Friday, September 3, 2010

NEW: Havasu BLM Trail Closures

We interrupt our normally scheduled posts for a BLM "Travel Management Plan (TMP)" alert for the Havasu riding area in Arizona.

Offroaders will recognize this term as used by the BLM for the periodic review of all trails in an area to see how many we can "get off the books," so-to-speak – i.e. "close them off for everything except hikers." Which pretty much means: "Close them off to seniors!"

Offroaders who have at all been paying attention also recognize that this process spans several months fraught with hair-tearing frustration over trying to obtain usable information and straight answers from the BLM in order to make your "comments," all the while fending off mis-information and attacks from various "save the dirt" groups.

What makes this TMP a bit unique is that for the first time, in my knowledge, the BLM has… actually published the trails in question in something other than a proprietary, unusable format (Adobe's PDF files). This time there is a page on the BLMs web site containing links to files in the more "standard" .gpx (GPS devices) and .kmz (Google Earth) formats! Albeit mind-bogglingly huge renditions of their shape-files and literally buried seven levels deep on an obscure page completely non-accessible for anyone who doesn't know the direct url!

There still are some problems with the files BUT… I mean… WOW! What a great start! It's truly amazing what they can do when they've got a mind to it.   [For a free Google Earth file of this route see: Havasu Trail Closures]

A reader asked for help a couple of weeks ago in deciphering the .pdf file he had found while trying to "respond" to the BLMs open request for public comment on their intended Havasu closures. The maps were the typical BLM fare – so high level and without usable landmarks or names that they were absurdly useless.

There was a contact person listed on the page, so I politely wrote to her with a specific request for better explanation. She wrote back to say merely that she had "forwarded" it to their IT person; but, that I should be patient because of their 'high call volume' and gave no indication of when or who would respond.

We still haven't heard back from anyone at the BLM BUT the reader wrote again to say that he had found a new page which had been posted on the BLM site with several new trail map formats. Like I say, there are still problems with the files; but, nothing that about ten hours of cleaning-up-the-code-so-it-didn't-completely-stall-Google-Earth couldn't fix. The file with the cleaned code and more usable styling is available in the Havasu Trail Closures link above.

What Does The Map Show

When you can actually see the TMP proposal in appropriate context it reveals some very interesting (if not disturbing) issues:

More Closed Than Open - Open the "trails" folder and you will see a LOT more red, orange and blue (Closures) than white! Too vast to count, it looks to me like way over half and more like 2/3 are marked for being closed to seniors and other riders.

Closed And Limited - Obviously the red lines are trails which are "proposed" to be closed, especially to seniors to don't hike; but, notice all the orange lines? Those are the trails that the BLM doesn't want the "seniors and regular people" to see any more; however, they don't want to have to hike it themselves so are making it so that only Staff and Friends (special permission) can ride their vehicles on the trail. The blue lines are for "motorcycles only" – there are NO "ATV only" trails.

All Closed Along River - Everyone who liked to ride on all the trails going toward the water are "outta luck!" Pretty much EVERYTHING south and west of highway 95 are intended to be closed; except, of course to the BLM Staff and friends. Not even one of the many trails are proposed to be left open – even with "with mitigation, monitoring, and/or maintenance" like they are promulgating on the other trails.

Leased Land - Notice the large tract in that river area section which will be closed labeled as leased land for "SARA Park"? One wonders if the closures are preparatory for more land leases along the river. Just asking.

Trail HN465 - Notice the orange trail on the far eastern side? It is a pleasant and well liked loop trail often used by seniors – one of the few great rides to get out of much of the heat and dust and slated for the "BLM and friends" category: "Limited to motorized Admin and permittee use with public non-motorized use with mitigation, monitoring, and/or maintenance." [Huh?] The BLM and "special people" can still ride their vehicles in but everyone else has to walk!

Desert Hills-Airport Area - View the trails east of the airport by Desert Hills. The only trails slotted to be left open are down in the wash. Pretty much any trail which gains any elevation out of the wash would be closed. That also leaves NO CONNECTING TRAIL between two major washes!

Deceptive Word Parsing - Even though the BLM wants you to believe that it is listening to you and "openly" trying to allow feedback, look at the wording on trail labels such as on trail HN00D. The "protection" (close 'em all off) position is given as: "Closed to motorized use" no surprise there.

But, the deception comes when the "Access" (supposedly the open option) is given as: "Limited to non-motorized use only." Huh?! What they apparently are really saying, without all the "spin doctoring," is: "We're gonna close this off no matter what you say!"

OHV Area - They didn't have these colored area overlays in their original map but I thought that it would better clarify the situation. Notice the area labeled as "OHV" which consists nearly totally of a large wash area. Only two trails are shown which traverse the dusty, rocky, mostly un-interesting area. But notice where they lead →

Hills East of OHV Area - This is where everyone wants to ride – the hills… go figure! I mean, what are we thinking? Why would be want to ride up and out of the ditch? The views? The cooler air? BUT IT'S ALL RED! Absolutely everything where there are actual trails will be closed. Not even a few "token trails" are planned to be left open!

Broken Trails–Map Errors - I mentioned that there were still some problems with the maps that the BLM has released. It won't take much effort for you to find many "broken trails" with red and green lines stopping and starting in the middle of nowhere. Red lines with no way to get to them. Trails (like HN610A, HN611, HN625, HN443 and HN591 to name a few) which look like they are meaningless because they are just minuscule, yet which we can see, now that we can look on Google Earth, clearly run on for miles further and connect with other shown trials.

That's what I mean by broken. Some of it, I have found, relate to little squares of private land which the BLM maps don't apparently want to show; but, which make a huge difference to the public who is trying to fairly comment! I have nicely written to them requesting that they rectify the inconsistencies, but haven't heard from them. And, lastly for this post…

Technical Areas - I have also brought the two "technical areas" over from the other map into the closure map. I'm not sure what the BLM means by the label, except that they are saying that they haven't mapped trails in that area for this map. AND, what that means for the TMP and the public comment I cannot say. I would assume that the label means some type of specialized vehicle must be used in the area; but, perhaps not and it could be open or closed – who can tell.

What Should I Do?

Ok, believe me, even with the inaccuracies you now have vastly more information than the Las Vegas BLM office supplied the citizens in the TMC process for Gold Butte (or still has). Just take a look at the Google Earth map I compiled for you and "re-visit" the trails and the area. Compare them with your own previous GPS tracks and see where you won't be able to go any more under the proposal. Then:
  1. Jot a simple list of the trails you've previously taken and enjoyed [their designators from the map], or which you have planned to ride. The BLM responds to individual trails you reference by name in their decisions. Gotta fill that database doan-cha-know.

  2. Jot a simple list of what you would like to see happen, realizing of course that not every trail has to remain open, especially if it's redundant, over sensitive areas or of little off-road value.

  3. However, especially note those trails which provide access to favored spots where there is no other entry or connection; AND those trials whose closures will adversely effect access or connections to other trails.

  4. Then, write ONE E-mail which can be copied and pasted and used for many "submissions" as mentioned below. It can contain all of your thoughts, and any or all of those mentioned above. Explain that you've "visited the area every year for the past 15 years and want to voice strong opposition to the closure of [list as many specific trails as you want by number from the map]." Trail monitoring is welcomed, enforcement of the "remain on trail" rule is expected BUT these trails should remain open to off-road vehicles and multi-use. Even explain about the "hardship hiking into favored spots would be to senior population" if it fits your case. Age discrimination is illegal.

  5. The most direct, for those who are in the area, is to go visit them with your E-mail in hand. Ask to speak with Myron McCoy in charge of the travel plan (see below) or Ramone McCoy the field manager. They are open 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

  6. Phone calls are very active and to the point. In this case the contact person is again Myron McCoy at (928) 505-1216. You can also leave a message toll free at 1-888-213-2582 (not sure where this goes to).

  7. Actual PAPER is best. They don't say that the government runs on paper for nothing! Paper has to be dealt with and isn't easily "deleted" – oops! The snail mail contact info is:
    Lake Havasu Field Office attn: Havasu Travel Management Plan
    2610 Sweetwater Avenue
    Lake Havasu City, AZ 86406-9071

  8. You can also use the Havasu E-mail or Myron McCoy E-mail but The Submission Form is better. While you are at it be sure to tell them you want to be on their mailing list for future comments, meetings and notifications. Direct links to the Havasu BLM comment forms are: (in Word format); (in Acrobat format). You can even cut and paste your already prepared E-mail into the appropriate blanks!

  9. Once that is done, use that E-mail for all it's worth! Paste it into a Letter To The Editor in the local paper.

  10. And, while you are at it, you can even send a copy to me at Offroading Home. I always collect information for use in future stories.
Not all that difficult and will probably take less than 15 or so minutes of your time to prevent untold grief in the future. Remember, if you think that you're too young and able to need to worry about hiking into this area – "you won't be!"


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