Give a hoot, don’t pollute!
Remember this saying? Woodsy the Owl encouraged many of us to keep our forest beautiful and put litter where it belongs; in the garbage can. For the most part, our trails in the Big Bear area are pretty free of trash, with some exceptions.
Hit a bike trail, especially after a race, and you’re likely to run across a gel wrapper. Wait until the snow melts at trails near roads, and you’re bound to find scraps of sleds and trash left by snowplay tourists.
If you spend much time out on the trails in our forest though, you’ve also probably seen blue painted trees and flags and ribbons tied on bushes and around trees.
Who paints trees and ties up flagging, and is it trash too? Believe it or not, the flagging you see is placed under direction from the United States Forest Service, and serves an important purpose for the long term health of our forest.
The San Bernardino National Forest is a working forest. This means that it has many different uses for the American people, ranging from recreational to commercial needs. The goal is not just preservation, but managed use.
Good management needs good communication, and the ribbons, flagging, and paint we see are one of the ways the USFS uses to coordinate amongst their different teams.
A recent talk with Jeanette Granger, Trails Consultant for the San Bernardino National Forest, Mountaintop Ranger District, helped to explain what the different colors mean for this reported “litter” in our forest.
Blue and White Ribbons: these ribbons are used to mark riparian areas for timber contractors. This tells machine operators to stay away from this sensitive areas as they work on fuels reduction projects.
Pink/Orange Ribbons: these are used to mark resource protected areas, from trees that should not be touched to sensitive historical areas. Researchers use these flags to mark areas for future observations.
In our modern world, the USFS does use GIS data, layers, and devices to mark and read all of this information. However, just as recreationalists need trail signs to mark different paths and directions, foresters need real-life, on-the-ground markings to make absolutely sure they are in the right place.
Once work is completed in an area the USFS does need to make sure all flags and ribbons are removed and the area returned to a natural state. In the meantime, though, all of these markings are valid, lawful, and imminently useful to the people working with and within the United States Forest Service.