U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
News.bytes Extra, issue 355
Modoc Line to add 85 miles of trail to Northeast California
Government and private partners in northeast California celebrated a linkage between the past and future last week, when they gathered along a rugged stretch of the Modoc-Lassen County line to celebrate a new Rail-Trail conversion.
Representatives from Modoc and Lassen counties joined with representatives of BLM-California's Eagle Lake and Alturas field offices, executive directors for the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) and Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and directors from the non-profit Lassen Land and Trails Trust (LLTT) to celebrate transfer of an 85-mile stretch of former railroad into ownership of the Lassen Land and Trails Trust.
Below, they rode in a 120-year-old stagecoach and a rustic horse-drawn farm wagon along the route of the Wendel to Alturas railroad line. They stopped for a ribbon cutting ceremony marking completion of rail banking negotiations and beginning of a new recreation trail through the high desert. (The stagecoach was loaned by the City of Susanville. Local rancher Bill Waltman provided the horses and farm wagon. BLM horse wranglers Thad Waltman and Pat Cannon drove the teams teams and Victor Gragnani of Spanish Springs Ranch also helped drive one of the teams.)
A solitary mountain biker leads the way, third photo.
The scenery along the Modoc Line is little changed from its days as a stage route, and later, an important railroad line. Below is a view of the Likely Tablelands from the stagecoach vantage point.
The Modoc Line began in the 1800s as a narrow gauge railroad operated by the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad. It was later converted to standard gauge, and most recently operated by the Union Pacific Railroad until its abandonment in the 1990s.
Discussions about rail banking the corridor (using the line for a recreational trail while preserving options for resumption of rail service) began in 1997, with the BLM Eagle Lake Field Office initially negotiating transfer of the railroad property. The BLM Alturas Field Office then entered the negotiations along with the Lassen Land and Trails Trust in about 2006.
The railbanking arrangement culminated with the Lassen Land and Trails Trust taking ownership. The Sierra Nevada Conservancy provided a $37,000 grant to LLTT for appraisal and other preliminary costs. The WCB granted LLTT $420,000 for the purchase of the former railroad property from Union Pacific. WCB supported the project because it will help conserve areas with important wildlife values.
Cutting the ceremonial ribbon, above, were from left, John Donnelly, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Board; David Bradshaw and Pat Cantrall, Modoc County Board of Supervisors; Tim Burke, field manager for the BLM Alturas Field Office; Matt Sayles, executive director, Lassen Land and Trails Trust; Brian Dahle, Lassen County Board of Supervisors; and Jim Branham, executive director, Sierra Nevada Conservancy.
Speakers at the ceremony praised the partnerships that led to the rail banking arrangement. Lassen County Supervisor Dahle envisioned a day when the Modoc Line could provide a recreational trail link between Alturas and Westwood, a 125-mile distance. Such a link would connect the Modoc Line and Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trails -- both Rail Trails. Modoc County Supervisors Bradshaw and Cantrall said the Modoc Line success epitomizes the spirit of partnership prevalent in northeast California.
Lassen Land and Trails Trust will now partner with Modoc and Lassen counties and the BLM to develop a trail master plan. The plan will consider uses, non-motorized and motorized, that would be appropriate. The 85-mile trail route crosses public and private land, with about 50 miles on public land managed by the BLM.
- J. Fontana, 10/27/08