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TIP TAP stuck in a TAR TRAP

posted May 20, 2015, 2:50 PM by Tony Burgess   [ updated May 20, 2015, 4:40 PM ]


Erin Noesser of the INF offers this excellent explanation:

"TAP is mandated by the 2005 Travel Management Rule and requires that forests provide a safe, financially and environmentally sustainable road system that can realistically be maintained. Due to increased use, aging infrastructure, and decreasing budgets, the forest cannot maintain all roads to standards for safety and environmental protection. In order for the Inyo National Forest to continue to be eligible to receive federally appropriated maintenance funds for its road system, the TAP must be completed by September 30, 2015."

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I regretfully missed a chance to comment directly to Jim Upchurch regarding travel management.  Jim once told a group of us, "I only answer to President Bush!"  (meaning George W.)  Well, both Jim and Ex President George have moved on to brighter pastures and I'm still here squinting at digital maps with more complexity than a Vons tres leche cake.
The new and improved analysis process must not be working if it recommends closing almost 20% more of our dirt roads, or maybe it is working if that is the end goal.
I understand the most useful input should be site and road specific, that's like asking someone to tell you their life story, one day at a time.  I have a different approach.  Instead of learning how to communicate with the USFS process, I'm hoping that someone who reads this can learn how to communicate with those who value dispersed recreation and the roads, trails, and routes (whatever you want to call them) that tie Inyo, Mono, and Esmeralda counties together.
First off, let it be known that dirt roads are a public asset.  Assets are valuable.  Most of the roads were built cheaply with tax dollars and private efforts.  Today, if you went out to price constructing a section of dirt road you would discover a variety of costs: government approvals, permitting requirements, including CEQA compliance, and more costs associated with any necessary archeological, environmental, and cultural assessments.  Actual construction costs have soared too -- surveying, grading, erosion control, competitive wages, and heavy machinery costs would all come into play.
These valuable roads belong to all American citizens, we should not be discussing how to get rid of them.  That's a lot of value left on the table, millions of dollars at todays prices.  Keep in mind it's not millions in savings.  It is something else.
Secondly, dirt roads benefit public safety.  Time is of the essence when fighting wild land fires and I've heard a personal account of how a small 1-2 acre blaze ballooned up to 10-15 acres because the access road was blocked and barricaded, a victim of travel management.  It does not make sense to constrict our road system further in an effort to make the forest more healthy -- those actions impede fire fighting efforts.
I've been fortunate to live on the Inyo for many years and was first drawn to the area by it's openness and focus on recreational pursuits.  Over the years I've watched (and participated) in more forest planning projects than have been necessary.  It's unfair really, to deluge young families with more and more studies being created from behind a desk.  It's not respectful to our time.  Over-planning needs to be tempered with actual field work.  I'd suggest to not always do the whole forest all at once, break down the process into manageable bites like one area map at a time.  What's the rush?
Dirt roads have connected our family to a life on the INF, from northern Mono down to southern Inyo.  Below is just a brief reminiscence.
Lundy Canyon/Lake View Canyon - roads here are rare and some have been converted over to non-vehicular use.  This is difficult when working on our property, high grade ore is carried out by backpack.
Mono Lake/Devil's Triangle - sandy and isolated, roads are few are far between and every last one counts.  It's an area where one can truly get lost.
Esmeralda/Inyo Forest Nevada side - I've noticed that Nevadans really appreciate their roads more than us, and are anti-closure.  We spent a few years there working orchard land on an INF inholding.  The east-side of the Whites hold years of discovery/opportunity for those that look, let's keep it that way.
June Lake/Bald Mountain/Mammoth/Glass Mountains/Tom's Place - More roads around population centers is a good thing as it helps everyone to spread out and find some peace and quiet.  Many times this is a visitors first interaction with the forest, it's counter productive to have trails littered with forest slash, dump buckets of sand/dirt, ugly posts, etc.  Think of this idea, is it left in a better condition than when you found it?  The spaghetti network has developed naturally over time.  Funneling users onto a main artery is actually impacting it more making for dangerous conditions.  Closing the roads less travelled is doing a disservice to those that seek them.
Inyo's/Mazourka - different from the rest of the forest this area and mountain range is alive with mining history, let's not lose any more of it.
Manzanar - technically not on the forest but they set the bar in preserving history and culture.  All of us are a part of the landscape for better or worse, likewise historical routes and uses should be preserved.
Wormhole Canyon/Apple trees and Oaks - at the far southern most stretch of the Inyo, all routes that provide access to the eastern escarpment should remain.
Thanks for the chance to comment, and have a great day!  -John Connolly
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Again, from Erin Noesser of the INF:  

"Comments will be most helpful if they include specific information or suggestions: for example, information about risks or benefits of specific roads. We would also appreciate any corrections of information in the Draft report, suggestions about improving the analysis process, and suggestions about any future changes to specific roads. The TAP does not consider routes that are currently not on the National Forest Transportation System, nor does it consider motorized or non-motorized trails. Comments that focus on existing open National Forest system roads will be the most useful.

Input will be most useful if received by May 18, 2015. Email comments can be sent to:, with the subject line, “TAP comments”. Input can also be faxed to (760) 873-2486. Hard copy comments can dropped off at the Forest Service Supervisor’s Office during normal business hours (8:00-4:30, Monday through Friday), or can be mailed to Erin Noesser, Inyo National Forest , 351 Pacu Ln. Suite 200, Bishop, California 93514."
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