Week #7: OHV Coronavirus update

TreadLightly! at a distance flyer

The good news is that some of this week’s updates are places opening back up and not being closed due to the coronavirus. Although USFS Region 5 has announced that most developed recreation sites will remain closed through May 15, the individual forests are slowly opening motorized roads and trails as seasonal road and trail closures are lifted.

USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region

The USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, announced that most developed recreation sites will remain closed through May 15. The order does not close trails, trailheads, and general forest areas; these areas remain accessible for public use. Information on individual recreation sites and opportunities are available from local National Forests.

Outdoor recreation can be beneficial to mental and physical health but must be practiced safely. In light of the statewide shelter-in-place order issued by the Governor of California, they ask visitors to recreate locally.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, aids state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

Stanislaus National Forest

Forest Supervisor Jason Kuiken signed Forest Order STF-16-2020-04, which replaces the current area and road closure order. The order identifies the high-elevation roads on Calaveras and Summit Ranger districts that remain under seasonal closure. The order is effective from May 2, 2020 through June 30,2020. This includes the Slick Rock Trail, The Stanislaus portion of Deer Valley, Niagara Rim and Herring Creek as well as many others.

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has extended the temporary closure of national forest recreation sites and areas in the South Shore Recreation Corridor effective May 1, 2020. South Shore recreation sites and areas impacted by this announcement include the following:

  • Pope-Baldwin National Recreation Bike Path
  • Pope Beach
  • Camp Richardson Resort
  • Camp Richardson Corral
  • Fallen Leaf Campground/Beach
  • Tallac Historic Site/Beach
  • Kiva Picnic Area/Beach
  • Kiva Beach/Tallac Point
  • Taylor Creek Visitor Center
  • Baldwin Beach
These closures will be in effect through May 15, 2020 and will address public health and safety concerns to area and site related recreation. A violation of this prohibition is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization.

Mendocino National Forest

Motorized (OHV) trails and recreation site closures on the Mendocino NF have been extended through May 15, 2020.

Stanislaus County

Due to the significant public health concern regarding COVID-19, and regulations put in place by the state of California, Modesto Reservoir, Woodward Reservoir, Frank Raines OHV Park, and La Grange OHV regional parks and campgrounds will be closed to the public through May 31, 2020.

Tahoe National Forest

All motorized roads and trails across the Tahoe National Forest will open on May 1, 2020. Trash removal services are unavailable at this time and toilet facilities are still closed. Please plan accordingly and pack out all trash and human waste.
The following conditions apply at these popular riding areas:

  • The Downieville multiple-use trail system will still have moderate to heavy snow in higher elevations (much like every year) and connection routes to higher elevations will be impassable.
  • The westside of the Burlington Motorcycle Trail system has favorable soil moisture conditions and is actively being cleared of down winter trees.
  • The Sugar Pine OHV system has favorable soil moisture conditions and is actively being cleared of down winter trees. Tahoe National Forest trail crews should have most Sugar Pine OHV system trails cleared by the upcoming weekend, but the potential for down winter trees may exist on some remote and outlier routes.
  • Parker and Sugar Pine staging areas are open for day-use only. Overnight camping is not permitted at these staging areas at this time.
  • The Brimstone staging area is closed.
  • The Boca/ Stampede OHV system has favorable soil moisture conditions and is actively being cleared of down winter trees.
  • The Bear Valley OHV system has favorable soil moisture conditions and is actively being cleared of down winter trees. Please tread lightly on north-facing trails and in higher elevations

Rubicon Trail

Eldorado County will be closing the Rubicon Trail from May 15-17 in order to helicopter rock to Cadillac Hill. El Dorado County’s Parks Division will be performing maintenance projects on the Rubicon Trail beginning on Friday May 15, 2020, at 06:00 a.m. through May 17, 2020.

These projects require full closure of the trail. This is being done to complete the projects needed to armor the trail and have the projects completed before Memorial Day Weekend.

The work was made possible through direct funding by our supporters. The Rubicon Trail Foundation (RTF) did the funding match of $32,000 to make sure there was rock available for trail repairs on the Placer County side of the trail.

BLM Seasonal Fire/ Shooting Restrictions

The Bureau of Land Management has elevated its seasonal fire restrictions effective immediately for BLM-managed public lands managed by the California Desert District within Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial, southern Inyo, eastern Mono, San Diego, and eastern Kern counties. These restrictions will remain in effect until December 15, unless terminated sooner if conditions warrant.

“With increasing temperatures and decreasing humidity, restrictions are necessary, and we ask for your cooperation to help minimize fire potential,” said California Desert District Manager Andrew Archuleta.  “Without proactive measures in place, dry grass and brush could easily ignite, causing a wildfire threatening public land visitors, communities, adjacent private lands and natural resources.”

The order also prohibits recreational shooting on BLM-managed public lands within San Diego, eastern Kern, western Riverside, western San Bernardino and eastern Los Angeles counties.  The recreational shooting restrictions prohibits possession or use of any steel jacketed or steel core ammunition of any caliber. This includes handgun, rifle and shotgun ammunition, unless a person is in possession of a valid California hunting license and is actively engaged in the legal take or pursuit of game and non-game species in accordance with current California hunting regulations.

The public is reminded to follow these precautions:

  1. Make sure to have a five-foot circle cleared around a campfire.
  2. Be sure to have a shovel and plenty of water on hand and put the fire DEAD OUT, before leaving. 
  3. Do not use steel targets for recreational shooting as they are more likely to cause a fire.
  4. Park motor vehicles away from locations where exhaust could cause grass or other combustibles to ignite.

Violation of this order is punishable by a fine up to $100,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.

I think that the majority of people have done a great job, staying home and following the local, state and federal guidelines to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. But our patience is wearing thin — it's time to reopen the state and allow people to get back to work.

If you decide it is time to hit the trails, please carefully consider the potential implications to you, your family, or friends. Please follow these guidelines from Tread Lightly! if you choose to recreate outdoors.

About the Author

Jeff Blewett

Jeff Blewett

Natural Resources Consultant - North
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