July 17, 2004
SUBJECT: Upper Alturas Drainage Stream Restoration & Transportation Improvement
Thank you for sending the scoping letter about the Upper Alturas project. We have been swamped with Rep. Simpsonís Central Idaho Plan and finally have a few free moments to comment on your proposed Alturas action.
We are familiar with this area and have explored all the drainages feeding into Alturas Lake Creek: Eureka Gulch, Jakeís Gulch, Alturas Lake Creek main stem to Mattingly Divide, Alpine Creek and its beautiful lake forks of South Alpine and North Alpine.
Back in the late 1980ís, we sent the Sawtooth Forest numerous photos of the degradation caused by vehicles including motorcycles (ATVís werenít around yet then) at the Alpine Creek ford, and adjacent Alturas Lake Creek canyon. We are pleased that the Sawtooth NF is finally going to address problems here.
Before we comment on your proposal, we have these thoughts:
ESTABLISHING FAMILY HIKING TRAIL/INTERPRETIVE SIGNS
Before the year 2000 big storm event, the area around Alpine Creek trailhead and the first part of Eureka Gulch was a wonderful stroll. Itís a little harder to hike now. We would encourage you to consider a family hiking path in this area, and a handicap access route for wheelchairs. We envision a path that would be accessible to Alturas Lake campers plus numerous young people from nearby organization camps. Handicap trail construction costs might be secured from foundations that support handicap access.
I have a friend who is in a wheelchair and can visualize him exploring the woodlands and even going up to the Alpine Creek Knoll, a mile into the Wilderness in Alpine Creek -- if there was a suitable trail. The Knoll offers incredible wild vistas.
The Alpine Creek/Alturas Lake/Eureka Gulch confluence area is an extraordinary forested landscape with wildflowers, wildlife and openings that lead to views of big canyons and distant peaks. Also, thereís history here -- with the old Eureka Gulch mining camp -- remnants can still be seen among the lodgepole trees.
Comments on Proposed Action:
Forest Road 205 - we will trust you, fisheries staff, hydrologists and engineers to properly address the issues related to protecting fish, fixing the the mucked up Alpine Creek crossing, rehabilitating Road 205 west of the ford, reestablishing streambanks, willow plantings and more.
Trailhead - the Alpine Creek trailhead is one of our favorites as is does not resemble a Safeway Parking Lot. When designing the new trailhead, please give it a wilderness flavor. Let us be able to park under shade. Please have horse unloading facilities and tie areas AWAY from hiker/backpacker parking. Encourage motorized users to park somewhere else so quiet users do not have to listen to them rev their engines in anticipation of their urban method of travel.
Alpine Creek Trail #094 - we support your plan to reroute the steep section. We adore this trail - it leads to beautiful, wild places, within a few hundred yards of leaving your vehicle.
Road 205 - Eureka Gulch - We would support having this is a NON-MOTORIZED ROUTE. However, we appreciate the fact the route will NOT be open to ATVís - these huge, 4-wheeled motorized mosquitoes are becoming Americaís number one back country threat and problem.
A word about wildlife values in Eureka Gulch. There are many mountain goats that live on the high ridges at the head of Eureka Gulch and between Jake's Gulch-Eureka Gulch-upper Beaver Creek canyon. Also, there are wolverines. We are concerned that improved motorized access may harm these species. Please add some sort of monitoring plan to your proposal as we expect more motorcycles will use this route, once a bridge is placed at Alpine Creek.
We would also urge you to look at the mining road(s) in Eureka Gulch and consider gating the one that forks and goes to claims high on the northeast side of upper Eureka Gulch. We have not been there for several years, but one used to be able to walk (or ride) up that road for a long ways.
Alturas - Mattingly Trail #304: We support making this trail NON-MOTORIZED. However, a primitive bridge that would serve foot traffic, bicycles and motorcycles would be preferable to the existing ford and/or building a bridge that would accommodate ATVís.
We support building a gate that would prevent ATV access -- otherwise; ATVís will use this route. They will probably find somewhere to trespass regardless.
Additional signing at Mattingly Divide -- you might have to build a solar-powered electric fence to prevent trespass by dirt bikes and mountain bikes into Mattingly. Better signing might deter some wheeled users to keep out of the Sawtooth W. If wheeled intrusion continues into the Mattingly area, then please reevaluate allowing bikes on Alturas Lake Creek trail.
Jakeís Gulch Trail #093 - we support your action to keep trail a non-motorized area.
Mining Access - we understand that under the 1872 Mining Law such access must be granted. We trust the SNRA that any special access to miners will be done carefully.
Grazing Access - question -- how will sheep cross-Alpine Creek Creek? On the new bridge? Thatís probably not possible. We have seen the existing Alpine Creek ford area after 2000 sheep have crossed - vegetation is shredded and Alpine Creek and its banks are like mud pie. Is there some other alternative than letting the band go through the creek? Like a temporary bridge? Or crossing in different places at different years?
What about putting rock down along the streambanks in the area where the sheep have to cross?
Or, eliminating Alturas Lake Canyon from the Smiley Creek Sheep Allotment? Itís so unsuitable for domestic livestock. We addressed that in our North Sheep Allotment comments.
Thank you for your careful consideration in planning the future of the Upper Alturas Lake drainage. We would prefer that it become an addition to the Sawtooth Wilderness. Perhaps in a future day this will occur. In the meantime, we encourage you to do all you can to make certain that all visitors treat the countryside and its wildlife with deepest respect. Interpretive signs might help.
If we can be of assistance, please call. This is one of the most special places we know -- easy to get to -- wild, rugged, with wildflowers and great wildlife habitat.
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