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.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement and two Draft Records of Decision are available for the Rico West Dolores Roads and Trails (Travel Management) Project.
The project will now enter a pre-decision objection process. The information in the Draft Records of Decision is preliminary. If no project changes are identified in the pre-decisional objection process the information in these Draft Records of Decision will become the final decisions of the project. The Draft Records of Decision explain the minimum road system, designations for motor vehicle use, and project specific amendments to the Forest Plan. Only those persons who commented during one or more of the public comment periods held previously will have standing to object to these Draft Records of Decision. A brief summary of the Decision and instructions for submitting objections are explained in the Cover Letter attached. I welcome you to read the documents posted on the website. This is not a public comment period so comments about the alternatives or the analysis are not solicited, however, my staff and I are available to answer questions about the project at any time. I have read the public comments received previously and feel these draft decisions reflect my understanding of public concerns and impacts to the environment.
The Cover Letter, Draft Records of Decision and the Final EIS are available online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/
A 45 Day objection period begins today November 14th and there is a 60 day objection time period for the Forest Plan amendment which begins tomorrow. For questions about the objection process, or to receive a CD or hard copy of the documents please contact Debbie Kill at email@example.com or call 970-882-7296
The preliminary decision is Alternative B (Modified). From the current situation the decision would remove motorcycle use from 31 total miles of single track motorized trail at various locations, add 12 miles ATV/UTV trail, downgrade 5 miles from gravel surface to native surface, convert 5.32 miles of road to trail, decommission 7 miles of ML2 or ML3 roads and decommission 40 miles of ML1 roads. Alternative B would reduce single track motorized trail riding in most but not all of Bear Creek, the Ryman Creek Trail, trails near the Town of Rico, and in the area west of Forest Road 471. The Calico trail and its connectors, East Fork trail, and trials near Taylor Mesa and Stoner Mesa maintain single track motorized opportunities.
We don’t have to tell you that the preliminary decision is devastating to the single track motorized trail user group. We urge you to use your right to comment. Conveniently submit your comments electronically online at:
Thank you for your participation.
H.R. 3990 Would Require Improved Transparency and Stakeholder Input in the National Monument Designation Process
Please Take Action now to let your Member of Congress know that you support H.R. 3990, the “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” or “National Monument CAP Act.” H.R. 3990 would reduce the size of future National Monument designations and create a formal process for reductions of existing monuments. This legislation limits the size of new monument designations to 85,000 acres, ensures designations between 640 acres-10,000 acres are reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and requires approval of all local and state governments impacted by a National Monument for any designation between 10,000-85,000 acres. Additionally, H.R. 3990 clarifies the authority of the President to reduce the size of National Monuments, requiring reductions greater than 85,000 acres in size to be approved by the impacted counties, state legislatures, and governors, and to have undergone NEPA analysis.
The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee passed H.R. 3990 in October of this year, and the legislation now awaits consideration on the House floor. In an era with politically driven land grabs and unilateral executive overreach that negatively impacts local economies and creates restrictive land-use regulations for OHV and other recreational activities it is imperative Congress reforms the antiquated monument designation process.
Please send a letter to your Representative in support of H.R. 3990 to require improved transparency and stakeholder input during the monument designation process.
GMUG Update from PAPA: The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests are undergoing a Forest Plan Revision. The Forest Plan is an overarching document that guides forest management through broad direction, standards, and guidelines for years to come. For an overview, click here:
The USFS wants to hear from individuals. Please comment on this project by October 22, 2017. To send your comments on this Project, click here:
We know that everyone is very anxious to get to the high country trails and enjoy the cool and scenic atmosphere we find in the exciting and challenging single-track trail riding experience in and around the Rico/West Dolores Colorado trail system.
Fortunately and unfortunately the area received higher than average snowfall this season and many of the trails above 10,500 ft. are still partially blocked by large snow drifts and un-cleared downfall. The reports from the Forest Service trail crews are that a few riders (of which we believe are not associated with SJTR, PAPA or Timberline Trail-riders) are attempting to break through blocked trails by creating new routes around large downfall trees and blocking snowdrifts. This is just not the kind of behavior that we want to support as it can potentially harm the resource and may even encourage further bad trail use behavior.
So, we are asking all of our members and other single-track motorized riders either in or out of our region to take very seriously any decision to plan rides on currently snow and downfall blocked high country trails for a few more weeks. Yes, it often works out that small drifts can be ridden over or through without much difficulty. However, not properly clearing trees and making new tracks around them is not the behavior any of us wants to see. Riders of high country trails in the summer need to be fully prepared to clear downed logs or go directly over them until they can be properly cut out. The best for everyone though is to properly saw them out when encountered. If all of us dedicate ourselves and share with others the need to follow these behaviors, our trails can be properly preserved.
Thanks to everyone (and other riders you may coach) for making these trail riding considerations for the high country trails this season. As it stands, there are many trails at lower elevations in the Dolores Ranger district that have been cleared and ready for your riding enjoyment. Please contact the Dolores Ranger District in Dolores, CO. for more information. Tom Rice is the recreation specialist there and a great guy to talk to. He can be contacted at 970-882-6843 or cell at 970-749-6432 and firstname.lastname@example.org., on changing trail conditions in areas you may want to go. It is our hope that you have a great summer trail riding experience in the Dolores Ranger District should you plan to go there.
The San Juan Trail Riders Board of Directors
Outdoor recreation is a central way that people interact with the natural environment. Federal land agencies are key providers of settings, facilities and landscapes for recreation. Click here for the 2016 USDA report:
Download full report: Federal Outdoor Recreation Trends: Effects on Economic Opportunities
PAPA Director Glenn Pauls and family demonstrate what individuals can do to preserve public access to public lands. This is how they did it:
The 2016 OHV Economic Impact Study Released
Colorado offers unique opportunities for motorized recreation throughout many parts the state. As such, the sport and industry of motorized recreation has increased in popularity in Colorado, both for Colorado residents and residents of other states. Pinyon Environmental Inc. evaluated the economic contribution of motorized recreation throughout Colorado for the 2014–2015 season. This report was prepared for the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition by Pinyon Environmental in Lakewood, Colorado, funded in part and with complete support from the Colorado State OHV Program, managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.