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Tahquitz Trails USFS backgrounder memo for everyone to read
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jweells


Jan 4, 2006, 9:57 AM
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Registered: Dec 21, 2005
Posts: 3

Tahquitz Trails USFS backgrounder memo for everyone to read
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Hey all, and thanks for the really positive response to my previous posting about "Tahquitz Trails the USFS and You"! I am really pleased to have met the many of you who wrote. But I realized a moment ago that I was being silly by not simply posting the USFS memo that got this whole thing rolling, so it follows below. James (our USFS guy out here) is a real stand-up kind of a guy. He's been up to my place in Arrowhead and we've had some good talks. Everybody who reads this memo and then wants to just be kept "in the loop", just send me a note - as opposed to "in the lupe" (which I am guessing would mean that you had been ingested by a wolf, and that's only funny to me because I have been reading fairy tales to my children all morning... sorry). So, with no more a-doo, here's James' note about Tahquitz, etc.

jwe

***

Hey Jonathan/Access Fund,
I am sorry we have been out of touch...I have spent quite a bit of time
recently back in New Orleans helping my family recover from Katrina.

I am still very interested in exploring how the USFS can partner with the
Access Fund and the climbing community to help preserve access to Tahquitz,
Suicide and Black Mountain. I have been thinking a lot about this lately
because of another issue that I have been working on. As you know, our new
Forest Plan recently came out. The Plan stated that Mountain Bike use would
only be allowed on desgnated system trails. The majority of the Mountain
Bike trails on this District are user created and thus Mtn. Biking would be
illegal on them. As you can imagine, this caused a lot of concern/anger on
the part of the Mtn. Biking community. After several community meetings, we
have come up with a process to "temporarily designate" these trails to
allow Mtn Bikers to continue using them while we do the NEPA analysis
necessary before they can become FS system trails. I am positive that we
are on the right track, but obviously it would have been preferrable to
begin this process BEFORE the Mtn Bikers were at risk of losing access to
their resource.

It appears that the FS had taken somewhat of a hands off approach to the
Mtn Bikers, as they have done with climbers as well. But when the Forest
Plan issue came up, we were compelled to respond. The trails used by
climbers to access and descend from Tahquitz are also user-created and not
on our system. They are not in any jeopardy right now, but I think the Mtn.
Bike issue brings up the point that things can happen, and that it would be
better to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to preserving
access to these awesome climbing resources. I think it is safe to say that
EVENTUALLY the Forest Service will be compelled to look at hiking on
non-system, user created trails like they have with Mtn. Biking on similar
trails. If (when) this happens, the trail going up to Tahquitz could
potentially be in more jeopardy than others due to that fact that it is in
Wilderness....I feel it would be much better to start thinking/talking
about what we can do to get these trails recognized/designated to our
system so that they would be protected and be able to be officially
maintained, rather than waiting for something to happen to force us into a
reactionary "crisis mode".

I heard at the Mtn Bike meeting the opinion that "If it aint broke dont
fix it", but I fear what could happen in the future if we continue with
this attitude in regards to climbing access.

I know Jonathan that you and I have already discussed this and that you
aksed me to let you know what we wanted to get done, and that the Access
Fund would be willing to work with us to make it a reality. However, there
are several issues that I feel still need to be addressed:

1. I am a climber (even though I hardly get out anymore) and therefore I am
more concerned about the future of climbing around here than other FS
people might be. This is especially true due to the dwindling financial
resources that the District has to address an increasing amount of work.
The Forest Service must use the resources they have available to work on
the highest priorities. Also, my job as Partnership Coordinator gives me
the freedom/flexibility/time to be able to work on building realtionships
with user groups, while everyone else is committed and required to be
spending all of their time working on projects. Everyone here knows that we
have incredible climbing resources on the district, but (in my opinion)
working to preserve access is not a priority because there has been no push
from the climbing community to work on it. The Mtn. Bikers came out in
droves, IMBA got involved, and we were compelled to respond. I am not
advocating that you all start picketing out front of the ranger station,
but I WOULD like your help in identifying climbers that climb around here
so that we can begin the process of discussing (either through emails or
meetings), what are the issues/concerns (from the climbers point of view)
and how we can strategically begin to let the Forest Service know that this
is an important issue that a lot of people care about.

2. Along the same financial lines...in order to designate any trail as a
system trail requires that it must undergo a NEPA analysis. This analysis
can be quite lenghty and costly. If we decide that we DO want to get this
trail on the system, the project would have to be considered a high enough
priority by our District that it makes into the Program of Work (POW) for
that year. Obviously, projects that have community support have a higher
chance of making it onto the POW. Projects that have community support and
financial support (to help with the costs of the NEPA analysis, trail
maintenance/building etc) have an even greater chance of being considered a
priority. The Access Fund could potentially help us not only get community
support, but also harness volunteer labor and identify/leverage any
financial resources that could assist in this process.

In summary, there is no crisis right now, access is not in danger, BUT it
is not gauranteed or 100% secure either. I feel it is in everyone's best
interests to be proactive and begin to build/strengthen the relationship
and communication between the FS on this Ranger District and the climbing
community. I hope that the Access Fund can assist me in this endeavor. I
have several ideas about how we could accomplish this:

1. You all might already know who I need to begin talking with. I am
thinking along the lines of a recognized "climbing community leader" that
could facilitate in organzing an email dialogue or community meeting. I am
new to the area and have had limited time to get out on the rocks on the
weekends due to family commitments (new wife, baby on the way, Katrina..),
and thus have had little to no contact with climbers (either local or
visiting). I really appreciate Jonathans support, but he is over in Lake
Arrwohead and I got the impression that he did not climb over here that
often.

2. You all might know of upcoming climbing events in areas like J-Tree,
Bishop, etc where the climbers present might also be the same climbers who
are coming up here in the summer. I could attend these events and attempt
to meet/engage climbers who would be interested in being part of an
informal "Friends of Tahquitz Climbers Group" or at the very least being
part of an email group.

3. Perhaps the Access Fund could post my contact info on their
website/newsletter explaining that the FS in the Tahquitz area is
interested in collaborating with climbers to preserve access and people
could contact me that way..I imagine that without a crisis, there might be
little interest on the climbers side as well, but you never know....

I am open to any and all ideas/suggestions/questions/comments/concerns and
am really hopeful that we can begin to take the first steps in being
strategically proactive in regards to climber access on this District.

Please respond to all at your convenience, and let us know what you think
about all this.

Sincerely,

Jim Russell, MSW
Partnership Coordinator
San Bernardino National Forest
San Jacinto Ranger District
Office: 909-382-2946
Cell: 909-379-9337
FAX: 951-659-2107
jamesrussell@fs.fed.us
" Si, se puede".


ksolem


Jan 4, 2006, 10:38 AM
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Registered: Jun 30, 2003
Posts: 126

Re: Tahquitz Trails USFS backgrounder memo for everyone to r [In reply to]
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Mr. Russell seems genuinely interested in helping to lay the ground to preserve future access for climbers, as he has also done with the mtn bikers. The implication, however, that at some time in the future the Forest Service would allow wilderness access only to those who use "system trails" is deeply disturbing. The fact is that climbers approach Tahquitz by all sorts of means, the trail up to lunch rock being one of them (it is certainly not the best way up if you are going to do the "Y Crack" for example.)


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