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Brc's Don Amador Testifies In Congressional Hearing On Boxer Wilderness Bill

July 22, 2004 6:00 AM
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Don Amador testifying at House Resource Committee Hearing on S. 738.
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Landfill site next to proposed Cache Creek Wilderness Trailhead.
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A maintained and legal road that would be closed by this bill.
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Paved road to old asphalt facility in King Range Proposed Wilderness
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Radio transmission towers and road in Cahto proposed Wilderness
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Wilderness closes mountain bike trails too. This Wilderness bill would close the very popular Redbud Trail.

POCATELLO, ID (July 22) — BlueRibbon Coalition's Western Representative, Don Amador just arrived back from Washington D.C. where he testified in a Senate Subcommittee hearing on the "Boxer Wilderness Bill" (S. 738).

As soon as he arrived, Don contacted the BRC offices to send his written testimony and let us know how it went. After reading his testimony, everyone at BRC's main office in Pocatello felt it should be posted on our website as soon as possible.

Brian Hawthorne, Public Lands Director

Testimony Statement by the BLUERIBBON COALITION on S738 to designate certain public lands in Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Lake, Napa, and Yolo Counties in the State of California as Wilderness and to designate certain segments of the Black Butte River in Mendocino County, California as Wild or Scenic River.

Mr. Chairman and honorable committee members, I am Don Amador the Western Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), based in Pocatello, Idaho. The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible use of public and private lands, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. It represents over 10,000 individual members and 1,100 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide.

I am a native of Humboldt County and grew up in the Eureka area hunting, fishing in the ocean and streams, hiking in state parks, and riding my off-highway vehicle on public lands. In fact, the black bear I bagged in the late 1970s was the first bear taken off of Underwood Mountain (a proposed Wilderness area) according to the USDA Forest Service (FS) officer who validated my tag.

Between 1994 - 2000, I was a commissioner and chairman for the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Commission at California State Parks. I currently serve on the OHMVR community stakeholders group. I helped develop the current Memorandum of Understanding between BRC and the Washington Office of the USDA Forest Service. Recently on behalf of BRC, I partnered with the Mendocino National Forest on a joint grant request to Tread Lightly! and their HUMMER HELPS program to fund the restoration of the North Fork Campground that was destroyed in the 2002 Trough Fire. I have been invited to speak on public land access issues by the Society of Environmental Journalists, Outdoor Writers Association of America, and the Western Outdoor Writers.

BRC members work hard to promote a responsible land-use ethic and donate literally thousands of hours to maintain our existing trail and recreational facilities on lands managed by the FS and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BRC also supports the intent of the original Wilderness Act of 1964 as, "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain; an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions."

In general, the public supports protection of these lands. The primary argument is not a conflict between protection and exploitation but a disagreement on the specific actions that are necessary to provide appropriate protection to these areas. In 1972, the Forest Service began the first review of FS Roadless Areas. This study was known as the Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE) process. The intent within the agency, at that time, was to identify areas that met the criteria and then make a determination of which areas qualified for inclusion in the Wilderness Preservation System. One of the criteria in this 1972 process, for inclusion of an area in the roadless inventory, was that primitive roads would be ignored unless they were constructed or maintained with mechanical equipment.

Disagreements over what areas were suitable for Wilderness created significant controversy. In an attempt to reduce the controversy and conflict, the FS undertook a second review (RARE II). This second review resulted in the 58.5 million acres in the current inventory. As part of this review, the FS again made Wilderness suitability determinations. In the several decades since this last review, Congress has designated some of the areas as Wilderness and not acted on some others. Instead of reducing the controversy surrounding Wilderness recommendations, this second review only served to expand the area under disagreement. Wilderness advocates, using the perception that all of these areas � and some BLM properties - are pristine have now pushed forward with their efforts to include all areas as designated Wilderness.

BRC appreciates that Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Mike Thompson want to protect our natural resources and provide for a variety of recreational activities. However, BRC has reviewed this proposal and finds that it has many programmatic and technical deficiencies that could result in the loss of those values that we all seek to enjoy.

Even though Thompson legislative aide Jonathan Birdsong stated (Press Democrat, April 1, 2003), "no current legal roads � for example some of those in the King Range � will be closed if the wilderness act is approved.� � BRC finds that according to proposed Wilderness maps available on Senator Boxer�s website many existing roads including about 12 miles of local roads including the Smith-Etter Road in the proposed King Range Wilderness Area will be closed to the general public or mountain bikers traveling to interior staging areas. Many other legal and existing motorized roads used by hunters and other dispersed recreation interests will be closed as well.

BRC is concerned that road closures in S738 closely mirror other roads that are being closed elsewhere in the state by this legislation�s parent bill, S1555 � The California Wild Heritage Act of 2003. While this bill�s supporters make similar claims that no roads are being closed, BRC found that many recreational access roads including 9N10, 10N14, and 10N14B would be closed in the new Caples Creek Wilderness Area.

Rather than this being a so-called citizen�s Wilderness proposal, the advocates for this legislation simply appear to have used a marking pen and traced many of their proposed Wilderness areas from the Forest Service�s March 2, 2000 Map of Inventoried Roadless Areas on National Forest System Lands. BRC�s review of online maps available to the public of these proposed Wilderness areas found they used general purpose low detail Forest Maps instead of the more accurate 7.5 Minute Series Topographic Maps. As you may know, general Forest Maps only show 50- 80 percent of their legal and maintained road network.

Often because of large scale maps, the marking pen (representing up to � mile in width) obliterates adjacent or boundary roads and makes it unclear if S738 intends to close the road or leave it open. Also, many legal and maintained �logging spur� roads that are usually between 100 yards to 1/4 mile in length are �penned out.� These roads are important dispersed recreation sites or �hunter camps� used by outdoorsmen. Many of these would be closed to RVs and SUVs and these rigs would be forced to park along very narrow FS roads creating both traffic flow problems, potential for theft, and visual impacts.

Much of the hunting and outdoor access for motorized users is based on the �cherry stem� concept. While this idea sounds reasonable, it often fails to live up to its access promise. It must be remembered that motorized/mechanized use via the cherry stemmed concept is only an "allowed" use, not a prescribed use. The Gasquet-Orleans road in the Six Rivers National Forest was originally cherry-stemmed in the California Wilderness Act of 1984, yet in the early 90s it was closed to motorized and off-highway vehicle (OHV) access because that use was not compatible with "Wilderness values." Four-wheel drive use on the BLM's Black Sands Beach in Northern California was recently banned because the agency said, "OHV use [i.e. motorized] is not compatible with Wilderness values."

The passage of the California Desert Protection Act had as one of its "access foundations" the cherry-stemmed route to get buy-off from access groups and multiple-use legislators. Yet, when the final version of the bill was released or went into conference committee, many of those routes were erased from the legislation. Even the Glamis Sand Dunes in Imperial County was a "cherry stemmed" recreation area that the OHV community was promised as a bone, yet today the very groups that pushed the original Act have targeted that area for closure as well.

Because S738 uses many existing and legally maintained OHV and mechanized roads as new Wilderness �boundary markers,� it has created a new and somewhat problematic management dilemma for the FS and BLM. These roads could be called �quasi-cherry stems� and appear to be in conflict with the �3-mile� setback rule. According to the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS), in order to have a wilderness recreation experience, an individual must be at least 3 miles from the nearest road or trail where motorized vehicles are in use.

A Forest Service resource specialist once told me that another reason the cherry stemmed route does not work long-term is because it causes "management problems or conflicts" for the agency. Again this dilemma for the agency derives from the fact that cherry stemmed or quasi-cherry stemmed OHV and mountain-bike (MTB) use is only an allowed activity that does not mesh well with the very strict management or non-management directives for federally designated Wilderness.

BRC believes this legislation is intentionally deviating from the original intent of the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the ROS 3-mile setback rule by �lowering the standards� for federally designated Wilderness so that non-Wilderness lands can be withdrawn from certain public uses and management prescriptions. BRC�s review of this legislation shows that this 21st Century �modern-type of Wilderness� can include radio and cell phone towers, electrical transmission lines, bordering a county land-fill site with views of people dumping their garbage from the proposed Wilderness trail-head, and well maintained roads with culverts. According to apparent promises made to local water districts, utilities, and forest health interests a hiker in this modern Wilderness can expect to see garbage trucks emptying their loads, loggers running chainsaws to address overgrown habitats, bulldozers maintaining existing roads or building a fire line, backhoe operators repairing a culvert so radio technicians can reach a tower, and linemen or linewomen in Dodge Powerwagons, Jeeps, or all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) traveling on roads and trails to repair telephone poles or transformers. You may even find private inholders blocking access to public lands with NO TRESSPASSING signs.

Using the available proposed Wilderness maps posted on Senator Boxer�s website and based on my recent tour of some of the proposed Wilderness areas, I will endeavor to accurately portray what BRC believes the effect will be to the recreation community if the legislation is passed.

Snow Mountain Wilderness Additions - This 20,960 acre proposal would increase the size of the existing Snow Mountain Wilderness by approximately 60%. The affected National Forest System lands surrounding the current Snow Mountain Wilderness Area are important recreation lands used by MTBs, OHVs, hunters, fishermen, equestrians, houndsmen, and people driving for pleasure. It contains or is adjacent to many dispersed and developed recreation site. The proposal would close a number of mountain bike trails and apparently some legal motorized routes that do not show up on the low detail general forest maps used by the advocates for this legislation. As stated before, the sometimes indiscriminate use of a black marker pen on these large scale maps appear to effect a number of routes currently open to legal motorized access interests. The routes closed to mountain bikes include the Cold Creek Trail, Marble Cabin Trail, Bloody Rock Trail, and 9W45. Existing and legal forest roads that are cherry stemmed or quasi-cherry stemmed include, but are not limited to; M3, M6, M10, 17N02, 17N29, 17N33, 17N87, 18N02, 18N04, and 19N12. Also at risk of closure to motorized access are many dispersed hunter campsites that exist at the end of short logging spur roads. Since this area is at risk for catastrophic wildfire, BRC feels this Wilderness addition would complicate efforts to manage federal lands for forest health and fire protection and would place the local community including the nearby Fouts Springs Youth Facility in serious jeopardy. BRC does not believe this area qualifies for federal Wilderness under the guidelines of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Sanhedrin Mountain Wilderness Addition - This 10,160 acre proposal appears to close a number of OHV and mountain bike opportunities. These include, but are not limited to, road near Pen Creek, and road south of L. Signal Peak. 9N16 appears to be cherry stemmed or quasi-cherry stemmed on the proposed Wilderness map. A Wilderness designation would impact the agency�s ability to actively manage the area for wildfire. BRC believes this area does not qualify for federal Wilderness.

Yuki Wilderness Addition � This 51,790 acre proposal appears to close a number of existing and legal OHV and mountain bike routes. These include, but are not limited to, 10W27, 10W32, 21N19, 4 unnamed roads/trails in the NW section, and a 4WD trail near Thatcher Creek. Roads that are cherry stemmed or quasi-cherry stemmed include, but are not limited to, M1, 20N14, 21N08, 21N11, and 21N18. Too many existing recreation facilities would be closed or otherwise impacted by this proposal. It would also functionally limit the agency�s ability to actively manage said lands for forest health and wildfire protection.

Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness Additions � This proposal would add 26,760 acres to the existing 153,841 acre Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness area. These additions would close all or portions of many existing and legal mountain bike trails and/or motorized routes. These impacts include, but are not limited to, 10W12, 10W13, 10W36, 10W36, 10W47, National Recreational Trail, 24N21, and the Leech Lake Mountain Road. The routes that are cherry stemmed or quasi-cherry stemmed include, but are not limited to, M1, M2, M21, 9W36, 23N34, 24N21, 25N11, 25N16E, 25N18, 25N34, 28N23, Forest Road 35, and Forest Road 45. This proposal would negatively impact existing multiple-use recreation facilities that compliment the existing Wilderness area. BRC believes this plan would affect the agency�s ability to actively manage the area for forest health and fire prevention.

Mad River Buttes Wilderness Addition � This 5,740 acre proposal would close one of the only legal semi-primitive OHV trails in the Six Rivers National Forest. 4E26 is also
known as the Bug Creek Trail and is one of my personal favorites on the Six Rivers National Forest. It is being successfully managed for both OHVs and mountain bikes under existing statutes, codes, and regulations including direction from the 1995 Six Rivers National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. Roads cherry stemmed or quasi-cherry stemmed include, but are not limited to, Route 1, 3N05, and 4N38. BRC does not believe it is in the public�s best interest for Congress to withdraw this area from multiple-use recreation and resource management. BRC does not believe this area qualifies for federal Wilderness.

Siskiyou Wilderness Area Additions � This proposal consists of 33,750 acres in Del Norte County and 8,440 acres in Humboldt County. The access disaster story of the Gasquet-Orleans Road (G-O Road) is one of the best examples of why cherry stemmed roads can be eventually closed. The G-O road was cherry stemmed in the California Wilderness Act of 1984 because it provided an important access route for trade, commerce, and Forest Service administrative activities between the coast and the inland valleys. However, because cherry stemmed routes often cause management problems or impact �Wilderness values� this road was closed to motorized and mechanized use in the early 1990s despite promises � similar to the buffer exclusion clauses in this bill � in the 1984 Act. The segments of the following mountain bike trails that appear to be impacted include, but are not limited to, 3E01, 4E09, 5E06, S. Kelsey Trail, and the trail near Norcross Campground. Short logging spur roads may be impacted by this bill as well. Roads cherry stemmed or quasi-cherry stemmed include, but are not limited to, G-O Road, 12N11, 13N01, 13N02, 13N34, 13N44, 13N44D, 14N01, 14N02, 14N06, 14N39, 15N01, 15N17, 15N17Y, 15N19, 15N27, 15N34, 15N35, 15N36, 16N02, 16N28, 17N11, 17N32, and 18N07. BRC believes these additions do not meet the guidelines for federal Wilderness.

Mount. Lassic Wilderness Addition � This proposal would add an additional 7, 100 acres of Wilderness to the Six Rivers National Forest. This area already has special protection afforded it by virtue of its designation as a botanical area. BRC is concerned that an important segment of 1S07 also known as the California Backcountry Motorized Trail will be quasi-cherry stemmed and placed at risk for future closure. 2S08C appears to be quasi-cherry stemmed as well. Several hunting spur roads also appear to be at risk for closure. BRC feels this area should remain in its current status as a botanical area.

Trinity Alps Wilderness Additions � This proposal would add an additional 26,510 acres of Wilderness to the Six Rivers National Forest. It appears this plan would close segments of the following mountain bike opportunities, Horse Ridge Trail, 6E14, 6E15, 6E18, and 6E31 in the Six Rivers National Forest or adjacent Forests. Numerous legal logging spur roads would be closed to motorized hunting access. The cherry stemmed or quasi-cherry stemmed routes include, but are not limited to, 5N04, 5N05, 5N15, 5N18, 5N33, 7N09, 7N15, 7N26, 7N53, 9N03, 9N26, 9N31, 10N01, 10N02, 10N01C, 10N03, 10N03B, and the Lubbs Trail. BRC feels the areas proposed are in conflict with the original intent of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Underwood Wilderness Addition � This proposal would add an additional 3,500 acres to the Wilderness System. I recently toured this area with Scott Sinclair a former OHV recreation manager for the Six Rivers National Forest. BRC found numerous spur roads that would be closed as well as 5N27D. An important mountain bike trail � 5E23 � would be closed to cyclists. We also found a number of ongoing forest health projects including the construction of �truck roads� to address active timber and wildfire management in the �Wilderness� portion of this proposal. Roads cherry stemmed or quasi-cherry stemmed includes, but are not limited to, 4N09, 4N29, 4N34, 5N08, 5N27, and 5N40. Too many important hunting and dispersed recreational opportunities would be closed by this plan. Also, much needed and apparently ongoing active management programs would be halted. BRC believes this unit should remain open for responsible multiple-use activities.

Cache Creek Wilderness Area - This proposal would add an additional 38,960 acres of Wilderness to the Ukiah Field Office of the BLM. This area is constantly at risk for catastrophic wildfire. It is close to the San Francisco Bay area and is used by mountain bikers, equestrians, hikers, and outdoorsmen. Numerous MTB trails would be closed by this plan. They include the Judge Davis Trail, Redbud Trail, and the Perkins Creek Trail. Also, the western boundary is adjacent to the county landfill. This proposal would install a Wilderness trailhead that overlooks people dumping garbage at the county site. Also, this area contains a vast network of private and government roads that should disqualify it from Wilderness designation. A Wilderness designation would prohibit the active fire management that this unit so desperately needs. Its close proximity to the residents of the Clear Lake area is another strike against this proposal. BRC suggests Congress leave this unit in its current status.

Blue Ridge Wilderness Area � This proposal would add 760 acres to the Ukiah Field Office of the BLM. This area contains at least one mountain bike trail. It is also too small to be considered for Wilderness and should remain in its current land management status.

Cedar Roughs Proposed Wilderness Area � This proposal would add 5,880 acres to the Ukiah Field Office of the BLM. This plan would remove the agency�s option for active management to reduce the prospect of a catastrophic wildfire and its potential impacts to adjacent landowners in the Lake Berryessa area. This unit is also in relatively close proximity to the Los Posadas State Forest and Pacific Union College.

King Range Wilderness Area � This proposal would add 41,614 acres to the Arcata Field Office of the BLM. Contrary to statement made by Congressman Thompson�s staff, this proposal as mapped on Senator Boxer�s website would close significant portions of the Smith-Etter Road and other access roads to various trail heads on the front range. It would also close over 20 miles of the Lost Coast Trail to mountain bikes. Other mountain bike trails would be closed as well. A recent fire in the King Range illustrated
that this unit requires more active resource management, not less. The 1865 Official Township Map of Humboldt County shows that the Lost Coast Trail was indeed an important north-south coastal �highway� at the time because of steep inland terrain. BRC has long contended that the BLM is already managing this area as de facto Wilderness based on the agency�s ongoing road and trail closure program. Designating this area as federal Wilderness would be redundant and is unnecessary because it is already a National Conservation Area. It would also prohibit the active fire management prescriptions that are needed to protect private inholding within and adjacent to the King Range.

South Fork Eel Wilderness Area � These additions would add 14, 000 acres to the Arcata Field Office of the BLM. Rather than designating these areas as Wilderness, Congress should look at the lack of public access to these federal lands. In fact, as I was preparing to do a field review of the Elkhorn segment of the proposal, I was rudely greeted with a NO TRESSPASSING sign placed near the only access point off of State Highway 271. As a native of this region, I was surprised the BLM even had this land in their jurisdiction. It appears these lands are purposefully land-locked and are the playground for private interests. BRC does not understand how a Wilderness designation will enhance public access to these units when they are currently closed and apparently jealousy guarded by non-governmental parties. Also, these lands need intensive active fire and forest health management prescriptions. Ripping roads in the Elkhorn segment and prohibiting forest management unit-wide is unwise and could threaten nearby residents in Cummings and Legget. The Cahto Unit near Laytonville has numerous roads, trails, and various radio or cell tower installations. Although important to the communication needs of the local community, the visual impact of these manmade structures makes this area unsuitable for federal Wilderness. Also, the access needs for radio and telecommunication professionals would be affected by this plan. BRC recommends this unit remain in the current management strategy.

Black Butte Wild and Scenic River Designation - This would add 21 miles of Wild and Scenic River to the Mendocino National Forest. BRC could not find a map of this proposal on Senator Boxer�s website. However, BRC endeavored to review this proposal using existing Forest Maps and have determined that some or all of the following roads could be closed to motorized use and they include but are not limited to, 21N41, 22N29, 22N31, 22N32, 22N36, and 22N38. BRC recommends that most if not all of this proposal remain in current management strategy.

In conclusion, BRC feels that S738 fails to provide the public with adequately detailed maps upon which to make a judgment on the worthiness of the legislation. Based on the available information and field reviews, BRC suggests that most, if not all, of said lands remain in current management prescriptions. In fact, BRC suggests that active forest health and fire management treatments be accelerated. Over 90% of forest recreation and access is vehicle based with driving for pleasure being listed as the number one recreational activity. Most forest recreation occurs within � mile of a vehicle. It is said that only 3% or less of forest recreation is Wilderness based. At a time when the public is demanding more managed recreational use of federal lands, BRC feels that Congress should work to provide more vehicle or mechanized opportunities and the resources to better care for our timber stands and grasslands.

Should Congress feel that any part of S738 needs additional protection, BRC strongly suggests that it review our Backcountry Designation. Congress should consider establishing a new land designation that provides the protection the public demands for these lands while at the same time providing the managing agencies the necessary management flexibility to respond to recreational demands and address critical concerns of forest health, fire prevention and wildlife habitat enhancement.

These lands provide a very valuable resource for recreational activities that allow people to experience and enjoy natural appearing landscapes. They provide opportunities for people to escape from the pressures of the everyday world. This can include a wide range of recreational activities including hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, hiking, off-highway motorcycling, horseback riding, ATV use, bicycling or use of 4-wheel drive vehicles. At the same time, many of these lands are threatened by insect and disease epidemics and by catastrophic wildfires that could destroy the very values that the public wants to see preserved. Therefore, it is essential that this land designation also allow the managing agencies the ability to apply a minimum level of management to deal with these threats.

Submitted by:

Don Amador
Western Representative
BlueRibbon Coalition, Inc.
555 Honey Lane
Oakley, CA 94561
925.625.6287 Office
925.783.1834 Cell

May 31, 2016 3:24 PM
Some of the many historic OHV routes in the Pine Nut Mountains

BOISE, ID (May 31, 2016) -- Coalition (BRC), a national trail-based recreation group, today slammed recent decisions that would severely restrict off-highway vehicle (OHV) events and trail improvements in many areas in eastern California and Nevada.  The changes, in the name of sage grouse management, were demanded by a handful of preservationist special interest groups.

November 23, 2015 3:16 PM
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MISSOULA, MT (November 23, 2015) --Various organizations, led by the Ten Lakes Snowmobile Club, have filed a lawsuit challenging U.S. Forest Service planning efforts on the Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle National Forests.  The complaint, filed on November 12, 2015, in federal court for the U.S.

November 23, 2015 10:38 AM

POCATELLO, ID (November 23, 2015) – Early last week, the BlueRibbon Coalition/ joined with other recreation groups in a letter sent to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in support of a balanced approach to managing public lands as part of the Moab Master Leasing Plan.

The letter addressed to BLM serves as formal comments from OHV stakeholders.  It also represents an effort between motorized and non-motorized recreation groups working together for the protection of outdoor recreation resources on public lands.

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