Unauthorized Sierra

Unauthorized Sierra  101710
Vitriol from the Fringe

Tahoe National Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn visited the Sierra County Supervisors early this month to talk about the changes in the way we use our mountain roads.  

We love to have a good time with Quinn, but there wasn’t much fun about his presentation.  
First, he and his staff have put a lot of time in on this Travel Management Plan, trying to be sure everyone’s favorite dirt road or spur is included.  Problems present themselves in an endeavor like this, problems with right-of-way, and mixed vehicle traffic safety, and county, state and federal ownership.  
Pretty clearly Tom Quinn and his crew have been very busy following instructions from on high, and listening to concerns from the lowly.  Their effort is mind numbing, and that’s why it’s too bad that it doesn’t so much matter, it’s squabbling over crumbs.  
It’s become clear there are two kinds of people in the Sierra.  One kind hears there are going to be rules, and then provides input on those rules, and then makes sure there is proper signage, then uses those trails with a sense of victory.  One kind of person understands the need for organized, civilized, responsible travel on public lands.  That person appreciates the work Tom and his elves have put in to this mandate.

A second kind of person really only heard one thing Quinn said, and he said it over and over: unauthorized.  Unauthorized roads, unauthorized travel, unauthorized vehicles, and, we guess, unauthorized cousins in the mountains.

We’ve done pieces on this change before, and on the increasingly vice-like grip the Forest Service has on our public lands, and we’ve acknowledged before that there are too many people, too many quads, bikes and SUVs, too many people from the city coming up with whiskey and guns wanting to play cowboy in the hills.   Old cabins are hauled off for picture frames, people get lost causing public funds to be spent locating the body, innocent pot farms are discovered and pirated or ratted out, cattle are killed, wild fires are started, and poop is deposited by the river.  We get it, it’s a real drag having the over-population from elsewhere spill over to over-populate Henness Pass Road.  It’s a drag having guests who don’t know how to behave.  

Still, for a lot of people, a certain, second kind of person, the idea that the government can dis-authorize you from public lands is horrifying.  That’s our public lands, it’s the place where everyone in the nation can go to have a place to stand, or to get the hell away from everyone else in the nation.  Something precious has been taken from us, taken by well trained, well-meaning masters who used to be our servants.  However nice Tom Quinn and his staff were, there is no changing the fact that we’re being robbed of something precious, something we’ll never get back.

Where you now have to go to get away from the Forest Service management plan.  The only problems are the Chinese government and Mongolian Death Worms.  Photo from HERE.

When you go to a real city you’re never out of camera range, or, increasingly, voice range.  Your car and pickup rat your position out to a satellite; your cell phone plots your location with cell towers; the freakin’ Census bureau gets a GPS reading on your locked, gated driveway.  There is simply no place for a person to be undetected.*  More than stealing our birthright to reasonable use of public land, they’re robbing of us of the ability to be out of control, to be “un-managed” by the travel management plan.  

It was bad enough when it became illegal to travel over open country, but only idiots do that anyway most of the time, and there were plenty of dirt tracks and mining roads and logging roads and ridgeline roads to get where you needed to.
Now, most of those are gone, too.  
If you’re young and can walk all day, you can still go there.  If you’re old and/or fat and/or halt and/or lazy, forget it.  Those places are closed to you because you’re unauthorized.  One step from being undocumented, frankly.

As is always the case, we are essentially powerless to do anything about this, even though thousands of acres are now closed to us.  Powerless to do anything but get pissed at Tom Quinn, who is hardly to blame, or to write useless letters to congress people.  

It’s a brave new world, and it’s for your own good, but it isn’t the Sierra the way we’ve known it, it isn’t freedom the way we’ve known it, but clearly, it’s the managed, authorized freedom we’re going to get.  

OHV/Travel Management Plan Link

*If you read that line and think, “if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about” then you don’t even belong in the discussion.
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