Representative Tipton 2525 North 5th St, Suite 702 Grand Junction CO 81501
RE: Recent Wilderness proposals
Dear Representative Tipton;
We are contacting you to thank you for your continuing opposition to the numerous Wilderness initiatives that have been recently proposed, including Hidden Gems, the James Peak Wilderness Expansion and the numerous initiatives in Utah recently advertised in the Denver Post. Our organizations have found numerous concerns that have woven through all the Wilderness proposals we have reviewed. These concerns were discussed at length in the comments regarding the expanded Hidden Gems Proposal we recently submitted to Senator Bennet’s office with a CC to your office.
Given the significant number of Wilderness initiatives that have been created in the week since that document was drafted, we felt it necessary to confirm with your office that the same concerns previously outlined are involved in almost every Wilderness proposal we have reviewed. Given the sudden increase in initiatives, we believe this could be an attempt to create another Omnibus land bill that includes significant Wilderness expansions, as was approved two years ago. There are rumors that a draft bill could being prepared. We remain vigorously opposed to land designations through Omnibus bills, as Omnibus bills are designed to address uncontested matters. Clearly Wilderness designations are not uncontested.
Currently 1 in 5 acres under federal management in the state of Colorado is designated as Wilderness. Our organizations believe current designations are sufficient to protect the interests and concerns to be addressed by a Wilderness designation and we are opposed to further designations of Wilderness without a specific showing of need for the designation. There are many other designations which could protect resources without the blanket prohibitions to most forms of recreation which are included in a Wilderness designation.
Recreational usage of public lands provides a significant benefit to the Colorado economy, especially in the smaller mountain communities which have already lost more traditional sources of revenue, such as timber, farming and mining. In 2008, COHVCO commissioned an economic impact study that found that over 1,000,000,000 dollars of positive economic impact and 10,000 jobs resulted from OHV recreation to the State economy. OHV recreation also accounted for over $100,000 million in tax revenue to state and local municipalities. Wilderness proposals often assert possible positive economic impacts from designating Wilderness relying on analysis that are highly theoretical, are badly out of date, and not based on specific analysis of known impacts on communities. Analysis based on these faults is simply not acceptable to make any management decision on.
Given the significant negative economic impacts from Wilderness designations, logical thought would lead one to believe there would be a clear and significant benefit for future management of these areas to off-set this risk. This is not the case. The Forest Service has found that almost all management concerns that exist in areas not designated Wilderness remain after designation of an area as Wilderness. Issues such as resource damage, litter, user conflicts and wildlife management continue to be serious management concerns in Wilderness areas, and are far more expensive for forest managers to address after Wilderness designations.
Wilderness proposals also omit any discussion of conflicts between the site specific analysis of proposed Wilderness areas previously performed by both the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Our organizations believe this comparison is always avoided and analysis performed by the agencies directly conflicts with most assertions made in the Proposal. The agencies take a far more broad scope of users into account in their analysis. Our organizations believe that a broader scope of review is necessary to manage public lands for public benefit.
Discussions regarding Forest Service planning documents and other forest management analysis studies performed by State agencies also are omitted from analysis in Wilderness proposals. These planning documents often have repeatedly found proposed Wilderness areas unsuitable for Wilderness designation. State forest management documents conclude these areas are badly in need of active forest management to remediate the heavy levels of damage from mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle infestations in these forest areas. The current heavily damaged condition of the forests will slow recovery of the areas, greatly increase wildfire risks and possibly negatively impact the various wildlife species that inhabit these areas.
Our organizations must respectfully request that your office critically review all Wilderness proposals and continue your opposition to those that there is not a specific showing of need and true community support. Most Wilderness proposals will directly reduce recreational opportunities for the overwhelming portion of the public who are seeking to enjoy the quality recreational experience that has been provided by healthy Colorado forests historically.
John Bonngiovanni Chairman and President Colorado OHV Coalition
D.E. Riggle Director of Operations Trails Preservation Alliance
Dolores Public Lands Office Mark Lambert 29211 Highway 184 Dolores, CO 81323
Dear Mr. Lambert;
The Colorado Off-highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVC) and the Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) were recently made aware of the office’s request for scoping comments on a CATEX regarding the Calico Trail. We fully support your proposed purpose and that it is well within your authority under 36 CRF 220 to correct existing problems with the trail.
We agree with your assessment that this project is excluded from further study.
We fully support the project and the resource issue that we believe will be completely resolved as a result of its completion. This project will take care of the issue once and for all and will benefit all those that use and enjoy the Calico Trail while eliminating any environmental concerns.
The OHV subcommittee and State Parks staff were fully briefed by USFS personnel about the Calico Grant at the Grant presentation meeting. Questions raised at that time resulted in the Calico Grant being amended to exclude some elements of the original Grant. Any talk of ambiguity in support of the grant is, at best, wrong.
In reviewing comments made by other parties related to this action, we find flaws and a lack of understanding of trails and those that use them. We believe that comments made as to whether motorized trail users contribute to trail braiding, rutting, and any other trail damage more than other trail users to be pure conjecture when trails are properly designed and maintained; precisely the purpose of your proposal. Furthermore we suggest that it is pure speculation to claim that other trail users have been displaced by motorized trail users (we are discussing remediation of a multiple use trail, not philosophical preferences nor quotas).
Your plan for remediation uses tried and true methods that have been in use for decades; eliminating a viable tool for resource protection based upon conjecture and bias is irrelevant to your mission. In fact, we applaud you for your strong grasp of the balance and fairness required in the execution of the agency’s mission.
Your actions are being taken to provide for both the needs of the public under the existing and applicable Travel Management Plan and the protection of the resource. The final revision of the current Travel Management Plan that will determine the status of the Calico as a motorized route may be quite a ways away. This action is needed now.
I must add, that forcing the current status of the Calico to be maintained, not only shows a lack of concern for the environment, but certainly displays a Machiavellian sense of attempting to influence the outcome of future travel management planning before it takes place.
Sincerely, Gerald Abboud Executive Director COHVCO and for the Trails Preservation Alliance
Delivered Via US Mail and E-mail email@example.com
Charles S. Richmond September 2,2011 Forest Supervisor – Gunnison National Forest 2250 Highway 50 Delta, CO 81416
RE: Immediate Cessation of Road/Trail Obliteration
Dear Supervisor Richmond:
The Gunnison National Forest is taking various actions under the guise of travel management that involve undisclosed and unanalyzed impacts to the human environment. It is imperative that the Forest immediately halt these activities and take necessary actions to restore public trust and refocus on effective travel management.
This letter is sent on behalf of our clients the Trails Preservation Alliance and Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition. We submitted an appeal to the 2010 travel management project on behalf of these organizations. They have been actively involved in the travel management process on the Gunnison and other Colorado Forests.
We have limited information concerning the “implementation” actions underway. This information indicates that more than 200 live trees have been felled, numerous boulders moved, and several miles of route surface “ripped” with heavy equipment. The affected locations include a portion of Flag Creek trail (FS 422), a spur(s) off Matchless trail (FS 413), a spur(s) off Reno Divide road (FS 759) and a trail paralleling Rocky Brook road (FS 748). Enclosed please find photos of some of the actions taken at these locations.
We raised concerns about this type of activity in our part 215 administrative appeal, a copy of which is attached. We prefaced our concern as “err[ing) on the side of procedural caution” and noted the absence of discussion about decommissioning in the EIS or decision documents. See, Appeal at 12-13 (issue I). For whatever reason, the appeal decision does not even respond to this point. See, Appeal Decision (enclosed) and ARO recommendation at 12-13 (ending on appeal issue H). Our clients have remained in regular contact with Gunnison personnel, and have never been advised of the above-described actions or any plans regarding decommissioning.
Ground disturbing actions which present even the potential for significant effects to the human environment cannot be undertaken without NEPA review. No such review has occurred for the routes in question. We have repeatedly raised these concerns with the Gunnison. Again, we enclose a Region 4 appeal decision reflecting the Forest Service’s awareness of the intuitive reality that ground disturbing road closure actions require site specific NEP A analysis.
The Forest’s actions also reflect exceedingly poor judgment and threaten a breach of the public trust. The routes in question receive other than motorized use, the restriction of which has never been analyzed. When our clients implore the Gunnison to more active trail management and maintenance the Forest persistently complains of the lack of personnel and budget to perform on site work. A few years ago a district ranger similarly threw procedural compliance to the wind trying to close routes and our clients were assured by your office that it would never happen again. The Travel Management Rule recognizes the importance of effectively communicating and partnering with nonfederal entities, including user groups, to effectively designate, implement and enforce a recreational transportation system. See, 70 Fed.Reg. 68269, 68270 (Nov. 9,2005). It is bad enough that the actions in question have occurred. Even more troubling is the fact they were taken without any effort at discussion with, or even notice to, engaged publics such as our clients.
The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Fund has been eagerly snapped up to supplement the lack of all trail maintenance on the Gunnison. My clients have relied on a good faith partnership in continuing to assist the agency. They gave the Forest the benefit of the doubt in the appeal process even though there were no viable appeals further requesting limitation of motorized opportunity. Actions like these make it hard to justify similar choices in the future.
The Forest must take immediate action to address these concerns. At a minimum, we expect on site “implementation” as described in this letter to cease. We request a meeting between our client and Forest Service representatives to be scheduled at the earliest opportunity. Please respond via email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and to Don Riggle at email@example.com. If we do not receive a suitable response before 5:00 o’clock p.m. MDT, Wednesday, September 7, 2011 , we will take appropriate further action.
Sincerely, MOORE, SMITH, BUXTON & TURCKE, CHTD /ls/ Paul A. Turcke Paul A. Turcke