Trail plan subject to review for possible lynx impacts
Lynx survival could trump human recreation in the case of a new trail system being proposed north of Rifle.
Gary Osier, assistant district ranger for the Rifle Ranger District of the White River National Forest, said the threat such a system might pose to potential lynx habitat will be one of the factors the Forest Service will have to take into consideration in reviewing the proposal to build the system.
The lynx relies on oversized, snowshoe-like paws to travel through deep, uncompacted snow and capture snowshoe hares and other prey that are difficult for other animals to track down.
Both snowmobile and nonmotorized winter trails pack down snow and can allow coyotes and other competing predators access into the lynx’s otherwise-exclusive hunting terrain.
In 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the animal as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. As a result, the Forest Service must consider activities that could impact potential lynx habitat.
The Multi Users Group, a coalition of snowshoers, cross country skiers and dogsledders, is proposing a system of about 20 miles of trails south and east of the West Elk trailhead up County Road 245.
The group has filed with the Rifle Ranger District for a permit to create the trails. Osier said the permit will go through an initial screening process to see how it squares with the WRNF’s newly adopted long-range management plan.
If it survives that screening, it goes through a second one before being accepted for processing, he said.
Osier said he has not had a chance to review the trail permit application yet because of the busy summer fire season.
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