State: Limit plateau travel to designated routes |

State: Limit plateau travel to designated routes

by Dennis Webb
GSPI News Editor

The state of Colorado is calling for summer travel on designated routes only on the Roan Plateau.

It also recommends open travel over snow on the plateau, and possibly the creation of one or two designated “play areas” where off-trail travel would be permitted on Hubbard Mesa, on the lower flanks of the plateau.

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources makes the recommendations in comments submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which is preparing a draft environmental impact statement on management of the plateau.

“The Roan Plateau Management Plan/EIS should provide for enhanced recreational uses and other recognized multiple use activities (i.e. grazing),” states a DNR management proposal signed by officials of its member agencies.

This should include access to roads and trails already open to off-road vehicle use, the agency said.

While off-trail travel should be prohibited on the plateau, over-the-snow travel should not face such a prohibition, it says.

“It is common to public land management to permit cross-country travel over snow considering that over the snow travel causes little to no negative impact to the resource. Cross-country travel over snow is also largely self-limiting by terrain and vegetation type such that no limitations are usually required,” the DNR wrote.

Pete Kolbenschlag, Western Slope field coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition, welcomed the idea of designated travel routes. But it’s still to be determined which routes will be designated as open, he said. Environmentalists are urging that no more than 140 miles of routes be kept open on the plateau, and the rest be closed, he said.

The BLM has estimated that 256 miles of roads and routes run across the Roan Plateau, he said.

Joe Clugston, a former Rifle City Council member who has expressed concern over the possibility of gas drilling on the plateau, doesn’t want to see roads closed on the plateau.

“The public has a right to that area,” said Clugston. He has visited the plateau since 1948 and said he hasn’t seen an impact from vehicle travel.

Kolbenschlag said he opposes the ideas of having open travel over snow on the plateau, and open motorized “play areas” on Hubbard Mesa.

But he said he favors the DNR concept of designating Hubbard Mesa as a more intensive motorized recreation area.

DNR suggests creating a Hubbard Mesa Special Resource Management Area. Its letter notes that the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoors Recreation is initially recommending that Hubbard Mesa would be better off with designated routes and trails, and only one or two play areas open to off-trail use.

The DNR said there is concern that open recreational vehicle travel generally counteracts sustainable loop trail systems, while increasing resource damage and risk of collisions due to crossing traffic.

“The DNR encourages the BLM to make consideration of a series of loop trail systems a top priority when planning for travel management on the Roan Plateau,” its proposal states.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

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