Three local individuals have been caught and cited for constructing illegal trails in the San Jacinto RangerDistrict of the San Bernardino National Forest.
All received citations for damaging government property and illegally cutting trees. Each citation was a fine for $275 or $550 per person.
Besides the actual damage and potential damage inflicted on the forest ecosystem, the trail construction created a fire hazard, as branches and cut manzanita were discarded in piles along the freshly hewed trail path.
Forest Service officials stressed that trail construction requires appropriate planning and research. Various threatened and endangered species live in the district and approved trails avoid their habitat and employ ameliorative efforts that attempt to minimize potential
problems that would
affect these species.
“This activity could destroy resources,” said Gerrelaine Alcordo, SBNF deputy public affairs officer. “No environmental analysis process was employed to determine the prudent areas to cut and dig.”
An extensively approved district trail system is available for a variety of uses, from hiking and trail bikes to horseback riding.
Local forest officials are concerned that the illegal trails, while intended for just mountain biking, will gradually expand to motorbike and then off-highway vehicle use, exacerbating the damage to the plants and wildlife. One of the fears is the gradual damage created by more and more erosion and run-off from storms.
“Here we can see that they dug down to the mineral soil,” Alcordo said, while pointing to a portion of the illegal trail. “This can create a drainage that creates damaging erosion.”
Illegal trails in the district are not a new experience, but catching the perpetrators is unusual. This incident follows closely on the recent illegal fires near Alvin Meadows in the district, where a narrow and illegal trail appears to have been expanded to four-wheel vehicle use.
If residents believe they see or observe an illegal forest use, call 909-382-2921, the San Jacinto District office.