May 3 (1989, 2001)
A Victory ~ A Challenge

Legal Victory

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On May 3, 1989, the pictured judgement in this case was filed in Superior Court, affirming the right of the public to access the Bear River via legal easement on the Smart's Crossing Rd., just north of the town of Alta. Russell worked hard as part of the team that brought suit when a landowner gated off this road, which provides access to a popular swimming hole and fishing area. The victory in this case gave him increased confidence that more could and should be done to preserve public access to publicly owned lands and to trail access points in the North Fork canyon.

Date: Thu, 3 May 2001 09:56:09 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: House at Iron Point

Hi all,

Bill Combs, Placer County Zoning Administrator, approved a special use permit granting construction of a 2000-square-foot house on the slopes above Iron Point, in the North Fork American River canyon. The right to appeal this decision lasts until the end of this week, or possibly, until Monday of next week. I would like to appeal.

To review the situation: a 48-acre parcel, with Tahoe National Forest lands to the east, west, and south, extends from the railroad tracks on the north, down to near Iron Point and the head of the Euchre Bar Trail. The parcel has a TPZ (Timberland Production Zone) zoning, which is non-residential, but allows construction of a caretaker's residence for timber management. This is how the special use permit is characterized: a caretaker's residence, to facilitate timber management.

However, how much timber can be generated from 48 acres? How much with a caretaker's residence, and how much without? The upper, northern part of the 48 acres has real timber and good tree cover, on moderately deep soils. The lower part of the parcel is very brushy and has thin soils. It is on this lower part that the residence is planned: where there is the least tree cover, and the best views out into the North Fork canyon. I don't see how, under any circumstances, the potential increase in timber production on 48 acres can justify the construction of a residence in this very scenic part of the North Fork canyon. It seems fairly obvious that the whole angle of timber management, on this parcel, is just a ruse to allow construction of a residence with a million-dollar view. I don't care how many degrees in Forestry the applicant has.

Why, one asks, was a brushy, thin-soiled parcel of 48 acres ever given the special TPZ zoning in the first place? I was at many of the hearings in 1978 when the precise zoning was hammered out for this area, and then approved by the Supervisors. My recollection is that here, as with many other small, rocky, and steep parcels in the North Fork canyon, the TPZ zoning was applied in the context of the Wild & Scenic River designation of the North Fork, and was applied specifically because it was non-residential. I know that Fred Yeager (head of the Planning Dept.) often cited Wild & Scenic status as a prime factor in shaping the zoning of the canyon in this entire area.

Why then, in Combs' decision, was no cognizance taken of the original intent of the zoning?

I have spoken with several officials from Tahoe National Forest about this 48 acres and the special use permit, including Vivian Kee, District Ranger, Nevada City Ranger District (the 48 acres is in her District); Ken Werner, Lands Officer; Steve Eubanks, Forest Supervisor; and Rich Johnson, District Ranger, Foresthill Ranger District. In the first place, none of them had any knowledge of the special use permit or the hearing, although Placer County should have notified TNF, as it is the owner of contiguous lands. Ranger Kee is wholly unacquainted with the North Fork American and the Euchre Bar Trail and Iron Point.

It seems to me that a statement from Eubanks and/or other TNF officials, that TNF is interested in acquiring the 48 acres, would be quite useful in the appeal process. Eubanks went so far as to say that he *might* be able to write a letter, somewhat as follows: "Just as TNF is interested in acquiring other private inholdings in the North Fork canyon, so also it is interested in acquiring this 48 acres." However, both he and Rich Johnson suggested that such an acquisition would have a low priority, and that the process would take several years.

I am sorry to write such a long and involved message, but finally, Deane Swickard of BLM has proposed that a meeting be held in the next few weeks to finalize a plan for land acquisition in the Gold Run Diggings/Canyon Creek area, *and also* nearby areas. I believe Deane was thinking about some other land acquisition objectives in this general area. The 48 acres at Iron Point fall into that category, although there the BLM would not be the managing agency were the land to be acquired (TNF would be).

Other objectives worth discussing at the meeting might include:

1. Dutch Flat Chinatown.
2. Dutch Flat Petrified Forest.
3. Smarts Crossing road.
4. Fords Bar road.

I will keep you all apprised of the date and time of the forthcoming meeting when it is known. BLM, TNF, and Placer County officials will be there, as will, probably, Dave Sutton of the Trust for Public Land.


Russell Towle

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