More and more people coming from out of the area to use Temblors, but there is little access to the hills
The Temblors of southwestern Kern County have been for many years, a well-kept secret.
The hills, which rise to just over 4,000 feet in elevation at the southwest end of the San Joaquin Valley, are federal lands, managed by the Bureau of Management, and have for decades been largely forgotten by all but those who use them.
Whether it was riding dirt bikes, four-wheeling, hunting, horseback riding or hiking, the range that stretches from southwest of Maricopa north past Fellows has provided outdoor recreation for mostly people from the Taft area.
But that is all changing.
Taft has become well known through the world of off-road motorcycle riding, thanks to the Taft Grand Prix and other events.
Now, the Temblors are drawing more and more riders from outside the area and that is only going to increase.
"There is a lot of demand with fewer and fewer opportunities," said Stephen Larson, a supervisory natural resource specialist from the BLM's Bakersfield office.
Kern County has the highest off-highway vehicle (OHV) registration in the state, he said, and that exacerbates the growing problem of more and more riding land being off-limits to riders while the popularity of the sport continues to increase.
In response, the BLM is taking a more active role in managing the area and has designated a roughly 80-square mile area a "Special Management Recreation Area."
the area stretches along the eastern border of the Carrizo Plain National Monument from the area of Crocker Springs on the north end south to the Elkhorn Valley area.
Last week, BLM officials from the Bakersfield office came to Taft for a two-hour meeting to get input on the a management plant for the Temblors.
They discussed ways to deal with the increased usage and the problem of a lack of legal access.
Currently, you can't get to the Temblor SMRA without without crossing through private lands until you get to the north of Fellows.
About 40 people attended to discuss the issues, many of them off-road riders, some hunters, as well as several oil company representatives.
Several city officials, including Mayor Randy Miller and councilmen Dave Noerr and Orchel Krier were also in attendance.
The Temblors have been used for more than 100 years as grazing land. Oil and gas exploration and production followed along with hunting, target shooting and off-road vehicle use.
"That occurred at a relatively low level without a lot of problems," Larson said.
That has changed.
"In recent years it has increased because of a lot of displaced users," he said.
Trying to balance all the interests as more and more demands are put on the land is one of the goals of the BLM's resource management plan currently being put together.
It's general plan
"The BLM presence has been very minimal," Larson. "We have been very reactive instead of proactive."
That's why the BLM has given this part of the Temblors a special designation and is seeking ways to best handle the multiple, sometime competing interests.
"Livestock, hunting and oil and gas are key activities that have as much rights as anyone else,' Larson said.
Managing the Temblor SMRAS could involve closing some of the exisitng trails, said the BLM's Peter DeWitt. There are an estimated 80 miles of exisiting roads and trails in the SMRA.
But much of the discussion at the two-hour meeting centered around access – where should it be, how to get it, and how wide open it should be.
Many riders now enter from the south side of 25 Hill, in an area between the heavily-developed oilfields that cover much of the area.
But that land is private, too, even though many out-of-towners pull in in trailers and camp over the weekend while riding.
The BLM is exploring ways to obtain land for access points.
Noerr suggested the BLM talked to the oil companies that own the land and talk to the local who know the area to identify suitable entry points and roads.
Another audience member, Bruce Miller suggested identifying a couple of entry points with access to two trials both at the north end and south end of the SMRA.
The BLM plans to deal with the oil companies, seeking land for entry points through purchases, easement or right-of-way agreements.
The large number of trails through the area are problematic, too. Some run back and forth from the BLM land onto private land and back again.
Some may have to be abandoned, DeWitt said, and turned into loops.
Also part of the discussion were how big to make the staging areas at entry points, once they are established, and whether or not to clear off large areas for camping.
Large number of users could bring additional illegal dumping to the area.,
Noerr said that's up to the users to take care of.
"We are given an opportunity," he said. "With that comes a responsibility. We can police our own."
Miller said he wants additional usage to be done with a minimum effect on the aesthetics, the view of the Temblors.
"We don't want more trails or scarring," he said.
All the information and input gathered will be used in preparation of the final Regional Management Plan, which is due to be completed in late winter or spring of 2013, Larson said.