unauthorized trails - disclosure before riding?
Paul, thanks for the secret trail poll Lots of interesting points of views to think about. Here's a question based on some of the strong opinions about riding off the approved path:
Should you tell someone before you lead them onto a non-authorized trail to give them the opportunity to decline?
That's an interesting question. On that note, I'm going to repost some material from an email conversation I'm having with RandyBoy right now. Make of this what you will.
At least when it comes to the law, riding on a non-closed unauthorized trail is fine. There's also a larger political issue at stake, though, especially if riding a particular unauthorized trail is frowned upon by the land manager but they haven't yet taken the time to close/reroute it -- you might be irritating the folks you need to be working with, even if you're not breaking the law.
NFS only has recreational-use restrictions in place for OHVs: NFS designates specific roads and trails as OHV-approved, and those are the only places OHVs may be used. That's it. Mountain bikes are not OHVs. We are nonmotorized transportation, legally identical to hikers and horses when it comes to NFS (not national parks, and their wretched "nonmechanized" designation), and therefore enjoy the same rights as any hiker or equestrian to use any trails we find on NFS property.
NFS has definitions in place for "NFS authorized" and "NFS unauthorized" trails and roads. Those definitions tell us whether NFS is claiming management responsibility over those assets. Those definitions do not include rules/laws related to their recreational use. It is an administrative designation only. Here's a good link that breaks it down: http://www.wildlandscpr.org/new-road-and-trail-definitions-under-revised-36-cfr-212-1
. The most useful bullet point is under the section "Forest road or trail":
- All forest roads and trails are not necessarily managed by the Forest Service. National Forest System (NFS) roads and trails are all " Forest roads and trails" but the Forest Service is specifically responsible and has authority over all NFS roads and trails. The converse is not always true. The definitions of NFS road and trail are presented in the negative, for the sake of clarity, it is important to understand that NFS roads and trails are those roads and trails that both exist on FS lands AND are under the jurisdiction of the FS.
The last piece of the puzzle has to do with the NFS's definition of a "closed trail." Closed trails are, in fact, illegal to ride. However, the NFS must actively close a trail for it to be considered "closed." In other words, not all unauthorized trails are considered "closed" by the NFS by default. Designating a trail as "closed" is like designating a trail as "OHV approved."
I think it's important that riders understand the law, but it's also important for riders to understand there's a lot more than the law at stake.
p.s. I'd probably err on the side of caution and tell my rider that we're about to go off-inventory, unless I *know* the trail I'm about to ride is cool -- like "Secret" or "Black Rock" or whatever that little side spur is called, off Desert Classic.
Sedona's the only place I've seen with closed signs, which I think chiefly serve to point out trails for the curious to ride.