Letter protesting San G closure

Southern California and far-away places. Hiking, wildlife, cycling etc.

Letter protesting San G closure

Postby Ellen » Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:29 pm

jnoiron@fs.fed.us
Dear Ms. Noiron,
I am writing to protest the unnecessary closure of the hiking trails in the San Gorgonio wilderness. It is a shame that such an overly restrictive approach is used in the name of "public safety" and “resource protection.”

Temporary closures in areas with much larger fires (e.g. Yosemite Ferguson fire, San Jacinto Cranston fire) are essential to protect people and resources. However, the indefinite closure of San Gorgonio hiking trails due to a small fire on the far west edge of the wilderness is ridiculous and unnecessary. Sadly, the managers of the San Bernardino National Forest seem to have a history of using fire as an excuse to keep us out of our wilderness for prolonged time periods (e.g. 2015 Lake fire).

As noted by columnist Jim Matthews: http://www.vvdailypress.com/sports/2018 ... wilderness
"Yet, we have been conditioned to having these closures take place for increasing durations of time after fires. This is simply wrong and wrong-headed management. Any fire closure lasting more than a couple of weeks past when the fire is completely contained is an affront to public recreation users that have a great track record of caring for our public land.”

Any risk in a wilderness area can be used as an excuse to shut down access to public lands. Should we limit access to trails with dead trees because they might fall on hikers? Ultimately, we are responsible for our own safety when we head outdoors.
I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Ellen Coleman, MA, MPH, RD, CSSD
Sports dietitian and avid hiker
Ellen
 
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Re: Letter protesting San G closure

Postby Ed » Fri Aug 03, 2018 3:56 pm

I sent an email to Jody Noiron along Ellen's lines. Thanks, Ellen, for stimulating this. Every hiker understands the need for fire closures. But they are becoming abusive in terms of both area and duration. No doubt we will see some reply that 'they' know better. I don't buy it. Their large-area and long-term closures are posted with almost a complete lack of justification. Explanations such as someone might be hit by a falling tree or a section of trail is eroded are nonsense, since people aren't banned from hiking during storms, when they are most likely to be hit by a falling tree, or from hiking cross-country. I particularly am annoyed at closures that extend through multiple winters in snow-covered areas. The banning of any criticism or serious discussion from the SGWA discussion board is I think indicative of their attitude.
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Re: Letter protesting San G closure

Postby SoCalJim » Fri Aug 03, 2018 4:46 pm

I had emailed SBNF a couple of weeks ago about the continued closure in light of the lack of fire growth and mentioned that apparently unwarranted closures of wilderness would lead to a loss of respect and compliance related to such closures. I received a courteous explanation back from Judy Noiron regarding the difficulty of the terrain in relation to potential flare ups and a forecast heat wave. After checking inciweb for the latest info today and seeing that there has still been little (if any) fire growth, I emailed SBNF again today about the closure and used a little more pointed language about how this situation would increasingly tempt backcountry users to ignore the seemingly pointless closure order. I also mentioned the (more understandable) current closure of the SBNF-administered San Jacinto area and how fires in California currently are impacted the availability of usable territory for hikers and campers. Using their logic, why not close ALL the public lands in California until winter since fire is such a widespread problem. I didn't use the word, but the continued closure of SGWA is bullshyte. Really ridiculous. While I generally have a reasonable amount of respect for law and order, stupid stuff like this makes me inclined to go hike there just because this situation is so stupid.
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Re: Letter protesting San G closure

Postby Ellen » Sat Aug 04, 2018 1:16 pm

Howdy Gentlemen Ed and Jim :)

Thank you! I posted the letter to Jody Noiron on the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association FB page -- my letter and the contentious, vitriolic debate that followed have been removed.

On the positive side, the Valley fire has reached 56% containment as shown in the release below my name. I still do not believe that the entire forest should be closed. Several on the north side trails (Forsee, South Fork) could be opened. Notice where the fire is circled in black on left side) relative to the trails.

Image

As Jim Matthews notes: "Many of the trails and the bulk of the area closed are more than five miles from the fire perimeter. We can drive on Highway 38, which is right on the edge of the fire, but we can’t hike five miles away to San Gorgonio Peak." In my opinion, the "public safety" issue is the fire's location to the residents of Forest Falls, Highway 38 and Valley of the Falls road. I don't feel that the fire constitutes a risk to hikers on the north side.

As Jim Mathews notes: "With the weather we are having, hikers climbing San Gorgonio or Scouts going up to Poop Out Hill face a greater threat from a thunderstorm starting a fire or getting hit by lightning than the Valley Fire presents to them."

Miles of smiles,
Ellen

U.S. Forest Service - San Bernardino National Forest

Containment on the Valley Fire has reached 56 percent! While that is a positive development, hot spots continue to burn in areas with slopes close to or at 90 degrees: cliffs, dry waterfalls, rockslide and avalanche areas and generally unstable terrain.

As containment continues to go up, we will keep looking at opportunities to safely reopen portions or all of San Gorgonio Wilderness. A big reason why it remains closed is protecting hikers should the fire flare up and move deeper into the wilderness. While we can more quickly mobilize firefighters between the fire and areas along Highway 38, we can’t do the same in the wilderness. Initial attack on a flare-up will primarily be an air fight, and if hikers are in the area, those resources will have to be split between stopping the fire's spread and rescuing hikers.

We understand closures can be frustrating and thank you for your patience as we continually work on the fire and discuss how to get people back and enjoying one of the best spots in Southern California!
Last edited by Ellen on Sat Aug 04, 2018 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Letter protesting San G closure

Postby SoCalJim » Sat Aug 04, 2018 3:17 pm

Ellen, where did those somewhat official-sounding paragraphs at the end of your above post come from? I've made a reasonable effort to find updated information, but other than the barely informative posts on inciweb, there is a real dearth of official information out there. I'm a recently retired emergency nurse and as I mentioned in my first email to SBNF, based on my experience, lack of needed or wanted information is one of the greatest frustrations we deal with in our lives, whether it be the status of a relative being treated in the ER or why a seemingly unnecessary closure of a popular wilderness area continues. To the SBNF (in the words of the great Pink Floyd, "Is there anybody out there?"
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Re: Letter protesting San G closure

Postby Ellen » Sat Aug 04, 2018 3:53 pm

Howdy Jim :)

The announcement regarding the Valley Fire is on the SBNF FB page: https://www.facebook.com/SanBernardinoNF

Load the page and scroll down.

Miles of smiles,
Ellen
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Re: Letter protesting San G closure

Postby Ed » Sun Aug 05, 2018 8:55 am

As a non-Facebook user, I feel like half the world is being closed to me.

One wonders how familiar the people making the closure decisions are with the SGWA, its terrain and its network of trails. I can understand a concern with diverting resources to rescuing hikers. But my impression is that fires tend to start on and near roads, and hiker rescues related to fires are very infrequent. And the land managers on the whole do not seem to have a great concern with hiker safety. The public devotes enormous resources to SAR, but the land managers seem to play a relatively small role compared to sheriff's departments and volunteer SAR groups, and there is a nearly complete absence of effort related to prevention. For example, providing very basic information and warnings to winter hikers. Nor does any of this explain why closures continue for years after a fire is completely extinguished.
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Re: Letter protesting San G closure

Postby Ellen » Mon Aug 06, 2018 1:11 pm

Howdy Ed :)

I understand your reticence to join FB, or as Arocknoid calls it, "FAZEDbook" :lol: My hiking friends who are FB users persuaded me. I have found it useful for sharing wilderness/trail conditions. My venture into using hiking forums. social media etc. started with THIS site in 2007. This is my favorite board.

Miles of smiles,
Ellen
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Re: Letter protesting San G closure

Postby Ellen » Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:59 pm

Howdy All :)

On August 4th, I contacted the SBNF again regarding the closure of the San Gorgonio hiking trails due to the Valley fire. I believe that the "public safety" issue is the fire's location to the residents of Forest Falls, Highway 38 and Valley of the Falls road. I don't feel that the fire constitutes a risk to hikers on the north side (Forsee and Southfork).

I received the following considerate and thoughtful response this afternoon:

"Thanks for the additional feedback, Ellen. We are constantly evaluating where it's safe to reopen and where it's too much of a risk. As you read in the update you shared, one reason for this closure is about where we can quickly place firefighters (Highway 38 and its communities) and where we cannot (inside the wilderness). If this fire flares up, we do not want to be splitting air resources between airlifting hikers and fighting the fire.

The Forest Order closure's length is to cover the longest period possible so we're not constantly extending it, but we're also open to shrinking the closure based on conditions, as we did with the Cranston Fire. I am looking forward to seeing what develops this week. We will let the public know when things change.

Thank you for writing in,

Zach Behrens
Public Affairs Officer"
Ellen
 
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Re: Letter protesting San G closure

Postby Pitownpi » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:17 am

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd591761.pdf

open today!
the east is open again yahoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
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