Forest Service to implement some new travel restrictions
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – The White River National Forest will begin implementing new regulations about where you can travel in the National Forest and where you cannot, the Forest Service announced.
The new winter regulations go into effect this winter. Summer regulations start in May.
The new travel-management plan follows nearly eight years of public input. It will govern travel and use patterns for at least the next decade.
A dozen appeals were filed against it, mostly by off-highway vehicle groups that wanted to prevent route closures.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop appealed the plan, saying it didn’t close enough routes.
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All of the appeals were denied Aug. 9 by the regional forest supervisor. Any further appeals would have to go to court.
The White River National Forest covers 2.3 million acres across a huge swath of Colorado’s Central Rockies, including Eagle County and many of the region’s ski resorts.
“Our first focus will be to help visitors learn where changes are taking place, inform people of the reasons for the changes and provide guidance as to where they can find the experiences they desire,” said Scott Fitzwilliams, White River Forest supervisor. “I also want to encourage the public to provide input and help in the implementation of the travel-management plan.”
The current travel designations will remain in place through the fall, Fitzwilliams said.
Fitzwilliams said some winter sites in the Flattops area of the Eagle/Holy Cross District will change, but most remain unchanged. Blanco, Rifle, and Aspen/Sopris ranger districts won’t change much, either, Fitzwilliams said.
Brian Hawthorne disagrees. He’s a public lands policy director for the Blue Ribbon Coalition, which fights to maintain access to public land. It is one of the groups that appealed the travel-management plan.
“This plan hurt,” Hawthorne said when the denials were announced. “We feel we’ve cut to the bone.”
National forests across the West have slashed off-highway vehicle routes by 30 percent, Hawthorne said, and the White River National Forest has done the same.
The Blue Ribbon Commission said it’s losing 519 miles of routes.
Dirt bikers will be limited to 56 miles of singletrack trails, said the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition.
The Forest Service said the plan has 200 miles of singletrack. The Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition counters that 150 miles are two-track roads that were downgraded.
Scott Condon, of the Aspen Times, contributed to this report. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.