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The Board of Supervisors discussed options for addressing a Cleanup and Abatement Order (CAO) issued by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. The DOT listed three options for consideration, ranging from establishing 1.) a single defined trail, 2.) a defined trail with bypasses around the most difficult sections, and 3.) a ‘corridor’ option which would have included wide areas where specific trails might be defined. In the end, the Board of Supervisors chose the option of a single route with bypasses, which they felt provided the widest range of opportunities for public access while still addressing the CAO. Tom Celio, Director of DOT, stated that all options presented would be able to address the CAO.

This County action formally recognizes the main alignment of the Rubicon Trail and a handful of alternate routes with multiple levels of difficulty near Devil’s Postpile, Forgotten Sluice, Little Sluice, Indian Trail, and the True Old Sluice. Selecting this middle option is a balance between recognizing a single trail and recognizing every existing alternate and bypass. "In reality we lost very little" said Scott Johnston, President of the Rubicon Trail Foundation, “We are still committed to working with the County – this was a good step toward satisfying the Water Board’s CAO."

In a frustrating last-minute twist which caught the public by surprise, the Board of Supervisors also voted to reduce the size of the largest rocks in the iconic Little Sluice Box, a signature section of Rubicon Trail near Spider Lake with high technical difficulty. This controversial proposal, was put forth by Supervisor Jack Sweeney after the public comments session was closed. “I and other members of our volunteer community were blind-sided by the discussion/decision to alter Little Sluice”, said Jacquelyne Bebe Theisen, Trail Boss for the Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR). “Our volunteers deserved the opportunity to discuss the alteration of Little Sluice with the Board of Supervisors – and we will. This is not over.”

RTF and FOTR will work together to push the County Department of Transportation to lead organizations and agencies together to identify and employ non-explosive management techniques to minimize impacts at Little Sluice and still comply with the Board of Supervisors’ instructions. In the meantime, FOTR and RTF will continue to work with the County to mitigate concerns in the area by distributing WAG bags (for collecting human waste) and spill kits (for cleaning up fluids spilled by damaged vehicles); reaching out with education from the kiosks, providing roving trail patrol and mid-trail staff; and delivering internet-based education.

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Forest Jobs and Recreation Act - A Teachable Wilderness Bill

Here's why: the jobs in Tester's jobs bill do NOT hinge on the legislation actually opening up lands that are otherwise closed today for logging. Although maps and other "PR" try to make it seem otherwise, the legislation is very clear on this point. Any logging or forest health jobs resulting from this bill are already permitted today, either via an existing Forest Plan or via legislation already passed into law.

The essence of Tester's bill is an attempt to force the Forest Service to follow through with existing plans that allow logging, and also attempts to limit environmental groups' ability to challenge them.

It is no longer a joke to say it takes an act of Congress to cut timber in Montana.

I don't know if I could have created a better example of how gridlocked the agency is in management, or how these "environmental" groups sue at the drop of a hat. That it requires legislation to log a paltry 70 thousand acres over 10 years is a sad indication of how broken our system of public lands management is.

Read more of Forest Jobs and Recreation Act - A Teachable Wilderness Bill from the BlueRibbon Coalition

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Dunes Season Ramps Up With New Road

“BLM,” Wood said, “will continue its education campaign to increase awareness and compliance of youth all-terrain vehicle (ATV) rider rules in effect since 1988. A rider course is offered throughout California and on-site at the Dunes during winter months. If a child is found to be riding without an ATV safety certificate or is unsupervised, the parent or guardian will be ticketed.”

California state law requires that all ATV riders under 18 years of age possess an ATV safety certificate issued by the state or be supervised by an adult possessing the certificate. All ATV riders under the age of 14 must be supervised by an adult. More information regarding the ATV rider course, including free enrollment, can be found at www.ohv.parks.ca.gov or by calling the ATV Safety Institute, (800) 887-2887.

The Imperial Sand Dunes are the largest mass of sand dunes in California.  They were formed by windblown sands of ancient Lake Cahuilla and extend more than 40 miles in a dune system averaging five miles in width.  More than a million off-highway vehicle enthusiasts recreate annually on the Dunes, which can rise more than 300 feet above the desert floor.  The  Dunes also offer unique scenery, as well as opportunities for solitude and viewing rare plants and animals.


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Recreation Coalition Files Brief in Ongoing Roadless Lawsuit

Brian Hawthorne, BRC's Public Lands Policy Director, said, "With millions of acres of National Forests susceptible to disease and wildfire, it should be evident that a top-down, one-size-fits-all management program should never be the answer. Each roadless area is unique, and local conditions should be taken into consideration when actively managing these lands."

"This marks a decade of involvement in the Roadless issue," said Greg Mumm, Executive Director of BRC. "Force-feeding a 'hands-off' policy to manage Roadless Areas, like congressionally designated Wilderness, has been a goal of the preservationist groups for some time. BRC is proud to have protected recreational access to these lands and we are committed to continue this important effort."

Noting the U.S. Forest Service will be revising the regulations for preparing Forest Plans, Paul Turcke, the attorney for the recreational groups, observed in their brief that "our Nation's treasured forest lands must be actively and effectively managed. Such management necessitates detailed, site-by-site analysis; not politically convenient templates. That improper procedural means advance an agenda of less rather than more active human presence is of little legal import. This Court should seize the opportunity to place the 2001 Roadless Rule alongside the 2005 State Petitions Rule and similar misplaced efforts to manage our National Forests via election cycle emanations from the DC beltway, and to begin a return to professionally-driven and project-focused management that our forests and citizens deserve."

The Recreation group's filing can be found online. Learn more about the history of the Roadless Rule and latest updates on www.sharetrails.org.


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Recreational Groups Prevail In Travel Management Suit

On the NEPA claim, the Court found that the Travel Plan "reduced total motorized routes by nearly thirty percent from the most restrictive [alternative]" present for public comment, and summarized, "the public was not allowed to comment on major portions of the [final decision] because the original [analysis] was not supplemented. Transparency required by law was missing." Other changes between the draft and final decision noted by the Court included restrictions on the off-trail travel allowed for camping and a change in the deadline for winter motorized recreation.

On the MWSA claim, the Court found that the final decision "eliminated roughly two-thirds of previously available motorized routes from the Middle Fork [Judith] WSA." The Court agreed with prior analysis by the Court's Missoula Division that the MWSA requires the Forest Service to maintain the "wilderness character" existing in 1977 when the statute was passed. The Court thus ruled "[t]he Forest's attempt at enhancement or creation of wilderness character in the Middle Fork WSA by adoption of the 2007 Travel Plan exceeded its authority under MWSA."

The remedy for the violations will be determined through additional proceedings. The order directs the parties to submit further materials on or before March 19th, and sets a hearing on the remedy issue for March 29, 2010.

The suit was filed by the Russell Country Sportsmen, Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association, Great Falls Trail Bike Riders Association, Great Falls Snowmobile Club, Meagher County Little Belters, Treasure State Alliance, Motorcycle Industry Council, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and BlueRibbon Coalition. Representing the plaintiffs are Paul Turcke of Boise, Idaho, Bill Horn of Washington, D.C., and Rob Cameron of Helena, Montana.

Read more from the BlueRibbon Coalition.


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