Local riders don’t like forest travel plan
EAGLE COUNTY – New federal regulations could shut four-wheelers out of so much of the national forest that it would make it tough on Gary Ratkowski’s business.
Ratkowski is with Boyz Toyz in Eagle, selling and servicing all terrain vehicles and snowmobiles. He and other off-road enthusiasts say the new travel management plan for the White River National Forest would essentially ban four-wheelers from this part of national forest.
“I’m not sure what will be left open,” Ratkowski said. “Around here, it looks like everything will be shut off.”
‘It’s the public’s land’
The U.S. Forest Service released its travel management plan last month, a massive document put together over seven years after collecting mountains of public comment.
The regulations dictate where and how we can travel through our local forest by identifying which roads and trails remain open, and which will be closed.
In Eagle County, the Forest Service wants to close trails that are not part of the Forest Service’s planned and maintained trail system, said David Neely, District Ranger with the White River National Forest.
Summer motorized users will get hit the hardest.
Opponents have until Monday, June 20 to appeal.
“If people believe there’s a mistake in the analysis and it doesn’t support a decision, they can appeal,” Neely said.
But you must have a specific point. It’s not enough just to disagree, Neely said. That needed to be done during the comments periods of the past seven years.
“The plan attempts to provide a balanced use of mixes,” Neely said. “We try to be as unregulated as we can. It’s the public’s land and we try not to arbitrarily limit what people can do.”
Riding a non-designated trail
Motorized users don’t lock horns with themselves, Neely said. And no-motorized users tend to get along with one another.
But the two groups clash when they try to occupy the same space, Neely said.
“People cherish the same piece of ground for completely different reasons,” Neely said. “We try to provide some separation.”
Still, local motorized users – ATV riders, motorcyclists and snowmobilers – say they’re being shut out of much of the forest, especially in Eagle County. They’re not nearly as restricted toward Meeker.
“It’s not going to take the sting away from someone in eastern Eagle County who had opportunities in the past that they no longer do,” Neely said.
Snowmobilers say they’re being restricted to designated routes through several areas. But when they check the proposed map, those areas have no designated routes – which essentially bans them from those areas.
“This is a tactic for them to close an area down without coming right out and saying that’s what they’re doing,” said Ryan Leland, a local snowmobiler and motorsports advocate. “Once they close something, they never open it again.”
Areas are being closed all over Camp Hale, Eagle and Summit counties, Leland said, even though local snowmobile clubs have been grooming trails in those areas for years.
The trail closures will make it tough for hunters, too, Ratkowski said.
“They’re going to shut the area down for hunting, too,” he said. “They can come and hunt, but don’t unload your four-wheeler. You can’t use it.”
Hunters pump millions of dollars into the local economy each year. Much of that money might not come here, Ratkowski said.
“They’re going to go somewhere else. The grocery stores and restaurants will all hurt,” Ratkowski said.
“To me, it’s someone sitting in Washington who thinks they know what’s good for Colorado.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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