one in particular (Forest Hill) receives very heavy use.  Before any planned expansion of existing, or planned addition of new staging areas is considered, the public needs to be offered more trail opportunity to meet the demand of the OHV public.  Promoting increased use, by expanding or adding new staging areas to an already strained trail-system, will only lead to increased impact on such trails.  The likely result, as these trails are pushed beyond their brink of capacity, will be additional trail closures.  The OHV public of this State has suffered enough trail closures, and this grant request is bound to lead to more.

The OHV public does not want, nor needs more infrastructure.  The OHV public does want, and needs additional trail opportunity.  I urge the OHMVR division to spend our OHV tax dollars on trails not parking lots. [Kevin Liles - 4/5/10]



 The California Wilderness Coalition (CWC) strongly supports the Tahoe National Forest’s 2009-2010 restoration and ground operations grant application proposals for Cooperative Agreements with the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Division of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. We believe that these proposals reflect the Tahoe National Forest’s ongoing commitment to maintain an OHV program that balances recreational opportunities with ecological safeguards.
 
We are particularly pleased with the restoration grant request. Illegal OHV use in the American River and Yuba River Ranger Districts is resulting in damage to natural and cultural resources, including riparian areas, meadows, and sensitive plant species. The proposed restoration activities, including decompacting and re-contouring soils, placing barriers, planting vegetation, and controlling erosion will deter further OHV incursions and improve habitat viability in the affected areas. Equally important is the need for funds to monitor and maintain past restoration projects. On-going monitoring, as well as repair and maintenance of signs and barriers as needed, will help to ensure the long-term success of these projects.
 
We also strongly support the Tahoe National Forest’s ground operations grant request. We hope that the proposed activities, including monitoring, trail maintenance, sign installation and repair, and erosion control will largely eliminate the problem of illegal OHV use off designated routes.
 
If you need volunteers to help implement these or other projects, please do not hesitate to contact us. [Sean Baumgarten - 4/2/10]


 Attached please find a letter of support for the Butcher Ranch Project from the High Sierra Motorcycle Club. [Steve Davis- 4/1/10]


 I strongly support the USFS - Tahoe National Forest "Butcher Ranch Trail Safety & Enhancement Project" grant request G09-02-20-D01.

This grant request responds with a balanced approach to the needs of both the OHV community and other members of the public, as well as protects resources.  This grant request demonstrates that certain land managers in the Tahoe National Forest are intimately aware of the land they are tasked to manage and have the foresight, knowledge, and desire to find a solution to a problem that is a win-win for all involved. 

This grant request, if funded, would reroute a section of road that has several problems, and when finished would be an improvement in every way:  1) Resources would be protected as erosion would be reduced.  2) A single-track trail would be built which not only enhances the user experience by getting the user off the road, but is also safer due to lower speeds inherent of such trail design.

This is a model example of how I expect my OHV tax dollars to be spent - improvement to the user and improvement to the environment.  I applaud the Tahoe National Forest for finding a solution to a problem and fixing it rather than the all to common action of closure. 

I urge the OHMVR division to fund this grant. [Kevin Liles - 4/3/10]



 The Friends of Fordyce fully supports your application for the above named grant. We feel there is a great need for increased funding to patrol and maintain the Tahoe National Forest, specifically the Fordyce Trail and its surrounding areas. Increasing usage due to several factors have put a severe stain on existing resources.

General maintenance needs to be performed to allow the public to safely enjoy access to our national forest. The Friends of Fordyce will continue to work closely with your office to help maintain and improve the Fordyce Trail and its surrounding staging areas. Mitigation measures needed due to usage and natural causes will be performed and we will help with improvements such as installing signage and public education and contact.

Continued patrolling of all areas is also needed to ensure responsible use as well. In the past we have offered our assistance in the form of transportation for TNF personnel. We will continue to do so in the future. We also consider the addition of a TNF vehicle capable of accessing more areas of the Fordyce Trail an also indispensible necessity for public safety. It will allow Forest Rangers and LEO’s to render assistance to those in need and increase your public presence to serve as a deterrent to those individuals that might take advantage in an otherwise remote area. The Friends of Fordyce stands ready to work with the TNF to help train any potential drivers of an off road capable vehicle in safe driving techniques, provide what service we can in its maintenance, and offer qualified volunteer help with installation  of any  performance and/or safety aftermarket equipment purchased for it.

The Friends of Fordyce has enjoyed working with your office in the past and looks forward to continuing our relationship in the future. Our goal is to help provide for the quality multiple use of our public lands and the protection of our natural resources. [Bret Preble, President, Friends of Fordyce - 4/4/10]


 
 Attached comments [Steve Davis - 3/31/10]



 Everyone asking for Grant money does it with honorable intentions to manage our public lands , provide sustainable recreation and protect resources.  I agree with all of that and am not one to say "do not fund"  but there are exceptions from my point of view. 
 
In reviewing these grants for 2009/2010  It it is alarming how the % of actual work on the ground changes from one agency to another.  From experience I would like to see no more than 5% of the grant request for staff under Ground Operation go to management.   The key to sustainable recreation on our public lands are for our grant money to be spent on the ground.  
 
Every single grantee should be preaching "Stay on Designated Trail"   regardless what your job is, it is the responsibility of every person involved with OHV that this message has to pushed.
 
Every single grantee should encourage those that are law abiding citizens to put pressure on the "Willfully Ignorant" to change their way so that we can have a "Sustainable OHV recreation"  for future generations. 
 
Lastly I want to thank every single person involved in working on  OHV recreation for your time and dedication . [Ed Waldheim "OHV activist for access to public lands for all" - 3/28/10]


 We are opposed to providing OHV money to the USFS to close the trails!

We have paid to have the trails put in to their inventory. Now they ask for OHV money to have them closed! As we have seen in the "Route Designation" process the USFS is not a good investment for OHV funds.
Give the grants to groups that actually enhance OHV opportunity, like the BLM. [Brendan Hathaway  - 3/17/10]



 Please do not give any state money to a federal agency to close our public land to us.  I whole heartedly reject what the federal government is doing to our lands.  They are tying to kill local economies and discourage people from living free.  It appears as if they all want us to sit and a desk and enjoy the forest on a screensaver. [Casey Crandall - 3/11/10]