Working with the Eldorado National Forest?

As the only pro-OHV appellant from the east side of the Sierras, I have taken a personal interest in getting the Richardson Lake Trail, 14N39, reopened. One of my clubs, The North Tahoe Trail Dusters, often would organize a mid-week after work run to the top of Sourdough Peak for a BBQ and to watch the sunset. We’d then wheel down in the dark.

Trying to work ‘with’ the Eldorado National Forest (ENF) to get this trail reopened has been a challenge. My fallback line to them has been “Partnership Not Pushback” but it seems I get more pushback than partnership.

Early on, before the Record of Decision (ROD), I had organized a tour of 14N39. Scheduled to be there were all the right people from the ENF and the users to drive them. The day before the tour the head ENF ranger, Lawrence Crabtree, pulled the hydrologist to another project. We went anyway and documented the ‘meadow’ issues and how each could be fixed.

The ENF later changed the rules and claimed that no planning could be done on any fixes until the forest hydrologist could visit the trail and get eyes on the issue. They couldn’t read our notes and draft something; they couldn’t look at our photographs and draft something; they couldn’t work from the first hydrologist’s notes and draft something.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

But the hydrologist was not available later on to make it to the trail. Then the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit tried to help by sending their hydrologist to look at the trail. But an early snow flurry covered the trail the day before the scheduled tour. Let’s not discuss the fact that it didn’t snow again for months.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

So the winter went by with the ENF not willing to talk about possible fixes, not willing to talk about possible reroutes, not willing to talk about possible temporary fixes to the last meadow, not willing to talk about any possible maintenance, basically not willing to do anything that move this project forward. Pushback not partnership.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

Over the winter, I’m thinking about possible fixes to both the minor water issues and the last meadow reroute. I email a few questions to the ENF and don’t hear back. I finally email the boss of my ENF contact and I hear back from my contact. They snapped back about other things going on and being short staffed, etc. Pushback not partnership. They never did answered my questions.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

Spring arrives. I’ve already drafted a plan for the inevitable tour with the ENF and this time the hydrologist. Its three pages long: goals, objectives, list of possible attendees, communications plan, medical plan, timeline, etc. So, I contact the ENF to lay the groundwork for this tour that is still a month away due to snow.

I receive an email basically telling me that the ENF will send a group to tour the trail and then put out a plan of what the fixes will be. A second tour could be scheduled if needed for the appellants. Then there would be a comment period.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

There were so many ‘issues’ in this one email from the ENF that I contacted them and later drove over the hill to meet with them in person.

At the end of the meeting, I had still not got my way but had made a little ground. The ENF would still send out a team without users or appellants and would schedule a second tour with appellants, within a week, prior to drafting and publishing a plan. This would allow input from individuals outside the FS to comment prior to the ENF coming to a decision on how to fix any issues.

There are still many issues to ‘discuss’ with the ENF. The primary one being to start working on possible ways to temporarily ‘fix’ the last meadow issues to allow users to drive to the summit while the years long reroute gets completed.

Don’t worry, I’m still pushing. I’m aiming for a partnership but I’ll take anything as long as I can keep things moving forward.


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