Draft Plan Cover Letter






The High Lakes OHV Area (HLOHVA) is designated as a combination of Semi Primitive Non-Motorized (SPNM) and Semi Primitive Motorized (SPM) in the Lassen National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP, 1992) as amended. There is currently no proposal to change the land management status for HLOHVA in future Plan revisions.

SPM and SPNM guidelines state that the social setting for this designation should be “…low to moderate frequency contact with other parties.” SPM specifications also state that “areas [are] essentially undisturbed except for the presence of four-wheel drive roads and trails.”

Currently the management objectives prescribed for Semi Primitive Motorized and Non-Motorized areas are not being met. Indirect management techniques generally attributed to primitive areas have not proven effective at High Lakes. Nearly all use areas in the High Lakes are user created and many are in poor locations. In addition, high use, coupled with limited available mileage and camp sites have led to unacceptable resource issues throughout the more popular areas of the HLOHVA. Problems that are occurring in the area include, but are not limited to; high number of sites concentrated on lake shores, site expansion (along with associated loss of vegetation), erosion, trail degradation, sanitation, litter, and other impacts related to heritage resources.

An independent study project for the High Lakes was completed in 2005 as part of a senior thesis for a M.S. candidate in the study of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism at Utah State University. This document titled “Recreational Strategies for the High Lakes Off-Highway Vehicle Area” by Kirk Flanigan, outlines some of the areas of extreme concern as well as management options to mitigate resource issues in the High Lakes area.

Soil loss condition surveys were conducted on the trails and camp sites in 2001, 2003, and again in 2006. Conditions were found to be good (green) in 2001 for the majority of routes with some degraded locations (yellow or red) due mainly to inadequately armored stream crossings. The 2006 survey showed similar findings, with areas of concern increasing from additional visitor use. Areas of dispersed camping were of particular concern, as most of the use is concentrated along shore lines and is uncontrolled at this time.

Due to the resource concerns mentioned above and the 2006 survey of trail conditions, an emergency closure order was signed by the Forest Supervisor on July 12, 2007 closing motorized access at five points of travel in the HLOHVA. In response to the closure, user groups have formed a non-profit organization called “Friends of the High Lakes” with a stated goal of; continued and historical access to the area, mitigation of current and future environmental and health issues, and prevention of further closures. A dialogue between the newly created user group (a compilation of several existing groups) and the Almanor District recreation staff began in July of 2007 and has been consistent.

During the field season of 2007, several additional surveys were accomplished by the botany and archeology staff from the Almanor Ranger District and the Supervisors Office to help fill in gaps of information still needed to begin a left-side analysis of management options available for a future recreation strategy.




The overall goal of the recreation strategy is to provide an acceptable level of user satisfaction and OHV experiences while mitigating natural and cultural resource impacts within the High Lakes OHV Area. The recreation strategy would address the following:
  • Establishment of Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) and carrying capacity levels for the area and/or at high use lakes.
  • Determination of need for visitor permits and whether there will be a fee.
  • Designation of backcountry camp sites to reduce recreation related impacts including site containment, dispersal and concentration, etc.
  • Location and extent of trail head developments for both camping and staging.
  • Location of sanitation facilities.
  • Location of designated trails and types of vehicles allowed on them.
  • Adoption of seasonal or wet weather travel restrictions (if needed).
  • Location of non-motorized trails.
  • Sign plan to both educate and direct travelers in the area.
  • Law enforcement plan to determine the desired level of law enforcement presence.
  • Establishment of group size limits in accordance with the recreation opportunity spectrum for management of semi-primitive areas.
  • Annual operations and maintenance plan, including the size of the desired Forest Service workforce and volunteer cadre to implement.
  • Visitor education/outreach plan.
  • Land acquisition plan to purchase the Spring Valley parcel from Sierra Pacific Industries and other desired property.
  • Monitoring plan to assesses effectiveness of management actions and mitigation techniques.
  • Heritage stewardship plan to protect archaeological sites and create a volunteer site steward program.
  • Collaboration plan to promote on-going community and user participation in OHV planning and management of the High Lakes.




A list of proposals for the area is included and will be split into the following categories:
  • 1) Travelways
  • 2) Dispersed Camping
  • 3) Volunteer opportunities
  • 4) Signs, Maps, Visitor Education and Enforcement



    The HLOHVA offers relatively low total available mileage for a designated OHV area. There are currently only dead end roads available to users in the High Lakes. Access from the north, which serves as the main entry point for users, does not currently have legal public access. Access from the south is currently closed by Forest Order, leaving no legal public access currently available to this designated OHV area. The Almanor District recreation staff recommends mitigating hydrological resource concerns to open three of the five emergency trail closures. It is recommended Saddle Lake remain closed to motorized use and become a walk-in site. The recreation staff suggests a study of the feasibility of the 614 trail for motorcycle or OHV designation. Legal public access across the Lotts Lake parcel or on NFS land is also desired to establish a permanent northern entry point into the area.

    Developing a technical section of trail or a “play area” for avid 4X4 enthusiasts has been proposed by several groups and individuals in the past and should be explored further.

    The use of seasonal or wet weather closures has been successful in other OHV areas and will be analyzed to provide “rest periods” for areas susceptible to damage. No routes that enter into SPNM land status will be considered for motorized use without a change in the LRMP and the NEPA associated with such a proposal.

    Mitigation of negative impacts to the motorized routes in the High Lakes should include; armoring of crossings, removal of culverts, re-routes around sensitive areas, shoulder re-enforcement, elimination of cheater routes, and possible turnpike construction and rock blasting. Emphasis will not be on upgrading the trail for increased access, but strictly for mitigation of negative resource impacts. Trails (and associated camp sites) should be placed on a rotating schedule of monitoring for routine maintenance. Routine trail maintenance will conform to the Regional Heritage Programmatic Agreement which exempts such activities from the pre-approval requirements of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act.

    Users desire to have information on the difficulty of particular trails posted at the beginning of routes or at changes in difficulty if there is an opportunity for a turnaround. This idea has been, in the past, a source of disagreement among land managers due to the issue of liability. The concern can be addressed by asking the user groups to rate the trails and to post information as to difficulty where appropriate.

    As with dispersed camping, travel management decisions in primitive areas need to be pro-active, but also responsive. The management tool of Limits of Acceptable Change is recommended to set trigger points that result in the tightening or loosening of direct management or restrictive actions on the part of the managing agency. By using the framework of LAC, management of the area can remain dynamic as individual projects are implemented and volunteer and Forest Service presence is increased. Trigger points can be as simple as a Forest Order that states “1 inch of rain in 48 hours = close the route”, or require more complex monitoring for vegetation loss, sediment removal, or increased human waste.

    The issuance of fee permits for the area can be addressed in the HLOHVA using a graduated LAC scale weighing the amount of user interaction with the level of direct management necessary to protect the semi-primitive characteristics mandated by the Forest Plan. One end of the management options scale should start with group size limit of twelve (12) heartbeats or four (4) vehicles and mandatory registration in a trailhead register box. Register information will include dates of travel, size of group, destination, travel route, and type of transportation, which will help the Forest Service determine the level of visitor use. The other end of the management option scale in this case would be a mandatory fee permit system that would not exceed the maximum carrying capacity and would designate camp sites for all groups. A camp site reservation system may be considered in the future based on continued monitoring of visitor capacity and thresholds for limits of acceptable change.

    Trails in semi-primitive non-motorized areas in the HLOHVA should be cleared and maintained as hiking/biking/horse trails (non-motorized) or be decommissioned and abandoned. If proposed for abandonment, prior public notification should occur prior to the decision being made.

    Travel management options will be prioritized by the Forest Service in the following order:

    • 1) Open 519 trail to Pipe Jam Lake.
    • 2) Correct maintenance and watershed problems with the 616 and re-open by 2009.
    • 3) Correct maintenance and watershed problems on 24N04 by 2009.




    Although there may be an increasing need for a fairly high development level camping area at the northern entrance to the High Lakes, there is currently no plans for a developed campground. Most of the improvements that will be proposed within the area will be to enhance the backcountry style camping available, while attempting to alleviate the increasing amount of; overcrowding, debris, human waste, and resource impacts to preferred use dispersed camp sites. The Almanor District staff are in agreement with the Flanigan report that camping opportunities need to be designated and concentrated in the High Lakes to shrink down the impact footprint currently occurring along the lake fronts. All camping would be restricted to these designated sites. Consistent high occupancy at backcountry camps may call for a permitted fee reservation system to maintain a sense of solitude and more natural conditions in this semi-primitive area.

    By providing the public with a staging/unloading area at the northern entrance along with camping facilities including: vault toilets, fire rings, tables, and water, managers may be able to encourage some campers to stay outside of the high impact areas of the High Lakes at night, thus decreasing a majority of the impacts that are associated with camping versus day use.

    The areas of the most concentrated use and highest impacts associated with dispersed OHV camping are;

    • 1) Spring Valley Lake
    • 2) Long Lake
    • 3) Campbell Lake
    • 4) Saddle Lake

    And to a lesser extent;

    • 1) Grassy Lake
    • 2) Mud Lake
    • 3) Bear Lake
    • 4) Morris Lake

    The recommendations that follow for the development backcountry camps, including sanitation facilities, should be carefully assessed as to type of facility and used only if it is concluded that a pack out system of human waste is not considered feasible.

    Spring Valley Lake is almost entirely privately owned. There have been initial talks between the landowner and the Forest Service concerning a land trade or a purchase by the government to acquire this parcel. Currently there are user created sites containing 41 fire rings along mostly the southern half of the lake. If a purchase were to take place, the recommendations in the Flanigan report for the development of three backcountry camps is desirable. Camps would provide pit toilets and fire rings

    Campbell Lake had 11 user created fire rings at the time of the last survey. Many of the use sites are located in sensitive areas. It is recommended that two sanitation facilities be provided for overnight and day use visitors at the lake and that three use areas, with fire rings only, be established at locations around the lake that will provide for resource protection and a sense of solitude. One walk-in site at the north end, one drive in site at the north end, and one drive in site at the south end of the lake are proposed.

    Long Lake currently has numerous camp sites that are located in close proximity to the waters edge and a motorized trail that follows much of the western shore. It is recommended two backcountry camps with pit toilets be established (one at the north end and one at the south end of the lake by the dam). This will protect the lake shore riparian area while providing for a primitive, more remote camp setting. Designated sites would contain fire rings. It is further recommended that the trail through the meadow along the west side of Long Lake be decommissioned and the meadow area restored. Access to the north end of Long Lake would be via the Campbell Lake trail. Elimination of this through route will provide greater solitude for visitors at the lake.

    Although Morris Lake receives some use, the route to the lake is more difficult than the above mentioned lakes. It does not currently seem feasible or necessary to provide sanitation facilities. Use needs to be concentrated using fire rings and designated sites, and users need extra encouragement to pack out all trash and bury human waste. It is recommended two backcountry camp sites be designated – one at the east end of the lake and one on the west end by the dam.

    Grassy Lake receives relatively low use. It is recommended that two small designated sites be enhanced with one fire ring at each site.

    Bear Lake receives relatively low use and should have two designated use sites enhanced with one fire ring at each site also


    User input along with past retired Forest Service personnel will need to be analyzed to look at other designated dispersed camp site opportunities. It is recommended that the Saddle Lake and Mud Lake trails remain closed to motorized traffic to provide for a more primitive walk-in camping experience.

    There are several smaller unnamed lakes/ponds where camping occurs south of Morris Lake and Spring Valley, and southwest of Chips Lake. These locations should be reviewed to designate back country camps with fire rings. They are currently in a more pristine condition than other heavily used camps.

    Facility enhancement projects are prioritized in the following order:

    • 1) Designate camp sites in HLOHVA.
    • 2) Install fire rings.
    • 3) Install pit toilets at high use lakes




    There is currently momentum in the building of a strong volunteer program for the HLOHVA. The Almanor District staff believes that it is desirable to build upon this momentum to actualize the idea of a working volunteer trail patrol and separate adopt-a-trail/adopt-a-lake program. Several user groups have formed an umbrella organization named “Friends of the High Lakes.” This new user group has taken steps toward recruitment for both the trail patrol and the adopt-a-trail.

    Almanor staff will work to solidify the adopt-a-trail/adopt-a-lake program for High Lakes and will work directly, and have individual agreements with each of the volunteer groups on maintenance of trails and camp sites. A trail assessment and condition survey form will be provided to volunteers to turn in to Forest Service personnel on a twice yearly schedule. Minimum standards for hours worked and maintenance performed will be established by the Almanor District Recreation Officer. Clear direction will be provided as to the extent of work allowed under the volunteer agreement.

    Almanor district staff will work with representatives of Friends of the High Lakes to assist the FHL leadership with their organization of the trail patrol. Forest Service personnel will provide guidance as to standards and protocols for the trail patrol as well as logistical support and equipment as will be agreed upon by both parties when a formal agreement is put in place. FHL will organize patrol personnel and schedule patrol dates and routes. FHL will manage the day to day operations of the trail patrol and keep log records of hours spent and number of contacts made to be turned in annually to a Forest Service representative.

    A bi-annual meeting between the Forest Service and all volunteers should be scheduled before and after each season of use. Constructive dialogue between all interested parties should include goals of the upcoming season and lessons learned after the unofficial close of the preceding use season


    Recruitment for volunteer OHV hosts at the T should be pursued. Hosts could provide a Tread Lightly educational contact, distribute garbage bags, pass out the maps, inform visitors of the regulations and permit process, and help patrol the trails and camp sites.




    The Almanor District staff recognizes the need for improved signing in the High Lakes Area. There has been great progress in the amount of sign installation and maintenance this year with the addition of specialized travel equipment to aid the district personnel in accessing the area. The creation of a sign plan for HLOHVA, which this strategy paper recommends, will help to better organize and catalogue installation needs and maintenance. A sign plan will help the district in being more pro-active in the ordering and replacement of damaged or destroyed signs in a timely manner. Signs will be consistent in content and design throughout the area and will provide for both instructional and educational material. Kiosk style signs should be constructed at any motorized entrance points to the High Lakes. The increase in sign installation and maintenance will be accomplished by both an increased FS presence and through a volunteer agreement with both adopt-a-trail and trail patrol programs.

    Sanctioned educational material will be displayed at various locations and provided to district staff and volunteers for dispersal to users in the High Lakes. It will be imperative to the successful management of the area that both FS personnel and volunteers educate the public at every opportunity as to what is unacceptable behavior as well as why it is unacceptable and what the consequences of illegal activity are. The education strategy should be kept to a few simple Tread Lightly messages that will be agreed upon jointly by Almanor District staff and the FHL leadership, but should include a minimum of “pack it in-pack it out,” “responsible users keep public lands open,” and “stay on designated roads and trails.” Development of a standardized map for the HLOHVA should be pursued in conjunction with the development of the educational and interpretive material for the area. The majority of educational material and signing will be positive in nature, but the entrance station should emphasize that visitors are entering a restricted use area and that regulations will be enforced and violators will be issued citations.

    The increased Forest Service presence this year over the past several years was noticed by users of the High Lakes. The added increase in FS personnel that is planned with a permanent recreation employee and a law enforcement officer stationed in Butte Meadows next year should increase compliance to the rules and regulations steadily. The volunteer trail patrol will also act as witnesses to violations and will pass information concerning violations to the appropriate law enforcement personnel.




    • 1) Accurate map of the area with designated camp sites and trails.
    • 2) Kiosk at all entry points.
    • 3) Distribution of low cost Tread Lightly materials and messages.
    • 4) Recruitment of volunteer OHV hosts and trail patrollers




    The Almanor district staff proposes the following actions:




    • 1) Designate all overnight use sites through regulation and engineering
    • 2) Develop LAC standards and monitoring protocols for lakeshores, camp sites, and trails.
    • 2) Concentrate camp sites at high use areas
    • 3) Construct a parking/staging/camping area at the northern entrance
    • 4) Camp sites past the northern entrance should be designated by the use of fire rings and engineering only
    • 5) Develop three backcountry style camps at Spring Valley Lake
    • 6) Develop three backcountry style camps at Campbell Lake
    • 7) Develop two backcountry style camps at Long Lake
    • 8) Contain and designate sites at Bear Lake, Saddle Lake, Grassy Lake, Morris Lake, and Mud Lake
    • 9) Study other smaller lakes for contained use sites




    • 1)Do not upgrade trail condition unless for resource protection
    • 2)Keep Mud Lake and Saddle Lake closed to motorized traffic
    • 3)Study and open new technical route for a difficult 4X4 experience (consider a loop trail down to Morris Lake and back) when we can maintain what we have now.
    • 4)Barrier/Sign/Patrol closed routes in non-motorized areas
    • 5)Perform routine maintenance and surveys on all OHV trails
    • 6)Perform routine maintenance on all popular non-motorized trails
    • 7)Increase Forest Service staff, signage, and maps to encourage users to follow all rules and regulations
    • 8)Impose a group size limit that cannot be exceeded without a special use permit
    • 9)Install mandatory trail register box at entrance points
    • 10)Mitigate resource damage to open three of the five emergency closures and bring into compliance with California OHV trail standards.
    • 11)Recommend imposing seasonal or wet weather closures and gates at the following locations:
    •        A. The northern entrance
    •        B. The 24N04 at Rock Creek
    •        C. The Plumas National Forest boundary
    • 12)Develop LAC standards and protocols and monitor trails with permanent photo points and use of State OHV evaluation forms.




    • 1) Formalize agreements for the adopt-a-trail/adopt-a-lake program.
    • 2) Formalize agreement for the trail and camp site patrol program
    • 3) Work with volunteers and interested parties in making management decisions.
    • 4) Follow through with volunteer coordination, support, and meetings.
    • 5) Rate trails as to difficulty and post difficulty with logos and a disclaimer.
    • 6)Host annual High Lakes public “stakeholder” meetings to establish collaborative management of the area. These meetings would be open to the interested public and not just volunteers.




    • 1) Develop kiosks at main entrance points.
    • 2) Construct a two panel board at the overlook to Spring Valley Lake that has specific information on routes and camping areas
    • 3) Create a sign plan.
    • 4) Distribute maps, signs, and Tread Lightly brochures at entrance points.
    • 5) Establish mandatory registration
    • 6) Increase Forest Service presence, particularly recreation Forest Protection Officers and Law Enforcement Officers.
    • 7) Incorporate use of volunteer agreements to help with sign maintenance and information dispersal.
    • 8) Interpret obvious historical sites and provide information on the history of the area.
    • 9) Consider developing an interpretive driving guide.

    It is believed that with the direct management actions proposed above, user satisfaction and OHV experience can be maintained or improved while improving resource conditions to an acceptable level.




    Although it is very difficult to predict recreation funding for out years, goals need to be in place for accomplishing the objective statement for the HLOHVA Recreation Strategy. A 5-year plan specifically for the High Lakes can be tied in with the District’s 5-year plan for all projects. A Draft Proposed High Lakes OHV Area Task List is attached to this document.



    Draft High Lakes Task List 11/09/2007