View Poll Results: Should damage done in wilderness areas be repaired/replaced?

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  • Nothing should be done. Let nature reclaim the landscape.

    8 15.69%
  • Repair/replace access infrastructure only to maintain the safety of visitors

    14 27.45%
  • Repair/replace all access infrastructure for the enjoyment of visitors

    11 21.57%
  • It depends based upon area and other circumstances.

    18 35.29%
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Thread: Post Irene Damage in Wilderness Areas

  1. #1
    Senior Member Craig's Avatar
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    Post Irene Damage in Wilderness Areas

    Should damage done to the access infrastructure*, by Irene in the 5 wilderness areas of NH, be repaired/replaced or should the landscape be left as is?

    We all know wilderness designations within NF & NP have the following definition.

    A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.
    Most, if not all, public land managers of wilderness areas have different philosophies of maintaining public access in wilderness areas. If you were the land manager of these areas what would you do?

    Access infrastructure* – roads, trails, bridges, ladders, signs etc.
    Enjoy your best

  2. #2
    Senior Member MichaelJ's Avatar
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    My feeling is that a trail is a trail. It is a designated way of passage. Thus its mere existence implies that it should be maintained to level considered to be passable. Note that #2 in your quote talks specifically about recreation. One cannot recreate, in solitude or unconfined spaces, if one cannot safely get there in the first place. The same goes for signs. There is an established standard for signs: no mileages, and only at junctions, if I recall correctly.

    As long as the work is done within Wilderness rules, I see no reason it shouldn't be done. All one has to do is look at the mess atop Owl's Head to know that maintaining and managing the forest is a net positive.
    May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

  3. #3
    Senior Member Craig's Avatar
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    I like the idea that in 1 or 2 generations we could have here in New Hampshire an area with the purist concept of Wilderness without the influences of special interest groups.

    I think it would be unrealistic to expect this would be possible in all 5 wilderness areas, but certainly doable in some.

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelJ View Post
    ..Note that #2 in your quote talks specifically about recreation. One cannot recreate, in solitude or unconfined spaces, if one cannot safely get there in the first place...
    Consider this statement in the “Forest Service Policy for Wilderness Management”

    Where a choice must be made between wilderness values and visitor or any other activity, preserving the wilderness resource is the overriding value. Economy, convenience, commercial value, and comfort are not standards of management or use of wilderness. Because uses and values on each area vary, management and administration must be tailored to each area. Even so, all wilderness areas are part of one National Wilderness Preservation System and their management must be consistent with the Wilderness Act and their establishing legislation.
    Enjoy your best

  4. #4
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig View Post
    I like the idea that in 1 or 2 generations we could have here in New Hampshire an area with the purist concept of Wilderness without the influences of special interest groups.
    Umm--"Purist Wilderness" is a special interest group...

    Doug

  5. #5
    Senior Member Becca M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    Umm--"Purist Wilderness" is a special interest group...

    Doug
    Agreed!!! Also, I'm always amazed how, if you step more than a few feet off trail, you're pretty much in pure wilderness, especially in the WMNF!!! As soon as I lose sight of the trail, I definitely get that WILD wilderness feeling!!! I don't need "purist wilderness" rules to find my own wilderness!!!!
    Yay for winter!!!!!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Silverfox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelJ View Post
    My feeling is that a trail is a trail. It is a designated way of passage. Thus its mere existence implies that it should be maintained to level considered to be passable. Note that #2 in your quote talks specifically about recreation. One cannot recreate, in solitude or unconfined spaces, if one cannot safely get there in the first place. The same goes for signs. There is an established standard for signs: no mileages, and only at junctions, if I recall correctly.

    [As long as the work is done within Wilderness rules, I see no reason it shouldn't be done. All one has to do is look at the mess atop Owl's Head to know that maintaining and managing the forest is a net positive.
    ]

    I agree with what Michael says here.. In my opinion maintenance is okay in Wilderness areas and as long as it follows Wilderness Rules should be done and not just as a damage control reaction. Owl's Head a classic example with debate about the summit mess, routinely followed bushwacks causing erosion and the removal of signs etc. As for repairing damage occurring from natural causes..ie dramatic flooding..well it only makes sense that proper routes be established to protect the wilderness areas from braided trails and the resulting loss of vegetation. In my mind an established footbed is less intrusive and more desirable than helter skelter trails based on the whim and experience level of the hikers.
    # 44

  7. #7
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    Missing Choice

    I voted to maintain the trails for the safety of hikers, but I would rather the choices also included "maintain the trails for hiker safety AND protecting the land from their impacts." The trails are there for people to use responsibly, which most of us do. An officially designated and mapped and marked trail is much more followable, therefore both safer and lower-impact, than the notion of some managers that trails have to be subtle, brushed narrowly, with minimal or no blazing yet somehow brushed to indicate where the trail is. In my experience remote trails are seldom brushed and grow in to be narrow anyway. Unmarked "trails" result in more herd paths, a higher percentage of lost people, and resulting SAR operations and expense. Pretty expensive for the illusion that we are exploring a pristine wilderness when we are in fact on a trail anyway.
    I agree with Becca, if you want wilderness, step a few yards off the trail.

    Creag nan drochaid

  8. #8
    Senior Member Tim Seaver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creag Nan Drochaid View Post
    Unmarked "trails" result in more herd paths, a higher percentage of lost people, and resulting SAR operations and expense. Pretty expensive for the illusion that we are exploring a pristine wilderness when we are in fact on a trail anyway.
    An expensive illusion...that's a perfect description.
    You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated. - Edmund Hillary

  9. #9
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creag Nan Drochaid View Post
    I voted to maintain the trails for the safety of hikers, but I would rather the choices also included "maintain the trails for hiker safety AND protecting the land from their impacts." The trails are there for people to use responsibly, which most of us do. An officially designated and mapped and marked trail is much more followable, therefore both safer and lower-impact, than the notion of some managers that trails have to be subtle, brushed narrowly, with minimal or no blazing yet somehow brushed to indicate where the trail is. In my experience remote trails are seldom brushed and grow in to be narrow anyway. Unmarked "trails" result in more herd paths, a higher percentage of lost people, and resulting SAR operations and expense. Pretty expensive for the illusion that we are exploring a pristine wilderness when we are in fact on a trail anyway.
    I agree with Becca, if you want wilderness, step a few yards off the trail.
    +1

    Doug

    (The above is my response, but the software demands at least 10 characters of response. So this is my 10+ characters...)

  10. #10
    Senior Member psmart's Avatar
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    I hope this question becomes a real issue. My concern is that the USFS is overwhelmed with damage across the WMNF to roads and non-Wilderness trails, and it will be a long time before there are any resources available to address Irene's impact in Wilderness areas. Even when this happens, I expect the work to be minimal - there's only so much you can do in a remote area (Wilderness or not) to repair the kind of damage caused by the storm. Where trails cannot be repaired or relocated, they could be abandoned. We'll have to wait and see as the full impact becomes more apparent.

  11. #11
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    Prioritize

    Mr Smart takes a long-term view which seems to me to be quite realistic. Eventually the USFS will have to decide what is to be done to fix trails in wildernesses. My bet is that most of them can be relocated because they take little in the way of inputs compared with roads or Western horse trails provided easy enough grades can be found. Problem with that is that easy grades aren't always easily found... this will be a good challenge for the hiking community.

  12. #12
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creag Nan Drochaid View Post
    Mr Smart takes a long-term view which seems to me to be quite realistic. Eventually the USFS will have to decide what is to be done to fix trails in wildernesses. My bet is that most of them can be relocated because they take little in the way of inputs compared with roads or Western horse trails provided easy enough grades can be found. Problem with that is that easy grades aren't always easily found... this will be a good challenge for the hiking community.
    The logging history of the Whites has left us with a legacy of some nice trail corridors. (Particularly nice for XC skiing...) As time goes onward, nature is reshaping these corridors and I personally hope that as much as possible can be retained.

    (Retained in a functional sense: ie route around the damage, not bring in the bulldozers to rebuild logging RR and road rights-of-way.)

    Doug

  13. #13
    Senior Member psmart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    The logging history of the Whites has left us with a legacy of some nice trail corridors. (Particularly nice for XC skiing...) As time goes onward, nature is reshaping these corridors and I personally hope that as much as possible can be retained.
    I have a number of personal XC favorites that probably sustained heavy damage from Irene. Many of these are are old logging roads along streams, and when the streams jump their banks the trail/road sometimes becomes a new channel. Makes the ice storm cleanup look easy by comparison. Downed trees can be cleaned up, but lost soil is relatively permanent.

  14. #14
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by psmart View Post
    I have a number of personal XC favorites that probably sustained heavy damage from Irene. Many of these are are old logging roads along streams, and when the streams jump their banks the trail/road sometimes becomes a new channel. Makes the ice storm cleanup look easy by comparison. Downed trees can be cleaned up, but lost soil is relatively permanent.
    Agreed. Kind of annoying when the track drops off a cliff into a stream...

    (Does this mean I should rethink my earlier comment about not using bulldozers? )

    Doug

  15. #15
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    So, what you're really asking is if the Dry River Trail should be restored? I gave a lift to 2 hikers on Monday that came down the Dry River (apparently there's no signage at the upper end to discourage this behavior). They report that the trail simply no longer exists from halfway down -- they walked in the river for quite a long distance (I suppose that satisfies Leave No Trace).

    So the underlying question is whether a trail is "permanent improvement" or is "substantially unnoticeable". If it is "noticeable" or "permanent", that argues that no maintenance at all is allowed. If maintenance is allowed, the trails should be restored.

    What's the record in the WMNF for trail relocations within an established Wilderness? Because the relocated trail definitely had to get constructed in its new location. I thought we just finished relocating a portion of the Dry River Trail.

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