DNR chief, DOW staff follow separate paths | PostIndependent.com

DNR chief, DOW staff follow separate paths

Colorado’s natural resources chief sharply disagrees with state Division of Wildlife staff on closing unauthorized roads and trails in the White River National Forest.Greg Walcher, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, has written a letter urging the U.S. Forest Service to keep all roads and trails open, except those it can prove harm the surrounding forest.Wildlife officers, by contrast, called for closure of many of these roads and trails in a 20-page collection of draft comments. But those comments were never forwarded to the Forest Service.The differing viewpoints came to light as the Forest Service works to update its travel management plan.Part of the plan will consider designation or closure of more than 500 miles of unofficial roads and trails. Some were constructed for one-time use and never properly closed; others result from motorized or nonmotorized users riding off-road.In a Nov. 13, 2002, letter to the Forest Service, Walcher offered his agency’s policy on road closures: “All known roads and trails (should) be recognized and managed as such until the Forest Service can prove that allowing a particular travelway to exist will cause irreparable harm to the surrounding forest resource.”Walcher said camping, fishing, hunting, trail riding, firefighting, forest management and fuel-reduction projects “are largely possible only through the use of the identified trails and roads – whether they are officially recognized on a WRNF map or not.”He urged caution “before making any decision that impacts when and where the public will be allowed to access their public lands.”Walcher went on to suggest that the unofficial roads need only a minimal environmental review because they are “known” roads and trails, not new ones.DOW officers take a far less favorable view toward roads and trails created by the public. Such routes wreck wildlife habitat through increased erosion, damaged plants and by spreading human activity over larger areas, the officers wrote.The officers called for careful review that would ultimately lead to closing most of these unofficial roads and trails. They noted that the Forest Service hadn’t finished listing nonsystem roads by the time public comment on the WRNF travel plan was due.”We recommend that after the inventories are completed, an additional public review and comment period on any newly mapped routes should be allowed,” states a summary of the wildlife officers’ comments.Wildlife officers noted that increased roads do not always improve hunting.”Too many roads can result in hunter crowding, elk moving to private lands, and poor quality experience,” the summary states.The summary also recommends:-Setting road densities based on wildlife habitat.-Obliterating roads immediately after logging, and keeping logging sales and timber harvest from dragging out for years.-Using signs, barriers and maps to make it clear which roads, trails and snowmobile routes and play areas are open and which are closed, to simplify enforcement and proper use.-Aggressive law enforcement to maintain motorized vehicle restrictions.”If this system is not in place, then real management of the travel in the White River National Forest will only be on paper, and not be practically applicable,” the document states.

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