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  1. #1
    sargevining's Avatar
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    Lone Star Hiking Trail

    I'm hoping that this is the proper forum for posting this. It is not an actual trip planning thread, although it is tangentially associated with trip planning as it involves policies instituted by the local Froest Service that affects planning. In fact, they had a very LARGE effect on recent planning. As it only applies to Texas residents or users of the Lone Star Hiking Trail, I opted to post it here.

    There has been a good deal of discussion on the LSHT Yahoo Group regarding the issue of on-trail camping during hunting season, something that has been discussed in trip planning threads in the past couple of months.

    Yesterday, I received this e-mail from the Group:

    Over the past month and a half I have been collecting trail registration cards and recording stats. Every week there has been 1-2 people backpacking on the LSHT from trailheads 1-4. With this cold snap it would be a great time to be backpacking the trail.

    I think we need to start a letter writing campaign to the District Ranger
    and the Forest Supervisor of Texas to rescind the ban on backpacking and camping along the LSHT during hunting season. The point made earlier about heat-related illnesses on the trail is a great talking point.

    Allen

    Sam Houston National Forest
    Attn: Warren Oja
    394 FM 1375 West
    New Waverly, Texas 77358

    NATIONAL FORESTS and GRASSLANDS in TEXAS
    Attn: Mark Van Every
    2221 N. Raguet St.
    Lufkin, Texas 75904
    In a later mail, the email address of Ranger Oja was provided: woja@fs.fed.us

    This evening I sent this e-mail and would hope that members of the Texas Hammock Camping community and others who use the trails or anticipate doing so in the future will join the LSHT Club in contacting him.

    Ranger Oja;

    I am a frequent backpacker/hiker and was gratified to learn recently of the USFS decision to prohibit hunting with 150 yards of the LSHT and other trails in your system. This proactive step to enhance the safety of non-hunting users of the Park who use it year round, while only slightly disadvantaging others who may only use the Park for a dozen weeks or so is to be congratulated for both its fairness and its dedication to the mission of the Forest Service. It creates a three hundred yard wide safety zone with the trail at its center, placing trail users well beyond eyesight of hunters so as to limit their being mistaken for deer while increasing the probability that any errant round fired from a weapon outside the zone will encounter an object or vegetation that will stop or deflect it thus reducing its lethality. The only addition I would make would be to prohibit firing towards the safety zone from outside for a distance of 25-50 yards to further enhance safety, but this is just a personal preference.

    The issue of Trail use during Hunting Season is a difficult one, and I do not envy your task of having to balance safety, public access, and preservation while catering to the needs (real and perceived) and/or desires of disparate groups whose intended use of the Park differ so widely. The perceived needs of day hikers differ from those of backpackers who generally camp on trail and the perceived needs of backpackers can differ between those who camp on trail for a single overnight and those who engage in multi-day Section or Through Hiking; the perceived needs of Hunters differ from trail users, while the perceived needs of Bow and Black Powder Hunters differ from those who only hunt with modern centerfire rifles; and many times the perceived needs of any two or three of these groups or sub-groups can interfere with those in any of the others.

    Historically, the safety issue of Hunters, Day Hikers, and Backpackers using the Park simultaneously had been addressed by prohibiting on-trail camping during “Gun” Deer Season, which generally ran from the last weekend in October or first weekend in November until the last weekend of the current year or the first weekend of the next. Those of us in the Hiking/Backpacking community, while noting that such restrictions do not exist in other Forest Service lands in other States, such as the Appalachian and Long Trails (to name only two), accepted this as a prudent measure and the loss of eight weeks of good hiking and camping weather as a small inconvenience.
    This year, however, the decision was made to “simplify” the policy by fixing the time during which on-trail camping would be prohibited from 15 September until 1 February of every year. This seemed somewhat arbitrary to those of us in the community as we took note that the policy effectively reasons that during the first two weeks of Bow Hunting Season (which begins 1 September) and the last two weeks of Black Powder Season (which ends 31 January) it is perfectly safe to camp on-trail with those hunters, and we wondered what it was about the remainder of those season which made them so dangerous. But even more, we were concerned about another safety issue that seems not to have been considered when making the decision, and this is why we welcome the recent decision to prohibit Hunting with 150 yards of the Trail.

    Here in Texas, as in other States in the South and Southwest, the safety concern for trail users that is present for the longest period during the year is that of Heat Prostration. The danger of Heat Casualties occurring on-trail can be anticipated from the middle of May until the middle of October---half of every year---while any danger presented by Hunters has historically been regarded as being present only during two months of the year. The recent decision that expands the prohibition of on-trail camping has the unintended effect of limiting the safest time available to Backpack on the Trail, from a Heat Casualty standpoint , from 18 week to 8. This may cause overnight users of the trail to plan trips in the most dangerous time of the year weather wise rather than the safest and most comfortable time. It is a good deal easier to regulate and control usage of the trail by hunters during hunting season than it would be to do the same year round to prevent or limit usage of the Trail during the highest heat season, even if it were possible to do so and still conform to the mission of the Forest Service and regulations for use of Federal Park lands.Prohibiting hunting within 150 yards of the Trail, while still maintaining the requirement that Hunters stay overnight in Hunters Camps, has effectively removed the most dangerous times of the day when Hunters and Campers might interact: the early morning hours while decamping and in the early evening while bedding down. It is worth pointing out that even the previous policy regarded use of the trail by hikers, provided they were wearing the prescribed amount of blaze orange, as an acceptable risk as long as they were walking on trail during daylight hours. This new policy now effectively removes the risk of Hunter/Camper interaction during both the early morning and early evening, as well as during daylight hours.

    Many in the local Hiking/Backpacking community now believe that we can further enhance safe use of the trail year round by making it available for on-trail camping during Hunting Season, as other Long Distance Trails on Federal Lands in other parts of the country do. Adding available weeks during the safest weather rather than removing them should have the effect of encouraging distance and overnight Backpackers to plan trips during those weeks rather than during the high heat months. We do feel it is still prudent to require the wear of the prescribed amount of blaze orange, and to require that any campsite have similar blaze orange indicators, such as cloth draped over or attached to any tent, tarp, hammock, or other shelter that might be used, and to limit on-trail camping to no more than 20 yards from the Trail. We encourage the Forest Service to adopt these or similar measures in the name of encouraging hiking during safer weather and to promote fairness of use of the trails. We would suggest that definitions of Hikers and Campers be promulgated, perhaps by stating that any person using the Park who is in possession of any weapon or firearm on their person or in a vehicle or shelter under their control will be considered a Hunter, with the exception of personal protection handguns carreid in compliance with local law and Federal regulation, and expand the prohibition of camping at Trail Heads to 150 yards for all Trail users during Hunting Season.

    We hope you consider these suggestions in the spirit in which they are offered: a sincere desire to enhance the safe usage of the Park by the public in a manner that is fair to all.

    Thank you for all of your hard work and once again for the decision to prohibit hunting within 150 yards of the Trail.

    Kent A. Vining
    Rosenberg, TX

  2. #2
    Brute1100's Avatar
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    Wow that a lot of political correct talk... My head hurts... I am glad you wrote in and I agree with your stand point... Even though I have yet to see the trail for myself...
    Live, Laugh, Love, if that doesn't work. Load, Aim and Fire, repeat as necessary...

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  3. #3
    Randy's Avatar
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    So what is the final decision?
    "Proud Pound Hawg"
    Republic of Texas H.O.G. (Hennessy Owners Group)

  4. #4
    sargevining's Avatar
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    The Forest Service still blames TPWD, and TPWD still blames the Forest Service. Both have pledged to discuss it with each other and will let us know what they decide.
    Last edited by sargevining; 11-10-2013 at 20:26.

  5. #5
    New Member erinkae's Avatar
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    Its a nice..creepy..place to hang. We hiked in a couple of miles found an old creek bed to hang in.

  6. #6
    sargevining's Avatar
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    There's 93 miles of trail, we go out all the time.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by erinkae View Post
    Its a nice..creepy..place to hang. We hiked in a couple of miles found an old creek bed to hang in.
    I swear i heard a chainsaw in the middle of the night...

  8. #8
    The Spaceweaseal Paradox spaceweaseal's Avatar
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    Its a great mision you are on Sarge but you know that bureaucrats have very small attention spans. I am just afraid that the letter was trashed/deleted after the first paragraph. Most letters that have any effect or the attention of the reader need to be short and to the point..
    Thats just my 2€ but i have the attention span of a squirrel.

  9. #9
    rhjanes's Avatar
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    I was planning a hike on it when they closed it...

    I believe that bureaucrats love long wor
    Call me Junior

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  10. #10
    sargevining's Avatar
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    It gets worse. This was posted to the LSHT Yahoo Group a couple of days ago:

    OK, here's what I found out today. There is nothing in the agreements with Texas Parks & Wildlife to prohibit primitive camping, no Forest Service regulation. It all comes from Forest Service law enforcement not wanting hunters camping all over the forest and more illegal hunting, AND safety of hikers.

    Warren Oja, District Ranger, is supportive of camping along the LSHT at established primitive campsites. We need to make our case and support him.
    Please write letters emphasizing most of the country allows primitive camping during hunting season;, winter is the best time to backpack on the LSHT as the temperatures are mild, more water on the trail and less bugs; hikers are not required to wear hunters orange which goes against the whole safety argument; there are already many backpackers camping along the trail and there is not enough law enforcement to find them; having established primitive campsites will reduce random camping, reduce destruction to fauna and wildlife habitat, and be manageable. Most of the established LSHT primitive campsites are 0.75 miles from a road and easily accessible in case of emergencies.
    So, this guy says there's no rule, but we should write the Ranger and beg him for something we don't want so that we can get something we already have.

    I've sent the Ranger an email that asks him pointedly:

    Is there a restriction on camping on the LSHT, enforceable by statute or regulation, during hunting season?

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