The Rico West Dolores (RWD) lawsuit has been fully briefed, with the Petitioners (TPA, SJTR, and PAPA) as well as the Wild Earth Guardians group filing reply briefs on November 1, 2019. The case was originally filed on September 14, 2018. The TPA Petitioners have raised various claims under the Administrative Procedure Act, NEPA and the Travel Management Rule seeking to have the RWD Travel Plan declared unlawful and set aside. If the TPA Petitioners succeed, it could result in the Plan being remanded to the Forest Service for further analysis, including to consider and/or adopt a plan that will modify or reduce the roughly one-third reduction of motorcycle trails in the challenged decision. The joint case management plan, which was approved by the Court, states “ parties agree that this case would be aided by oral argument.” The Court has not yet indicated whether it will hear argument. A decision on the merits in a case of this nature typically issues about 3-6 months from final submission of the briefs, or, if argument occurs, the end of argument. So a decision from the district court seems likely sometime during the spring-summer of 2020.
On Friday December 20th SJTR Board Members met with David Pierce of Farmington to present him with a monogrammed vest to show appreciation for his most recent donation to the RWD Legal Action Fund coordinated through TPA. David will also be hosting a Museum Open House at his facility (with SJTR support) in late March to also help bolster the Legal Action Fund. At the Open House David plans on bringing in 2 high profile motorcyclists that will be providing special presentations for those wishing to attend. Along with the planned March 2020 event David has already begun working on a special ride for all attendees who may wish to participate through registration and special participation donation. We will look for details in the next couple of months. We could not thank David Pierce enough for all that he has done to help meet the financial challenges of the RWD Litigation.
Rico/West Dolores Litigation
We have recently fielded some inquiries regarding the ongoing Rico West Dolores lawsuit and wish to provide a quick update. We realize that progress has been slow, but this is unfortunately typical in federal court litigation of this nature. The good news is that the case is entering a meaningful phase of activity, during which our claims and other fruits of the collective effort between SJTR-PAPA-TPA will be more apparent.
The case has been moving through the housekeeping and scheduling phase, culminating in production and refinement of the administrative record, which consists of the thousands of page views of documents and information upon which the Court’s review will be based. Under the recently modified (and hopefully final) schedule, our opening legal briefs will be filed on August 2, 2019. The Forest Service will respond to both Petitioner briefs on October 4, 2019. We will be able to file a separate response to the WildEarth Guardian et al. Petitioner brief on October 18, and then will be able to file a reply brief in support of our own case on November 1. The parties have jointly requested oral argument, which will be heard at the Court’s discretion, which would likely be in late 2019 or early 2020.
As we have previously noted, we are deeply grateful for the unprecedented support of this effort and the very successful donation campaigns from our memberships (SJTR and PAPA) in collaboration with TPA and others. Our members and our lawyers are highly motivated to make a difference in this project and help restore access to some of these critical trails.
We anticipate a relatively short interval between this announcement and our next update, which will follow shortly after August 2 and provide an opportunity for you to review our opening brief on the merits of our case, in addition to the corresponding effort from the WildEarth Guardians, SJCA, Dunton Petitioner group. We are committed to advancing a strong case and vigorously advocating for our essential recreation and access in the Rico West Dolores area and beyond. Your continued membership and financial support is critical in maintaining this strength.
Board of Directors: San Juan Trail Riders, PAPA, Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA)
TRAIL RIDERS FILE BRIEF CHALLENGING RICO WEST DOLORES PLAN
Date: August 2, 2019
Denver, CO: Several organizations today filed legal arguments challenging the Rico West Dolores Area Travel Management Project Decision within the San Juan National Forest. The legal brief was filed by the Trails Preservation Alliance, San Juan Trail Riders, and Public Access Preservation Association, whose members enjoy and advocate for motorcycle access along the Area’s prized single-track trails. The Decision closed about 30 percent of those trails, reduced the season of use, eliminated use of key routes and connections, and displaced trail riding to Highway 145. The Trail Riders are challenging these restrictions under the National Environmental Policy Act and Forest Service Travel Management Rule. Preservationist interests including WildEarth Guardians, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Dunton Hot Springs, Inc. and Sheep Mountain Alliance have also filed a suit, contending the agency should have further restricted motorcycle access. The two cases have been consolidated and will be considered together.
“We remain committed to restoring balance and improving the trail experience in the Rico West Dolores Area,” said Gary Wilkinson with the San Juan Trail Riders. “Litigation has unfortunately become an extension of the travel planning process, and we have little choice but to stay this course and continuing to expose the shortcomings and illogic of this flawed Decision,” Wilkinson concluded.
The Trail Riders filed this lawsuit in September, 2018. Under the current schedule, the matter will be fully briefed on November 1, 2019. The parties have requested that they be allowed to present oral argument, but the Court has not yet scheduled a hearing.
PAPA Member Alert: Rico / West Dolores ROD Litigation
February 13, 2019
Many of our members are very interested to know what is happening regarding the lawsuit that has been filed against the USFS Dolores, CO Ranger District regarding their Record of Decision to close over 30% of the motorized single-track trails recreation on the Rico/West Dolores landscape.
First of all let us say that we have had one of the most successful donation campaigns from our memberships (SJTR and PAPA) in collaboration with TPA and others, so critical for filing this suit. Thanks to all of you for digging deep to help fund this fight. There will most likely be others but for now we are ready to take this one on robustly.
The deadline to submit a litigation schedule was February 9th but that has now been extended to March 9th due to the partial government shutdown. The schedule will begin with generation of an administrative record, and will culminate in argument presented through written briefing, with the possibility of oral argument before the judge assigned to the case. This process will most likely stretch through the summer of 2019. We urge all our members to adjust to the newly applied restrictions in the Rico/West Dolores riding area and to be patient as we wait for a decision from the court. We remain optimistic that our case has merit.
We will do our best to keep you abreast of any particular actions that occur relative to the suit as they arise. As much aligned organizations (SJTR, PAPA and TPA) we now have combined strengths that can now give us the best opportunity to meet the challenges of preserving our chosen recreation. Your continued membership and financial support is critical in maintaining this strength.
Board of Directors: San Juan Trail Riders and PAPA
To all our members and other loyal constituents:
As many of you already know PAPA and San Juan Trail Riders have been working diligently for more than 9 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Dolores Ranger District on a travel management plan. The final plan, issued July 2018, primarily impacts motorcycle riding on existing trails that have been ridden by motorcyclists for almost 4 decades. Even with all our efforts to work out a reasonable, just and appropriate travel plan for motorcycle recreation in the Rico/West Dolores landscape, the District Ranger has acted arbitrarily and capriciously and has signed a Record of Decision which eliminates nearly 30% of existing trails from motorcycle travel. In yet another blow to trail users, the District Ranger chose to impose a restrictive seasonal closure that further limits motorcycle travel on existing trails, allowing riding only from June 1 to October 30.
The Decision will crush long and historic motorcycle recreation in the area and serve special interests. It is so imbalanced that multiple organizations have now filed a lawsuit challenging the Decision. San Juan Trail Riders (SJTR), Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), and Pubic Access Preservation Association (PAPA) have banded together with legal counsel Mr. Paul Turcke of Boise, ID to use this litigation to exhaust all opportunities to overturn this Decision on behalf of our members, constituents, local business owners, county organizations, future generations of motorcycle recreationalists and other OHV user groups.
This battle, which may be long-lasting, will need an extremely strong financial backing to see it through to success. If we cannot collectively overturn this Decision we believe the future of motorcycle recreation in the San Juan National Forest, as well as other forests, will be at risk. YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT IS CRITICAL if we are to win this battle and we believe we can.
Today we are launching a 45 DAY DONATION CHAMPAIGN (to November 15) as an opportunity for each and every one of us to STEP-UP AND DONATE to the cause! This litigation could amount to well over $100k. For as little as the cost of a couple of motorcycle tires from each of us, we can do this. All donations are being collected by the lead organization Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) for our lawsuit. TPA is a 501c3 corporation, allowing donations to be tax deductible. The address for TPA for all donations is listed below. Let’s commit to make this a highly successful donation campaign to protect these world-class trails that we have used for so many years and to keep them available for others to enjoy for years to come.
Respectfully: Your Public Access Preservation Association Board of Directors
Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA)
P.O. Box 38093
Colorado Springs, CO 80937
TRAIL RIDERS BRING SUIT CHALLENGING RICO WEST DOLORES PLAN
Denver, CO: Several organizations recently filed a lawsuit challenging the Rico West Dolores Travel Management Project Decision on the Dolores District of the San Juan National Forest. The parties bringing the suit are the Trails Preservation Alliance, San Juan Trail Riders, and Public Access Preservation Association, whose members have long enjoyed motorcycle access along prized single-track trails within the Project area. The Decision would close roughly 30 percent of those trails, and impose seasonal restrictions eliminating motorcycle use between November 1 and May 31. The case was filed in federal court for the U.S. District of Colorado, bringing claims under the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, various regulations and the Administrative Procedure Act.
“This area has received sustainable trail use by diverse users, including motorcyclists, for more than 40 years,” said Gary Wilkinson with the San Juan Trail Riders. “This Decision, roughly a decade in the making, is mostly a solution in search of a problem that unnecessarily pits trail users against one another where there is ample room to get along,” Wilkinson added. “Our organizations have long partnered with the Forest Service and other users to define and support effective trail management, but this Decision crossed a line which we must defend,” added Don Riggle of the Trails Preservation Alliance.
The planning process leading to the Decision followed an earlier round of litigation brought by anti-access groups represented by the Colorado Law School, seeking to close 14 trails to all motorcycle use. The Forest Service, with the trail riding groups as intervenors, successfully defended that earlier lawsuit, which ended in a 2015 Tenth Circuit decision penned by then Judge Gorsuch finding the case lacked jurisdiction and allowing motorcycle travel to continue. The Forest Service followed that successful defense with the now-challenged Decision, rewarding anti-access interests with closures previously rejected by the courts. The lawyer for the motorcycle riders in both rounds of litigation is Paul Turcke of Boise, Idaho.
The trails at issue are found in an area along the Dolores River, generally between Durango and Telluride in southwestern Colorado. The case is in its early stages, and will likely proceed into 2019 under the Court’s Administrative Procedure docket.
On November 15, 2017, the San Juan National Forest Dolores Ranger District released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Draft Record of Decision for the Rico/West Dolores Roads and Trails (Travel Management) project. Members of the public can review the documents, maps and other project information at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/
There is a lot of interest in the Draft Record of Decision on the Rico West Dolores Travel Management Project for the San Juan (CO) National Forest.
Sharetrails.org/ BlueRibbon Coalition has worked under the direction of Colorado members in this project for many years, particularly including assisting as an intervenor in the Forest Service’s successful defense against the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers lawsuit filed in 2009. Sharetrails.org/BRC continued to follow the leadership of our local partners, and was named in objections recently submitted by the San Juan Trail Riders (SJTR), Public Access Preservation Association (PAPA), Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), and Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO).
If you would like further information, you can view the TPA announcement and the SJTR Member Alert below, each of which include the objections submitted by our attorneys. This is a top priority and these groups are vigorously fighting to maintain and improve access in the Rico West Dolores and surrounding areas. Ric Foster, Public Lands Department Manager, BlueRibbon Coalition
PAPA, TPA, COHVCO, BRC and the SJTR’s Board of Directors finds it very important to keep you updated on the steps that are being taken to challenge the USFS Dolores, CO Ranger District’s recent move to significantly reduce single-track motorized recreation in the Rico/West Dolores Landscape of Southwest Colorado.
On December 29 th, 2017 a very significant list of objections to the Draft Record of Decision (DROD) developed by the Dolores Ranger District was submitted to the Region 2 offices of the U.S.F.S. in Denver, CO. These objections will be reviewed by an assigned reviewing officer as a part of the process. We will be waiting to hear of any actions that may or may not result as to the review that will be made. We will keep you abreast of future developments.
A full list of the objections to the DROD by the Dolores Ranger District are posted HERE for your review. Please take the time to look over these objections carefully to get a full understanding of all that is in play with this action.
Best regards to all our loyal and supportive members who are committed to preserving our future recreation opportunities.
Your San Juan Trail Riders Board of Directors.
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.