According to a San Francisco Chronicle front page article dated June 23, 2010 entitled “Toxic Trails a legacy of Gold Rush” hiking and biking in the Sierra Nevada can be detrimental to our health.
It describes a study done by a so-called environmental group which the group hopes will be an impetus for the Bureau of Land Management to close down recreation due to toxic contamination caused by gold mining in the distant past. One of the areas highlighted in their study as particularly dangerous was Forest Hills, an off road motorcycle riding area.
Several Sierra trails are toxic, group says
“The thousands of mine shafts that pockmark the Sierra Nevada and testify to California’s Gold Rush riches have also left a legacy of toxic contamination in some of the state’s popular recreation areas, according to a new study.”
“Soil tests on a handful of trails near mine mouths in the foothills have revealed extremely high levels of lead, arsenic and asbestos, said researchers at the Sierra Fund, a small environmental advocacy group.
The naturally occurring minerals were pounded to dust generations ago and carted to the surface, where they are now stirred up and inhaled by hikers, off-roaders, bikers and horseback riders.
While their analysis was limited to 80 samples from 11 trails and recreation spots in the Foresthill, Downieville and Nevada City areas, the group says California’s 47,000 abandoned mines pose significant threats to public safety, particularly in the dry summer months when families flock to the foothills.”
…”The fund is also pushing for warning signs and, in some cases, restricting access to public trails with high levels of hazardous minerals.”
“A federal audit in 2008 charged the Bureau of Land Management, which controls a number of abandoned mining sites in California, Nevada, Arizona and other states, with endangering public health by failing to clean up arsenic, lead and mercury near the shafts or to erect barriers around them…That same year, the agency closed about half of the Clear Creek Management Area, a 31,000-acre off-road vehicle paradise in the hills outside of Hollister, after a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report said waste from the defunct asbestos mining in the area posed a serious risk to those who work, camp, hunt and ride on the property.”
”In the Sierra Fund’s study, researchers reported levels of arsenic, asbestos and lead well above levels deemed safe for human exposure. At the Foresthill Off-Highway Vehicle area near the Marall Chrome Mine pit, science director Carrie Monohan said lead levels were nearly 18 times the state and federal standards, and 40 percent of the soil samples showed asbestos contamination.”
“Because of the diffuse nature of the hazardous minerals in surface soils, they are almost impossible to clean up, according to David Christy, spokesman with the Bureau of Land Management’s Central California division.
’The technology is a challenge,” he said. “The approach to cleaning up mines is steam cleaning them and cementing over them, and that costs a lot of money.’
Under President Obama’s federal stimulus plan, California received about $20 million of the $73 million set aside for cleaning and maintaining abandoned mines nationwide. Some estimates peg the number of abandoned mines in the United States at 500,000 and the amount needed to detoxify them in the billions.”
Read more here.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Sierra Fund is a small environmental advocacy group. That is doublespeak for well a connected organization dedicated to closing out-door recreation. We all know what the Bureau of Land Management did to Clear Creek based on junk science. The Sierra Fund is attempting to prod the Bureau of Land Management to close down other recreational trails in the Sierra Nevada.
Although, predictably, they are attacking off road motorcycle riding areas, they are also attacking hiking, camping, hunting and mountain biking, i.e. families flocking to the foothills (their words, not mine). We are not alone in our fight to maintain access. Downieville and Nevada City are mountain biking Mecca’s. Although I am primarily an off road motorcyclist, I also enjoy mountain biking, hiking, and camping. This is huge. We need to get mountain biking groups involed.
Our nanny state is trying to keep us out of public land for our own good. Don’t believe this. They are not out to protect us, but looking for an excuse to shut us out of our own land. The truth is that our government does not attempt to protect us from drugs made in third world countries and the safety of deep water drilling is left to foreign oil companies like BP. -EXCUSE ME- This is another land grab, pure and simple. See Article in the New York Times entitled “Concern Over Number of Foreign Clinical Trials for Drugs Sold in the U.S.” dated June 22, 2010 and my post in this site entitled “A Fishy Story”.
The Sierra Fund study pinpointed Forest Hills for study which showed lead and asbestos contamination. We have heard this all before. There has been no showing that this so called contamination has ever led to any health problems for families using these areas. Forest Hills is an area dedicated to off road motorcycle use and it is near the Bay Area. We cannot let this happen. They have already shut us out of Clear Creek, and even as access groups are fighting that action, they are seeking to close down other off road riding areas.
Forest Hills is not far from Mammoth Bar in Auburn on the American River. A little history: Our Green Sticker money built and maintained the access road down to Mammoth Bar, an off road motorcycle riding area, which the kayakers used to launch their kayaks. The Kayakers then succeeded in closing down Mammoth Bar to off road vehicle use four days a week, including one day on the weekend. As a member of PITS (Pacific International Trials Society) I am pissed because it means that we can no longer put on trials events there because we need to set the event up the day before. Also the rule that we must always stay on the trails has meant that we can no longer use public land to put on trials events period. Access to the excellent trail system and the sand motocross track at Mammoth Bar has been restricted and these rules have impacted off road use in an area which we have enjoyed for decades.
We cannot let down our guard. Outdoor recreation is under attack. Please discuss this with friends and neighbors. Join access groups like Blue Ribbon which fight for out door recreation on all fronts. Northern California recreation (off road vehicle use and other forms of recreation) has never before been under such relentless attack. These so called environmental groups must be stopped. This is our children’s and grandchildren’s legacy. Please don’t let it be taken away from them.