Crews with the Inyo National Forest have begun converting words on paper from the 2009 Travel Management Decision into actual, on-the-ground actions.
As residents travel through the Inyo National Forest this summer they will likely see a diverse array of volunteers, partners and forest crews placing signs on newly designated routes, disguising and blocking unauthorized roads and fixing problem sections of system routes to ensure that they will be stable and can remain open for motorized use.
Other forest specialists are busy analyzing what additional treatments may be needed to stabilize or naturalize unauthorized routes, or to convert these to non-motorized uses.
“These more intensive restoration efforts require additional planning and will include public involvement,” a press release from the Forest Service states.
The Travel Management Decision, signed by then Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch in August 2009, made determinations about which roads and trails on the Inyo National Forest would be designated for motorized uses. Of 1,700 miles of previously undetermined routes, more than 1,000 miles were added to the National Forest Transportation System, for a total of about 2,360 miles of designated National Forest trails.
Over the next five years, the Forest Service will be required to perform certain repairs to routes that were incorporated in the Transportation System.
According to Forest Service Trails Specialist Marty Hornick, those repairs, or “mitigations,” will includes adding signs to mark legal trails, disguising trails that were not included in the system and repairing bridges and creek crossings.
Hornick said those routes that were not included in the motorized travel plan will remain open to non-motorized recreation, such as equestrian, biking and foot travel.
The Forest Service is working with the Student Conservation Association, Youth Conservation Corps. and a Friends of the Inyo Stewardship Group to accomplish the work.
“I think its important for user groups, whenever possible, to come to a decision and help implement it rather than argue about it,” said Friends of the Inyo President James Wilson, who was also a member of the Collaborative Action Group that helped iron out details of the Travel Management Decision along with a number of other user groups. “I think it’s also helpful to the economy and tourist industry,” he said.
Much of the work the Forest Service will be conducting will be funded through grants from the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation trust fund, which is primarily financed through state gas taxes. Forest funds for road and trail maintenance and recreation and resource funding sources will also be used to support the Travel Management Program.
“We’re trying to get those projects that are ripe for implementation across the forest done,” Hornick said. “Our goal is to have all of the work done in five years, we seem to be on track, but there are always fund concerns. We’re on track now, but over the next 2-3 years, it’s hard to tell if we’ll still be on track.”
The Forest Service is also utilizing funds through the California Trail Users Coalition to develop and offer, free of charge, recreational maps for the northern end of the National Forest that outlines legal, usable motorized travel routes. A map for the southern half of the forest will be released later this year.
Wilson said the maps are “a step in the right direction” and will go a long way towards informing user groups of what routes are legal to them, but pointed out that there are a couple mistakes in the maps that will eventually have to be rectified.
Any group or individual interested in assisting the Forest Service with the Travel Management Decision implementation is invited to contact Hornick at (760) 873-2461.
Representatives from the Advocates for Access to Public Lands who were involved with the Collaborative Action Group were unavailable for comment as of press time Wednesday.