1 Trail Law Primer

Trail Laws Gathering and understanding information that will aid the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation in designing a Non-Motorized Recreational Trail Network Plan for our area of the San Bernardino National Forest. What do laws have to do with trails? Plenty, especially when you live in an area where the largest public landholder by far is the United States Forest Service. Here's how laws affect us: Legally, you cannot build any kind of trail on public lands, or cause any significant ground disturbance, without permission from the USFS. Cross country travel is permitted, but what happens when that [...]

1.1 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations (sometimes called administrative law) published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States. The CFR is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to federal regulation. Title 36, Chapter 2 contains laws and regulations that cover all aspects of USFS trails from the NEPA process to illegal trail building. Want to know exactly where, in Federal Law, it says we can't just go out and build trails without permission? Here [...]

1.2 USFS Trails Management Handbook

There is a large wealth of information readily available to the public on the USFS website; it just takes a bit of digging, and a lot of reading, to understand what is there. The first place to start is the official Trails Managment Handbook. This is a 35 page document that explains start to finish the way trails should be managed in our National Forests. Want to know the black and white definitions of a Bicycle? Climbing Turn? Switchback? Trail? Here you go. This document goes into details on parts of trail management that are [...]

1.3 Trail Fundamentals

Does Every Trail Have To Be Smooth And Easy With No Rocks? Trail Fundamentals tells us that it's ok for some trails to be flat and easy and have tons of directional signage. It's also perfectly alright if other trails have logs across them, rough creek crossings, and signs only at the trailheads. This information lets us clear trails that should be cleared, and lets us know that other trails can have steep drops and don't have to be perfectly raked out and groomed. Trail Fundamentals is a category title used by the USFS to describe 5 [...]

1.4 Trail Assessment & Condition Surveys – TRACS

The 5 concepts of Trail Fundamentals discussed previously do a great job telling us about the trail type, class, managed and designed use, and design parameters of a trail. What we're missing though, is what the trail actually looks like in the field. To address this need, the USFS has a system to survey trails and record data called TRACS. Officially, TRACS is the Forest Service’s required methodology for conducting trail inventory, condition assessment and prescriptions for National Forest System trails. TRACS provides standardized terminology, business rules and data fields which are integrated with the agency’s corporate database [...]

1.5 Standard Trail Plans and Specifications USFS

The USDA Forest Service Standard Trail Plans and Specifications is a comprehensive guide to the design, construction, and maintenance of National Forest System trails and trail bridges. This is very specific information that shows how to develop a trail plan, plan out the needed materials and labor costs, and then actually build each part of the project. When it comes time for actual trail project planning and implementation, the resources here are invaluable. There are individual drawings (autocad) available here for everything from the trail bed to complex bridges and signs.  Trail Plan Trail Cross Section  Switchback with [...]

1.6 Databases: Natural Resource Manager

The Natural Resource Manager (NRM) is a system of database tools for managing Agency data across the Forest Service. Natural Resource Manager includes: Forest Service ACtivity Tracking System (FACTS), Infrastructure (Infra), Natural Resource Information System (NRIS), and Timber Information Manager (TIM) applications. NRM applications provide tools for most of the agency's natural resource business areas. NRM provides information and support for a variety of database, data collection, and analysis products. Most of the NRM products are accessible only within the Forest Service's computing environment. These databases are important because the information within them is what the USFS uses to [...]

1.7 USFS National Budget Justification

The United States Forest Service budget is available online here.  The Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Justification is a 547 page document that discusses the rationale for money spent on our National Forests. Below are selected excerpts that address the Capital Improvement and Maintenance of Trails. This is good background information that explains the trails program goals on a national level. Notably, it discusses the importance of partners in achieving goals, and defines both "maintain" and "improve" in relation to trails. Program Description Program Overview Through the Trails program we manage an inventory of over 158,000 miles of [...]

1.8 Govt Accountability Office Report on Trails

In 2013, the Governmental Accountability Office published a 62 page report titled "Forest Service Trails: Long- and Short-Term Improvements Could Reduce Maintenance Backlog and Enhance System Sustainability". What the GAO Found The Forest Service has more miles of trail than it has been able to maintain, resulting in a persistent maintenance backlog with a range of negative effects. This report tells us what we here in the San Bernardino National Forest already know; the USFS is not keeping up with the maintenance of one of our most valuable resources - the trails in our forest. This document gives us [...]

1.9 How to Enact CHANGE!

Now that we've gone through a completely intimdating and overwhelming amount of information, we've still somehow got to find the energy to actually do something. Going back to the Trails Management Handbook, there is actually a section that details how to start the change; through applicable NEPA procedures. NEPA The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law on January 1, 1970. The Act establishes national environmental policy and goals for the protection, maintenance, and enhancement of the environment and provides a process for implementing these goals within the federal agencies. What NEPA means for us [...]

2.1 Land Management Plan Decision, Vision and Design

A Land Management Plan (LMP) is required by the 1976 National Forest Management Act. This document describes the goals, objectives, and management direction for each part of the National Forest System. The four national forests in southern California adopted revised Land Management Plans in April of 2006. Here are the parts of the Land Management Plan: Record of Decision for SBNF This document presents the decision regarding the selection of a Revised Land Management Plan for the San Bernardino National Forest. It summarizes the reasons for choosing the Selected Alternative as the basis for the revised Forest Plan, which will [...]

2.2 LMP Strategy for San Bernardino National Forest

The strategic direction and program emphasis objectives that are expected to result in the sustainability (social, economic and ecological) of the national forest and, over the long-term, the maintenance of a healthy forest are described in the 159 page Land Management Plan, Part 2 San Bernardino National Forest Strategy. We're starting to get more specific about trails in the San Bernardino National Forest. Below you will find selected passages from this 2005 strategy that relate to trails around Big Bear Valley. Trails Program The program includes designating trails suitable for mechanized (mountain bike) use. National Forest staff expect [...]

2.3 Land Management Plan Monitoring Reports

The purpose of the USFS Monitoring and Evaluation Report is to determine the effectiveness of the Land Management Plan and to determine whether changes are necessary. The Monitoring and Evaluation Report is an annual update on what's going on in the San Bernardino National Forest. Below are selections from these reports that relate to trails in the Big Bear area. Fiscal years run October through September. [expand title="Fiscal Year 2006 Monitoring and Evaluation Report" rel="submenu-highlander"] Fiscal Year 2006 Monitoring and Evaluation Report You can find this report here. South Ridge Unit 4 Reforestation: Unauthorized mountain bike use [...]

2.4 LMP Controversy – Bikes only on System Trails

From the Land Management Plan, Part 3 Design Criteria for the Southern California National Forests: Plan Standards Required by (36 CFR 219) S35: Manage dispersed recreation activities to ensure that environmental sustainability is maintained by utilizing the following measures: Motorized and non-motorized vehicle travel is restricted to National Forest System roads and trails and limited areas that are designated for vehicle use.  This means that mountain bikes are allowed only on system trails and roads. There are many, many non-system roads and trails that have historically been used by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers alike. The above standard effectively [...]

2.5 Schedule of Proposed Actions – SOPA

What is a SOPA? As part of carrying out the mission of the Forest Service, agency resource specialists develop proposals that will enhance or maintain resource values on public lands, as well as generate products. In addition, the public may submit proposals for various uses such as rights-of-way, land exchanges, and recreational events. A necessary part of the planning for these is the environmental analysis and documentation, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and agency direction. The Schedule of Proposed Actions provides a list of proposals that will begin or are undergoing environmental analysis and documentation so that [...]

Can Erosion and Illegal Trails Get Along?

By Caroline Blake At the University of Vermont (UVM), I remember not wanting to walk on the concrete sidewalk between the Student Center and the Library because it was not convenient. Instead, I joined thousands of other students who took the shortcut straight across the grass of the University Green. In time our beautiful green had a noticeable brown path across it that our feet had eroded. Without knowing it, we had created our own trail. A user-created trail like this is made by repeated human use and was not originally designed or built by urban or backcountry planners. Eventually, [...]

Does the Forest Service litter in the Forest?

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 [...]

Field Assessment Data Collection

Currently available GIS Information includes all known routes in the forest, both system and non-system. Using this information as a basis, all non-system routes will be field verified and data will be collected. If additional routes are discovered, they will be walked and collected for insertion into GIS data set. Primary Objective: collect data on non-system routes to identify areas where human impact has created opportunities for hydrological erosion that are potentially damaging to the watershed. Secondary Objective: collect date and observations on non-system routes to identify the needs of non-motorized recreational trail users. Collection Data: Route Length: 100 meters [...]

Lake Fire Information on Trails

Beginning on June 17th, 2015, the Lake Fire burned parts of the San Bernardino National Forest, the San Gorgonio Wilderness, BLM land, and private land tracts in Southern California. Source documents can be found here. A good overview of the after burn situation can be found here, in the Burned Area Emergency Response Assessment (BAER) Power Point Presentation. Below are excerpts from the full Lake Fire Burned Area Report regarding Trails: S. Transportation System Trails: 37.6 miles Roads: 25.6 miles (NFS) 2) Trails Emergency conditions exist for specific trails and sections of trail within the burned area. These emergency conditions [...]

Paid Trail Positions in Tourist Towns

We're pushing for the City of Big Bear Lake, Mammoth Mountain Resorts, the Southern California Mountains Foundation, the United States Forest Service, and the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation to all come together to support our recreational trails. In an effort to convince folks that this is something worth paying for, we had some research done on similar mountain towns and the manner in which they handle trails. Turns out that most similar mountain towns do recognize that TRAILS ARE IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO INVEST IN. REPORT: PAID TRAIL POSITIONS IN TOURIST TOWNS What do other mountain towns do for their [...]