Sunday, June 16, 2019

Important Role for Dirt-Bike Based Trail Crews in Post Wildfire Recovery

Dirt-Bike Based Post Wildfire Recovery Project of 50 Inch Trail
Mendocino National Forest - Grindstone Ranger District

One of the lessons QWR learned during the ongoing post wildfire recovery efforts of  three federal destination OHV areas devastated by the 2018 450,000+ acre Mendocino Complex Fire highlight the need for skilled dirt-bike based “strike teams” to perform important hazard mitigation tasks on the narrower 50-inch or single-track motorcycle trails.

Downed Trees on 50-Inch Trail
Mendocino National Forest - Grindstone Ranger District

While some BLM Field Offices, National Forests, and Ranger Districts have excellent trail crews or volunteers that can buck out downed trees or repair trail damage on routes used by larger OHVs such as SxSs or 4x4 vehicles, it appears that many units do not have the staff in-house with those advanced dirt-bike rider skills to deploy on narrow trail-based hazard mitigation projects.

Bucked Out Downed Trees on 50-Inch Trail
Mendocino National Forest - Grindstone Ranger District

As you know, intense wildfires can destroy important OHV management tools along narrow routes such as trail delineators and signs.  Debris flows and downed trees can also impact trail access and in many remote areas they are most effectively addressed by dirt-bike based post wildfire recovery trail crews or strike teams.

Bucking Out Single Track Motorcycle Trail
Mendocino National Forest - Grindstone Ranger District 

QWR believes that OHV recreation sites in California and the West will continue to face the likelihood of more intense wildfires over the next 10-20 years.  And, that creation of skilled agency and/or volunteer dirt-biked based strike teams will have an ever increasingly important role to play in delivery of timely and strategic post wildfire recovery efforts on narrow OHV trails that are largely inaccessible by larger vehicles.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

POST MENDOCINO COMPLEX FIRE UPDATE - OHV Recreation Reopens on Federal Lands in Northern California

BLM and OHV Partners Reopen Cow Mountain OHV Area
June 3, 2019 - BLM Ukiah Field Office

The 2018 Mendocino Complex fire scorched over 400,000 acres of public lands managed by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service.  The Mendocino Complex fire included the 30,000 acre River Fire that impacted BLM lands near Ukiah and the 410,000 acre Ranch Fire that burned mostly on federal and non-federal lands within the Mendocino National Forest boundary.

BLM Signs in over 30 Volunteers at Cow Mountain Work Party
 BLM Ukiah Field Office

It is the largest such wildfire complex in California history.  The wildfire also resulted in the closure of three federal OHV areas that are key destination recreation sites that provide casual trail use, motorized access to non-motorized activities, and permitted motorized events.

BLM OHV Program Lead, Ashley Poggio, Reopens Motorcycle Trail on June 3, 2019
Cow Mountain OHV Area - BLM Ukiah Field Office 

The closure of the BLM Cow Mountain OHV Area and the Forest Service OHV Areas on the Grindstone and Upper Lake Ranger Districts had a direct and significant economic impact on gateway communities, powersports dealerships, and related businesses.

Trail Crew Installs No-Dig Barriers on Dozer/Cat Line
Cow Mountain Volunteer Work Party - BLM Ukiah Field Office

The recreational access prohibitions within the burn footprint also had an indirect resource impact on other OHV areas as trail enthusiasts had to seek their outdoor experiences at federal recreation areas not burned in the 2018 wildfire season.

Understanding the aforementioned hardships the fire closures have had on stakeholders, the BLM and Forest Service have been working diligently to reopen campgrounds and the route network once the most serious post fire mitigation treatments were completed.

OHV Volunteers Install New Route Markers
Cow Mountain OHV Area - BLM Ukiah Field Office

In late 2018, the BLM Ukiah Field Office stated at several public meetings that their post fire reopening strategy was to get the Cow Mountain OHV Area reopened once a majority of the hazard trees were addressed and damaged trail and campground infrastructure was repaired.

Volunteer Trail Recon and Trail Clearing
Grindstone Ranger District - Mendocino National Forest

QWR believes that early communication and substantive engagement with volunteer partners was a critical element that led to the reopening of Cow Mountain on June 3, 2019.

Grindstone RD OHV Program Manager, Sarah Ridenour, doing Post Fire
Recovery of Trails in the Stonyford OHV Area - Mendocino National Forest

The Forest Service also made a similar commitment to restoring public access in a timely manner with an understanding the much larger size and scope the Ranch Fire had on the agency and its recreation facilities.

Don Amador is Member of Trail Clearing Crew on Trail 36
Grindstone Ranger District - Mendocino National Forest

Just as the BLM is honoring its pledge to reopen their unit to public use, the Mendocino National Forest is implementing their “phased” reopening strategy with today’s publication of Forest Order # 08-19-02.  The order reopens certain areas that have received post fire mitigation work by either agency staff, contractors, and recent/ongoing volunteer efforts.

LINK TO FOREST ORDER (with maps) # 08-19-02

Here are the areas/routes reopened on the Mendocino NF

On the Grindstone Ranger District, the following campgrounds are open: Davis Flat,
North Fork, South Fork, Fouts, Mill Creek, Gray Pine Group, and Mine Camp. In
addition, the RV Dump Station, Nail Track OHV Play Area and Day Use, Little Stony
Day Use (all OHV trails and roads remain closed in the area) and Little Stony
Campground (all OHV trails and roads remain closed in the area) are open as well as
the following trails and roads:

Trail 85342 - loop out of Davis Flat Campground
Trail 85341 - north of County Road 43A (M10) - connector trail to campgrounds in Fouts
18N10 - leads to Mine Camp
17N64 - spur to South Fork Campground
17N47 - spur to Fouts Campground
17N60 - spur to RV Dump Station
18N03D - spur to Davis Flat Campground
18N03 - open to junction of 18N03A
18N03A - spur to North Fork Campground
18N08 and 18N08A (access roads to Happy Camp private property)
County Road 42 (Goat Mountain Road) to Little Stony Day use area
County Road 43A Fouts Springs Road open to M10 (Fouts Campground Complex)

The following are open on the Upper Lake Ranger District:
Middle Creek Campground Novice area
Forest Trail No. 60 Erickson Ridge 4x4
Forest Trail No. 61 Coyote Rock
Forest Trail No. 63 Browns Gulch
Forest Trail No. 65 Powder House 4x4 (north of M1)
Forest Trail No. 66 Refuge 4x4
Forest Trail No. 67 Rattlesnake 4x4
Forest Trail No. 69 Windy Point

Please remember that there is a seasonal closure, from May 18 to September 8, which
affects the following trails on the Upper Lake district:

Forest Trail No. 62 Oak Flat Access (also known as Forest Road No. 18N40)
Forest Trail No. 64 Powder House
Forest Trail No. 65 Powder House 4x4 (south of M1, also known as Forest Road No. 19N46)

QWR commends the OHV community and agency leads for exercising patience with, and lending support to, each other during the challenging post fire recovery and reopening process.   It speaks volumes to the substance and quality of a very dynamic private/public partnership that was made stronger by the flames of last year’s wildfire season.

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