TWIG meeting in Nache
Just confirmed there is a TWIG meeting in Naches tomorrow night (1/10) This is a begining of a process on trail decissions that we need to have members involved in. PLEASE be there if at all possible.
The meeting is at the Naches ranger station. Starts at 7 pm come around back and in the back door.
Thank Jim for posting this up!
The Region 4 meeting is also tomorrow night so some of us cannot make the TWIG meeting.
The Naches Ranger District is looking to close some trails for all user groups. Hiking, horse, motorcycle, ATV, 4x4, etc. You might want to speak now before your favorite trail is closed forever.
Naches Ranger District trail users at odds with district over possible closures
By Scott Sandsberry
Before too long -- this year, perhaps, or 2013 -- some trails within the Naches Ranger District will be closed in response to Forest Service budget cuts.
And the four-wheelers, snowmobilers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, skiers and hikers who use the trails are so up in arms about it that tonight's meeting of the district's Trails and Wilderness Interest Group (TWIG) is almost certain to draw an overflow crowd.
Many of those outdoor enthusiasts who attend these meetings -- which serve as a conduit between the ranger district and its most fervent user groups -- believe they're about to lose access to fully one-10th of the district's trails. That's not the case, said District Ranger Irene Davidson, but some trail closures are almost a certainty.
"A decision is going to have to be made," Davidson said, noting that the decision-making process will depend on input from tonight's meeting -- specifically on which trails users want to keep open.
"Our budget is not as good as what we thought it was going to be," Davidson said, adding that the current omnibus spending bill would mean cutting the district's budget by roughly 10 percent.
"I can't look at these people and say, 'We've got 1,100 miles of trail and by God we're going to keep all of them maintained with absolutely no budget. That's just ridiculous.
"At what point do (trail users) not think we need to tighten our belts?"
Trail-group representatives at TWIG meetings have repeatedly responded to the district's trail-closure suggestions with offers of volunteer trail-maintenance crews.
"Our trails are not in bad shape. They're really not," said Carol Swan, a Backcountry Horsemen of Washington member from Selah. "And they've got (TWIG) people raising their hands wanting to volunteer and help. And the Forest Service's response is to close."
Even the format of tonight's TWIG meeting, in which the visitors will be asked to argue on behalf of their favorite trails, grates on Swan.
"(Davidson) should have to justify closing a trail," Swan said, "rather than we having to justify why to keep it open."
The Forest Service's current Travel Management Plan process requires each district to identify roads and trails it can manage with its current staffing -- and, by extension, identify likely motorized roads and trails for closure.
"What I've been preaching is, 'Tell me about the trail, tell me why it's important to you, so we can start talking about where to spend our money to get the best bang for our buck,'" Davidson said.
Trail enthusiasts, she said, "are just fearful. And no matter how many times I try to tell them, my goal is not to get them out of the forest. My goal is to make my business run here. If I have $100, where do you want me to spend it?"
Some recreationists, though, believe that -- despite Davidson's contention that she's "tried to be so transparent with this whole process" -- district staffers aren't being entirely above-board.
In one recent meeting, Davidson showed photographs of a trails area devastated by four-wheeler use, using the ugly images as an example of why some trails should be closed to motorized traffic.
The problem with that example, said several trail users in attendance, was that the photographs -- taken in the Sleepy Park area off Forest Road 1202 near White Pass -- were more than 30 years old, the area having long ago been rehabilitated.
Walls have definitely gone up between Davidson and some user-group representatives, as evidenced by the November TWIG meeting when she pointed out two attendees and said she didn't want them on any trail-use committees.
One of them, longtime four-wheeler and trail-maintenance volunteer Ron Rutherford, said he was told by other attendees he was persona non grata because he was "set in his ways" and was "not moving in (Davidson's) direction."
"I told Irene it's OK we don't agree," Rutherford said. "She has a job to do, and I have a dedication to recreation and keeping public lands open to recreation.
"My take on this is that for management and Irene, it's easier to close and eliminate than deal with the problem."
And that problem may go beyond just the trails themselves.
"If they close a lot of these trails like they want to, businesses up here or on White Pass, we're going to go down the tubes, pretty much," said Pam Remley, who works at the Woodshed store on State Route 410.
"Right now there's no snow, and (business is) so slow we're just kind of twiddling our thumbs. You've got income and revenue down, employees getting laid off, and if recreation goes down to practically nothing and people don't want to come recreate here, what's going to happen?
"It's a big, vicious circle. It's not just the trails. It's revenue. It's the economy. It's frustrating."
So how did the meeting go?
Grumpy- This is what I was bringing up in the TMP, other shoe thread. Look for a lot of closures, and you can bet most will hit the motorized routes. If they can't get to the hiking trailhead, the non-motorized trails won't get the use, and the upkeep won't be as much, so they will stay available.
NACHES, Wash. -- It was a little bit as if the sacrificial lamb had invited the lions to the party.
Naches Ranger District ranger Irene Davidson had an agenda she needed to move on with at Tuesday night's Trails and Wilderness Interest Group meeting: determine what trails mattered the most to the most people.
But she was standing in the middle of the ranger station's largest conference room, which was overflowing with more than 100 trail users, and most of them had a very different agenda: fight trail closures of any kind, even if it meant raising their voices just a bit.
"I think you guys think that we've got a plan to close trails this year," Davidson said to the crowd. "What we have planned is a seasonal closure on the motorized trails, which we've done several times in the past and we plan on doing again this year. I know it uses the word closure, and whenever we use that, people's hackles get raised.
"But we have no plans to close any trails this year. We don't have a piece of paper saying what trails we plan to close. The Travel Management Plan, that's another thing completely."
But with the Travel Management Plan, which calls for districts to prioritize roads and trails, and the district facing a likely 10 percent cut in its budget this year, the suspicion was inescapable. No matter how earnestly Davidson reiterated her contention that trails weren't on the verge of being closed, many in the room simply weren't buying it.
"I've got a business that relies on these recreation trails," said Bill Grubin, who owns a cycle shop in Yakima. "You shut these trails down, and these businesses are going to fall like flies."
Some audience members were adamant that representatives of their user groups were being left off the Trails and Wilderness Interest Group (TWIG) subcommittee considering the trails issue. Others wanted to know why the district was considering trail closures -- even under the Travel Management Plan process -- when there were volunteers ready and willing to help keep those trails clear.
"Wouldn't it make more sense," one man offered, "to keep the trails open and let us volunteer our time so you get more matching money from government?"
Davidson said budgets could only be made based on what resources they can control and count on. "I can't convince Congress you're not going to walk away, so they're going to deal with what they can control, which is the budget. They don't know if they can count on the help."
"We're offering it all the time, lady," another man interjected. "You just don't listen to it."
Another spectator then suggested, "Why don't we all just shut up and let (Davidson) speak?"
The throng quieted down when Paula Heaverlo, a Backcountry Horsemen volunteer and a TWIG member said the district put far too much stock in the "maintained to standard" phrasing in its trail-system guidelines.
"If you've been volunteering in this district, I can't remember a time when any roads and trails were maintained to standard," she said, adding that she didn't think doing so "is a realistic goal right now."
Heaverlo suggested creating volunteer coordinators -- nominating Backcountry Horsemen notable Mike Drougas and four-wheeler/motorcycle enthusiast and longtime trails volunteer Ron Rutherford -- to serve as conduits between district staff and user groups.
They could more easily muster up volunteers whenever necessary, she said, suggesting the district try such a program for one year ... and not close any trails in the meantime.
"You have so much power up there, and I really want to encourage you to use it in a positive way," Heaverlo said to Davidson. "You've encouraged all these people to be here, take all their ideas and run with them. This is like a second job to all of us. We're here to keep everything open."
Heaverlo's statement drew rousing applause from the assemblage, but didn't seem to carry much weight with the district ranger, who hurried the agenda forward to the trail-mapping process.
Most of the crowd broke into smaller groups at different tables, Jeepers at one table, motorcyclists at another, hikers at a third and so on. Some, having said their piece or not interested in participating in the process, left. But the general level of uncertainty remained.
"Take note about how she said trails won't be closed this year. That's because the Travel Management Plan won't be coming out this year," said Wade Kabrich, a motorized trail user and a member of the TWIG trails-use subcommittee studying the options. Once that plan comes out in 2013 or beyond, he added, "They're most definitely in danger of being closed."
The meeting was packed. In fact Irene wanted to split the groups up into separate rooms but the users wanted to stay together so nothing was missed. There was a lot of angry and distrustful people present and Irene did her best to calm things down. She stated that the FS was looking at a 10% reduction in funding this year (still unknown) and that she was going to have to make tough decisions on how to spend the limited funds she will have. To me she is basically asking us as users what we can live without. She did state that there would be no trails closed this year but next year and the future is a unknown. There was a lot of discussion on the term "up to FS standard" that the new trails coordinator (Jeff) has brought to the table. Very little of our trails meet these standards currently and the thing that scares everyone is if these trails cant be brought to "standard" then they "could" get decommissioned. That has everyone on high alert. The group was broken up into smaller roundtable groups (by user group) and give a table with a large district map and a plastic cover (overlay) We were to mark out the trails that were important to us and fill out a sheet giving the trail info and why this particular trail was important. This is what troubles me. There were a dozen or so 4x4 users present and we only got about 11 forms turned in. If this is to represent what we want then we are in trouble. There are 44 $X$ trails on the district and using this method we only covered abut 1/4 of them. I have copies of the forms filled out and the map as well. (plan to bring to WC). I am trying to contact the FS and see if we can post this form online and submit by e-mail to them. If not and this was our one opportunity then we have a fight ahead. ( I think we have one anyway) Pasted below is a report from a BCH member as well that helps sum things up. Jim
TWIG Meeting report - Jan 10 2012
Just got back from the TWIG meeting. There were at least 60 folks in the room and more out in the hall. I started to take notes, but with my hearing and all, I'll just have to go by memory ( uh-oh ). We all sat with our respective groups ( horsemen together, 4X together........ ) we were asked to fill out forms on trail information; trail #/name; location ( township, range, section/starting point ; type of trail; current known uses; significance to you or your group
( eg. amount of use,connector. previous investment, historical significance, type of experience) ; ranking of significance, low, medium, high and why you chose that ranking; is the trail class appropriate or should it be changed? if changed, to what? ; incidental knowledge of condition ( including tread, known problem spots and/or maintenance challenges ) willing to adopt-name of group__________ to manage the trail to "standard" to address health and safety issues-brushing and removing litter;additional information* is there an acceptable alternative to this trail * easy access for maintenance * option and alternatives for maintenance * strategies for reducing maintenance and any concerns or disagreements from the group please document.
Well, I'll let that soak in and let you be the judge on those questions. Quote of the night was a man of 25 or 30 who said on the question of importance of a trail he said " the important trails our the ones I haven't rode on yet. I might not ride it this year or next, but I'd like to ride it sometime" ( or words to that effect ) he's a 4 X er and wanted to volunteer to keep motorized trails OPEN. I know ALL of us horsemen answered the above questions the same. Ranking of signifcance..............High WHY because we don't want any trails CLOSED.
Irene did say that she had NO in intention of closing trails THIS YEAR. Wade and I talked to Irene a little later on that and Irene said she said it in that way because she doesn't now what might be going on next year or the year after. I really think Irene was being sincere on this.
Ron Rutherford at the mid way point of the meeting gave a little history on the motorized trails on the Naches and as Ron said, when the various wilderness came into being motorized LOST trails, when floods or other natural disasters accured motorized LOST trails. NO MORE LOST TRAILS....ENOUGH.
It got a little heated a few times, but for the most part, it went very well. Many people went home with the maps to fill in at their various club/group meetings and toke forms as well.
I guess to just give y'all a bit of my PERSONAL views on this issue. I don't want to give up a single trail.....PERIOD. We also started going over the 1100 miles of trails and from the FS 's own trail list of ALL the trail on the district it came to 772 miles. That's ALL trails..4 X trails is 170.712 miles...motorcycle....138.578 miles Roger told Ron R that he grooms 135 miles of "TRAILS" which are some roads some cross over trails. Non-motorized trails 463 miles......
Last, but not least, Paula Heaverlo gave a proposal for consideration. A one year wait and see on trail standards, see what the various trail volunteers can do to help the FS with their budget short fall, name two or more volunteer trail coordinators to help the FS with scheduling trail maintenance, allow for a two week chainsaw permitting period to open trails during mid-week, problems areas would fall to the FS crews. Paula gave a very detailed proposal and when she finished Paula received a well deserved applause for her many sleepless night ( Jessie told me that ) over this whole issue. I'm sure I'm leaving something out, but hopefully others will comment and add to what I've wrote.
We'll ALL just have to stay vigilant with these and all other public land issues.......IT'S OUR LAND and we should be able to enjoy OUR LAND in the responsible way that most of us do. The 1% that ALL user groups have are a problem ofr ALL OF US not just this group or that group. We need to work together as Paula Heaverlo said at the November TWIG. Together we can accomplish great deal in the way of recreational security buy just showing that we care.
Mike Drougas Yakima Valley BCHW/ Backcountry Horsemen of Central Wa.
Ok so here is the responce I recieved from Irene Davidson (district ranger. Naches) Her e-mail is in her sig. line. Also attached (I hope) are the Map, form and trails list. Remember our (4x4) trails start with "4W" Remember she wants to know why the trail is important to you. Any questions just ask I will be watching this thread for responces. Please also send me a copy of your responce form so we have documentation of comments. Thanks Jim
Here is the form and the spreadsheet. It would be best to get them in by mid next week as we are trying to gather the information for a meeting on January 31th. We won't turn any away if we receive them later though! I have also attached a copy of the map…please remember how large it is when trying to print.
Take a Walk!! Encouraging participation in the Wellness Challenge!
Irene Davidson, District Ranger
Naches Ranger District
Okanogan Wenatchee NF
(509) 653-1415 office
(509) 834-9958 cell
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