Years of effort by Snowlands Network, other environmental organizations and concerned individuals culminated in an agreement between the Forest Service and diverse interests that will close the Rubicon (Off-Road) Trail at times to protect water quality and prevent erosion.
The agreement will also allow improvements to the Rubicon Trail to move forward.
Eight Appellants, including conservation and off-road organizations, as well as El Dorado County, dropped their appeals of a U.S. Forest Service Decision that grants the County an easement for the route of the historic Rubicon Trail and approvals for trail improvements. Changes to the Decision, negotiated and agreed to by the eight appellants, will require the County to close the Trail when weather conditions are likely to result in runoff of sediment and petroleum products.
“This agreement is a win for everyone”, said Karen Schambach of Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation and California Field Director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “It allows the County to proceed with bridges and erosion control, and includes a winter closure that ensures those improvements will not be destroyed by irresponsible use.”
“The trail improvements along with the agreed to procedures for needed closures will significantly increase protections to water resources and the many riparian and aquatic species that live depend on these waters, including the California red-legged frog and Sierra Nevada yellow legged frog.” said Lisa Belenky, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Five conservation organizations jointly appealed the decision: Snowlands Network, Winter Wildlands Alliance, Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, based in Georgetown where the Rubicon Trail originates, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Center for Biological Diversity. The primary concern for these groups had been the erosion and water quality issues that result from winter and early spring use of the trail, especially by so-called “extreme off-roaders.” Currently the Trail is under a Regional Water Board Cleanup and Abatement Order, due to water quality issues such as sedimentation and petroleum products contamination.
“It took last minute efforts of all participants and a willingness to compromise on a plan that everyone can live with in order to make the settlement a reality, said Marcus Libkind, Chairman of Snowlands Network. “My only regret is that this same outcome was not worked out long ago.”
A special thanks goes to Monte Hendricks, Snowlands’ Highway 50 Coordinator, Rich Platt, retired Forest Service employee and Snowlands volunteer, and all of you who submitted comment letters over the years.