Lester Keller, Inyo National Forest, assists with the Bureau of Land Managementâ€™s conservation in Chalfant Valley. In addition to the construction of a new motorized route, ancillary routes were converted to non-motorized trails. Photo courtesy Bishop BLM
A conservation project in the west Chalfant area on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Managementâ€™s Bishop Field Office is nearing completion.
The project involves converting BLM motorized routes to hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use and constructing a new motorized route to maintain recreational access.
BLM Recreation Planner Richard Williams said the agency is eliminating some redundant motorized routes to create other recreational opportunities without preventing OHV users from accessing the area.
While some routes have been changed, the BLM is keeping access available to a road that runs along the back side of a number of homes to maintain a defensible space for firefighters and to ensure there is access for emergency vehicles.
Williams said the project was initiated because development of the private property in west Chalfant obstructed vehicle traffic on a traditional north/south route.
â€śThe new route around the private property will reduce route density in the vicinity and create non-motorized access to avoid user conflicts,â€ť Williams said.
In March 2009, the BLM Central California Resource Advisory Council met in Lone Pine and expressed its support for the BLM to build on the grassroots effort of local leaders to develop a community-based stewardship strategy to maintain the character of the Chalfant Valley.
The conservation project was completed with assistance from the Chalfant Public Land Stewards.
The project follows two years of discussion by BLM and Chalfant area residents and the Public Lands Stewards.
In January 2009, members of the Chalfant Public Land Stewardship and other residents met with BLM to discuss options for motorized and non-motorized recreation in the area.
Williams said two public meetings and a field trip were held to discuss the project with Chalfant citizens. He added that about 20 people participated, and the BLM did not hear any opposition to the proposals.
â€śSo far, the people who have come out while we were doing work have been very supportive,â€ť Williams said.
Mono County Supervisor Hap Hazard said more areas around the state are being closed to off-highway vehicle use, which will increase pressure on areas like Chalfant. Some OHV riders from Southern California are used to riding in open areas rather than on a trail system. An organized trail system with information on user etiquette should reduce problems.
Though the bulk of the construction has been completed, Williams said the BLM will continue to monitor the site to ensure no one is violating the new rules about what routes are open to motorized use.
He said, as of Monday, that there has been one violation.
â€śRight now, weâ€™re out there all the time,â€ť he said.
â€śWe are still monitoring it for additional actions which may include barricades, signing and de-compaction of some roads,â€ť which will promote vegetation growth, Williams said.
After monitoring is complete, the BLM is planning to hold at least one more public meeting to discuss any concerns or changes residents want to see.
The dates and times for that meeting will be announced at a later date.