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Houston Regional Group - News
Bayou Banner Article, June/July 2012 -
Forest Service Shuts Down All Trails in Sam Houston and Davy Crocket National Forests

On March 30, 2012, the Acting Supervisor for the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas, Stephanie Johnson, signed an order to close all trails on the Sam Houston National Forest (SHNF) and Davy Crockett National Forest (DCNF) due to drought killed trees. Acting Supervisor Johnson said that she would not hike down some of the trails that she saw with her seven-year old daughter because she did not feel it was safe.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Forest Service (FS) before the shut down order had neither walked or ridden all the trails and had not consulted with the Sierra Club and other organizations about the condition of the trails or possible trail closures. As a result the 128 mile long Lone Star Hiking Trail is shut down. People can walk anywhere in SHNF not on a trail. The Four C's Hiking Trail in DCNF that winds through Big Slough Wilderness Area on the Neches River has also been closed.

Public meetings were held April 23 and 24 at DCNF and SHNF respectively. The Sierra Club attended the April 24th meeting. There were about 40 people present, including about 10 FS personnel. About seven people represented the hiking community. At the public meeting motorized, mountain bike, horse, and hiking trail users all complained about the way the trails had been closed and that the hazard on most trails was not significant. Many trail users had helped the FS after the trail closures to survey the trails to determine how many dead trees were within 150 feet of both sides of every trail. The Sierra Club has seen no areas on LSHT with dead trees that it felt posed a high hazard to hikers in 2011 and 2012.

The FS rated most of the SHNF trails as either a low or moderate hazard. For the LSHT, the part of the trail that was rated as being a high hazard area was from FM 149 to Stubblefield Recreation Area. This was the only high hazard area rated by the FS on the LSHT. The FS has already salvage logged Stubblefield, Cagle, and Scott's Ridge Recreation Areas and plans to log or cut dead trees trailheads, parking areas, and hunter camps.

The FS stated at the April 24th public meeting that some trails could be closed for up to one year. Trail users were not happy with this statement. Trail users, including the Sierra Club, requested that they be allowed to continue routine trail maintenance or fast growing vegetation will block trails so that they cannot be used when the FS finally opens them.

The Sierra Club sent the FS a letter on April 25, 2012 which outlined its support for treating Little Lake Creek Wilderness Area differently from other parts of SHNF with trails. Since this area is wilderness any cutting of trees should be done with cross-cut or other non-mechanized saws. In addition, since wilderness is where you enter Nature on its terms and not ours, people accept a greater risk and therefore only dead leaning trees should be cut within 50 feet of the LSHT and not 150 feet.

In an email on April 26, 2012 the Sierra Club told the FS that low hazard trails should be open by June 2012 and moderate and high hazard trails should be open by the end of September 2012. The Sierra Club also stated that the FS should allow the trail user community to work with the FS to speed up the process.

The Sierra Club has been told that some people continue to use trails and conduct trail maintenance. If caught on a closed trail a person could be cited by FS law enforcement officers. Stay tuned for more information on this important issue.

Brandt Mannchen
May 1, 2012


Last updated:  11/20/2011.   Content 1999-2011 by the Sierra Club.