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View Full Version : Prosecution for unauthorized trail maintenance in WMNF



RoySwkr
06-28-2007, 11:48 AM
I reported the recent Mt Bemis thread
http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthread.php?t=17347
to a former senior official in the US Forest Service who is interested in fire towers who thought this was very strange. He said prosecution of trail maintainers was very rare. Does anyone remember the name of the woman in Harts Location who was prosecuted? Has anyone been threatened by a ranger? E-mail me if you don't want to post.

albee
06-28-2007, 01:55 PM
It was interesting when I talked to the ranger up there. He had his uniform on and he readily admitted he was there specifically to assess illegal maintenance of the trail. It was his 2nd trip in 8 months.

He was a really nice guy. He didn't threaten me at all, and never mentioned how much the fine would be. He just clearly reiterated what the posted sign near the start of the trail said. The trail is designated as unmaintained and even removing branches or blowdowns from the route is not allowed. When I asked why, he said one of the main reasons was the fire tower's condition and he mentioned creosote-soaked wood twice.

Hope this helps.

DougPaul
06-28-2007, 02:19 PM
My recollection is that the woman in question persisted in maintaining the trail after being ordered to stop (more than once?). Perhaps the prosecution was a "weapon of last resort".

I think this info is from previous threads or items linked to by the previous threads. Some searching might find it. Or maybe I'm just hallucinating.

Doug

Dr. Dasypodidae
06-28-2007, 03:02 PM
The USFS signs posted at the bottom and top of the closed North Passaconaway slide trail (from Downes Brook Trail) threaten a $1000 fine for illegal trail maintenance, if my memory serves me correctly.

SAR-EMT40
06-28-2007, 03:07 PM
Does maintenance consist of saws, picks and shovels? Just using the non-trail wouldn't get you in trouble, correct?

Keith

psmart
06-28-2007, 03:22 PM
Just using the non-trail wouldn't get you in trouble, correct? Keith

Unless the area is officially "closed" (which is pretty rare), you're still allowed to hike the route. However, any maintenance is prohibited, including the removal of downed trees or brush, with or without tools.

J&J
06-28-2007, 04:25 PM
This sign was located at the foot of the slide going up Owl's Head back in September 2005. I imagine it's still there. Pretty hefty fine and even some prison time if they decided to push the limits.

http://jjhikes.phanfare.com/show/external/268615/359594/20157608/file.jpg

Mohamed Ellozy
06-28-2007, 04:31 PM
Does maintenance consist of saws, picks and shovels? Just using the non-trail wouldn't get you in trouble, correct?A couple of years ago I stopped at the Lincoln Woods information center to ask something about the old Osseo Trail. I was told that it is perfectly legal to bushwhack!

I have a feeling (unless things have changed recently, and they well may) that the USFS is ambivalent about "illegal trail maintenence". That day the rangers clearly told me that the trail was being maintained to Whaleback, but no further.

Also I believe that the USFS accepts (or accepted!!!) the fact that the Firewarden's Trail to Mount Hale is illegally maintained as a ski (and hiking!!) trail.

Damned confusing is all I can say :(

NewHampshire
06-28-2007, 05:05 PM
This sign was located at the foot of the slide going up Owl's Head back in September 2005. I imagine it's still there. Pretty hefty fine and even some prison time if they decided to push the limits.

http://jjhikes.phanfare.com/show/external/268615/359594/20157608/file.jpg

Oh man, now I am really riled up.

Rock cairns, made of ROCKS FROM THE AREA= Bad
Wooden Sign on Summit of Owl's HEad=Bad
Blazes of any kind (axe or paint)=Bad

But somehow a laminated sign stapled or nailed to a tree =Good??????

Thanks J&J for confirming my instincts that the Forest Service is indeed losing its mind. :D

Brian

Dr. Dasypodidae
06-28-2007, 06:03 PM
Thanks for posting the USFS threat sign, J&J. Since fall 2005, someone removed it from the foot of Owls Head, but my guess that it is the same as the ones posted at the bottom and top of N. Passaconaway slide. And, at $5000, the fine is 5x larger than I remembered. Six months in prison seems excessivley harsh, especially if you are a celebrity and claustophobic.

And, yes, you are free to hike (bushwhack) anywhere on public lands; you would need to be caught in the act of blazing, painting, building cairns, cutting branches, etc., to be fined, but I doubt that the USFS could win a case if you were simply picking up and moving an already downed limb. So, best not to be carrying spray paint cans, blaze templates, saws, loppers, or garden snips in your pack while bushwhacking or hiking abandoned trails.

RoySwkr
06-29-2007, 02:37 PM
However, any maintenance is prohibited, including the removal of downed trees or brush, with or without tools.
You are allowed to use dead and downed wood for fires. If you're cutting a blowdown and a ranger shows up, offer to boil him a cup of tea.

And while bushwhacking I've often unfortunately grabbed branches that broke off.

I would be more sympathetic toward trail closings if the FS would allow public comment and post their analysis, rather than doing it unilaterally and telling you that the reason is a secret which can't be disclosed (yes, that's what they told me about Owls Head).

But back to the topic, anybody remember the name of the woman who I agree had ample warning?

psmart
06-29-2007, 03:49 PM
I would be more sympathetic toward trail closings if the FS would allow public comment and post their analysis, rather than doing it unilaterally and telling you that the reason is a secret which can't be disclosed (yes, that's what they told me about Owls Head).

The FS definitely gets public input on any trail closures, major modifications, and new trails. This is done through a public scoping process as listed at http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/white_mountain/projects/projects/index.php

On this page you will find proposed projects like the Bee Line Trail relocation, Wild River Shelter removal, as well as upcomping timber harvests (excuse me, "Vegetative Management" :rolleyes: ). This is your official chance to comment.

But the issue here is NOT the closure of a trail. It's the management of a route that is not an official trail, and as such, doesn't really rise to the level of an official comment process. However, I would certainly expect the FS to tell anyone the reasons for a "no maintenance" decision, and hear any other views on the matter. If you have a problem with any of these decisions, don't hesitate to talk to the district ranger.

BIGEarl
06-29-2007, 04:43 PM
On April 17, 2006 I hiked Mt. Nancy with Double Bow. He was the photographer that day.

Here's a picture from the posted shots from the day. The same poster was (is?) hanging on a tree at the base of the herd path heading to the summit from the Norcross Pond area.

http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2720110480078188847eHMZyE

woodstrider
06-30-2007, 02:51 PM
As a trail maintainer, assigned a specific trail to work in the Catskills- I would like to harass some of these unoffical trail maintainers myself! Only because I have to travel a ways from my home to work on my trail, which I look forward to doing. If I get there and the work is done , well, I'm pissed and...then I will go and have me some fun. No, seriously, it's annoying and I actually "caught" someone (a member of this site, too, who shall remain nameless, but you know who you are) doing just that a month ago. A real nice guy, but still--I came to do my work, dude!

That said- I hike some trails very frequently and if I see a problem and if it is not attened to in goodly time (like several months) after I report it, then, well, F--- it!, I go cut me some trees. Also- there are some "unoffical" trails that I would hate to see diappear, so I have "adopted" a few. Let a ranger find me if she/he can! Dare ya.

I think that the proper protocol is to report a trail maintenance problem to the agency that oversees the maintainance of that trail- not nessecarily the rangers. Like the NYNJTC, The 46rs, the AMC, or whomever is responsible for organizing the volunteers. That is the quickest way to get the word out-NO WAIT, post it here on this web site- that's is the quickest way to get the word out. In fact, I frequently check this site to see if I need to make a trip to my trail. Maintainers are volunteers, FYI- Not paid employees of the gov.like the rangers, who seem to be trained to harass the people who use the public wildernesses. My take on it.

Puma concolor
06-30-2007, 03:01 PM
I like the way the print on those posters gets progressively larger. It's like it starts out talking to you in a stern voice but is yelling by the time it gets to the part about fines. THE USE OF ALL CAPS IS ALSO VERY EFFECTIVE.

The most interesting unmaintained path I've ever stumbled across was a few years ago on Peak Above the Nubble. It was marked with empty bottles of Michelob Light. Kind of annoying and amusing at the same time. :rolleyes:

Hillwalker
06-30-2007, 04:22 PM
Anyone interested in a half day of authorized trail work?

I have six split log puncheons with cross logs that need to be de-barked and carried about 1000 feet in on a pretty level walk. I have had these logs cut and split for several months now, but have been unable to recruit at least three other people to help me carry them in from the road crossing. I have nylon slings, and carry poles all ready to go. We will be carrying them in and spike-ing them in place across a wet area. This is the AT in Wentworth.

The pay is pretty good if you like the feeling of helping other hikers :)

PM me if you are interested.

TomW

jmegillon149
07-02-2007, 09:19 PM
as a trail adopter in the whites, there has been problems with people doing "maintenance" that was not asked fo and had to be undone. In the words of Ray Barone "fixing things until they break".

Stories include blazes every third tree in the wrong color, removing trees to make campsites, poorly constructed rock water bars and things like that. Point is, clearing a blowdown that you happen to see is fine, all out brushing and blazing - not so much, especially in a wilderness small corridor zone.

Better bet is to report problems and seek out authorized work, theres lots of it!

If anyone really wants to do some work, I will be leading a NHAMC Young Members Group work day in a few weeks.

RoySwkr
07-03-2007, 11:47 AM
>The FS definitely gets public input on any trail closures, major
>modifications, and new trails.

This is off the original topic but I will respond because I think it is important

Basically, I think that you think the outreach process works because you like the current management direction and I think it doesn't work because I don't :-) A few examples:

* The FS has officially made the Mt Isolation Spur a bushwhack and removed the sign for it although it is heavily traveled and has been in guidebooks for 50 years
* Although Wilderness direction is that trails will be more lightly blazed, I don't think there is great public support for actually removing blazes when there is such a backlog of useful trail work
* I am told that when the first Wilderness was approved in the Wonalancet
area, the then-leaders of the WODC were traditionalists who wanted the
shelters to remain and were told by the Forest Service they could stay as
long as they were incrementally maintained and never in need of major
maintenance. While the present leadership of the WODC apparently supports
the shelter removal, I'll bet there are a lot of people out there who feel they were lied to on this issue.

>But the issue here is NOT the closure of a trail. It's the management
>of a route that is not an official trail, and as such, doesn't really
>rise to the level of an official comment process.

In a similar situation, the FS often discovers "unmapped" roads as part of a timber sale analysis and as part of the proposal suggests either that they be classified or that they be restored to nature. (See Mill Brook sale for examples.) This is what should have been done for the Owls Head path in my opinion.

> However, I would
>certainly expect the FS to tell anyone the reasons for a "no
>maintenance" decision, and hear any other views on the matter. If you
>have a problem with any of these decisions, don't hesitate to talk to
>the district ranger.

After I wrote to Senator Gregg, I was invited to discuss Owls Head with 2 FS officials with the ground rules that I could bring one or two others but it would not be a public meeting, and they would not provide any written documentation for their decision as the reason was secret. I felt that Gene Daniell was a more appropriate representative of the hiking community and he agreed to go instead perhaps with Steve Smith, but in the great transfer this role was foisted upon Eric Savage. I don't know if he ever met with them (perhaps sworn to secrecy?) but in any case the FS has never provided any explanation that could be posted on VFTT for instance. I don't consider this appropriate outreach from the FS.

Since the FS staffers rotate every couple of years, I have pretty much
decided to wait for these Dick Cheney clones to move on. With luck their
successors will come from someplace like Vermont which has a totally different Wilderness management policy, and it will be you not me who is tearing his hair :-)

psmart
07-03-2007, 12:07 PM
* I am told that when the first Wilderness was approved in the Wonalancet area, the then-leaders of the WODC were traditionalists who wanted the shelters to remain and were told by the Forest Service they could stay as long as they were incrementally maintained and never in need of major maintenance. While the present leadership of the WODC apparently supports the shelter removal, I'll bet there are a lot of people out there who feel they were lied to on this issue.

The shelters were removed when they required "major maintenance", exactly as stated in the original SRW Management Plan. The sill logs were rotten and the structures were unsafe. Keeping them would have required a complete rebuild.

Sorry you've had such bad experiences with the USFS. If you've really been told that something was "secret" and couldn't be disclosed, I'd urge you to push for answers. As a last resort, you could file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The only matters that I would expect to be kept confidential would be an ongoing investigation of some type. Otherwise, all management decisions are a matter of public record.

As far as Wilderness Management decisions, this is primarily a matter of the direction that was set by the ten-year WMNF Plan. All management activities are governed by the Plan, and in this case, the Wilderness Management Plan. (Appendix E).

sardog1
07-03-2007, 12:14 PM
In the event that you have a hankering to get info from the Forest Service on any subject --

The Freedom of Information Act is a wonderful tool that doesn't get used nearly enough, IMO. (One of innumerable subjects on which The Dick and I disagree . . . ) The Forest Service records have been used more than once to challenge their decisions. :D

Federal agencies have offices in charge of responding to the requests. Here's the USFS FOIA office (http://www.fs.fed.us/im/foia/), with instructions on how to submit a request. Just remember one thing -- If you don't get records you think you're entitled to, the last people to rely on re: FOIA's scope and procedures are the folks who won't give them up.

EDIT: Oops, a like-minded citizen beat me to the punch. Good on ya!

evilhanz
07-03-2007, 06:47 PM
The Freedom of Information Act is a wonderful tool that doesn't get used nearly enough, IMO.

I can attest to this. Several years ago, I used FOIA to get information from the USFS on various policies and standing orders. Once I submitted a formal request to the FOIA office, they were surprisingly helpful.

SteveHiker
07-03-2007, 09:37 PM
A few examples:

* The FS has officially made the Mt Isolation Spur a bushwhack and removed the sign for it although it is heavily traveled and has been in guidebooks for 50 years

[slightly off-topic]

when was this done?
there was a sign (http://stevethehiker.phanfare.com/album/176847#imageID=10335463) there approx a year ago. Looked pretty new too.

David Metsky
07-03-2007, 10:40 PM
there was a sign (http://stevethehiker.phanfare.com/album/176847#imageID=10335463) there approx a year ago. Looked pretty new too.
That doesn't look like an official USFS sign.

RoySwkr
07-11-2007, 03:05 PM
That doesn't look like an official USFS sign.
I agree, somebody is facing a $5000 fine for helping other hikers :-)

The last official sign I remember was a small AMC green-and-white, presumably they would use monochrome in Wilderness now

nartreb
07-11-2007, 03:33 PM
I remember an unpainted sign (not the one in SteveHiker's photo - this one was rectangular). This was August 2005. I recall a discussion about it on this board sometime thereafter; just prior to my hike there had been two signs, one of which had been removed. (The one taken down was right on the spur; the one I saw was on the main trail a few feet away.)

Edit: the thread I remember was this one:
http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthread.php?t=9114&highlight=isolation+sign

nartreb
07-11-2007, 03:51 PM
Back to the original topic, I went up Bondcliff Trail over the weekend as part of a Pemi Loop attempt. I think I saw some signs of attempted blaze removal, but i'm not sure. Plenty of blazes remain. Also, though I distinctly remember that three years ago the trail entered a stream (the "wrong" way, eg downstream when traveling northbound), this was no longer the case (and I think it may already have been corrected last summer when I also went this way, but I wasn't paying much attention then). So although the trail once or twice *appears* to lead into the stream, navigation, even if it had to be done blazeless in the winter, is not as bad as I'd feared: it's a big trail and it's there if you stop to look for it.
Have to say the idea of removing blazes from Bondcliff trail still strikes me as pretty stupid. Do they plan to remove the thousand or so stone steps in the steeper section? (Actually in some places there are two or more parallel sets of these because of trail rerouting!) What about the literally tons of stones and logs used to shore up the side of the ravine where the trail makes the "hairpin turn"? Which is less natural, those or a few bits of paint?

psmart
07-11-2007, 04:59 PM
Do they plan to remove the thousand or so stone steps in the steeper section? (Actually in some places there are two or more parallel sets of these because of trail rerouting!) What about the literally tons of stones and logs used to shore up the side of the ravine where the trail makes the "hairpin turn"? Which is less natural, those or a few bits of paint?

The stone steps and logs are there to protect the land from erosion caused by hikers, so they are justifiable in Wilderness. On the other hand, things like blazing and shelters are primarily for hiker convenience, so they are generally not used in Wilderness (except in specific cases where they may be necessary for resource protection, like the new out-house at the Camp Rich site, which protects the spring from frequent tenters on the up-hill side ;) )

SteveHiker
09-13-2007, 05:54 PM
That doesn't look like an official USFS sign.

you're right it doesn't. And it isn't. It is still there though. Was there a couple weeks ago. The ranger we ran into a few times said that she had no plans to remove it. She was aware of the discussions about it on VFTT.

bikehikeskifish
09-13-2007, 06:15 PM
I don't recall that sign on August 22. I recall a cairn where we turned up the spur. Doesn't mean the sign was not there. As it is a spur/unofficial trail, I was looking for the herd path down low and saw the cairn.

Tim

DougPaul
09-13-2007, 06:46 PM
I don't recall that sign on August 22. I recall a cairn where we turned up the spur.
When I was there several years ago, a sign was visible if you were north bound. It was hard to spot if you were south bound.

Don't know if this was the same sign as in SteveHiker's pic.

Doug

Kevin Rooney
09-13-2007, 06:55 PM
When I was there several years ago, a sign was visible if you were north bound. It was hard to spot if you were south bound.

Don't know if this was the same sign as in SteveHiker's pic.

Doug Maybe Steve will tell us it's north or southbound. It's been a couple of years, but my recollection is the southbound sign is more nearly square, and with smaller lettering. It's tough to spot, but once you know where it is, I've found it nearly impossible NOT to see, if you know what I mean.

It also helps to do it in winter as the trail is rarely broken out south of Isolation...

SteveHiker
09-13-2007, 07:10 PM
So the picture was taken while southbound on the Davis Path, it was on my left. It was in the same place on September 1. Some other people walked right by it that day.

There is another sign, the white with green lettering large rectangular AMC/FS contraption, almost right across the trail from it on the right, perhaps a few feet north. It was about eye level and positioned so as to be parallel to the trail on the moss covered rock face. It told the distances to other points of interest, which I can't remember now. (probably Mt Davis and Boott Spur)

Another item of mild interest, in regard to my first post on this thread, the area with the campsites just before where the Isolation trail meets the Davis path (as you go uphill, ie on the way in) is much less confusing than it was 3 years ago. Much less in the way of herd paths, and new FS camping signs as well. The yellow blazes (mentioned in 27th ed of WMG) have pretty much faded away. I think we saw 2 or 3 very faint ones on the far end.

While we're on the subject, what's the deal with the "Entering the Alpine Zone" sign that's partway up the spur? If it's not an official trail, why is it there?

Christa
09-14-2007, 08:22 AM
I was with Steve on Sept 1 when we saw the sign - it was definitely on the left, but I can easily see how it could be missed. Having read this thread, I was specifically looking for it and it took me a couple of seconds to find it.

The sign is on a tree on the left, but it's at least a head or so above eye level (and I'm not a particularly short person). It might be at eye level in the winter on packed snow, but in the summer, you definitely have to look up to see it. In order to take a picture of it, I had to hold my camera up and use the display to ensure I had the sign in the picture rather than looking through the viewfinder.

The cairn smack dab in the middle of the trail was more obvious to me.

Christa