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Howdy folks :)

I'm new at this game, but I learn quick. Wondering if this is too much/not enough or lacking ... can you experienced letter-writers give some criticism? Also, I am going to send this letter to the following people. If you can think of others worth sending it to, fire away:

Ed Cole (Forest Supervisor)
David Martin( Bass Lake District Ranger)
Ray Porter (High Sierra District Ranger)
Gayne Sears (Route Designation team leader)
Regional Forester (need to get name & address)
State ohv commission
congressmans office (need to get name & address)

Letter in response to the Sierra NF route designation process (in the NOI & comment period ... public comment period ends Nov. 16th):

October 13, 2007
Ed Cole, Forest Supervisor
Travel Management Team
Sierra National Forest
1600 Tollhouse Road
Clovis, CA 93611

Regarding the Sierra National Forest Route Designation Project:

Dear Mr. Cole and Travel Management Team:

As a regular local user of the routes, roads, and trails throughout the Bass Lake and Sierra National Forest area, I would like to comment on the Notice of Intent , Proposed Action Maps, and the recent public meetings.

Throughout my life, my family, friends and I have been blessed to enjoy the Sierra National Forest of California. The recent public meetings displayed a strong showing of like minded local individuals who also hold the Sierra in high regard. Whether enjoyment of the forest and dispersed camping is by four or two wheeled vehicles, bicycles, horse or foot the majority of public comments that we all witnessed were overly pro-access in nature.

In my younger years I enjoyed the high Sierra by hiking. At other times I have been involved with 4x4 adventures that have always left me with lifetime memories. At this stage of my life I have been enjoying the great outdoors via a trail motorcycle. I absolutely enjoy taking my dual sport trail motorcycle and venturing out into the Sierra National Forest area to explore the great variety of routes, both official and ‘user-created’. Many of these routes are old stagecoach, mining, and logging roads that are regularly used by a multitude of users. The methods of public use of the forest land may differ, but the important underlying issue is that all of these users have enjoyed their public access to routes that have not only been in use for decades, but in many cases have also had established forest service road markers on them for some time.

Many of the routes my family and friends use to recreate throughout the forest are missing from the Proposed Action Maps. Due to the size of the areas in question and the amount of existing routes present in these areas, the current method of inventorying routes seems inadequate. The route designation process is a great opportunity for the Sierra Forest Service to establish a real OHV route system that encompasses all access methods, including 4x4, quad, motorcycle, mountain bike, equestrians, and foot. By your own power point presentation at the final public meeting in Oakhurst, you showed only 54 miles of user created routes carried over into the Proposed plan, and of those only two miles of motorcycle singletrack trails. This leaves the question as to why the potential closures of so many user created routes are looming when there are already so few. Roughly only 10% of quality OHV user-created routes make it to the proposed action. It is of no surprise that almost every person in attendance at all the public meetings were angry over the route closures: the current NOI is proposing to close 90% of existing user-created routes. In the opinion of the local users, this is overly excisive.

You were asked by various people in attendance whether you and your staff have actually visited and witnessed the proposed closed routes in question. A majority of responses from the Inter-Disciplinary Team members was ‘No’. You and your team have claimed that every route needs to go through a NEPA process in either case of opening or closing. It is obvious that not every route slated for closure was put through this process, or more than 54 miles of trail would have certainly been included. I agree that not every single existing route is proper for OHV use. There are cases where over use combined with soil composition or other various reasons makes the use of a route questionable. However, a great majority of routes are very sustainable for wheeled motorized use. Unfortunitly Sierra NF NOI is excluding hundreds of miles of quality routes.

Regarding the maps … the inventory maps & the proposed action maps are not of the same format and fail to show all the user created routes that are proposed for elimination. It appears that only the L1 logging roads are shown as green hashed-marked closed routes, while user-created ‘unauthorized/unclassified routes’ are simply omitted. This is a gross misrepresentation of the amount of routes that are proposed to be closed. As was witnessed at the public meetings, many of the public viewed this fact in a negative way.

The use of a quadrant format places a great burden on the end user to provide a complete and accurate route comment. In order to alert the forest service to a great variety of routes that need to be considered for inclusion into the Proposed Action or alternatives, the public would need to print out dozens if not hundreds of maps. This is an unfair disadvantage because of the time constraint for public comment. The forest service had two years to put together a plan, while the public gets merely just over one month.

While I appreciate the extension on public comment from October 26th to November 16th and the workshops that will be held on October 20th & 27th, the period of time for public comment is woefully inadequate and will ultimately lead to a great many missed routes, roads, and trails that would otherwise be of proper use and utilized by the public for forest access. These missed routes will be a tremendous loss to an overall quality OHV route system.

It is difficult to believe that extreme environmental damage is caused by use of most of these routes, roads and trails. Some routes have been identified to cause some type of misuse or conflict that justifies its restricted use or in an extreme case full closure, but a great majority of routes pose no immediate threat to the surrounding environment. As you have admitted yourself at the various public meetings, the Sierra Forest Service has not personally evaluated every route that is slated for closure under the Proposed Action Plan. By only including approximately 10% of user created ‘unauthorized/unclassified routes’ into a proposed plan, you are missing a great opportunity to establish a sustainable OHV system that serves to satisfy every user of the forest. I ask that you consider the routes submitted by local ‘experts’ that know the route and trail network extensively.

Regarding the differing map formats (Initial Route Inventory vs. the Proposed Action Maps), the way the maps are presented from 05' to 07' versions is not in the same format, and the quadrant piece by piece downloading is tedious and confusing. To help myself and other local users of the forest identify routes in our short time line comment period, I would like to request a copy of the INFRA database for help in properly identifying routes that would provide the best OHV routes. Also, would it be possible to offer an 'overview' map that shows the proposed route closures in one piece, or in just a few pieces instead of hundreds? Perhaps a map option to view four quadrants at once with the option of more detailed quadrant by quadrant analysis. Due to the extremely short public comment time frame, a request of that nature is not unreasonable.

The proposed seasonal periods are also on the excessive side. While I will agree that certain routes, correctly identified for seasonal closure periods via a thorough NEPA process, fall under some of the current time frames, many of these temporary closures should be based on current conditions. Some routes at lower elevation shouldn’t have a period of use at all.
The proposed closure of so many quality routes has compelled me to get involved with other local pro-access users of the Sierra National Forest. It is my hope that you & your team are truly willing to work with these local users of the forest to develop meaningful, sustainable, quality OHV routes and maintain current campground sites both primitive and established. This was the positive attitudes I witnessed during the Prather & Oakhurst public meetings. Please consider including additional routes and trails into the DEIS & alternatives.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Matthew Cassle
Stewards of the Sierra National Forest
BRC, CORVA, AMA D36
 

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This is a great letter, user created route are much harder to fight for being that the environmental impact was not taken in to account when they were created, That is information I have received from Eldorado NF, during our own fight. Include route numbers and or names when ever you can. Blanket statements are good but a specific route name or number will get recorded like a vote so to speak. Wish I could give you more input, we are all learning here, as we go.

Good luck :D
 

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www.sotsnf.org are having a pre-workshop meeting with the maps this Mon. October 15th in Fresno. If anyone would like to attend call me at 559.240.6961 and I'll get you directions. We hope to have some of the big forest 'proposed action' maps (like what they used in the public meetings), and I have copied many hundreds of 05' 'route inventory' map quadrants.

Here is the text of a flier I sent out to our membership list:


Tips for making a public comment on route inclusion into Proposed Action 'alternatives' ...

Deadline for public comment in this part of the process is November 16th!

We need to make our opinions known to the Sierra National Forest ‘Motorized Travel Management’ team on what omitted routes, roads, and trails need to be included into alternatives to the Proposed Action & ultimately included in the Motor Vehicle Use Map. What follows are basic guidelines for making your pro-access voice heard!

Consider which map quadrants you want to take on & analyze. Most times this will be in areas that you are most familiar with, and that is just the kind of local expert knowledge that we need. Sign up on the quadrant list which routes you would like to take on. This will help us know which areas are getting attention & other areas that need it. It is encouraged that people overlap quadrants, the more eyes out there the better!

Step 1
Print out the map quadrant from the 05’ Initial Inventory Maps:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sierra/projects/oh...2005-maps.shtml
Compare this map to the same quadrant on the 07’ Proposed Action Maps:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sierra/projects/oh...2007-maps.shtml
Now prepare to get upset as you realize the extent of these ‘proposed’ route & trail closures! Harness that energy to prepare an official public comment for successful route inclusion into the Alternatives.

Step 2
Identify exactly which routes & trails did not make it on the Proposed Maps, and need to be included. On the 05’ Route Inventory Maps are letter & number designations for official FS & user-created routes. If a good route exists that didn’t make the Inventory Maps, you will need to show approximately on the map where this trail is. Highlight, circle, or in some way make this route stands out on the map.

Step 3
Use the ‘Sierra NF Route Designation Input Form’ provided here: http://www.sotsnf.org/PDF/input_form.pdf
Fill out all applicable fields (except for the anti-access comment field, of course); be as accurate as possible.

Step 4
Consider writing a short, factual statement about why the route should be left open & included in the overall ohv network. Some keywords, phrases, & ideas to consider:
• Route creates a loop opportunity , technical challenge, unique qualities (describe what)
• Camping/hunting/fishing access, scenic area/vista point, rockhound site (useful for road spurs)
• Historical significance or use (stagecoach, railroad, mining route etc.)
• Has this route received Green Sticker funds in the past?
• Route has minimal damage (erosion, ruts, etc.)
• Sustainable route, minimal maintenance required
• Offer assistance via route maintenance volunteerism and/or resource donation
• Does the route have a forest service route number already existing & posted? (i.e. 5S20X)
• Reduction in routes will increase impacts elsewhere
• Whatever else you can think of! :blabla:

Final Step:
Give route comments to SotSNF trailboss Narvell, and/or mail them to Sierra National Forest, Attn: Travel Management, 1600 Tollhouse Road, Clovis CA 93611
 
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