Since someone asked.
The liability is a huge issue, there are policies and procedures to follow, none of which are convenient and most that seem like overkill, but all created for reasons, mostly because the FS is seen as the deep pockets to sue over anything. Drop a tree on someone—there’s a Ranger District’s budget for a year, not to mention the staff time that will be devoted to it for years. Bury an axe in your leg, big time lawsuit—the FS didn’t warn/train/rescue me. And it doesn’t have to be you bringing the lawsuit, more than likely it would be your insurance company when the medical costs rise.
Remember that the staff people don’t know you from the rest of the newbies out there now. Spend some time with them, show up on their volunteer events, build the relationship, then seek permission to go it alone. They desperately need the help, but they must be cautious. All that takes time, and a lot of relationship building. Working folks probably don’t have the time for this.
But I often think of what someone from Volunteers for Outdoor AZ said about volunteering-“Do you want to be part of the audience or part of the cast?” There are huge opportunities to really change up your involvement in the outdoors and public lands, but it’s a process.
And there is indeed the right way, ok way and wrong way to do most anything, trail maintenance included. Brush trimming has been covered—one thing we see is people cutting the tips off brush and leaving it in the trail. No big deal until someone trips over it. Another is leaving a stub sticking up because they don’t bend down to cut it at the fork or ground level. This is ugly and a danger if someone falls on it.
My pet peeve-tiny drains! Well-meaning folks take picks and McLeods out and dig a ditch across the trail, maybe a few inches wide, thinking this will drain the water off. It won’t last beyond the first couple rains. Drains should extend along the trail for 10-12 feet, the bottom of them should be at least a foot below the downhill side, should extend diagonally across the whole width of the trail, and be a smooth transition when traveled linearly along the trail. This takes a bunch of work, no less than 30 minutes in soft soil, longer when things are dry, rocky or packed.
It takes several days of formal training to be authorized to run a saw—chain saw or cross cut--on the forest for trail work. I believe this applies to anything over 4 inches diameter. A big part of that training is instilling or acquiring a safety sense. We’ve cut some huge logs that could have killed someone if they got loose.
I know and work with many dedicated FS and BLM staff; I have seldom gotten the sense that there is a “conspiracy” or “agenda” to limit, cover up, or influence anything. Most are as frustrated by the bureaucracy as the rest of us. They are trying to do their job despite it, with shrinking resources, and most do great work. Case in point: today State Parks approved $214k for trail work in the Payson Ranger District, the culmination of well over three year’s of bureaucratic processes. The bad news—this will address a drop in the bucket of the pent-up need for maintenance and development work that the trails need.
Like most things government, public land management is complicated-anyone who boils it down to a sound bite doesn’t understand.
The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see.