Forest access closed unfairly
June 21, 2013
Many are very aware of the recent rollout of the U.S. Forest Service Travel Management Plan that has removed hundreds of trails and accesses from very good stewards of these trails.
The U.S. Forest Service claims that they don't have the resources to manage the network of trails, even if they haven't ever managed many of the trails in question or if they don't manage them today.
Some trails that were slated for closure represented trails to nowhere. Others are trails that have seen very responsible multi-use for 30-plus years in many cases.
As forest stewards and lovers of our mountains, most who enjoy Jeeping, riding all-terrain vehicles or biking take great care of the areas that they ride, enjoy and share these areas very well.
Forest stewards are regularly educating other users or rogue users of the importance of protecting areas that are not to have trails on them.
Recently, the Rocky Mountain Sports Riders organization (a single track club) worked hand in hand with the Bureau of Land Management to close some trails in the Spring Creek area that were developed through rogue use — trails to nowhere.
Clubs like Rocky Mountain Sports Riders and ECO Riders (an off-highway-vehicle club) have been organized in our communities to help protect and promote motorized access in many areas that the U.S. Forest Service is trying to shut down.
Promoting responsible usage and access for hunters, recreation and family fun in areas where riding a motorized vehicle makes sense.
Most of the areas that were recently closed to off-highway vehicles are not areas of "conflict of use."
Many were just closed without any explanation other than the U.S. Forest Service can't support them, but they are roads that remain open to licensed vehicles.
We're not talking about wilderness impacts or user conflict areas.
We're talking closure for the sake of closure.
Two years ago, the town of Eagle, town of Fulford and ECO Riders protested some closures to multi-use roads south of Eagle due to complete disagreement with the closures proposed and a clear lack of planning.
The result was a "stickered" map (Motor Vehicle User Map) that continued to allow usage in areas south of Eagle around Yeoman Park, Sylvan Lake State Park, Lede Reservoir, Crooked Creek, etc. 2012 consisted of education of the "stickered" map so that users would know the alternate routes to use to avoid many of the closures.
This season, to the surprise of many closely involved with this situation, the U.S. Forest Service re-closed all the roads to multi-use just as they had before the protest in 2011 and are now unable to provide a "stickered" map.
These closures took place without any communication to the towns or the clubs that the U.S. Forest Service was "working closely" with.
The economic study provided by the U.S. Forest Service states nothing about a loss of hunters in the areas because they can no longer use all-terrain vehicles, or campers who love to ride outside of their campsites.
Multiple meetings have taken place since the U.S. Forest Service made these changes at the end of May, and the agency is now moving forward with a National Environmental Policy Act process to determine if the "stickered" approach will fly with the environmental impacts as part of the Motor Vehicle User Map.
The roads and trails that will likely fall into this NEPA are roads for multi-use — meaning shared between licensed and unlicensed user groups — existing dirt roads that lead to areas of usage.
The local representatives from the U.S. Forest Service agree that the closures were extreme and not well thought out.
But at the same time, they are held by a "process" that ties their hands.
Some of the closures are almost laughable, as they have created a trail system that users can't get to without breaking the law — areas that don't provide parking, but do provide riding or areas that serve as dual egress for a community but are now closed to a licensed vehicle.
One closure (Sylvan Lake to Lede Reservoir) is on a road that the U.S. Forest Service recommends using an off-highway vehicle during inclement weather as the safest way to travel.
A well-thought-out plan is far from what has been put into place.
Please join a club or speak to your local government agency about the importance of users being able to use the areas around our communities.
Study the closures and know that these are not "wilderness" roads and trails or areas of grave concern.
This is "shared use" on low speed dirt roads that permits locals and visitors alike to enjoy our mountains from an off-highway vehicle.
The more voices heard from those that enjoy Jeep-ing, ATV-ing, dirt biking, etc., the more likely our chances of reopening some routes.
Please don't let the folks in Washington, D.C., control our access in the mountains. These decisions can be influenced locally with input to the NEPA.
If interested, please visit ECO Riders and/or Rocky Mountain Sports Riders on Facebook for information on joining forces.
We need each other to protect our rights.
The ECO Riders' next meeting is Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the new Integra Motorsports location between Eagle and Gypsum.
If you enjoy riding an off-highway vehicle, please join us at our meeting.
Derrick Wiemer is the president of ECO Riders.
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