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Creating Common Ground in California’s Modoc National Forest

Creating Common Ground in California’s Modoc National Forest

Variety of recreation groups gather for an IMBA Trail Care School

By: Liz Chrisman
Posted: December 9, 2021

The Modoc National Forest is unlikely a place most cyclists have on their tick list. Separated from the more heavily populated areas by the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, these 1.6 million acres are located in the far northeast corner of California. This public land’s topography is diverse: a forested mountain range in the east, high plateaus covered in sagebrush and ancient lava flows in the south, and the largest shield volcano to the west. Simply put, if you want to recreate in a place of solitude that will connect you to the land and the past, this is the slice of The Golden State to visit. This area sees many equestrians, fishers, hunters, hikers and rockhounders and very few soft-surface cyclists. But, that’s very close to changing.


In late October, the Modoc National Forest hosted a two-day IMBA Trail Care School for trail stewards and United States Forest Service (USFS) staff.  Participants included local equestrians, the Backcountry Horsemen of California (BCHC), Michael Anzalone - the California Mountain Bike Coalition's (CAMTB) Executive Director, and IMBA Trail Solutions trail specialist Chris Orr. The impetus for this workshop was the Modoc National Forest’s budding investment and focus on recreation trails and was made possible by a multi-year partnership between California’s Region 5 National Forests and IMBA. Region 5 has secured nearly $1 million dollars in funding for trails through the Great American Outdoors Act and Forest Service Major Construction funding and will continue to host three “Trail Summits” each year.

According to Chris Bielecki, Forest Engineer for the Modoc National Forest, USFS was “jazzed” to have hosted a sustainable trails workshop facilitated by IMBA. “Chris Orr helped connect with our diverse partners who have interest in trails that can serve equestrian, mountain biking and hiking users,” said Bielecki. “We plan to build on the sustainable trail maintenance skills, especially drainage techniques, that Chris helped us develop.”

This group spent a half-day inside learning foundational knowledge for sustainable/resilient trails and trail triage methodologies. The remaining first day of the workshop was spent in the field accessing the landscape, drainages, trail alignments, and erosion. The second day the group applied the trail triage methodologies learned in class. Some of the techniques practiced in the field included efficiently locating new drainage, deberming, and converting old waterbars to knicks or rolling grade dips.

Unexpectedly, this gathering cultivated more than trail maintenance skills; it sparked fruitful conversations. Reflecting on his experience, Michael Anzalone (Executive Director of CAMTB) is excited to learn more from the community.

“Tribalism in recreation is real and can veil the commonalities that would otherwise allow us to transcend our differences,” said Anzalone. “When we take the opportunity to focus on a shared higher purpose, i.e. taking care of the places we love and the trails that take us there, the potential for progress reignites.”

The whole group forged a unique connection, a renewed interest in the area, and are looking forward to returning to Modoc once the snow melts. “The trail opportunities in the Modoc National Forest are just beginning to be realized,” said Chris Orr. “Incredible routes and destinations for the local community and the potential for future connections into Oregon and over to the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship's ‘Connected Communities’ project and trail systems.” 

Community oriented IMBA Trail Care Schools and Trail Summits like this recent event on the Modoc National Forest are funded partially through a partnership between the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region (R5) and IMBA Trail Solutions. Other forests that have benefited from this training include the Shasta-Trinity, Stanislaus, Los Padres, Angeles, and Cleveland National Forests.

If your Forest Service is interested in these trainings please contact or


About the author

Liz (she/her) grew up pedaling a garage sale 10-speed on the dirt roads of the Arkansas River Valley and on tarmac throughout college. While finishing her master's program, a coworker handed her a rigid Gary Fisher, drove into the Ouachitas and they conquered mileage on the IMBA EPIC Womble…

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