Recreation Committee Recommendations for JAG Approval


November 4, 2010


The JAG was charged with providing input on:

The process of conducting a recreation users survey, establishing a recreation user group, and developing a new recreation plan for the Forest.

The JDSF Management Plan goal for recreation is:

RECREATION and AESTHETIC ENJOYMENT: Plan for and provide enhanced levels of low impact recreational opportunities that are compatible with forest management objectives and healthy ecological processes, that are consistent with historic recreational use characteristics, and that allow for engagement of recreation user groups.

The JAG generally endorses this goal, while recognizing that some accommodation may be necessary to reduce the current substantial amount of illegal off-highway-vehicle (OHV) use of the forest.

The Management Plan proposes initially to maintain existing recreation facilities until a new recreation plan is developed. Prior to the creation of the recreation plan, JDSF is to establish a Recreation Task Force with members from the recreation community and to conduct a user survey. 

The JAG assisted JDSF staff in forming the Recreation Task Force. The Task Force was established in mid-2009 and has met monthly since that time. It has produced a preliminary set of recommendations for expanding recreation opportunities and use in the forest.

The JAG Recreation Committee provides liaison between the Recreation Task Force and the JAG . We recognize that the Task Force is the primary source of user recommendations to JDSF with respect to recreation. At the same time, the JAG has the responsibility to express its opinion on the appropriate management priority given to developing recreation enhancements and to facilitate the timely development of the new recreation plan. Also, because the JAG members were chosen from a broad range of backgrounds, the JAG is best equipped to recommend policies to minimize potential conflicts among timber management, research activities, and recreation use.


Recommendation 1

The recreation plan for JDSF should incorporate to the extent feasible the recommendations of the Recreation Task Force, recognizing that the recommendations are preliminary and in some cases conceptual and, therefore, will be subject to revision during development of the recreation plan.


The JAG favors expansion of recreation opportunities in Jackson Forest. Recreation is one of the cornerstones of public support for the forest.

Taken together, the recommendations of the Task Force provide a practical vision for long-term future expanded recreation that is consistent with the recreation goal of the management plan. The JAG endorses that vision.

Key elements of the Task Force recommendations are:

1.      Provide dedicated funding and staffing for recreational and educational projects, maintenance and programs.

2.      Designate an experienced, enthusiastic staff member responsible for education and recreation in the JDSF.

3.      Develop three sets of looped multi-use trails, each in different areas of the forest.

4.      Increase the number of access points with sufficiently large parking areas to accommodate equestrian trailers.

5.      Expand and modernize existing camps; provide backpacking camps; make group camps available throughout the year.

6.      Establish a target shooting range. This range would make it feasible to request legislation to prohibit target shooting practice outside of the range.

7.      Increase promotion of recreation and education, including development and maintenance of a JDSF recreation website, contact with public schools throughout the state, and by establishing and maintaining informational kiosks in the forest for easy access by visitors.

8.      Help establish an unaffiliated but cooperating non-profit “Friends of Jackson Forest” to gain grant funds and facilitate volunteer support of recreation facilities.

9.      Consider developing legal OHV use, with careful attention to potential environmental, potential user conflicts, and other regulatory issues.

Recommendation 2

As soon as possible, JDSF should hire a single contractor to develop a recreation plan and associated user survey.


At present, JDSF staff is preparing a request for proposal (RFP) for development of a user survey, but not including development of the recreation plan. We believe there will be substantial economies of time and money in hiring a single contractor to develop both the user survey and the recreation plan. The RFP process itself is time consuming, taking many months from start to finish. There will be substantial duplication of learning and delay in completion if separate contractors are hired for the survey and plan development.

It is common practice to have the user survey and recreation plan done by the same organization. This was the case for the previous recreation survey and plan for Jackson Forest done about 1990.

It has been 3 years since the management plan has been approved. It will help to keep public trust to demonstrate, now that funds are available, that the department is acting to complete the recreation plan quickly.

Recommendation 3

Recommend that JDSF proceed, prior to the completion of Recreation Plan process, with recreation maintenance and improvements to existing trails and facilities as needed or as recommended by the Recreation Task Force.


The management plan is vague about the extent to which recreation trails and facilities can be improved prior to completion of the recreation plan described in the management plan. The position of the department, as stated in a letter from the Director of Cal Fire to the JAG is:

The activities of the Recreation Committee should not get ahead of the recreation planning process that is described in the Management Plan and the Charter. It is intended that major decisions about recreation management on JDSF are to be developed through this recreation planning process.[1][Emphasis added]

The JAG concurs with this position, but improvements to existing facilities and trails are not major decisions. The management plan will soon be in place for 3 years and it is likely to be several more years before the recreation plan is approved. Revenue generation in the forest is recovering to reasonable levels. JAG supports beginning to maintain and improve existing recreation facilities as needed or as recommended by the Recreation Task Force.

Recommendation 4

Develop and apply measurable guidelines for protecting recreation resources wherever located in the forest and for protecting aesthetic resources along highly traveled roads (e.g., Hwy 20 and Road 350).


The JAG believes that recreation, timber harvesting, and research can all occur throughout the forest, with appropriate protection measures for heavily used recreation trails and campgrounds. Therefore, the JAG recommends adopting protection guidelines to be applied wherever appropriate.

Recommendation 5

All trails and roads with significant recreation use should receive at least the aesthetic protection measures contained in the JAG’s Recommended Late Seral Forest Development Prescription for Brandon Gulch, August 8, 2008[2]  These recommendations should be taken as a whole, but adapted to other locations and their associated aesthetic values. Important provisions of the recommendations are:

… JAG recommends allowing a lighter-than-average prescription within buffer zones along roads and trails, with the prescription and operations implemented with the goal to recover visual quality in 3-5 years after harvest. The buffers zones would be 100 feet or sight-distance from the edges of the above roads or trails, whichever is less. All logging slash within the buffer shall be uniformly lopped to within 30 inches of the ground.


Visual degradation from logging is a major negative for recreationists. Although some impact is unavoidable, sensible measures, such as those proposed for Brandon Gulch, can substantially reduce public upset without major impacts on timber revenues.

Given the determination of the JAG that Jackson Forest should strive to accommodate the multiple values of timber harvesting, recreation, research, and education, JAG recommends that aesthetic protection measures be part of all timber harvest plans that contain trails or roads receiving recreation use. Those that receive significant use should receive at least the measures recommended above.


Appendix Rec-1


Excerpt from  Brandon Late Seral Prescription Final Report, August 8, 2008

7. Special Considerations

Recreation and Aesthetics

Recreation use on Brandon Gulch consists primarily of two campgrounds and use of recreational trails (Roads 360, 362, and 1000, see Figure 3) used by campers, hikers, bikers, equestrians, shooters, and unauthorized use of OHVs.


The direction given in the Settlement Agreement (Appendix 2) is to ensure that:

Recreation use will be considered when devising the THP amendments. Potential harvest modifications to reduce visual impact on recreation users, including but not limited to those provided by the Management Plan and the Forest Practice Rules, shall be considered for incorporation in the THP amendments.


To meet this directive, treatments should be applied in the close vicinity of campgrounds and trails to mitigate the effects of timber harvest and to enhance vegetation development that promotes desirable aesthetic and visual conditions. Concerns and suggestions provided by recreation-user comments (Appendix 7) should be considered in carrying out timber harvesting and mitigating its effects. JDSF staff will work with timber operator to reduce the visual impacts of the timber harvest.


The following elements provide additions or emphasis to the recreation guidelines in the Management Plan:


1) Roads and Trails: Roads 360, 362, and 1000, are used by hikers, equestrians, and trail bike riders and are valued for providing aesthetic experiences and views of the forest. JAG members agreed on the objective of maintaining high visual quality for trails and campgrounds. JAG considered but rejected no-harvest setbacks as a means to accomplish this objective, feeling that the adopted approach would not produce significant adverse effects, setbacks would unnecessarily constrain harvesting opportunities and operational flexibility during harvesting. In addition, JAG found that ruling out harvesting next to trails would, over the long run, prevent trail users from being able to see into the more visually rewarding late-seral forest. Thus, JAG recommends allowing a lighter-than-average prescription within buffer zones along roads and trails, with the prescription and operations implemented with the goal to recover visual quality in 3-5 years after harvest. The buffers zones would be 100 feet or sight-distance from the edges of the above roads or trails, whichever is less. All logging slash within the buffer shall be uniformly lopped to within 30 inches of the ground.

Trails along streamsides are especially scenic and buffers along Brandon Gulch and the North Fork of the South Fork of the Noyo River may exceed specifications of the Forest Practice Rules to protect particular identified values. Sherwood Trail is of particular importance requiring special maintenance to prevent erosion. Trails used by equestrians should provide adequate width and overhead height clearance.

After harvest, all trails should be restored as much as possible to their original or desired condition. All trails and trailheads within Brandon Gulch should be well marked and mapped. Opportunities should be taken to provide information to the public on sustainable forest management, advancing late-seral stand conditions, and balanced resource use on portions of trails from which harvesting can be observed.


2) Existing Campsites and Day-Use Areas at JDSF provide a remarkable sense of solitude and therefore careful attention is required to ensure adequacy of setbacks. Setback size should be 200 feet within which harvesting should be excluded (Management Plan, page 275) with added sensitivity given within 300 feet (Management Plan, page 119). Prior to harvesting, onsite evaluation of potential visible impacts should be conducted by JDSF staff and one or more JAG representatives to ensure that desirable visibility screens are prescribed. These will likely vary considerably around campsites due to variability in terrain and vegetation. Thinning near campgrounds and day-use areas should be limited to enhancing understory development, future screening, and removing potential hazard trees. Planning for thinning should be controlled by visual confirmation from professional staff in the campground, possibly with input from JAG in the initial phase of field implementation. Riparian buffers may exceed standards of the California Forest Practice Rules to protect special values at particularly important locations of recreation areas.


3) Cable Corridors should be kept as narrow as possible and, if practicable, aligned to minimize visibility. Care must be taken to avoid injuring leave trees at the edge of corridors.


4) Tractor Logging should leave as much vegetation as possible for visual screening from roads and trails. Tractor use should be restricted when soils are moist to avoid soil compaction.


5) Landings and Access Routes should be limited to the minimum size needed consistent with providing safe working areas. Landings (including those from previous logging entries) should be cleaned up and planted unless designated for reuse. All access roads and landings should be decommissioned by covering with slash to limit non-authorized use, stabilize surface soil, and enhance regeneration of native plants. Special care should be taken to avoid conditions conducive to establishment of exotic plants.


6) Logging Debris away from trails and visitor use will be treated using standards within the Forest Practice Rules. Slash abatement may in places exceed the normally-prescribed 50 feet from a road (Management Plan pages 119 and 273) to reduce fire risk or enhance recreation and aesthetic values.


[1] Letter to JAG Chairman Helms from Director Grijalva and Chairman Dixon, October 22, 2008.

[2] See Appendix Rec-1