Forest trails plan delayed – again
Vail, CO ColoradoSUMMIT COUNTY – After pushing hard for completion of the White River National Forest travel management plan, Forest Service officials recently announced yet another delay, meaning that new travel rules won’t be implemented until 2008 at the earliest.For Rocky Mountain cross-country skiers, snowmobilers and other forest travelers, that means another winter of potential conflicts between those on foot or skis and snowmobilers. It also means nearly another entire year will pass before the agency moves to close unauthorized trails.”It’s another winter of not very good information to the public as to where they can go,” said Ken Waugh, the recreation staff officer on the Dillon Ranger District.The travel plan for White River National Forest, which surrounds Eagle County, has been in the works for about four years. The plan will say who can use which trails – for example, allowing horseback riding on some trails, closing others to motor vehicles and setting some areas aside for cross-country skiing and snowshoers.The latest delay results from the agency’s decision to issue a “supplemental draft” study before finalizing the plan. The draft version released last summer featured three alternatives, including an option designed to reduce conflicts between travelers, another that focused on preservation of natural resources and a third that would maximize recreational opportunities.The new step in the process elicited a frustrated response from Summit County officials, who recently were denied when they formally requested an extension to the plan’s comment period.”Do you hear this deep and long sigh?” said Summit County manager Ron Holliday. “I just am perplexed sometimes … I don’t understand. We’re disappointed and irritated.”Forest Service officials said the delay will result in a better product in the end, and attributed the new step in part to release of a new national all-terrain vehicle rule that required additional studies.Waugh said that rule required another look at routes where non-licensed dirt bikes and ATVs mingle with four-wheel-drive vehicles. “We may be looking at closing more routes to motorized users than proposed in any of the draft alternatives,” Waugh said. “So we wanted to make sure that motorized users specifically get a chance to look at the whole picture.”The supplemental draft will likely be released in the spring or summer of 2007.To learn moreFor more information on the White River National Forest and the travel planprocess, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver/projects/travel_management/index.shtml.
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