A little help for the forest: Civilian corps work to block off user created trails on the Manti
The United States Forest Service has in recent times been plagued by user created trails on the forest. The forest offers a host of trails for riding opportunities, but there are always those who go off trails and create new trails. This type of use is very damaging to the forest. A group of volunteers have chosen to help with this particular problem. On July 10, at 8 a.m. Bill Broadbear, Forest Ranger in charge was waiting to take a group to see what the volunteers are accomplishing. They met at the Orange Olsen Administrative Site, Manti-La Sal National Forest, on the West side of Joe's Valley Reservoir. He was waiting to introduce volunteers Ryan Collins, the crew leader, from Massachusetts, Randon Mcginnidy from Michigan, Kat Fiedler from California and Erin Daniels from California each of which signed up for 10 weeks and have seven weeks to go in their tour of duty with the Utah Conservation Corps and the Forest Service. They signed up for this through AmeriCorps and Utah Conservation Corps.
These four young people are from across the United States and came to work in the Utah Forests for the Utah Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps program. They receive a stipend and limited housing in forest service buildings. They gain from this experience, seeing beautiful new country, meeting a lot of new people and getting good work experiences. These experiences will help them with their environmental studies in college.
AmeriCorps is a U.S. federal government program that was created under President Bill Clinton by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. More than 70,000 individuals currently join AmeriCorps annually, totaling more than 500,000 past and current members since 1994. The work done by these groups ranges from public education to environmental clean-up.
The Utah Conservation Corps is an AmeriCorps program dedicated to improving the quality of public lands and the communities surrounding them through partnership projects, service, and education. The UCC is primarily funded through an AmeriCorps grant from the Utah Commission on Volunteers and generates other needed revenue through partnership projects.
These volunteers working for the Utah Conservation Corps took the group to Shoo Fly Canyon where they demonstrated work completed in the Lowery Water area below Potter's Pond.
This volunteer crew has put dead timber across trails and built fences of eight foot posts buried two feet in the ground attaching 20 foot poles (four-five inches in diameter) with bolts. After the fence is built a steel cable runs the length of the fence. Some of these fences are as much as 300 feet long, long enough fences in rough terrain to discourage OHVs from going around the fence.
The purpose of the fence is to stop motorized vehicles such as all terrain vehicles from using old abandoned logging roads and other trails that never were meant to be used for vehicle traffic.
In an interview with Bill Broadbear he said, "In the last two or three years, we have identified more than 500 miles of user created OHV trails. This crew is working specifically to close some of those trails. The main purpose is to protect wild life habitat and watershed values, by trying to protect these resources. The trails being closed are not legal trails. A lot of what this crew is working on here are old logging roads that were created 30-50 years ago, some perhaps longer than that. These old logging roads have been found and opened up by people on OHVs. They have never been open to OHVs and they were closed with the Forest Service 1991 Travel Plan. But over the past 17 years these roads and trails have been pushed back open. The closure of these trails protects the wild life habitat and the watershed. This forest is a heavily eroded forest and closing these roads will gradually stop some of the erosion. The protection of the wildlife habitat will benefit the elk and deer that use those protected areas. The fences provide security for the wildlife so that they are not disturbed by motorized vehicles.
"We already have a very well used trail system through these mountains that gets a lot of recognition throughout the state. It is called the Arapeen OHV Trail System. That trail system was a huge undertaking and we have had no end of local volunteers helping to make that trail system possible. The local volunteers have put in hundreds of hours taking care of that trail system.
"On the one hand we have this wonderful trail system that the local volunteers have helped us maintain over the last eight years.
"On the other hand we have some illegal use by about 10 percent of the OHVers that do not want to stay on the designated mapped route. These illegal riders just want to go wherever they want to go, without regard for the damage they cause.
"We have put up signs and put logs across the trails, but when we come back the logs are moved and the signs are shredded.
"The posts and poles you see on the trailer will be taken to the Indian Creek Campground for replacing a fence around the campground to keep the cattle out. The present fence is in a sad state of disrepair."
"When this crew is finished at this location they will then work on the Sanpete side of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, Ephraim Canyon, Manti Canyon, 12 Mile Canyon and then in the Moab area to finish out their assignment. There is plenty of work to be done all over this mountain.
"We do not expect to complete all of the planned projects this year. Next year we hope to have another Utah Conservation Corps volunteer crew to continue the work," said Broadbear.