Most motorized users unfazed by travel plan
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Groups representing area snowmobilers, off-pavement motorcyclists and ATV riders seemed unfazed this week by official predictions that the new White River National Forest Travel Management Plan hurts motorized users more than non-motorized users.
The plan, which took more than seven years to complete, was released to the public on Wednesday.
Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams acknowledged in a phone-in news conference that more of the road and trail closures will affect motorized users of the forest than non-motorized users.
“In a broad-brush, it’s less miles of trails open for motorized traffic” than currently is the case, Fitzwilliams said, referring to restrictions affecting summer and winter travel.
“According to my initial look, it’s fine,” said Sean Martin, spokesman for the Mount Sopris Rec Riders snowmobiliing group, and the district representative for the Colorado State Snowmobiling Association.
Of the approximately 1,200 miles of roads and trails set to be decommissioned from the forest system, a significant portion will be from forest lands in the Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Rifle areas, according to the maps and documents that make up the plan.
The plan also adds 225 miles of previously undesignated roads, many of which were either old mining or logging roads, according to WRNF Recreation Staff Officer Rich Doak, and some of which are “bandit” trails not sanctioned by the USFS.
“Some of them may even have been roads we built ourselves,” admitted Doak.
“It’s a give and take thing, and they do the best they can,” Martin said of the White River planners and administrators who worked on the plan. “It’s not going to make everybody happy.
“We lost a few little things, but we understand why,” he continued, referring to the Four Mile Park area. “It had to do with winter habitat [for wildlife], and we can certainly respect that.”
The same is generally true, he said, of the area southwest of Carbondale, which includes everything from the Thompson Divide to Coal Basin and McClure Pass, as well as areas around Rifle and adjacent to the Flat Tops Wilderness region north of I-70.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Tony Fisher, president of the White River Forest Alliance of snowmobilers and off-road bikers and ATV riders. The group strongly opposed the recent Hidden Gems wilderness proposal but has not been active in the WRNF travel management planning process.
“We had heard there were going to be certain road closures that they couldn’t afford to maintain,” he noted. “Any loss to motorized users is tough to take, because that’s all we do is lose.”
The vice president of the Alliance, Jack Albright, also had little criticism of the plan, noting, “One of the things that we complained about a lot in the Hidden Gems debate was lack of process. One thing about the Travel Management Plan, we can be sure it went through a rigorous process.”
The plan documents, which contain 111 pages of detailed route information about trails and roads under USFS jurisdiction, as well as several maps showing closures and other changes, can be found on the Internet at http://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.
A 45-day formal comment period began on May 3 and will end on June 18. If there are no formal appeals filed against the plan, forest officials said they plan to begin implementing its closure and sign provisions this summer.
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