BLM moves forward with Roan road closures |

BLM moves forward with Roan road closures

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. The Bureau of Land Management is proceeding with closing nearly 100 miles of routes to motorized vehicles on and surrounding the Roan Plateau.The action follows the federal agency’s issuance of a final decision in June on how to manage activities on much of the Roan.Although that decision has drawn attention mostly because it will allow oil and gas development on the plateau top, it also called for the closure of 96 miles in the 73,602-acre planning area to motorized vehicles. Those routes still will be designated for foot and horse travel, and in some cases for limited motorized vehicle access for administrative purposes such as government use.The travel management portion of the Roan plan covers 259 miles of routes across the planning area. That includes 157 miles on top of the plateau, of which 71 miles will be restricted to foot and horse traffic only, said BLM spokesman David Boyd.”The main roads are still open up there,” he said.He said many of the closed roads parallel other roads, may be in rough condition, or consist of short spurs heading into canyons or other areas. Closing them will improve wildlife habitat and reduce erosion, Boyd said.He said the Colorado Division of Wildlife supported the closures. Heavy vehicle traffic has been a problem, “especially when you start getting into hunting season with people riding ATVs all over,” Boyd said.Silt Mesa resident Bob Elderkin, who sits on the board of the Colorado Mule Deer Association, said he’s glad to see the new route restrictions on the Roan.”Before they implemented this, essentially you could go anywhere you wanted up there, on or off a trail,” he said.He said the first person to go off a trail soon is followed by others, “and then you’ve got a road and they just proliferate.”He said the challenge for the BLM will be enforcing the closures. Only one ranger is assigned to the Roan, as just part of a much larger territory, Elderkin said.The BLM says the area will be patrolled by rangers, and gates and barriers will be installed at some locations. Closed routes will be posted as such in coming weeks.Route maps will be available both in print at the BLM’s Glenwood Springs Field Office, 50629 Highway 6 in Glenwood Springs, and via the Glenwood BLM Web site, Gunderson, northwest representative for the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition, said he wasn’t involved in the travel management planning process but wants to see a map showing what is closed and open.”We like to see responsible access. I hope that the decision provides that. Unnecessary closures are not overly productive,” he said.He doesn’t think closing spur roads improves wildlife habitat.”It’s all forested up there so that’s pretty heavy sanctuary cover provided,” he said. “I don’t think that comment makes any sense. There’s a lot of sanctuary up there. That’s the reason people talk about wildlife up there is because there’s a lot of places for wildlife up there,” he said.Elderkin contends the plateau top, rather than being forest-covered, “is relatively open.””If you have a road down every draw and down every ridge and most of the side ridges, the hiding cover, especially for big game, just disappears. It becomes a road hunting paradise then,” he said.The BLM’s June decision covered only about 50,000 acres of the Roan planning area. Because of a technicality, the agency is working on a separate decision regarding other acreage proposed for designation as areas of critical environmental concern. But Boyd said most of the roads are outside those areas, allowing the agency to proceed with implementing its new travel plan.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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