San Juan Trail Riders – Member ALERT!
From: The SJTR Board of Directors
The Rico/West Dolores issue has spiked again, with the November 14, 2017 release of two Draft Records of Decision. We make this announcement to inform our members and supporters, to assure you of our plan for responding, and to seek consistency in how we respond to the agency and implement our plan of action.
The proposed decision(s) would impose drastic and unacceptable reductions in access. They would reduce about 30 percent of existing motorcycle riding, on prime trails in Bear Creek and Little Bear Creek, would eliminate motorized trail access to the Town of Rico, would eliminate critical connectivity, and would impose seasonal restrictions. These restrictions on motorcycle access appear to be justified, in part, by a contrived effort to “create” new opportunities for larger motorized vehicles, including 62” width class vehicle.
San Juan Trail Riders has been working on this issue for years, particularly since the 2009 Backcountry Hunters & Anglers lawsuit, which we aided the Forest Service in successfully defending. We have worked in concert with Trails Preservation Alliance, COHVCO, PAPA, and BRC/Sharetrails.org. We continue to engage experienced legal professionals. We will continue to vigorously participate and take aggressive legal action, as needed, to maintain historical riding opportunities in the Rico/West Dolores.
These decisions are NOT yet final. They cannot be implemented until the objections are ruled upon, and any instructions resolved by the Dolores Ranger District. We appreciate the efforts and support of our members and partners. This promises to be a long and difficult process. The best way to fight for access and fight against these closures is to provide financial support for our efforts. We recommend making donations to the Trails Preservation Alliance, which is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The donation should include a note it is for the “RWD project” and can be made by visiting http://www.coloradotpa.org/how-to-help/donations/.
The next step in this process will be to file formal objections to the proposed decisions. We do NOT recommend that you take individual action or file personal objections. As indicated, we will proceed through legal counsel and will leave no stone unturned in that effort. The objection process is NOT like commenting on an environmental impact statement – too many objections will cloud the issue, consume the agency’s attention/resources, and dampen any ability we might have to achieve change through the objection process. We assure you that we will vigorously and with full transparency advance our community’s interests in this process, and any ensuing litigation.
To provide additional background for those who are interested or may not be aware, your San Juan Trail Riders legal and government relations team has been working with the Dolores Ranger District in Dolores, CO since 2009 on the Travel Management Plan for the Rico / West Dolores landscape. It has been an up and down exercise with the USFS and anti-access / anti-motorized activists to keep 14 significant and premier single-track motorized trails open for our type recreation even though these trails have over 50 years of historical motorcycle use. And, just 3 years ago the 10th Circuit agreed with the USFS that these trails should remain open to the single-track motorized designation. This was a true win for our recreation type that was supported monetarily by all of you through memberships and special donations. We thank you again for helping to keep these world-class trails open to so many.
Most recently SJTR has worked through 3 years of USFS meetings, planning sessions, compromise meetings, alternative recommendations meetings and supervisory sessions to try and work through a plan to preserve these critically important trails for our recreation. Today the Draft Decision for the entire Rico / West Dolores landscape was released by District Ranger Derek Padilla. With much dismay I must report to you that the USFS has neglected to accept any of our input to the plan and is recommending a plan to reduce the last of our high quality trail riding by over 30%. In addition, the plan calls for a full seasonal closure that will also limit riding time on the few remaining trails for single-track use. In his plan he gives preference to those who have moved into the existing trail areas who do not want motorcycle use to continue. He also gives significant preference to a private resort area that now wants the nearby trails for their personal use over the general public. He gives grazing permit holders preference over the general public to close trails that may possibly disturb cattle in the area of current motorized trails. He has also closed a key public easement to only motorcycles that has been used by our recreation type for more than 40 years. The Plan completely prevents motorcycles from using existing trails into Rico, CO for fuel and food. In his Draft Decision the District Ranger provides much less restriction to all other users, only motorcycles get the axe and he announces this proudly.
San Juan Trail Riders made it clear to the Dolores District going into this TMP / EIS Process that we would work hard with them to work out a plan and that we would accept no net loss of trail miles in the end. We recommended multiple opportunities and options to replace the trail miles they wanted to designate as non-motorized. They refused to consider even one option.
The project file, Draft Records of Decision and Final EIS can be viewed online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=44918.
Rest assured that we will be reviewing the entire document very carefully over the next short period of time to assess potential objections that we will submit during this next step in the process. Our submissions will be public record, and we will keep you posted and abreast of any additional actions to be taken as we fight to preserve this historic riding area.
Again, we want to let you know how serious we are taking this. It should not be necessary at this time to submit a flood of written responses to the Dolores District. We will advise you along the way as to what actions, when appropriate, will be needed to support the fight. Right now, your donations in dollars is what will be most needed to take on this challenge. Please consider anything you can contribute and rest assured it will be used wisely on your behalf.