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Trails Preservation Alliance 2018 End of Year Report

2018 TPA End of Year Report

This End of Year Report provides an overview of the TPA’s 2018 activities, significant accomplishments and events. For a more detailed review, please visit our “News” tab on the TPA website (http://www.coloradotpa.org). This has been a challenging year for TPA and its partners to continue to keep access to public lands open and available for multiple-use recreation, especially off-road motorcycles and OHVs. However, 2018 has also been an exciting year with the TPA’s Colorado 600 and several accomplishments that we know will help maintain our freedom to recreate on public lands.

2018 Success Stories

TPA begins 2018 with a new Board of Directors – Early in 2018 the TPA designated a new Board of Directors composed of:
Ned Suesse
Dennis Larratt
Jason Elliot
Scott Bright
Don Riggle

2018 Colorado 600 (http://www.colorado600.org)
This year’s event once again brought riders to South Fork, CO, in mid September for a week of trail and adventure riding. Former AMA National Motocross Champion and AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee Broc Glover attended this year and provided his insightful and entertaining remarks and to the annual banquet gathering. Also attending this year’s 600 was Chad de Alva, a writer and photographer for Upshift Online magazine. You can check out Chad’s excellent article at https://www.upshiftonline.com in the magazine’s October issue.

The TPA and every Colorado 600 participant over the past 10 years owes the Texas Sidewinders Motorcycle Club a huge “THANKS” for its decade-long support of the TPA and specifically the Colorado 600. Members of the Sidewinders have selflessly volunteered to lead, organize and perform all of the many tasks, duties and responsibilities it takes to put on a first class event like the Colorado 600.

To see a video from the 2018 Colorado 600, visit: https://www.coloradotpa.org/2018/12/01/colorado-600-video/

Partners in the Outdoors Conference with Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Presented by CPW, the annual Partners in the Outdoors Conference brings together stakeholders engaged in the future of Colorado’s conservation and recreational opportunities. The conference provides a platform to network, collaborate, and create initiatives that connect coalitions of organizations, agencies, schools, businesses, and communities. TPA representatives attended the conference in 2017 and was one of the only organizations advocating for multi-use and motorized recreation at the conference. In 2018, the TPA was selected to increase its participation and support of motorized recreation by leading one of the conference’s “break out” sessions. The TPA’s session was titled “Management of Multiple-use Recreation on Public Lands”.

New efforts to increase motorized recreational opportunities on Colorado’s West Slope
The TPA has engaged David Lykke to be the TPA’s Representative for Western Colorado and partner on the ground with the BLM, local clubs and other organizations in the Grand Junction area. Due in large part to Lykke’s efforts, the Grand Junction BLM Field Office has been supportive of TPA’s request for the development of additional motorized single-track trails. The BLM is on task to plan and construct one new route per year and is making positive progress to accomplish this goal. In 2018, the BLM opened a 3-mile section of new technical single-track just to the south of Grand Junction. This is very close to town and conveniently ties into an 8-mile section of trail built about nine years ago. The BLM is also finishing construction of a 15-mile section of trail that connects to a larger 60-mile loop to the north of the Grand Junction valley. With a $1000 donation from the TPA and an additional $900 from two local motorcycle clubs, the BLM trail crew has almost completed the trail and is expected to open in early 2019. Project planning is similarly underway for another single-track trail south of Grand Junction and is expected to be open to motorcycle riders in 2020.

Finally, TPA has been providing advice and expertise as the Grand Junction airport expands and encroaches on existing OHV recreation areas. To mitigate the loss of OHV opportunities immediately adjacent to the airport, the expansion project is directly paying for OHV facility improvements next to the old MX track. The project and improvements will include gravel parking areas, fencing, toilets and overall track improvements.

TPA partners with Back Country Discovery Routes
Over the past year, TPA has solidified a teaming relationship and partnership with the Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR), a non- profit organization (ridebdr.com). Similar to TPA, the BDR’s mission is to establish and preserve off-highway routes for dual- sport and adventure motorcycles. Through education, advocacy, and promotion of responsible motorcycle travel, BDR seeks to preserve backcountry motorcycling opportunities for generations to come. Since the two organizations have complementary missions, the TPA and BDR have formed a joint partnership to save the sport for all off-road motorcycle riding for future generations.

Legal Issues

TPA & Partners file Lawsuit
The TPA, San Juan Trail Riders, and the Public Access Preservation Association (PAPA) jointly filed a lawsuit in September challenging the Forest Service’s Rico/West Dolores Travel Management Project Decision in the San Juan National Forest. The three partners filing the lawsuit have long enjoyed motorcycle access along prized single-track trails within the Project area. The USFS’ Decision would roughly close 30 percent of the trails, and impose seasonal restrictions eliminating motorcycle use between Nov. 1 and May 31 each year. 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. 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. For more information, be sure to visit TPA’s website at: https://www.coloradotpa.org/2018/09/18/trail- riders-bring-suit-challenging-rico-west-dolores-plan/

Legislative Issues

Continental Divide Wilderness/Gunnison Public Lands/ San Juan Wilderness Proposals
The TPA along with the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) provided extensive comments to all elected officials involved in these discussions addressing concerns about existing protections of multiple usage in proposed Wilderness and the proximity of new boundaries to existing trails. In addition to these formal comments, a huge public response was received opposing each of these Proposals. The Proposals continue to languish and our efforts and comments on the San Juan and Continental Divide avoided designation of these proposed Wilderness areas.

Limited club immunity legislation passage in Colorado
Additional protection for clubs performing public stewardship projects was obtained in Colorado, which will hopefully reduce
insurance costs to these clubs and allowed OHV grant funds to flow to these clubs more quickly. This legislation passed the entire Colorado Legislature with only two “no” votes.

County Road Safety legislation undergoes significant revisions prior to passage in Colorado
Legislation had been proposed that would have given local communities wide authority to require safety equipment for OHVs used on local community roads, some of which was prohibited by the manufacturer. The legislation was amended to require only manufacturer approved safety equipment.

Endangered Species Act Reform efforts
The OHV community has been working with both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Western Governors Association to reform the Endangered Species Act and related regulations to make this act both more efficient in protecting species and to avoid unintended impacts to many activities, including trails.

Fire Borrowing fix with US Forest Service
The motorized community worked with a large number of partners to address how the USFS funds firefighting efforts. Agreed upon language was adopted and should be in the 2020 budget. We are optimistic that this should expand or at least slow the decline of recreation budgets.

Exclusionary Corridors for Continental Divide Scenic Trail
Wilderness advocates and others continue to push for motorized exclusionary corridors around trails identified under the National Trails System Act. The corridors are proposed for National Forests such as the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison, Rio Grande, Santa Fe and many others in California, as well. A California forest recently returned a successful appeal on a winter travel plan regarding designations of exclusionary corridors around the Pacific Crest Trail.

Renewed calls for larger identifiable license numbers on all vehicles
In an effort very similar to one proposed by Responsible Trails America a few years ago, several groups opposed to motorized recreation again were pressing for larger registration stickers and full-sized license plates on OHVs. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted this down as a result of TPA’s efforts

Miscellaneous Legislative Actions in 2018:

  • TPA supported federal legislative efforts to withdraw several Wilderness Study Area (WSA) designations on several important OHV accessible areas in Colorado
  • Supported reauthorization/renewal of the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Detailed involvement in a variety of recreational legislative pieces, such as Recreation Not Red Tape Act, GO Act, Endangered Species Act Reform and many others
  • Extensive input and discussion with National leadership on the fire borrowing fix, which changes how the USFS funds fire fighting and hopefully will expand funding to the agency as 56 percent of the USFS budget was used for fire fighting in 2017;
  • Active participation in ongoing efforts to allow OHV recreation around Bears Ears National Monument in Utah

Other Activities

TPA Affiliated Clubs fight to maintain motorized access
The Tomichi Trail Riders and Gunnison Valley OHV Alliance of Trailriders (The GOATs) have both been participating and representing motorized trail riding in the Gunnison Public Land Initiative (GPLI). The GPLI has been less than supportive toward motorized recreation and is working to stymie future trails and reasonable expansions of motorized recreational opportunities in the Gunnison area.

Similarly, in the Durango and southwest corner of the state, the San Juan Trail Riders, along with the Public Access Preservation Association (PAPA) are both representing motorized trail riders to ensure fair and equitable access and recreational opportunities are considered and included in the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act.

TPA continues to support PPORA
The Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance (PPORA) is a collaboration of businesses, nonprofits, land management entities, and individuals who recognize the value of the Pikes Peak region’s incredible natural and recreation assets. The TPA was a founding member of the PPORA and continues to participate in PPORA functions, often with the Colorado Motorcycle Trail Riders Association and provides advice and expertise on multiple-use recreation and campaigns for increased opportunities for motorized recreation in the Pikes Peak area.

Colorado Governor’s Outdoor Recreation Council
Three years ago, the TPA was selected to be one of the founding members of the Governor’s Outdoor Recreation Council. Of the 29 members on the Governor’s Council, the TPA is the only member that is associated with any type of motorized/OHV recreation. The TPA has assumed this responsibility to help educate and remind other Council members that multiple-use and diverse forms of outdoor recreation all benefit from the efforts and funding provided by the CPW OHV Registration and Grant program. The TPA is also actively supporting a registration or “use fee” for mountain bikes in Colorado similar to the existing CPW OHV Registration program.

RGNF Forest Plan Revision
The Rio Grande National Forest is currently revising its 1996 forest plan. The forest plan is the overarching document that guides all management decisions and activities on the entire Rio Grande National Forest, including activities such as wildfire management, grazing, timber production, recreation, wildlife management, and firewood cutting. The recently finalized 2012 Planning Rule for all national forests governs this Revision process. The Rio Grande is the first forest in the Rocky Mountain Region to undertake this effort. The TPA has been a stakeholder and participant in the Forest Plan revision since the project began. The TPA, partnering with COHVCO, has been the principal advocate for multiple-use and motorized recreation and has been routinely providing review and input to the Forest Plan revision process to ensure recreational opportunities are maintained and hopefully increased for off-road motorcycles, OHVs and other forms of motorized recreation.

GMUG Forest Plan Revision
Similar to the RGNF Forest Plan Revision, the TPA and COHVCO are also partnered stakeholders and advocates for multiple-use and motorized recreation as the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests work to revise and update their Forest Plan. In 2006, the GMUG put a multi-year plan revision effort on hold until the Colorado Roadless Areas were defined and a final planning rule was established for the Forest Service. The GMUG’s prior planning effort was extensive, between February 2002 and November 2003 and the public comments were many. The GMUG Forest Planning team will use the previous work as a springboard for the current process incorporating new science, requirements and previous public input.

New Club is Making a Difference in Salida
The Central Colorado Mountain Riders (CCMR) is a non-profit 501(c)3 motorcycle club based out of Salida, CO. The club’s mission is to preserve, maintain and create motorized trail opportunities in the Central Colorado area through cooperation, education, etiquette and stewardship. Founded in 2016 with seed money from the TPA, CCMR has experienced many successes in its short existence. The club’s most notable accomplishment to date has been the “sign project” that aims to educate users on the nature of multiple-use trails and proper trail etiquette. These signs, first installed on Monarch Pass on the North end of the Monarch Crest Trail, will ultimately end up on all multiple-use trails within the Salida Ranger District.

New Club in Montrose gets rolling
Western Colorado Riders & Enthusiasts (WESTCORE) was established in the Montrose area of western Colorado. WESTCORE’s mission is to keep public lands accessible to all user groups in Western Colorado. Notable 2018 accomplishments include:

  • Club cleanup day on BLM lands with the collection of over 10,000 lbs. of trash.
  • Clearing over 400 trees and logs from multiple-use trails.
  • Signed a volunteer agreement and adopted trails with the USFS
  • Began planning with the USFS Ouray Ranger District to replace trail signs on multiple-use trails on the Uncompahgre Plateau, Lou Creek and Alpine Trail
  • Established a working relationship with the local power company to donate the use of a hydraulic dump trailer for club projects.
  • Check out WESTCORE’s website at www.westcore.co

Pike and San Isabel National Forest Public Motor Vehicle Use Environmental Impact Study (EIS)
The TPA in partnership with COHVCO continues to monitor the progress of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest Public Motor Vehicle Use Environmental Impact Study (EIS). The Draft EIS is expected to be completed in early 2019. The Draft EIS will be available for public review and comment, followed by a Draft Record of Decision, which will be subject to objections. The TPA previously prepared and submitted extensive comments for this project (https://www.coloradotpa.org/2016/09/07/pike-san-isabel- national-forest-travel-management-eis/). Over 30 percent of the existing multiple use trails and roads throughout the Pike and San Isabel National Forests are at risk of closure and lost to multiple- use and OHV use. It will be very important for all multiple-use/OHV users to review the draft EIS in detail and submit their individual comments. The TPA generally supports the proposed Alternative D with modifications.

OHV Workshops
The OHV community has completed two NOHVCC inspired Great Trails training workshops, one in Canon City/Royal Gorge area and one in Silverthorne, CO that brought OHV users and land management maintenance crews together to educate all parties on the best methods to build and maintain trails. Efforts are moving forward to conduct a third workshop to address strategic trails issues.

Economic Contributions from Motorized Recreation
The TPA is aware of a large conflict between the Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) estimates and the new Colorado Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) documenting motorized recreational spending from all sources, including new research from the Department of Commerce (DoC). While the DoC recently identified motorized recreation as the largest spending category, with motorcycles and ATVs as the fastest growing segments of the recreation economy, OIA says that motorized recreation has declined by almost 50 percent over the last several years. The TPA, in partnership with COHVCO, is working to clarify this rather comical conflict, but anticipates this discrepancy will be hard to resolve.

Collaborative Meetings with Land Managers – TPA has been an active participant in:

  • Personal meetings in Washington, DC, with top USFS and BLM leadership on a wide range of motorized recreational issues including limited funding, reducing the “sue and settle” culture of litigation against the agencies on motorized issues; streamlining planning and limited trail access with expanding state and regional populations
  • Meetings with the new BLM state director to address the strength of registration/motorized funding program and needs of motorized users moving forward
  • Continuing to maintain and expand our Memorandum of Understanding with the BLM State Office
  • Meetings with individual Field Offices to address and improve motorized opportunities in that Field Office, such as the meeting with the Royal Gorge FO which was attended by more than 40 OHV users and established goals and objectives from motorized users for the FO
  • Meetings with the Regional Office of USFS on expansion of stewardship programs and motorized trail access throughout the state and implementation of the 2015 National Trails Stewardship Act requirements
  • Meetings with USFS Forest Supervisors both coordinated and individually to expand motorized opportunities on the Forests and specific projects such as Lefthand Canyon project in the Boulder Ranger District and the South Rampart Travel Management Plans on the Pikes Peak Ranger District
  • Providing advice to the State Trails Committee/ Program and guiding both motorized and non-motorized grant program funding
  • Providing detailed presentations and actively participating in panels on trails at annual Partners in Outdoors meetings with CPW, which is attended by more than 500 recreational leaders
  • Continuing active involvement in the CO-OP meetings with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The CO-OP convenes approximately two dozen leaders in the recreational community quarterly in order to create larger understanding of the motorized/OHV grant process and maintenance program and aligning support for state and federal legislation such as the Future Generations Act, which altered how CPW funded recreation and renewal of the Colorado Lottery, which provides significant funding for recreation in Colorado
  • Representing motorized recreation interests in the Forest Health Advisory Committee to allow for greater understanding of land management decisions and challenges that are faced by the recreational community due to poor forest health and how the exceptionally poor forest health relates to Wilderness Proposals
  • Continued involvement in Department of Commerce (DoC) efforts to develop detailed analysis of economic impacts from motorized recreation and understanding why there is such a difference between DoC and Outdoor Industry Association analysis.

Forest/Field office/Collaborative Planning
TPA provided extensive comments on national efforts such as US Forest Service NEPA streamlining and the Council on Environmental Quality regarding our experiences with NEPA failures and the need to update the Wilderness Inventory process and Travel Management Orders from the 1970s.
TPA provided extensive comments on Rio Grande and GMUG NF in Colorado and Gila and Santa Fe NF in New Mexico on a wide range of issues including economics; Illegal nature of corridors around Continental Divide Trail; Economics; previous releases of lands for non- wilderness multiple use by Congress;
Provided extensive comments regarding the revision of the Endangered Species Act implementation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service;
Actively commented and monitored Gunnison Public Lands efforts which failed to address fire risks, significantly expanded Wilderness recommendations and failed to engage with most user groups;
Provided extensive comments opposing the Teton Public Lands efforts outside Jackson Hole, WY.

New Off-road Motorcycle Clubs
In addition to the two clubs mentioned before, the TPA also was able to assist in the forming of two new off road motorcycle clubs this year, one in Colorado and one in northern New Mexico.

  • In the Steamboat Springs area, Mountain Trails Access (MTA) was formed to assist in preserving riding in and around the Steamboat area.
  • The TPA also had the opportunity to assist with the establishment the Enchanted Circle Trails Alliance (ECTA), which will focus its advocacy efforts to protecting motorcycle trail riding opportunities in Northern New Mexico.

Major Projects for 2019

Following is a list of projects that will be the focus of the TPA, the Board of Directors and the TPA’s team of consultants moving forward in 2019. The list is not meant to be all-inclusive but represents the majority of significant efforts that are currently being funded, worked and tracked by the TPA. As new challenges emerge and develop, the TPA will mobilize and advise our local affiliated clubs and organizations to engage with their local land managers and task our consultants to research and prepare relevant documentation as directed by the Board of Directors.

  • 2019 TPA Winter Meeting – the TPA will be hosting the first annual Winter Strategic Planning Meeting for TPA associated clubs, and select individuals who help the TPA accomplish its mission. The goal of this first meeting will be to introduce organizations across the state, offer support from the TPA, and refine common goals and objectives for the coming year and beyond. The meeting will be held in Frisco, CO, on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. For more information visit the TOA’s website at: https://www.coloradotpa.org/news/.
  • Continue to pursue and support the litigation for the Rico/ West Dolores Travel Management Project Decision on the Dolores District of the San Juan National Forest until an amicable solution has been developed and agreed upon.
  • Continue to monitor and participate in the Pike and San Isabel National Forest Public Motor Vehicle Use Environmental Impact Study (EIS) (aka PSI) to ensure that off-road motorcycle and OHV recreational opportunities are preserved, protected and expanded to meet the public’s needs for access and recreation.
  • Resume evaluation of different areas in Colorado for hosting the Colorado 600/Trails Awareness Symposium.
  • Continue the TPA’s participation and engagement in the Forest Plan revisions for the RGNF and GMUG.
  • Conduct an annual meeting for TPA affiliated off-road motorcycle clubs and organizations to share information and coordinate our collective efforts to preserve the sport of off-road motorcycle travel on public lands.
  • Continue to develop and build enhanced relationships with Federal and State land mangers throughout the State.
  • Seek to improve the TPA’s reputation and relationship with leaders and staff at the USFS’ Region 2 Headquarters in Denver.
  • The TPA in partnership with the SJTR and PAPA will pursue re-opening several historic motorcycle single-track trials in and around the Silverton area. The area containing these trails has recently come under the supervision of the Gunnison Field Office of the BLM after a transfer from the USFS.
  • Development of a State Motorized Action Plan – This project is in its infancy and would seek a series of meetings throughout the state to identify the needs and desires of the motorized community. This would be similar to efforts that BLM offices in several other states and would provide determinations of the meetings be reduced to actionable order signed by the DC office. The Forest Service has expressed significant interest in participating in these meetings as well.

Donations

During 2018 the TPA made donations to several motorcycle organizations that included:

WESTCORE (www.westcore.co)
Mountain Trails Access (MTNAXSS)
Motorized Trails Riders (MTA)
Ride with Respect (Utah) (https://www.ridewithrespect.org)
NMOHVA (https://www.nmohva.org)
COHVCO (https://cohvco.clubexpress.com)

Summary

The annual Colorado 600 Trails Awareness Symposium has been our most significant fundraising activity over the years and will be held 8-13 September 2019 at the Monarch Mountain Lodge, 16 miles west of Salida, CO in 2019. The new venue at Monarch Mountain will provide many new and varied opportunities for single-track, Dual Sport and “Big Bike” riding and exploring. The 2019 KTM Adventure Rally returns to Colorado in 2018 and will immediately follow the 2018 Colorado 600 in Breckenridge.

The TPA appreciates our ongoing multi-year support agreement with KLIM (http://www.klim.com). Having the support of the #1 Off-Road apparel manufacturer has been a major endorsement of the TPA mission.

The TPA is also very grateful for the sustained generous support provided by Rocky Mountain ATV/MC (https://www.rockymountainatvmc.com) which continues to be a major financial supporter of our work.

We are also extremely thankful to our corporate sponsors: KTM, USA, Motion Pro, Centura, Dunlop Motorcycle Tires and our newest partner, Elite Motorsports in Loveland, CO. (https://www.elitektm.com).

The TPA encourages all of our friends and followers to support these businesses and manufacturers who help the TPA fight for your rights and work diligently to keep your motorized trails open and accessible.

The TPA could not survive without all of the donations provided by individuals, riders and other off-road businesses that have supported the TPA for the past 10 years!

The TPA continues to be a volunteer-led organization, placing the vast majority of our annual donations for direct use in saving our sport and recreational activities. The TPA Board of Directors thanks all of our supporters: individuals, corporations and clubs. Without their support and your donations, we could not enjoy all of the accomplishments that we have achieved thus far. The future will undoubtedly continue to demand our collective teamwork, vigilance, resolve and dedication, and donations.

Please contact us for suggestions concerning how you can help with the ongoing work TPA is pursuing on your behalf to save our sport in the Rocky Mountain Region.

Your TPA Board of Directors

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Rio Grande National Forest, Forest Plan Revision Comments

Dan Dallas
Forest Supervisor
Rio Grande National Forest 1803 W. Highway 160
Monte Vista, CO 81144

Rio Grande National Forest, Forest Plan Revision Comments

Dear Supervisor Dallas:

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Trails Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) and the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”). The TPA is a volunteer organization created to be a viable partner to public lands managers, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding and multiple-use recreation. The TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse trail multi-use recreational opportunities. COHVCO is a grassroots advocacy organization representing approximately 170,000 registered off-highway vehicle (“OHV”), snowmobile and 4WD users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all motorized recreationists in the protection and promotion of multi-use and off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations. TPA and COHVCO are referred to collectively in this correspondence as “the Organizations”. The Organizations offer the following comments and suggestions regarding the ongoing Rio Grande National Forest Plan Revision and the associated Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The Organizations have reviewed the most current versions of the Forest Plan Revision documents and have identified the following issues:

  • Draft Forest Plan, page 91, Table 12. Suitable activities for each management area. Management Areas 5 and 3.6 are open to Motorized Travel on designated routes, therefore the corresponding boxes in Table 12 need to be checked/annotated to reflect this suitability.Table 12 from Draft Forest Plan
  • Draft Forest Plan, page 84, Proposed Management Area 3.6-Upper Tier Colorado Roadless Area. Wording correctly recognizes motorized travel on designated routes within Roadless Areas as a recreational opportunity. Newly established Management Areas (MAs) 3.5 and 3.6 are Roadless Areas, thus it is critical that Forest Service wording remain consistent to identify motorized use’s place within these However, as described in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on page 274, there is misleading wording regarding motorized recreational opportunities within “Colorado Roadless Areas.” “Motorized vehicle use is currently limited to designated routes outside wilderness or Colorado roadless areas. Motorized use is also prohibited in some eligible wild, scenic, and recreational river segments and research natural areas.” Motorized use is indeed allowed on designated routes within Roadless Areas so the current wording is conflicting.
  • DEIS Alternative B. The Desired Summer Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) map is far too limiting for both the motorized community and land managers in terms of areas identified as Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized. The ROS Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized spectrum are areas for “non-motorized exploration” and are “managed for non-motorized use” according to Forest Service definition. The proposed Alternative B map has too many areas identified as Semi-Primitive Non- Motorized and the map is almost identical to the existing 1996 Forest Plan ROS map. If this map were to become final and approved, motorized trail opportunities will be fragmented. The new Forest Plan is supposed to be more flexible for land managers, the Alternative B map will not provide or allow for an increase in flexibility. Land managers seeking to utilize Adaptive Management after Monitoring will have their options limited by this map as depicted in Alternative B. Protecting management flexibility will be critical to accomplish Adaptive Management Alternative C, ROS map is much more reasonable and flexible and will enable implementing options such as designating new motorized trails to be less restrictive for land managers. Guidance maps are useful, but if they are not well thought out or drawn wrong, they will limit future management. Similar to Habitat Fragmentation, the Organizations and the public do not want to see Trail Fragmentation. If initial guidance is too restrictive; alternatives for utilizing Adaptive Management will remain limited and too restrictive. Forest Service guidance, which certainly has an intent is to provide well thought out trails systems, compels having loops, connectivity and the ability to disperse trail user pressure from areas like the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST). For example if most of the areas adjacent to the CDNST are in the ROS spectrum Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized this will limit future adaptive management flexibility and opportunities.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments. Together we hope to help develop a simpler, more useful and flexible Forest Plan for the RGNF that can be understood and embraced by the public.

 

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Scott Jones, esq.
COHVCO Co-Chairman
CSA Vise President
Trails Preservation Alliance

 

cc         The RGNF Forest Planning Team (rgnf_forest_plan@fs.fed.us)

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Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District Muddy Pass/Sheephorn Project Comments

Rick Truex
Acting District Ranger
c/o Brett Crary, Forester
White River National Forest
P.O. Box 190
Minturn, CO, 81645

Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District Muddy Pass/Sheephorn Project Comments

Dear Ranger Truex:

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Trails Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) and the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”).   The TPA is a volunteer organization created to be a viable partner to public lands managers, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding and multiple-use recreation.  The TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse trail multi-use recreational opportunities. COHVCO is a grassroots advocacy organization representing approximately 170,000 registered off-highway vehicle (“OHV”), snowmobile and 4WD users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all motorized recreationists in the protection and promotion of multi-use and off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.  TPA and COHVCO are referred to collectively in this correspondence as “the Organizations.”  The Organizations offer the following comments and suggestions regarding the enhancement of motorized recreational opportunities in the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District (EHCRD) and specific to the Muddy Pass/Sheephorn Project.  Page numbers refer to the White River National Forest, Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District’s, Notice of Proposed Action Muddy Pass/Sheephorn Project.

  1. (pg 3) “Benefits expected from the project include the maintenance and improvement of open forest system roads, the decommissioning of existing non-system roads.”  The Organizations request that instead of road decommissioning that those roads be considered for conversion to a Full-Size Multiple-use Trail or another motorized trail designation (e.g., Trail open to Motorcycles, or open to Vehicles 50” or less in width).   Additional information is provided below.
  2. (pg 8) “The Muddy Pass/Sheephorn analysis area contains approximately 37.30 miles of system roads that would be utilized for hauling activities (Table 2). In addition, there are approximately 27.74 miles of roads within the project analysis area that are identified in the 2012 Travel Management Plan Record of Decision to be closed to the public and or decommissioned. Of these roads, 24.87 miles are proposed for utilization as temporary haul roads, which would be decommissioned following use. The remaining 2.87 miles of road that are not proposed to be utilized as temporary haul roads could be closed while equipment is mobilized in the area.” The Organizations request that instead of road decommissioning that those roads be considered for conversion to a Full-Size Multiple-use Trail or another motorized trail designation (e.g., Trail open to Motorcycles, or open to Vehicles 50” or less in width).   Additional information is provided below.
  3.  (pg 13) “The White River National Forest Travel Management Plan (2011) designated a system of roads and trails forest-wide that addressed all modes of travel. The Muddy Pass/Sheephorn Project’s Proposed Action includes an amendment to the Travel Management Plan to designate 993.W1 as level II road open to all motorized wheeled use following the Motor Vehicle Use Map season of dates for the surrounding area (Map 6 of 9). Prior to the 2011 TMP, this route was used administratively but not available for public use. Motorized use of 993.W1 is authorized under an existing range permit for the placement of herder camps and weekly motorized vehicle supply trips. Together, range and recreation staff have tried to prohibit public motorized use of this permitted route, however, enforcement has proven ineffective and unmanageable due to its popularity. Designating 993.W1 for all motorized use, which includes non-motorized access, provides a desired recreation opportunity that people seek. This route serves as a destination overlook with outstanding scenic views. Physical barriers may be placed around the scenic overlook and along 993.W1 to prevent motorized recreation beyond the overlook. Winter management of the area would remain the same as shown on the winter Over the Snow Map.  The Organizations support the EHCRD’s efforts to open routes and provide additional opportunities for multiple-use/motorized recreation and the public’s access to the to the White River National Forest.
  4. Reference to the existing Seasonal Closure of the upper portion of the Muddy Pass Road (AKA Red Sandstone Rd or NFSR #700) that currently do not open each year until 21 June.  The Organizations request that alternative and other mitigation techniques be implemented in order to facilitate opening of this road prior to 21 June each year. Not allowing the use of the road until 21 June each year curtails any motorized recreation on this portion of the road until the first day of summer and precludes any early season travel. This closure also precludes motorized travel on USFS dirt/system roads between Hwy 131 and Vail until this road is open and accessible. (https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd514242.pdf)
  5. The Organizations would request that the EHCRD consider and embrace a more aggressive strategy of converting select National Forest System Roads (NFSR) and non-system roads to multiple-use/motorized trails. This strategy is a practical and a beneficial way of simultaneously meeting the requirements of designating a Minimum Road System (MRS), and at the same time providing a safer, more economical, more environmentally sound and more flexible motorized route/trail system for public recreational uses. The Organizations encourage and support the EHCRD’s decision to convert most any existing National Forest Service Road (NFSR) or sustainable non-system road to a Full-Size Multiple-use Trail or another trail designation (e.g., Trail open to Motorcycles, or open to Vehicles 50” or less in width).  The Organizations encourage the use of conversion techniques described in Chapter 17 of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council’s (NOHVCC) 2015 Great Trails: Providing Quality OHV Trails and Experiences publication
  6. Conversion of roads to trails in accordance with the methods and techniques described in Chapter 17 of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council’s (NOHVCC) 2015 Great Trails: Providing Quality OHV Trails and Experiences publication would allow the EHCRD staff to be much more flexible, creative and innovative in meeting the increasing desires, needs and demands of the public to provide high quality motorized recreational experiences. The spectrum of possibilities to make “trails” more desirable, interesting, challenging and fun is much broader with trails than with the stringent engineering requirements for “roads”.  The Organizations would also offer that meeting the mandatory NEPA requirements can be, and is often more straight forward and expedient when considering the modifications or improvements to trails than for roads.
  7. Financial Sustainability – Conversion of roads to multiple-use/motorized trails will make those routes eligible for Colorado Parks and Wildlife OHV grant funds (which can specifically be used for the construction, reconstruction or maintenance of OHV routes or multi-use trails that allow for motorized use and other activities). These conversions will thereby help reduce the direct financial burden and backlog to the EHCRD and can supplement funding with user-provided funds that were previously unavailable for these routes.  Conversion from roads to trails will also likely reduce the required maintenance level and reduce the necessary amount and backlog of funding.  By providing an adequate and varied inventory of routes and trails that fulfill the user’s spectrum of needs (today and the future) for variety, difficulty, destinations, challenge, terrain, and scenic opportunity will lead to improved management and compliance requiring less future expenditures on maintenance, signage, enforcement, etc. Finally, the lack of fiscal capacity by the USFS/EHCRD should not be criteria for or lead to closures and reductions in public recreational opportunities, closure of routes or elimination of public access to the EHCRD.
  8. The Organizations are aware that there may also be concern that conversion of roads to trails for motorized use in Colorado may cause apprehension that travel on converted routes would now invoke the requirement for a State/Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) OHV sticker for legal travel. The Organizations are very aware of, and in some cases are participating in statewide discussions to explore funding mechanisms and user fees to help supplement public land management agency operating budgets for activities beyond OHV use.  The Organizations contend that expanded implementation of user fees for public lands will become inevitable in the future.  That utilizing the highly successful CPW OHV sticker program for travel on motorized trails that have been converted from roads is reasonable and in agreement with the ongoing discussions to implement and expand user fees to activities other than OHV use, hunting, fishing, etc.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.  Together we hope to help develop an enhanced, sustainable system of motorized routes on the EHCRD, and at the same time help identify the minimum road system needed for safe and efficient travel and for the administration, utilization, and protection of EHCRD lands.

 

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Scott Jones, esq.
COHVCO Co-Chairman
CSA Vise President
Trails Preservation Alliance

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Roads to Trails Conversion Rio Grande National Forest

Dan Dallas
Forest Supervisor
Rio Grande National Forest 1803 W. Highway 160
Monte Vista, CO 81144

Rio Grande National Forest, Forest Plan Revision and Travel Management Comments regarding the conversion of National Forest System Roads (NFSR) to Multiple Use Trails

Dear Supervisor Dallas:

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Trails Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) and the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”). The TPA is a volunteer organization created to be a viable partner to public lands managers, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding and multiple-use recreation. The TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse trail multi-use recreational opportunities. COHVCO is a grassroots advocacy organization representing approximately 170,000 registered off-highway vehicle (“OHV”), snowmobile and 4WD users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all motorized recreationists in the protection and promotion of multi-use and off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations. TPA and COHVCO are referred to collectively in this correspondence as “the Organizations.” The Organizations offer the following comments and suggestions regarding the enhancement of motorized recreational opportunities in the RGNF.

The TPA & COHVCO generally support the USFS’ efforts and requirements to identify a minimum road system (MRS) that meets the future needs of the Forest along with the motorized and multiple-use recreation community for administration, utilization, and protection of National Forest System lands and resources, while providing safe and efficient travel and minimizing adverse environmental effects. The Organizations also acknowledge that the USFS must balance the need for agency and public access. By definition, a MRS must emphasizes a safe and environmentally sound transportation system consisting of routes recognized in the Infrastructure Application System (INFRA) along with urgent priorities identified during previously completed, forest-wide, Travel Analysis Process (aka TAP) and documented in the associated TAP report/documents. The Organizations thoughtfully support the designation of an MRS as long as the TAP report/documents are used to guide and advise the MRS process, and the outcome from the MRS process improves the motorized recreational system of routes on the forest.

The Organizations would request that during the Forest Plan Revision Process and subsequent Travel Management Process that the Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF) reconsider and embrace a more aggressive strategy of converting select National Forest System Roads (NFSR) to motorized trails. This strategy is a practical and a beneficial way of simultaneously meeting the requirements of designating a MRS, and at the same time providing a safer, more economical, more environmentally sound and more flexible motorized route/trail system for public recreational uses. The Organizations would encourage and support the Forest’s decision to convert most any existing National Forest Service Road (NFSR) to a Full-Size Trail or another trail designation (e.g., Trail open to Motorcycles, or open to Vehicles 50” or less in width). The Organizations encourage the use of conversion techniques described in Chapter 17 of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council’s (NOHVCC) 2015 Great Trails: Providing Quality OHV Trails and Experiences publication.

In our analysis, the Organizations have identified the roads that are most suited for conversion to motorized trails. These are the mixed-use roads, maintained at a maintenance level 2 or in select cases level 1 (ML2, ML 1), with a Moderate or High Recreational benefit rating in the Road and Motorized Trail Benefit/Risk Matrix depicted in the 2015 TAP document. Historically, these are often the old Jeep or logging trails that have been in the forest for many decades. Some of these trails were intended to provide access to remote dispersed camping sites, and others provided access to scenic vistas, while others were intended simply as fun driving opportunities that created looped routes for public, motorized, off-road enjoyment. When they were officially added to the NFSR system, predominantly back in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, these routes were entered into the Roads database because at that time there was no official database/attribute for “full-size motorized trails”. Now with the requirement to designate a MRS, together we have the opportunity to correct a lingering discrepancy and record these Jeep trails as National Forest System Trails (NFSTs), where they rightly belong. The Organizations also support the consideration of designating select and appropriate maintenance level 1 (ML 1) roads as trails (e.g., coincident route) to enhance the network of recreational routes for motorized use.

Our analysis of the RGNF Forest-wide TAP has led the Organizations to conclude that roads designated in the TAP as:

  • High Benefit/Low Risk (Matrix Category 1) (893 miles/31%) roads are ideal roads as is, and for the most part should be kept as is, with very few conversions to trails.
  • The High Benefit/High Risk (Matrix Category 2) (639 miles/23%) roads have heightened resource risks that need some type of mitigation to satisfy the requirements of One of those mitigations that increases safety, reduces costs and better protects natural resources is the conversion to motorized trails.
  • The Low Benefit/Low Risk (Matrix Category 4) (1093 miles/39%) roads do not cause significant resource damage, and they do not have overall significant benefits, but the Matrix Category 4 roads with a High or Moderate Recreational Use Benefit rating should be considered for conversion to motorized trails.
  • The Low Benefit/High Risk (Matrix Category 3) (194 miles/7%) roads have undesirable resource risks that need some type of mitigation to satisfy the requirements of the MRS, and if they also have a Moderate or High Recreational Use benefit rating may justify the conversion to motorized trails.

Conversion of roads to trails in accordance with the methods and techniques described in Chapter 17 of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council’s (NOHVCC) 2015 Great Trails: Providing Quality OHV Trails and Experiences publication would allow the RGNF staff to be much more flexible, creative and innovative in meeting the increasing desires, needs and demands of the public to provide high quality motorized recreational experiences. The spectrum of possibilities to make “trails” more desirable, interesting, challenging and fun is much broader with trails than with the stringent engineering requirements for “roads”. The Organizations would also offer that meeting the mandatory NEPA requirements can be and is often more straight forward and expedient when considering the modifications or improvements to trails than for roads.

Financial Sustainability – Conversion of roads to multiple-use, motorized trails will make those routes eligible for Colorado Parks and Wildlife OHV grant funds (which can specifically be used for the construction, reconstruction or maintenance of OHV routes or multi-use trails that allow for motorized use and other activities). These conversions will thereby help reduce the direct financial burden and backlog to the RGNF and can supplement funding with user-provided funds that were previously unavailable for these routes. Conversion from roads to trails will also likely reduce the required maintenance level and reduce the necessary amount and backlog of funding. By providing an adequate and varied inventory of routes and trails that fulfill the user’s spectrum of needs (today and the future) for variety, difficulty, destinations, challenge, terrain, and scenic opportunity will lead to improved management and compliance requiring less future expenditures on maintenance, signage, enforcement, etc. Finally, the lack of fiscal capacity by the USFS/RGNF should not be criteria for or lead to closures and reductions in public recreational opportunities, closure of routes or elimination of public access to the RGNF. For these reasons, the Organizations do not agree or support the Actions That Respond to the Issues cited on page 37 of the TAP Report:

Insufficient resources for maintaining existing system roads – Action: Reduce the number of road miles that need to be maintained or reduce the maintenance level to reduce maintenance costs. Reducing road miles that need to be maintained by converting closed roads to motorized trails would increase trail maintenance costs and is not a recommended action to reduce maintenance costs. (pg. 37, Rio Grande National Forest Forest-wide Travel Analysis Process Report, October 2015)

The Organizations are aware that there may also be concern that conversion of roads to trails for motorized use in Colorado may cause apprehension that travel on converted routes would now invoke the requirement for a State/Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) OHV sticker for legal travel. The Organizations are very aware of, and in some cases are participating in statewide discussions to explore funding mechanisms and user fees to help supplement public land management agency operating budgets for activities beyond OHV use. The Organizations contend that expanded implementation of user fees for public lands will become inevitable in the future. That utilizing the highly successful CPW OHV sticker program for travel on motorized trails that have been converted from roads is reasonable and in agreement with the ongoing discussions to implement and expand user fees to activities other than OHV use, hunting, fishing, etc.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments. Together we hope to help develop an enhanced, sustainable system of motorized routes on the RGNF, and at the same time help identify the minimum road system needed for safe and efficient travel and for the administration, utilization and protection of RGNF lands.

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Scott Jones, esq.
COHVCO Co-Chairman
CSA Vise President
Trails Preservation Alliance

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New Colorado 600 Video!

Watch the new Rocky Mountain ATV MC video about the Colorado 600!

From Rocky Mountain ATV MC:

The Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting responsible trail riding and keeping trails open. The TPA is an OHV advocate and works to ensure that the interests of off-road enthusiasts are fairly and appropriately represented to the USFS and BLM. The TPA is based out of Colorado but also fights for trail preservation in nearby states as well, including New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota.

The Colorado 600 is an annual symposium put on by the TPA to inform attendees about proper trail etiquette, updates on trail openings/closings, details regarding the USFS and BLM, and other riding-related topics. It also involves an extremely fun ride. We at Rocky Mountain ATV/MC are proud supporters of the TPA and have been fortunate to attend the Colorado 600 multiple times. Check out our Colorado 600 blog article to see what a great experience we’ve had with it in the past.

The TPA works hard so we all can continue to enjoy the trails, and that requires effort from numerous volunteers who are passionate about this sport. How you can you help? Get involved with your local club. Click the button above to find out more about the TPA and how you can support its mission through volunteering or donations. You can also email info@coloradotpa.org to contact the TPA directly about how you can get engaged.

Visit Rocky Mountain ATV MC – https://www.rockymountainatvmc.com/

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Conversion of National Forest System Roads to Multiple Use Trails

PSI MVUM EIS Travel Management Team
Pike & San Isabel National Forests
2840 Kachina Dr. Pueblo, CO 81008

RE: Pike & San Isabel National Forest, Travel Management EIS – Comments regarding conversion of National Forest System Roads (NFSR) to Multiple Use Trails

Dear Mr. Dow:

We want to thank the Pike & San Isabel National Forest (PSI) for the efforts being made toward meeting the requirements of the Stipulated Settlement Agreement, Civil Action No. 11-cv-00246-WYD. In addition to the settlement requirements, we support your efforts to improve the system of motorized routes, and in the steps being taken to identify a minimum road system that will meet the future needs of the motorized and multiple use recreation community. As Intervener Defendants to the settlement agreement, we desire an outcome that is based on the best available scientific data and a decision that is in the public interest.

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Trails Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) and the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”).   The TPA is a volunteer organization created to be a viable partner to public lands managers, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding and multiple-use recreation. The TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse trail multi-use recreational opportunities. COHVCO is a grassroots advocacy organization representing approximately 170,000 registered off-highway vehicle (“OHV”), snowmobile and 4WD users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all motorized recreationists in the protection and promotion of multi-use and off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations. TPA and COHVCO are referred to collectively in this correspondence as “The Organizations.” The Organizations offer the following comments and concerns regarding this project.

It has recently come to the attention of the Organizations that the PSI intends to revise the “Proposed Action”. Up to this point, the Proposed Action has been identified as Alternative B. Now, as a result of public scoping, the new Proposed Action will be Alternative C. We could possibly support this revision since Alternative C (with some modifications) emphasizes a safe and environmentally sound transportation system that consists of the routes currently in the Infrastructure Application System (INFRA), plus urgent priorities previously identified during the Travel Analysis Process (aka TAP) and documented in the associated TAP reports and addendums. This alternative also better addresses the Minimum Road System (MRS), which the Organizations could possibly support as long as the TAP Addendums are used to guide and advise the MRS process, and as long as the outcome from the MRS process improves the motorized recreation system of routes on the PSI. We also will likely support the creation of a Preferred Alternative for the final EIS, based on a modified Proposed Action, after evaluating public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). We intend to identify a collection of sustainable trails, parking areas and travel areas that are being analyzed in Alternative D that should be included in the Preferred Alternative. Those routes and trails will be specifically identified during the public comment period allocated for the DEIS.

We appreciate the willingness of the PSI to provide the public with regular progress reports and updates via the psitravelmanagement.org website. Recently, access to that website along with the reports and data work products was closed, and we hope that the PSI MVUM EIS Travel Management Team will reconsider that decision to take down the website and once again provide reports, updates and data that will provide the public with sufficient information to follow the progress and participate in every step of this process.

Over the past few months, our recreation and transportation planning specialists have reviewed the publicly provided data and information related to the alternatives, the TAP Addendums and the Minimum Road System process. The results of our review have provided us with some important conclusions and recommendations that we want to share with you prior to the publication of the DEIS.

The primary recommendation we have at this point in time is for the PSI to fully embrace the strategy of the conversion of roads to motorized trails. This strategy is a practical and a beneficial way of meeting the requirements of the MRS, and at the same time providing a safer, more economical, more environmentally sound and more flexible motorized route/trail system for public recreational uses. We feel it is important at this point to reiterate the following comment (along with several similar comments in our previous document) that our Organizations made back in 2016:

  1. The Organizations would encourage and support the Forest’s decision to convert most any existing National Forest Service Road (NFSR) to a Full Size Trail or another trail designation (e.g., Trail open to Motorcycles, or open to Vehicles 50” or less in width). We encourage the use of conversion techniques contained in Chapter 17 of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council’s (NOHVCC) 2015 Great Trails: Providing Quality OHV Trails and Experiences publication.

In our analysis, we have identified the roads most suited for conversion to motorized trails. They are the mixed-use roads, maintained at a maintenance level 2 (ML2), with a Moderate or High Recreational Use benefit rating in the TAP Addendums. Historically, these are the old Jeep trails that have been on the forest for many decades. Some of these trails were intended to provide access to remote dispersed camping sites, and others provided access to scenic vistas, while others were intended simply as fun driving opportunities that created looped routes for public, motorized, off-road enjoyment. When they were officially added to the NFSR system, mostly back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, these routes were put into the Roads database because at that time there was no official database/attribute for “full size motorized trails”. Now with this EIS process, together we have the opportunity to correct that discrepancy and record these Jeep trails as National Forest System Trails (NFSTs), where they rightly belong.

Our analysis of the draft action alternatives spreadsheet reveals the following data:

  • In Alternative C, there are approximately 1,372 miles of PSI ML2 mixed use roads. Of these:
    • 623 miles have an overall TAP rating of H/L (45%)
    • 539 miles have an overall TAP rating of H/H (39%)
    • 150 miles have an overall TAP rating of L/L   (11%)
    • 60 miles have an overall TAP rating of L/H   (4%)
  • The High Benefit/Low Risk (H/L) roads are ideal roads as is, and for the most part should be kept as is, with very few if any conversions to trails.
  • The High Benefit/High Risk (H/H) roads have unacceptable resource risks that need some type of mitigation to satisfy the requirements of the MRS. One of those mitigations that increases safety, reduces costs and better protects natural resources is the conversion to motorized trails. There are approximately 517 miles of H/H, ML2 roads in this category with a Moderate or High Recreational Use Benefit rating that should be converted to motorized trails.
  • The Low Benefit/Low Risk (L/L) roads do not cause significant resource damage, and they do not have overall significant benefits, but the L/L roads with a High or Moderate Recreational Use Benefit rating should be converted to motorized trails. The data shows approximately 105 miles of L/L ML2 roads in this category.
  • The Low Benefit/High Risk (L/H) roads have unacceptable resource risks that need some type of mitigation to satisfy the requirements of the MRS, and they also need a Moderate or High Recreational Use benefit rating to justify the conversion to motorized trails. There are approximately 37 miles of L/H ML2 roads with a Moderate or High Recreational Use Benefit Use rating that should be converted to motorized trails.
  • The grand total of miles of mixed use, ML2 roads that should be shown in Alternative C as “Convert to Motorized Trail” is approximately 659 miles. The majority of these roads should be converted to full size trails, but some would be more suited as 50” ATV trails and some as single-track motorcycle trails. The intent of the TAP Addendums is to guide and inform the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis and help move the PSI toward the MRS. The “Convert to Motorized Trail” strategy is based on the TAP results and informs the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in general and the Proposed Action MRS Alternative specifically.

The Organizations unequivocally support the “Convert to Motorized Trail” strategy as we have previously stated in our comments, and we encourage the PSI Travel Management team to use the reasoning provided above to increase the miles of roads converted to trails in Alternative C (and Alternative D) and to more closely match our numbers above. The current Draft Action Alternatives Spreadsheet has approximately 390 miles of road in Alternative C that will be analyzed for conversion to trail, so we would like to see that number increase by approximately 60%. When the DEIS is published, we will be looking specifically at the miles of roads converted to motorized trails in the Proposed Action alternative, and if that number is not somewhere close to 659 miles, we will be expressing our opposition to the DEIS in general and to the MRS process specifically during the comment period.

Conversion of roads to trails in accordance with the methods and techniques contained in Chapter 17 of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council’s (NOHVCC) 2015 Great Trails: Providing Quality OHV Trails and Experiences publication would allow the PSI staff to be much more flexible, creative and innovative in meeting the increasing desires, needs and demands of the public to provide high quality motorized recreational experiences. The spectrum of possibilities to make “trails” more interesting, challenging and fun is much greater with trails than with the engineering requirements for “roads”. The Organizations would also offer that meeting the mandatory NEPA requirements can be, and is often more straight forward and expedient when considering the modifications or improvements to trails than for roads.

The Organizations are aware that there may be some concern that conversion of roads to trails for motorized use may cause trepidation that those routes would now require a State/Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) OHV sticker for legal travel. The Organizations are very aware of, and in some cases participating in current statewide discussions to explore funding mechanisms and user fees to help supplement public land management agency operating budgets for activities beyond OHV use. The Organizations contend that expanded implementation of user fees for public lands will become inevitable in the future. That utilizing the highly successful CPW OHV sticker program for travel on motorized trails that have been converted from roads is reasonable and in unison with the ongoing discussions to implement and expand user fees to activities other than OHV use, hunting, fishing, etc.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments. Together we hope to help develop a sustainable system of motorized routes on the PSI, and at the same time perhaps even help identify the minimum road system needed for safe and efficient travel and for the administration, utilization and protection of PSI and our National Forest lands.

The TPA and COHVCO would welcome a discussion of these issues at your convenience. Our point of contact for this project will be William Alspach, PE at 675 Pembrook Dr., Woodland Park, CO, williamalspach@gmail.com, cell 719-660-1259.

Sincerely,

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Scott Jones, esq.
COHVCO Co-Chairman
Trails Preservation Alliance

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Letter of Support – Carson National Forest

Letter of Support for the Carson National Forest, Camino Real Ranger District – OHV Stacked Loop System RTP Grant application.

Ms. Glendenning
Acting Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Coordinator
New Mexico Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 1149
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1149

SUBJECT: Letter of Support for the Carson National Forest, Camino Real Ranger District – OHV Stacked Loop System RTP Grant application.

Dear Ms. Glendenning:

Please accept this letter from the Colorado Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) and the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) as an official letter of support for the Carson National Forest, Camino Real Ranger District – OHV Stacked Loop System RTP Grant application. The collaborative group consisting of the Enchanted Circle Trails Alliance (ECTA), Taos County, the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (NMOHVA) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) is proposing this grant. The TPA is a volunteer organization created to be a viable partner to public lands managers, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of motorized trail riding and multiple-use recreation. The TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to insure that the USFS, BLM and others allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse multiple use trail recreational opportunities. COHVCO is a grassroots advocacy organization comprising over 230,000 registered off-highway vehicle users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of multiple-use and off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is also an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

Both the TPA and COHVCO represent thousands of off-highway motorcyclists and OHV enthusiast that travel to New Mexico and particularly the Carson National Forest, Camino Real Ranger District to enjoy the diverse and scenic back roads and trail opportunities that this area has to offer.

The RTP grant proposal from this collaborative group seeks to enhance and improve the recreational opportunities and experiences while striving to improve route sustainability and protection of the forest’s unique and natural resources. In Colorado, OHV recreation has documented contributions of well over $1.6 billion to the State’s economy. Northern New Mexico has an opportunity to directly share in similar economic benefits from OHV recreation through the enhancements proposed by this grant application to the trail and route systems and supporting work within the Camino Real Ranger District of the Carson National Forest.

The TPA and COHVCO both contend that route and trail systems that adequately meet the needs and demands of the users/customers, and provide satisfactory recreational experiences, are much more likely to be embraced by the users and results in improved compliance, better user behaviors, requires less enforcement, and experience improved protection of the natural resources through enriched user ethics and enhanced public stewardship.

The TPA and COHVCO both support the Carson National Forest, Camino Real Ranger District – OHV Stacked Loop System RTP Grant application as it specifically seeks to improve the recreational opportunities and experiences available for OHV users and visitors to the Carson National Forest and Northern New Mexico.

Sincerely,

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Scott Jones, esq.
COHVCO Co-Chairman
Trails Preservation Alliance

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Teton WPLI Opposition

Teton County Commissioners
200 S. Willow Street
PO Box 3594
Jackson, Wy 3594
Via email @ commissioners@tetoncounty.wy.gov

Re: Teton WPLI Opposition

Dear Commissioners:
he above Organizations welcome the opportunity provided to voice our strenuous objections to the “collaborative” process around the Teton PLI and our vigorous opposition to the end results of the “collaborative”. The Organizations are providing these comments as many of the diverse recreational opportunities in the Greater Yellowstone area are global destinations for all user groups and interests and members of our Organizations consistently visit the 2

Jackson/Yellowstone area in furtherance of these diverse recreational opportunities. While many of our members deeply value they recreational opportunities provided in the Greater Yellowstone area, they are also not able to travel the long distances that are necessary to attend tonight’s meeting. We are submitting these comments in the vigorous support of the objections from local and state multiple use that have been submitted in good faith throughout this process and then largely ignored.
As the Commissioners are now too intimately aware, the discussions around public lands in Teton County and collaborative efforts taken have proven to be problematic at best and the current discussion is simply more evidence of the failure of the collaborative process rather than a reasoned scientifically based vision for the future management of these lands. It is unfortunate that these efforts to “collaborate” have really done nothing more than reopen painful discussions between users who had co-existed successfully in the Greater Yellowstone area for decades. The Organizations would urge the Commissioners to strictly review the conclusions of this collaborative efforts as they are not the result of a collaborative effort but rather are the result of a process that could only result in one conclusion, which has already been found to be unacceptable to the US Congress.

1. Who we are.

Prior to addressing the specific concerns on the Teton PLI, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

The Trail Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) is a 100 percent volunteer organization whose intention is to be a viable partner, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding. The TPA acts as an advocate of the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate to trail riding a fair and equitable percentage of access to public lands.

Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion. CSA has also become the voice of organized snowmobiling seeking to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling through work with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators telling the truth about our sport.

The Off-Road Business Association (“ORBA”) is a national not-for-profit trade association of motorized off-road related businesses formed to promote and preserve off-road recreation in an environmentally responsible manner and appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on this issue.

The Idaho Recreation Council (“IRC”) is a recognized, statewide, collaboration of Idaho recreation enthusiasts and others that will identify and work together on recreation issues in cooperation with land managers, legislators and the public to ensure a positive future for responsible outdoor recreation access for everyone, now and into the future.

The Idaho State Snowmobile Association (“ISSA”) is an organization dedicated to preserving, protecting, and promoting snowmobiling in the great state of Idaho. Our members may come from every corner of the state, but they all share one thing in common: their love for snowmobiling.

One Voice is a non-profit national association committed to promoting the rights of motorized enthusiasts and improving advocacy in keeping public and private lands open for responsible recreation through strong leadership, advocacy, and collaboration. One Voice provides a unified voice for motorized recreation through a national platform that represents the diverse off-highway vehicle (OHV) community. For purposes of this correspondence TPA, COHVCO, CSA, ORBA, IRC, ISSA and One Voice will be referred to as “The Organizations”.

2a. Landscape concerns with the PLI “collaborative” process which will make any future collaboration VERY difficult.

Collectively, the Organizations have been actively involved in easily thousands of NEPA actions throughout the Western United States over their more than 30 years of existence with US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Dept. of Defense, and Bureau of Reclamation ranging from the recent landscape level forest plan amendments involving Sage Grouse and previous efforts on the Canadian Lynx to planning efforts involving management plans on a particular Forest or Field Office to small level planning efforts involving only a small portion of a Field Office or Ranger District. Our collaborative efforts have also addressed many difficult political issues such as ESA reform with the Western Governors Association; management of the Lake Tahoe Basin area in California and passage of numerous pieces of land management legislation in Congress.

From our perspective, collaborative efforts directly facilitated by land managers or other government interests have a better track record in avoiding bias, finding a true cross section of interests and achieving some level of consensus from groups. This consensus may be a simple as identifying areas where there is no conflict and current management can move forward and other areas where consensus cannot be reached. Has this process been successful every time? That answer is, of course, no but the percentages of success have certainly been higher and in situations where collaboration cannot be achieved that conclusion has been reached an efforts ceased.

The Organizations have participated in the privately convened efforts similar to the Teton PLI throughout the Western United States which are driven by non-governmental entities including the Gunnison PLI; formative efforts of another PLI in Salida, Colorado; efforts around the Bears Ears area of Utah over the last decade and would like to address some of the systemic issues we have encountered from these non-governmental grassroots efforts. The Organizations would note that there is a significant difference between collaborative efforts that are convened with a true interest in finding common grounds on issues and collaboratives that are actually a coalition of interests that are seeking to create the appearance of broad consensus on issues, often when there is none.

Simply identifying the proper range and balance of interests to be a the table in a collaboration is a major challenge and then getting that diverse group of interests to the table to participate in collaborative efforts is a significant challenge. Once at the table, those interests frequently have varying levels of information and resources available to devote to the collaboration, regardless of the importance of the issue to them. These are critical hurdles to any successful collaboration and appear to be hurdles the Teton PLI effort many not have cleared. It is interesting to note that there is no representation of grazing interests or the timber industry in the Teton PLI despite the fact that these interests would be directly interested in many of the standards that are being recommended in the Teton PLI. This is a sign that maybe everyone was not at the collaborative table that should have been.

Additionally, has been our experience with grassroots collaboratives that:

  1. Too often PLI collaborative efforts represent a coalition of interests rather than a truly collaborative effort;
  2. Many interests simply are not represented and those that might conflict with the coalition are minimized in the voting process;
  3. Too often participation of a group in the PLI process is assumed to mean support for the conclusions;
  4. These Collaboratives fail to recognize what is often almost a century of collaborative planning that has gone into Congressional actions on federal lands;
  5. Collaborative efforts fail to recognize previous collaborative efforts around legislation and planning;
  6. Poor transparency in the PLI process, and almost a complete disregard for the conclusions of prior collaborative efforts when a new collaborative convened by a coalition of interests; and
  7. Too often the collaborative starts with the fact all lands are available for Wilderness designation and forces those opposed to such a designation to prove why not.

The Organizations would be remiss if the overlap of these systemic failures in the interest group convened PLI process was not noted in the Teton PLI efforts, where there clearly was a coalition of interests assembled and then other groups were invited to attend. Many of the systemic failures of the PLI process are on display in the Teton PLI as evidenced by the fact the interests simply were never balanced as directly evidenced by the votes around the preferred alternative.1 All motorized and mechanical groups opposed the preferred alternative but simply lacked sufficient votes to stop the preferred alternative. This is not a collaborative but rather a coalition of interests failing to address concerns of others and the imposing a predetermined conclusion on a minority position in the group.

Commissioners may be wondering why this is our initial comment on this issue. Our concern is when one collaborative effort is allowed to drift off course or become a vehicle for a predetermined conclusion of a coalition of interests, any collaboration on even basic issues between those groups in the future is made exceptionally difficult and may be functionally impossible in the short term. The Organizations are concerned that the damage may have already occurred in the Teton PLI and functionally precluded even basic collaboration on events or issues in the future. These types of failures of collaboration often have LONG institutional memory and, in this case, these failures have reignited conflicts that were resolved more than 3 decades ago.

2b. Landscape concerns with Wilderness designations and threats identified in Teton Wildlands Conservation Plan.

The Organizations must briefly address what is a systemic issue consistently raised in the documents surrounding the Teton PLI efforts, mainly the levels of development of private lands throughout the western US, and more specifically in the Teton Valley. The Organizations are unable to identify a single restriction in any alternative of the Teton PLI that would address private lands development. This is concerning as there are very effective tools available to limit or restrict private lands development that can be done collaboratively and without collateral impacts to usages not related to the management challenges. One such tool would be the use of private land conservation easements, which have been highly effective in addressing development of private lands. In the Tetons Wildlands Conservation Plan the private lands concern is outlined as follows:

“Now in 2018, the need for such protection is greater than ever, due to a booming population that is projected to continue to grow exponentially. “Conservatively, if the growth rate of the past 30 years continues, the overall population of the Greater Yellowstone region is expected to surge, in just 13 years’ time, from the current 450,000 denizens, to 677,000. That translates on the ground…to another 100,000 homes” (Wilkins, 2018).”2

The Organizations are also concerned about the development of private lands and clearly establishing this type of foundation would be important to a collaborative effort. Rather than establish that foundation the PLI reaches conclusions that cause us to question how any aspect of the current proposal even begins to address private land development as all restrictions are on federal public lands. Additionally, commonly used tools for private lands management, such as conservation easements, are simply never mentioned in the PLI. Clearly explaining this decision making process would be an important step in developing support for collaborative efforts and this has simply never occurred.

Given that levels of private lands development are entirely unrelated to federal public lands, as we are unaware of ANY planning on federal public lands in the western united states that allows the development of those lands for private residential ownership. This brings us to a landscape level failure of the Teton PLI collaborative discussions as the tools that could be used to address high levels of development on private lands, such as conservation easements, are never even addressed. Even if the most restrictive proposals in the Teton PLI are adopted, not a single house would be prohibited from being built on private lands adjacent to public lands. While the major threat is not even addressed, massive impacts to recreation on public lands that has occurred for decades without issue or conflict, would result.

3. Current Federal Law is simply disregarded

Existing federal law and prohibitions for the Greater Yellowstone area has resulted in the largest protected block of federal lands in the greater 48 states, and existing federal law has also provided specific protections of many multiple uses on public lands in the Yellowstone Area. This legislation has been the result of extensive collaborations around each piece of legislation that has been developed into law. These collaboratives around previous Congressional action have provided the following protections of multiple uses in federal law in the Teton PLI areas and the balance that is provided in these provisions simply cannot be overlooked. While the Teton Wildlands Conservation Plan and PLI efforts addresses the Wyoming Wilderness Act of 1984 and the Wilderness Act of 1964, these references simply provide a horribly incomplete summary of some Congressional Actions and others are simply never even mentioned.

The Organizations are compelled to address the specific provisions of this legislation in order to provide a complete review of the collaboration that has occurred previously around these Congressional actions and to allow a complete understanding of the conflict between current collaboration, that has resulted in massive user conflict on issues that have not had conflict for decades, and historical collaborations that resulted in federal law. While existing federal law was discussed in presentations during PLI, even these presentations remain fatally flawed, as many protections were inaccurately summarized, others completely ignored and all were provided as a single small issue in a much larger discussion. After reviewing these presentations the information merely checked a box rather than triggering meaningful discussion of issues. That is a problem.

Currently, Federal law creating the Gros Ventre and Jedediah Wilderness provides explicit protections of generalized multiple usage outside these Wilderness areas as follows:

“(b) The purposes of this Act are to—
(1) designate certain National Forest System lands in Wyoming for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System in order to preserve the wilderness character of the land and to protect watersheds and wildlife habitat, preserve scenic and historic resources, and promote scientific research, primitive recreation, solitude, physical and mental challenge, and inspiration for the benefit of all of the American people; and
(2) insure that certain National Forest System lands in the State of Wyoming be made available for uses other than wilderness in accordance with applicable national forest laws and planning procedures and the provisions of this Act.” 3

The desire to protect multiple uses outside newly designated Wilderness areas was specifically identified by Congress with the passage of the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act as follows:

“(3) review and evaluation of roadless and undeveloped lands in the National Forest System in Wyoming have also identified those areas which should be specially managed, deserve further study, or which should be available for multiple uses other than wilderness, subject to the Forest Service’s land management planning process and the provisions of this Act.” 4

Congress also specifically provided for the protection of multiple usages outside newly designated Wilderness areas in the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act with the following limitation of buffer area concerns as follows:

“Congress does not intend that the designation of wilderness areas in the State of Wyoming lead to the creation of protective perimeters or buffer zones around each wilderness area. The fact that nonwilderness activities or uses can be seen or heard from within any wilderness area shall not, of itself, preclude such activities or uses up to the boundary of the wilderness area.”5

It is interesting to note that at no point in the presentation materials is the “no buffer” restriction even mentioned. The Organizations are simply unable to identify how the specific protections of non-wilderness multiple use in areas not designated as Wilderness and clear mandates of “no buffers” around many of the Wilderness areas now proposed to be expanded could ever be summarized as “lands being released”. Such a summary is clearly in direct conflict with the intent and language of these provisions of Federal law.

Clearly, protecting multiple uses was a major concern when the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness act was passed as when the Palisade, High Lake and Shoal Creek WSA were established, Congress took the additional step of specifically protecting OSV travel in these areas with the following provisions:

“(4) within the Palisades, High Lakes and Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Areas, snowmobiling shall continue to be allowed in the same manner and degree as was occurring prior to the date of enactment of this Act.”6

While this provision is arguably mentioned in informational presentations during the PLI process, the Organizations are unable to identify any factual or logical basis for resolution of conflict between these provisions of federal law and recommendations now made from the PLI process. Regardless of what type of management designation is created in the Teton PLI, understanding the usages and protections specifically identified for these areas in federal law would be a major discussion point of analysis and discussion. Rather than being a major point of discussion, the Organizations are troubled that these protections and federal laws were simply summarized as “lands being released” in presentations given to the Teton PLI group. This causes us grave concern about the collaborative process and the recommendations that have come from it.

4. Efforts to address Forest Health challenges would be prohibited by the Teton PLI.

As we have previously noted, we have concerns around the diversity of interests that were convened for the Teton PLI, as there does not appear to be any ranching or timber representatives even at the table. The Organizations would also be remiss if the failure to meaningfully address forest health management in the Proposal area were not addressed, and as result the Proposal simply fails to even address what is probably the single largest challenge facing public lands in this generation. Such failures in analysis cause even greater concern for the effectiveness of the collaborative process and directly undermines any value in the final recommendation.

The Organizations submit that the current poor forest health existing on public lands throughout the western United States is simply unacceptable to us, and that any management recommendations must be asking if the recommendation is helping resolve this issue or placing a barrier to active management necessary to address this challenge. The fact that catastrophic wildfire is now commonplace throughout the western US causes major health concerns for all residents of the western US as our cities are commonly blanketed in choking smoke for significant portions of the summer and our water and other resources are often deeply impacted before, during and after major fire events. These impacts are unacceptable to not only the recreational community but most residents of western states.

Not only are the impacts of poor forest health and wildfire major concerns to all residents of the western US, these issues are also one of the largest challenges facing recreational usage of public lands. A consistent maintenance challenge on any trail is the need to cut literally thousands of dead trees off of routes as a result of poor forest health degrading root systems to a level where the dead and dying trees are no longer able to avoid gravity in even minor wind events. The only effective manner to deal with this issue is mechanical maintenance such as chainsaws and pickup trucks. The concerns about maintenance restrictions are compounded in those areas impacted by catastrophic wildfire. Even in areas where there are minimal management restrictions, reopening any route after a catastrophic wildfire commonly takes decades and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars that commonly land managers simply do not have. Without funding these routes are commonly lost and that should be unacceptable to everyone

Given the importance of basic forest health to all residents of western states and more specifically the trails or dispersed recreational community, the Organizations would have expected this to be a major point of discussion in any collaborative. Surprisingly there appears to be no discussion at all on this issue in the Teton PLI. This results in a recommendation from the PLI for management of areas that directly conflicts with recommendations on this issue from Nationally recognized experts in forest health. The Wyoming State Forester recently concluded that Wyoming’s biggest forest health threats include:

  • Forest structure
    • Lack of forest age class diversity
    • Too much dead wood
  • Fire
    • Altered fire return intervals
    • Four biggest fire seasons within last decade
    • Wildland-urban interface development
  •  Logging industry
    • Four decades of decline
    • Economically difficult to remove wood
  • Lack of water
    • Low moisture & high temperature
    • Fire suppression & less harvesting = more trees
      • More trees = more water needed
  • Early 2000s drought led to more tree mortality
  • Competition alone is enough to lead to beetle attack” 7

Given that the Teton PLI precludes all the management tools that the Wyoming State Forester has identified as major tools for re-establishing a healthy forest and balanced ecosystem, the Organizations must question if this issue was even addressed and if it was addressed how was this conclusion reached?

The overlap of the Teton PLI planning area with some of the hardest hit areas in terms of forest health identified by the Wyoming State Forester cannot be overstated. The Wyoming Forester recently concluded that many of the areas addressed in the Teton PLI are also some of the hardest hit in terms of forest health in the entire western United States. This is represented in the following map readily available on the Wyoming Forest Service Website:

 

Map of Mountain pine beetle activity

Figure 2. Mountain pine beetle activity in Wyoming 2000 – 2017.8

As the Organizations have previously noted, poor forest health is consistently identified as a major public concern, regardless of party or recreational pursuit and we would submit represents probably the largest management challenge facing public lands in this generation. The failure to even begin to address this issue in the Teton PLI has resulted in management recommendations that make management of these areas functionally impossible when compared to the recommendations of nationally recognized experts in forest health. This causes us to question the basic balance of the Teton PLI and more specifically question the value of any conclusions it asserts to provide.

5. Teton PLI results simply destroys remaining multiple use recreational opportunities in the greater Yellowstone Area.

While the Teton PLI fails to address its primary concern regarding development of private lands in the Greater Yellowstone area in any way and also fails to address landscape generational management challenges like forest health, this collaboration does close almost every remaining multiple use recreational area in the Jackson/Teton area. This is both offensive to any notion of collaboration that might be asserted but also in no way furthers the asserted basis of the entire effort.

Given this result the Organizations must oppose any recommendation of the Teton PLI as it simply is an effort from a coalition of interests, many of whom are opposed to the concept of multiple use of public lands to create the appearance of public support for a proposal that has none. This is simply offensive and has probably precluded meaningful collaboration of diverse interests in Teton County for a long time to come.

6. Conclusion.

The above Organizations welcome the voice our VIGOROUS opposition to any assertion the Teton PLI has been collaborative and our vigorous opposition to the basic validity of the conclusions of this “collaborative“ process. Not only does the Teton PLI “collaboration” fail to even recognize existing protections of multiple use provided in previous collaborative efforts that resulted in federal law, the Collaboration fails to recognize the critical need to manage for basic forest health issues and a sustainable ecosystem. This failure to address forest health will result in catastrophic limitations on managers ability to address these challenges in the future in any manner.

If you have questions please feel free to contact any of the following persons: Sandra Mitchell at 208-424-3870 and her email is smitchel@alscott.com or Scott Jones, Esq. at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504. His phone is (518)281-5810 and his email is scott.jones46@yahoo.com or Fred Wiley, ORBA’s Executive Director at 1701 Westwind Drive #108, Bakersfield, CA. Mr. Wiley phone is 661-323-1464 and his email is fwiley@orba.biz .

Respectfully Submitted,

Scott Jones, Esq.
COHVCO Authorized Representative
CSA President

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Fred Wiley
ORBA President and CEO
Authorized Representative of One Voice

Sandra F Mitchell
Authorized Representative of ISSA and IRC

 

1 http://www.tetoncountywy.gov/DocumentCenter/View/8244/1016-WPLI
2 See, Dorsey et al; A Teton Wildlands Conservation Plan; August 1, 2018 at pg. 3. A copy of this document is available here: http://files.constantcontact.com/8cb5842b401/892fa6e9-fca0-4a3a-a3cd-9377fdadc2ba.pdf
3 See, Wyoming Wilderness Act of 1984; Public Law 98-550 @ §102(b)
4 See, Wyoming Wilderness Act of 1984; Public Law 98-550 @ §102(a)(3)
5 See, Wyoming Wilderness Act of 1984; Public Law 98-550 @ §504.
6 See, Wyoming Wilderness Act of 1984; Public Law 98-550 @ §301(c)(4)
7 See, https://sites.google.com/a/wyo.gov/forestry/forest-management/forest-health/forest-health-management
8 See, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1j6OBB3liyXlx6fiWCsLRmR6Lu-k3vME7/view

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Review: 2019 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan

TPA/COHVCO Staff Review: 2019 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan

Staff from the Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) and the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) recently had the opportunity to review the current draft of the 2019 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).  Initially, the document was searched and scanned for the terms “OHV” and “Off-Highway Vehicle(s)”.  To our surprise, neither of these terms or words appears to be included in the SCORP or in the associated discussions of outdoor recreation in Colorado!  A subsequent search of the document was conducted for the term “motorized” and this word appeared only once and was associated with a past tense reference to the Colorado the Beautiful Initiative.  The TPA/COHVCO must ask the question, how can a credible “Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan” for Colorado be developed without the recognition, inclusion, and discussion of motorized/OHV recreation?

The lack of any acknowledgement of motorized recreation in the SCORP confuses the TPA/COHVCO given recent statistics from the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) that shows that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.0 percent ($373.7 billion) of current-dollar GDP in 2016 and Motorized Vehicles was the largest activity within conventional outdoor recreation, accounting for $59.4 billion of gross output. Similarly, a study commissioned by COHVCO and the TPA has documented a yearly contribution of $2.3 billion to Colorado’s economy due to tourism and sales activity linked to off-highway vehicle recreation. Given these combined statistics, the TPA/COHVCO must question how and why
the SCORP has chosen to ignore and minimalize any form of motorized recreation in Colorado.  We must also question the methods and means used to develop the SCORP as evidenced on page 24 of the draft document, listing the Top 10 Activities in Colorado, which does not include ANY form of motorized/OHV recreation.  This omission just does not seem plausible, reasonable or factual.

The TPA/COHVCO must also ask, given the significance and diversity of motorized/OHV recreation in Colorado, why there are not more images of OHVs or motorized vehicles portrayed in the SCORP document.

The TPA/COHVCO can not endorse or support the current draft of the SCORP until motorized/OHV recreation is fairly and appropriately recognized, acknowledged and included as a legitimate form of outdoor recreation in Colorado.  The draft SCORP, as currently written, will likely continue to alienate and contribute to feelings of discrimination against, exclusion and marginalization of OHV enthusiasts by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the State’s Outdoor Recreation leadership team.

The TPA will strive to remain optimistic as the SCORP process continues, and future editions of the SCORP document are revised. That motorized/OHV recreation will indeed be included in the next SCORP revision and recognized as a significant segment of the outdoor recreation spectrum along with the considerable and documented economic contributions of motorized recreation to the State’s economy.  To this end, the TPA offers its assistance and expertise in including motorized/OHV recreation in future revisions of the SCORP document.

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South Rampart Travel Management Plan

There has been a renewed interest in the South Rampart Travel Management Plan, see the original document from 2011 for reference.

Download the USDA Environmental Assessment

Overview

(download the entire document above)

 

Environmental Assessment
SOUTH RAMPART TRAVEL MANAGEMENT PLAN
USDA Forest Service, Pike and San Isabel National Forests,
Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands
Responsible Official: Brent Botts, District Ranger
USDA Forest Service, Pikes Peak Ranger District

Abstract:
This environmental assessment documents the environmental consequences of alternative ways to address recreation opportunities and existing problems relating to the network of system roads and trails and non-system routes in the South Rampart planning area of the Pikes Peak Ranger District. Three alternatives are analyzed in detail. Alternative A (No Action) would retain the current road and trail system in the planning area and not change existing designations. Alternative B (the Preferred Alternative) and Alternative C would both reduce the overall miles of system road open to unlicensed vehicles, restrict motorized uses in the Manitou Experimental Forest, and add motorized recreation opportunities targeted to specific user groups in the Rainbow Falls area. The intensity of motorized opportunities in the Rainbow Falls area and changes in designations for specific motorized and non-motorized routes vary between the two action alternatives (Alternative B and Alternative C).

Location:
USDA Forest Service, Pike and San Isabel National Forests, Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands
Douglas, Teller, and El Paso Counties, Colorado

For More Information Contact:
Frank M. Landis, Recreation Staff Officer
USDA Forest Service, Pikes Peak Ranger District
601 South Weber
Colorado Springs, CO, 80903
719-477-4203
flandis@fs.fed.us

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UPSHIFT Magazine Article – October 2018 – Colorado 600

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: CHAD DE ALVA

Colorado 600 Article cover page

spread from UPSHIFT magazine, photo: Chad De Alva

 

If the word symposium makes this whole thing sound unappealing – don’t let it. Even if you have the attention span of a gnat, you’ll be leaning into the talks at this event. (And good job, for making it this far into the article and not just looking at all of the photos of riding awesome-ness.) Topics covered at this symposium relate to what the Trails Preservation Alliance is doing to fight for motorized trail access, and other topics that relate to trail advocacy. The talks typically last just long enough for the cold morning air to get to perfect riding temperature, and then it’s time to spend the remainder of the day riding staggeringly good trails with great people.

I came to the Colorado 600 without knowing a soul, yet it quickly became obvious that I was in good company with a bunch of like-minded folks who were incredibly passionate about riding. I was given multiple invites each day to join in on all kinds of rides, from big ADV-style rides, to laps on the national enduro course that’s nearby. The Colorado 600 is a smaller event with less than 100 riders, and these riders break up into smaller groups based on the type of ride each person is looking for on that particular day. In other words, it’s you and a few other folks who are after the same type of ride – and there are plenty of options for every type of rider in Southern Colorado.

Type “South Fork, CO” into Google Maps and you’ll find a small town tucked in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Scroll in almost any direction and you’ll find too many contour lines to count that define a topography that contains hundreds of miles of single track, double track, and forest roads. Trails climb and weave through stands of timber, and aspen tree groves starting to blaze with the colors of fall. At timberline, the forest gives way to the alpine tundra, and the staggering views offered from the highest points around. These high mountain passes connect South Fork to numerous other towns; some currently inhabited, as well as old mining towns from another era. The riding makes the Colorado 600 more than worth it on its own, but the symposium on what the Trails Preservation Alliance is and does, is what takes this event to the next level.

The Trails Preservation Alliance is the brainchild of Don Riggle, and it may be one of the most impactful organizations in all of motorcycling, especially in the state of Colorado. Riggle and a very skilled and dedicated board of directors work on a 100% volunteer basis to advocate for trail access. The TPA has provided guidance and seed funding for local motorcycle clubs, worked closely with land managers like the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to protect and create new motorized trails, and done so much more to advocate for our access to places to ride in Colorado and the surrounding states. The TPA has established such a good reputation in the industry that it has the continuing support of KLIM, Rocky Mountain ATV / MC, KTM, Dunlop, and Motion Pro. If there is a model organization for trail advocacy, it would be based on the TPA.

The Colorado 600 is a big fund-raiser for what the TPA does, and as such, the event also provides the opportunity to get to ride with (try to keep up with) some big names in the sport. This year, Broc Glover was in attendance, and other names you might have heard of like Malcolm Smith, Quinn Cody and Andrew Short have attended the Colorado 600 in years past. Competitive rides from all disciplines of racing support the TPA, such as International Six Days of Enduro (ISDE) medalists like Morrill Griffith, Jeremy Shoning, and Dennis Larratt, as well as Dakar racers like Ned Suesse, and Scott Bright. Yet this event isn’t a meet and greet PR deal – these heroes of our sport are out riding with average Joes all day long and sitting at the same table that you are for breakfast. For all intent and purposes, these pros (and all of the TPA board members) are just like all the other riders at the event, so spending time with them is just like hanging out with your regular riding buddies.

motorcycles on trail

spread from UPSHIFT magazine, photo: Chad De Alva

 

Getting to spend several days riding fantastic trails with a bunch of stand-up people who all share a passion for motorcycling is a great use of your time to begin with. When you factor in all of the symposium talks, time spent with the folks who are actually fighting for the places you love to ride, and getting to meet pros and industry representatives who all believe in the TPA’s mission, you can’t help but feel optimistic about the future. These folks have put a staggering amount of effort into fighting for our sport’s future and our access to great trails in and around Colorado. If motorcycling has made an impact in your life and the future of our sport is something you care about, you need to check out what the TPA is doing (their website is a great resource) and figure out how to get involved wherever you live. Attending the Colorado 600 will change your outlook on trail riding.

You’ll realize just how many other outstanding, like-minded folks are out there who are passionate about trail advocacy, and that there is so much that can be done for our sport. With the event behind me, I can’t help but wonder how different the map of places to ride in the United States would look if there was a group like the TPA and events like the Colorado 600/Trails Awareness Symposium in every single state in the country.

Be sure to download the UPSHIFT Colorado 600 article to see all of the amazing photos taken by Chad de Alva!

UPSHIFT magazine cover Check out the UPSHIFT
website and read the entire
October issue of UPSHIFT magazine.
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Critical Action Alert: San Juan Trail Riders

To all our members and other loyal constituents:

As many of you already know San Juan Trail Riders has 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 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 San Juan Trail Riders Board of Directors

DONATIONS TO:
Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA)
P.O. Box 38093
Colorado Springs, CO    80937

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Press Release: 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.

Contact: Paul Turcke 208-331-1800

 Press Release: Trail Riders Bring Suit Challenging Rico West Dolores Plan

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Lawsuit – San Juan National Forest

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No: _________________________

TRAILS PRESERVATION ALLIANCE,
SAN JUAN TRAIL RIDERS, PUBLIC
ACCESS PRESERVATION ASSOCIATION,

Plaintiffs,

v.

U.S. FOREST SERVICE; SAN JUAN NATIONAL
FOREST; KARA CHADWICK, Forest Supervisor;
DEREK PADILLA, Dolores District Ranger,

Defendants.

____________________________________________________________________________

PETITION FOR REVIEW OF AGENCY ACTION AND COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

___________________________________________________________________________

INTRODUCTION

  1. This action seeks declaratory and injunctive relief addressing the Rico West Dolores Roads and Trails (Travel Management) Project Final Record of Decision, Environmental Impact Statement and associated actions (the “Decision”) issued by the Dolores Ranger District, San Juan National Forest (the “Forest Service”). The Decision was issued on July 30, 2018.
  2. The Decision reduces trails designated for single track motorized travel by roughly 30 percent. These reductions, unsupported by logic and contrary to law, will create substantial adverse impacts to the human environment and to Plaintiffs, their members, and other recreationists. These impacts include concentration of motorized travel on remaining routes, disruption of connectivity within the trail network, impacts to recreational and aesthetic interests increased risk to public safety, socioeconomic impacts and disruption of access, including to the town of Rico.
  3. The trails closed by the Decision have received environmentally conscious and sustainable motorcycle travel for over 40 years. As part of the evolving and increasing scrutiny of recreation on Forest Service lands, the agency in 2009 entered an order that eliminated cross- country motorized vehicle travel in the Rico West Dolores area. Not satisfied with that development, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Colorado Chapter, represented by the University of Colorado Law School Clinic, filed a lawsuit, seeking to close the long-traveled trails in the Rico West Dolores area to motorcycle use. They moved for a preliminary injunction, which was denied, and wound the case through the Tenth Circuit of Appeals, which ruled, in a decision by then Judge Gorsuch, that Backcountry “may be a victim of its own success” and that the case be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Colorado Chapter v. U.S. Forest Service, Case Nos. 13-1216 & 14-1137 (10th ), Order and Judgment date May 27, 2015. Part of the basis for that ruling was that the Forest Service was working toward “a more permanent replacement policy” for the Rico West Dolores area. Id.
  4. The Forest Service did undertake a process to institute this “more permanent” policy. This process culminated in the Decision. While the Forest Service was successful in defending the existing management scheme in the above-described litigation, it nevertheless determined in the “replacement policy” process to make significant changes. These changes coincided with many items on the “wish lists” of Backcountry and other interested parties such as special use permittees, seasonal “residents” and the world renown Dunton Hot Springs ecotourism resort, including closures near the Resort, in Bear Creek, around the town of Rico, and along Ryman Creek which provides an important connection to riders in the Telluride area.
  5. Plaintiffs, and others, objected to the Draft Record of Decision in accordance with applicable regulations. The objectors and the Forest Service explored alternative scenarios, but in the end these discussions did not produce a resolution, and the Forest Service formalized the closures through the Decision.
  6. Plaintiffs have little recourse but to seek judicial action to set aside and declare unlawful at least certain aspects of the Decision, and to determine the appropriate remedy, guidance and/or interim management direction for the Forest Service on remand.
  7. This action arises under the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4331, et seq. (“NEPA”); the National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1600 et seq. (“NFMA”); the Forest Service Travel Management Rule, 36 C.F.R. part 212; the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 551, et seq. (the “APA”), and any implementing regulations for these statutes.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

  1. Jurisdiction is proper in this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because this action arises under the laws of the United States. The conduct complained of creates an actual, justiciable controversy and is made reviewable under the APA.
  2. Venue is proper in this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e) because a substantial number of the events or omissions giving rise to these claims occurred, or, a substantial part of the property that is the subject of these claims is situated, within the District of Colorado. The Dolores District is comprised of lands within Dolores and Montezuma Counties in Colorado.

PARTIES

  1. Plaintiff Trails Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) is a Colorado nonprofit corporation. TPA is a volunteer organization created to be a viable partner to public land managers, working with land management agencies such as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to preserve the sport of trail riding and multi-use recreation. TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that land managers allocate access to a fair and equitable percentage of public lands for diverse multi-use recreational opportunities. TPA members have used, and hope in the future to use, motorized and nonmotorized means, including off-highway vehicles, horses, mountain bikes, and hiking, to access federal lands throughout the United States, including in the Rico West Dolores area of the San Juan National Forest.
  2. Plaintiff San Juan Trail Riders (“SJTR”) is a Colorado nonprofit corporation with approximately 400 members. SJTR is based in Durango and its members are primarily from Colorado. SJTR’s goals and purposes include to provide an organized network for trail enthusiasts, to promote active participation in off-highway vehicle management, to maintain a focused dialogue with the San Juan National Forest, to educate land managers about “Tread Lightly” and other trail conservation practices, and to encourage cooperation and coordination between user groups and engaged interests. SJTR members have used and have concrete plans in the future to use motorized and non-motorized means, including off-highway vehicles, horses, mountain bikes, and hiking, to access federal lands throughout the United States, including Forest Service-managed lands in the Rico West Dolores area of the San Juan National Forest.
  3. Plaintiff Public Access Preservation Association (“PAPA”) is a Colorado nonprofit corporation with approximately 300 participants. PAPA is based in Telluride and its members are primarily from Colorado. PAPA protects and promotes public land access, primarily through advocacy and on-the-ground support such as volunteering for trail projects, event support or similar activities as authorized by the Forest Service and other PAPA members regularly use Forest Service lands throughout the United States, including the Rico West Dolores area, for recreational and aesthetic purposes including off-highway vehicle, motorcycle, mountain bike, equestrian, or hiking travel on trails or primitive roads.
  4. Defendant United States Forest Service is a federal agency within the United States Department of Agriculture. The Forest Service is charged with administering and overseeing United States National Forest System lands in accordance with applicable law.
  5. Defendant San Juan National Forest is a subunit of the United States Forest Service within the agency’s Rocky Mountain Region covering approximately 1.8 million acres of land in the southwest corner of Colorado. The Forest’s main office is located in Durango.
  6. Defendant Kara Chadwick is the Forest Supervisor for the San Juan National Forest. She is the supervisor for the Forest and is the ultimate authority for the procedures, actions and decisions of the Forest and is ultimately charged with ensuring the Forest complies with applicable law. She is sued solely in her official capacity.
  7. Defendant Derek Padilla is the District Ranger for the Dolores Ranger District, which is a subunit of the San Juan National Forest and contains the entire Rico West Dolores Area. Mr. Padilla signed the Final Record of Decision and is responsible for interpreting and implementing the Decision’s prescriptions on the Rico West Dolores area. He is sued solely in his official capacity.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

  1. The APA addresses and regulates the function of executive branch administrative agencies within our system of open government. Among such functions, the APA represents a waiver of sovereign immunity by the United States and outlines the circumstances in which “final agency action” may be subject to judicial review, as well as the standards of review to be applied in such challenges. Since many statutes and regulations do not provide for a private right of action, the APA provides the jurisdictional basis for judicial review of administrative decisions by federal land management agencies applying statutes like NEPA and NFMA and regulations with force and effect of law to public lands in places like the Forest.
  2. NFMA provides the statutory framework for management of the National Forest System. In NFMA and other statutes, “Congress has consistently acknowledged that the Forest Service must balance competing demands in managing National Forest System lands. Indeed, since Congress’ early regulation of the national forests, it has never been the case that “the national forests were…to be ‘set aside for non-use.’” The Lands Council v. McNair, 537 F.3d 981, 989 (9th 2008) (en banc) (citations omitted). Additional guidance, incorporated expressly within NFMA, is found in the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act (“MUSYA”), which provides that the various surface resources be managed “so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the needs of the American people” and to “achieve[ ] and maintain[ ] in perpetuity [ ] a high-level annual or regular periodic output of the various renewable resources of the national forests without impairment of the productivity of the land.” 16 U.S.C. § 531(a) (definition of “multiple use”) and (b) (definition of “sustained yield”); 16 U.S.C. § 1604(g) (incorporating MUSYA provisions in NFMA).
  3. MUSYA further directs “that the national forests are established and shall be administered for outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes.” 16 U.S.C. § 528.
  4. NFMA requires each Forest to prepare and revise a Land and Resource Management Plan (“Forest Plan”). 16 U.S.C. § 1604. A Forest Plan lays out broad guidelines to advance numerous goals and objectives, including to “insure consideration of the economic and environmental aspects of various systems of renewable resource management, including the related systems of silviculture and protection of forest resource, to provide for outdoor recreation (including wilderness), range, timber, watershed, wildlife, and fish….” Id. at (g)(3)(A). These plans contain desired conditions, objectives and guidance for project and activity decision making, but do not approve or execute projects and activities. The guidance in the Forest Plan is subject to change through plan amendment in site-specific or project-level planning, or through revision of the Forest Plan itself.
  5. A Forest Plan is the governing land use plan for an individual National Forest. A Forest Plan is strategic in nature, and does not make commitments to selection or specifications of any particular project or daily activities. The Forest Plan also identifies standards and guidelines to govern specific activities subject to more detailed project-level or site-specific planning.
  6. Project level planning occurs for a broad spectrum of projects and activities within the Forest Service system, including vegetation management and timber projects, mining plans of operation, ski area development and operations, special use management such as guiding and outfitting, and travel management. This more detailed site-specific planning  includes analysis of on-the-ground management options and associated effects to the human environment for each specified option.
  7. An example of project-level planning affecting Plaintiffs occurs in “travel planning” when the Forest implements the agency’s Travel Management Rule. See, “Travel Management; Designated Routes and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use.” 70 Fed.Reg. 68264-68291 (Nov. 9, 2005). The Travel Management Rule generally “requires designation of those roads, trails and areas that are open to motor vehicle use…and will prohibit the use of motor vehicles off the designated system, as well as use of motor vehicles on routes and in areas that is not consistent with the designations.” Id. at 68264. The Decision reflects this type of project-level planning for the Rico West Dolores area.
  8. NEPA represents “our basic national charter for protection of the environment.” 40 C.F.R. § 1500.1. NEPA does not impose substantive requirements, but creates a series of “look before leaping” procedures which are designed to disclose and analyze potential effects of proposed federal actions. Central among these is the requirement to prepare a written environmental assessment or environmental impact statement (“EIS”) for public review and comment. The agency “shall ensure the professional integrity, including scientific integrity, of the discussions and analyses” in an EIS. 40 C.F.R. § 1502.24. NEPA’s protections of the “environment” refer to the “human environment” which “shall be interpreted comprehensively to include the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment.” 40 C.F.R. § 1508.14. Thus, the agency’s duty to analyze impacts does not end with impacts to the physical environment, because “[w]hen an [EIS] is prepared and economic or social and natural or physical environmental effects are interrelated, then the [EIS] will discuss all of these effects on the human environment.” Among its numerous purposes, NEPA procedures are designed to foster informed agency decision making based upon meaningful public participation.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND GENERAL ALLEGATIONS 

  1. The Project Area and Background
  1. The San Juan Forest includes about 1.8 million acres located in southwestern Colorado. The Rico West Dolores analysis area is located with the Forest’s Dolores Ranger District, and contains approximately 244,554 acres of National Forest system lands and 11,702 non-Forest Service lands (the “Area”).
  2. The Area includes mesas, aspen stands, steep slopes of dense conifers, and snow- covered peaks. The area is bisected by Highway 145, which follows the Dolores River. The  west side of the Area is bordered by private land and the Boggy-Glade travel management area, the north side includes a portion of the Lizard Head Wilderness, and the east side of the Area is the spine of the La Plata Mountains, and the Colorado Trail (a statewide non-motorized trail). Communities within and nearby the Area include Cortez, Dolores, Dove Creek, the Town of Rico, and Telluride.
  3. The roads and trails in the Area developed along historic pathways originally created largely for mining or domestic livestock grazing. This network was expanded to include roads constructed to access timber sales in spruce, fir and aspen forest types.
  4. Modern use of the Area has focused continuation of mining, livestock grazing, and timber, as well as in diverse forms of recreation. Like nearly all of western Colorado, the area includes popular big game hunting areas, with an assortment of seasons for different species and weapon types. Virtually all hunters rely on some form of motorized conveyance to gain access to their chosen hunting/camping area(s), if not as an aid to their hunting activity.
  5. Motor vehicle travel on the National Forest System was long conducted on an “open unless designated closed” policy, which allowed for at least the legal possibility of cross- country travel. Despite this possibility, topography, vegetation and other factors caused vehicle riders to travel along the network of established roads and trails in the Area. These routes are depicted on various maps going back to the origins of the Forest.
  6. More recently management of the San Juan National Forest was governed by the 1983 Forest Following that Plan, the Forest instituted various actions affecting travel management, specifically including adoption of a 1994 Travel Management Map, and issuance of a 1999 Closure Order that restricted on-trail travel to those motorized uses permitted on the 1994 Map. These actions tended to formalize the historical use patterns and motorcycle travel limited to existing trails in the Area.
  7. While travel occurred along routes in much of the Area, a trend toward more intensive travel management solidified with adoption of the agency-wide Forest Service Travel Management Rule on November 9, 2005. The Rule signified a shift to designation of roads, trails and areas for motorized vehicle travel. Outside the prescribed travel on these roads, trails, and area, motor vehicle travel would be prohibited.
  8. Following adoption of the Travel Management Rule, the Forest undertook efforts to implement the Rule and adopt new travel management decisions. The Dolores Ranger District decided to complete three separate decisions to address each of it’s identified “travel management landscapes,” of which one was the Rico West Dolores Area.
  9. A planning process occurred for the Area which included circulation of an Environmental Assessment under NEPA and issuance of a 2009 Decision Notice, which would have prohibited cross-country motorized travel and designated specific routes for motorized and non-motorized travel. Various parties appealed this Decision, and the reviewing officer recommended reversal, including on the grounds that a more rigorous Environmental Impact Statement should have been prepared. The Forest Supervisor in 2010 followed this recommendation, reversed the Decision and vacated the new trail designations, while issuing an interim order closing the Area to cross-country motorized travel.
  10. One of the successful appellants to the aforementioned Decision, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Colorado Chapter, filed a lawsuit in 2011 asking the Court to declare the 2010 “decision” unlawful and/or issue an injunction prohibiting motorized use of 14 trails in the Rico West Dolores Area. See, Case No. 11-cv-3139-MSK-KLM (D. Colo.). An order on the merits was issued in that case on March 21, 2013, denying Petitioner’s claims and directing that judgment be entered in favor of the Forest Service. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers appealed their adverse judgment to the Tenth Circuit.
  11. Following withdrawal of the 2009 Decision and during the pendency of the above-described lawsuit, the Forest decided to complete the long-pending revision of the San Juan Forest Plan. A Record of Decision for the Revised Forest Plan was published on September 13, 2013.
  12. The Tenth Circuit ruled on the Backcountry appeal in an Order and Judgment signed by Judge Gorsuch on May 27, 2015, holding that Backcountry lacked standing, and remanding the matter to the district court with instructions to vacate the earlier judgment and dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. This Order acknowledged the effect of the 2010 “temporary” order and Forest Service intention to devise “a more permanent replacement policy” to govern motorized vehicle travel in the Area.
  1. Chronology of the Travel Management
  1. The Rico West Dolores Travel Management Project represents the “more permanent replacement policy” to designate roads, trails and areas for motorized use in the Area. The Project was formally initiated in December 2014 with publication of a proposed action, which was subject to public comment until January 30, 2015. Plaintiffs submitted comments on the proposed action.
  2. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”) was released for public comment on May 6, 2016.
  3. While evaluating comment on the DEIS, the Forest Service apparently determined that it would be helpful to clarify whether or how the agency would identify the “minimum road system” under 36 C.F.R. part 212, subpart A, for the Area. A Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“SDEIS”) was published on July 7, 2017.
  4. The DEIS and SDEIS outlined five (5) alternatives to be considered in detail. In general terms, Alternative A was the legally-required “no action” alternative intended to outline the pre-decisional existing condition. Alternative B was the “proposed action” which was described as the December 2014 proposed action “with refinements.” Alternative C would “reestablish motorcycle use on some, but not all, of the trails that would be closed to motorcycle use under Alternative B.” Alternative D would provide a motorcycle trail system similar to Alternative C but would reduce motorcycle riding and focus on a “semiprimitive nonmotorized recreation setting” in the Bear Creek drainage. Alternative E would be similar to Alternative D, but extend the “semiprimitive nonmotorized recreation setting” to North Calico Trail and connecting trails.
  5. In terms of trail mileage for motorcycle use, the DEIS/SDEIS alternatives covered
    the following range:
    Alternative A B C D E
    Miles Designated Open to Motorcycles  

    114

     

    86

     

    100

     

    88

     

    65

  6. Another important component of the alternatives was seasonal timing restrictions, defining times during which trails would be open/closed to motorcycle travel. Under the “no action” Alternative A, there would be no timing restrictions. Under Alternative B, trails would be open for motorcycle travel from July 1 to September 8, and closed from September 9 to June 30 Under Alternatives C, D and E trails would be open for motorcycle travel from June 1 to October 30, and closed from November 1 to May 30.
  7. Approximately 1,100 letters, emails or phone logs were received in response to the DEIS and SDEIS. Plaintiffs submitted written comments.
  8. A Draft Record of Decision (“Draft ROD”) and initial Final Environmental Impact Statement (“Initial FEIS”) were issued on November 14, 2017. The Draft ROD proposed adoption of Alternative B Modified. In broad terms, the Draft ROD proposed to identify a minimum road system, to create a new designation on 19 miles of trails in the Black Mesa area for motorized vehicles up to 62 inches in width, to designate 83 miles of trail for motorcycle use, and to impose seasonal restrictions whereby motorcycles would be allowed on designated trails from June 1 to October 30 and prohibited from November 1 to May 31.
  9. Under applicable regulations, the Draft ROD was subject to a “predecisional administrative review” which allows specified forms of “objection” within 45 days.
  10. Twenty (20) objections letters from 14 unique objectors were presented to the Draft ROD. These objections were considered by an Objection Reviewing Officer within the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region office.
  11. Extensive efforts were made in accordance with regulations allowing the Reviewing Officer to explore “resolution” of the objections, which included telephonic meetings on February 22, March 7 and March 16 of 2018, as well as the exchange of written proposals between some of the objectors and the Forest Service. A resolution was not reached.
  12. Upon determining that a resolution to the objections would not be reached, the Reviewing Officer issued a formal written response to the objections dated April 4, 2018 (“Objection Response”).
  13. The Objection Response constitutes the final administrative determination of the Department of Agriculture. No further administrative review of the Decision from any other Forest Service or Department of Agriculture official is available.
  14. Following the aforementioned Objection Response, the Dolores Ranger District issued a Final Record of Decision dated July 30, 2018 (“Final ROD”). The Final ROD tracked the Draft ROD, with two additional modifications. First, motorcycle use was prohibited on the entire East Fall Creek Trail, extending this closure to include a one-half mile section that had been proposed for continuing motorcycle use in the Draft ROD. Additionally, a dual designation for Forest Service Road 692A was added to allow for motorcycle use, contingent upon approval in a separate analysis of a new motorcycle trail named Spring Creek Extension that would connect to the end of Road 692A.
  1. General Overview of Travel Plan Restrictions.
  1. From Plaintiffs’ perspective, the Final ROD imposes a series of significant restrictions on motorcycle travel:
    1. motorcycle travel was prohibited on Winter, West Fall and East Fall Creek Trails, in the vicinity of the private Dunton Hot Springs Resort, which perhaps not coincidentally facilitates a non-motorized loop trail experience directly from the Resort property, in addition to the abundance of similar opportunity accessible by a short drive (or hike) to the Lizard Head Wilderness;
    2. Motorcycle travel was reduced by roughly 85 percent in the Bear Creek drainage as requested by special use interests and a few seasonal residents, leaving only a “pass through” connection between Grindstone and Gold Run Trails and along 1.72 miles near the middle of the Bear Creek Trail;
    3. Motorcycle trail connection to the Town of Rico was eliminated, through closure of the Burnett Creek and Horse Creek Trails;
    4. Motorcycle travel was prohibited on Ryman Creek Trail, which was a desirable 5 mile trail segment providing important connectivity for riders in the Telluride area and to adjacent trail systems in the Hermosa area;
    5. Motorcycle travel was eliminated from the last remaining sections of the Spring Creek and Wildcat Trails;
    6. Motorcycle travel on designated trails can only occur from June 1 to October 30, and is prohibited from November 1 to May 31.
  2. In broad terms, the Final ROD designates a total of 84 miles of trail for motorcycle use, down from 114 miles authorized for travel prior to the Decision. Aside from the arithmetic reduction of mileage, the changes greatly impact the connectivity, ability to ride loops, aesthetic experience, and safety for motorcycle riders in the area.

COUNT ONE: ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS IMPOSITION OF MOTORIZED TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

  1. Plaintiffs hereby incorporate by reference each statement and allegation previously made.
  2. The APA allows an aggrieved party to seek review of final agency action, and empowers a reviewing court to “hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be—(A) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; [or] (C) short of statutory right; [or] (E) unsupported by substantial evidence….” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2).
  3. Relevant procedures and guidance pertaining to action like the Travel Management Project are further outlined in NEPA, NFMA, the Travel Management Rule, implementing regulations, and other applicable law.
  4. The Final ROD and associated documents impose arbitrary, inconsistent or undocumented restrictions on motorized travel, which include, but are not necessarily limited to:
    1. Closures to enhance elk habitat and/or hunter experience;
    2. Closures to address watershed impacts or fisheries habitat;
    3. Closures to improve wetlands habitat or fens;
    4. Closures that are designed to, or have the plain effect of, imbuing private and/or specially permitted interests with unique benefit and economic advantage;
    5. Seasonal restrictions on vehicle travel.
  5. The Final ROD and associated documents impose additional closures based on misinterpretation of Forest Service obligations or short of statutory right, which include, but are not necessarily limited to, imposition of a nonexistent duty to procure access across private property and misinterpretation of and/or failure to defend real property interests of the public acquired through easements granting rights to the United States.
  6. Defendants’ actions described above are made reviewable through the APA and are arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law; without observance of procedure required by law; or otherwise in violation of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and should therefore be declared unlawful and set aside by this Court.
  7. Plaintiffs have exhausted all administrative remedies required by law in order to seek relief from Defendants’ actions addressed in this claim for relief.
  8. Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, harm and injury to their legal interests arising from and associated with their use and enjoyment of the Area as a result of the allegations contained in this claim for relief, and these injuries will go unredressed absent judicial relief.

COUNT TWO: LACK OF SITE-SPECIFIC ANALYSIS TO SUPPORT TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

  1. Plaintiffs hereby incorporate by reference each statement and allegation previously made.
  2. NFMA and its implementing regulations, including the Travel Management Rule, require the Forest Service to act in accordance with specified procedures and guiding principles in making management decisions affecting access to the National Forest System and the Area.
  3. These procedures and guidance are further specified in the Travel Management Rule, and other applicable law which requires supportable findings on a variety of site-specific criteria in making road, trail and area designations.
  4. Site-specific analysis is particularly important when changing long-established uses or interrelated activities as occur upon an area-wide transportation network. Imposing excessive or poorly-considered restrictions can have the effect of concentrating uses that threaten to exceed an area’s carrying capacity, or otherwise create new impacts or new levels of impact in remaining open areas.
  5. The Final ROD and Travel Plan impose arbitrary, inconsistent or undocumented restrictions on motorized travel, not supported by substantial evidence, or otherwise not in accordance with law.
  6. Defendants’ actions described above are made reviewable through the APA and are arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law; without observance of procedure required by law; or otherwise in violation of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and should therefore be declared unlawful and set aside by this Court.
  7. Plaintiffs have exhausted all administrative remedies required by law in order to seek relief from Defendants’ actions addressed in this claim for relief.
  8. Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, harm and injury to their legal interests arising from and associated with their use and enjoyment of the Area as a result of the allegations contained in this claim for relief, and these injuries will go unredressed absent judicial relief.

COUNT THREE: IMPROPER RELIANCE ON USER CONFLICT TO JUSTIFY MOTORIZED TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

  1. Plaintiffs hereby incorporate by reference each statement and allegation previously made.
  2. NEPA, NFMA and the Travel Management Rule outline various procedures and criteria that govern the designation of roads, trails, and areas for motorized vehicle travel in the National Forest System and the Area.
  3. In particular, the aforementioned criteria include those laid out in 36 C.F.R. § 212.55, and require the “responsible official” to “consider effects on the following, with the objective of minimizing” various elements, including “[c]onflicts between motor vehicle use and existing or proposed recreational uses of National Forest System land or neighboring Federal lands.”
  4. In acting upon these duties, Defendants improperly considered a vague or generalized sense of “user conflict” through which some Area visitor might have a preference for some abstract recreational opportunity.
  5. Assuming “user conflict” can be a proper basis for motorized use designations, other subunits of the National Forest System have conducted scientific analysis of conflict, or otherwise attempted to analyze and address user conflict, in some fashion that would satisfy the APA standards and other legal requirements. Defendants did not attempt any such scientific analysis here.
  6. Notwithstanding Defendants’ deficient or nonexistent analysis, the Decision includes specific restrictions on motorized travel or exclusion of certain routes from motorized travel designations purportedly based on user conflict.
  7. Defendants’ actions described above are made reviewable through the APA and are arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law; in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without observance of procedure required by law; or otherwise in violation of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and should therefore be declared unlawful and set aside by this Court.
  8. Plaintiffs have exhausted all administrative remedies required by law in order to seek relief from Defendants’ actions addressed in this claim for relief.
  9. Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, harm and injury to their legal interests arising from and associated with their use and enjoyment of the Area as a result of the allegations contained in this claim for relief, and these injuries will go unredressed absent judicial relief.

COUNT FOUR: IMPROPER RESTRICTION OF ACCESS TO RICO 

  1. Plaintiffs hereby incorporate by reference each statement and allegation previously made.
  2. The Town of Rico lies within the Area, and is an unincorporated “mountain town” that is home to a few year-round residents, a larger collection of seasonal occupants, and a handful of small retail businesses providing services that include gas, basic groceries, lodging, and restaurants.
  3. Recreational visitors to the Area often visit the Town of Rico, out of curiosity, habit or necessity, depending on either planned or unplanned developments in their travels.
  4. NEPA, NFMA and the Travel Management Rule outline various procedures and criteria that govern the designation of roads, trails, and areas for motorized vehicle travel in the National Forest System and the
  5. In particular, the aforementioned criteria include those laid out in 36 C.F.R. § 212.55, and require the “responsible official” to “consider effects on” various factors including public safety, provision of recreational opportunities, and access needs.
  6. The applicable regulations further direct the responsible official consider “[c]onflicts among different classes of motor vehicle uses” and “[c]ompatibility of motor vehicle use with existing conditions in populated areas, taking into account sound, emissions, and other factors” Id. at (b)(4) and (5). Specific criteria for designating roads require consideration of “[s]peed, volume, composition, and distribution of traffic on roads” and “[c]ompatibility of vehicle class with road geometry and road surfacing.” Id. at (c).
  7. The Decision eliminates motorcycle trail connection to the Town of Rico.
  8. Following the Decision, the only way to lawfully access the Town of Rico from the Area’s motorcycle trail network is to ride along one of several trails to Highway 145, and then ride at least five (5) miles along Highway 145 to Rico.
  9. Highway 145 is a paved two lane highway, with a posted speed limit of at least 55 mph that is traveled by full size automobiles. It is not advisable, and in some instances could be unsafe and/or illegal, for off-road motorcycles to travel regularly or for meaningful distances along a route like Highway 145.
  10. The Decision could actually cause redundant and unnecessary motorcycle travel within the Town of Rico, as riders attempt to travel the road system to the Burnett Creek trailhead, only to find that route is closed and be forced to backtrack through town and eventually settle on the above-described egress from Rico via Highway 145.
  11. Defendants’ actions described above are made reviewable through the APA and are arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law; without observance of procedure required by law; or otherwise in violation of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and should therefore be declared unlawful and set aside by this Court.
  12. Plaintiffs have exhausted all administrative remedies required by law in order to seek relief from Defendants’ actions addressed in this claim for relief.
  13. Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, harm and injury to their legal interests arising from and associated with their use and enjoyment of the Area as a result of the allegations contained in this claim for relief, and these injuries will go unredressed absent judicial relief.

COUNT FIVE: IMPROPER IDENTIFICATION OF A MINIMUM ROAD SYSTEM

  1. Plaintiffs hereby incorporate by reference each statement and allegation previously made.
  2. On January 12, 2001, a Final Rule was published addressing identification of a “minimum road system” for units of the National Forest System. 66 Fed.Reg. 3206 (Jan. 12, 2001). The minimum road system regulations, codified at 36 C.F.R. part 212, subpart A, were not produced at the same time or in concert with the 2005 Travel Management Rule.
  3. The Project did not originally include analysis of a minimum road system, but sometime after release of the DEIS the Forest Service apparently decided that consideration of a minimum road system was necessary and this component was added to the SDEIS.
  4. As a result of this belated approach, or other oversight, the Forest Service misinterpreted applicable regulation and/or failed to properly include the public or follow governing procedures in identifying a minimum road system.
  5. The Final ROD and Decision identify a minimum road system.
  6. Defendants’ actions described above are made reviewable through the APA and are arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law; in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without observance of procedure required by law; or otherwise in violation of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and should therefore be declared unlawful and set aside by this Court.
  7. Plaintiffs have exhausted all administrative remedies required by law in order to seek relief from Defendants’ actions addressed in this claim for relief.
  8. Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, harm and injury to their legal interests arising from and associated with their use and enjoyment of the Area as a result of the allegations contained in this claim for relief, and these injuries will go unredressed absent judicial relief.

COUNT SIX: FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY DISCLOSE AND ANALYZE ROAD DECOMMISSIONING ACTIONS

  1. Plaintiffs hereby incorporate by reference each statement and allegation previously made.
  2. The Final ROD and Decision documents refer to “an implementation program that is progressive in nature, ranging from signing to recontouring, ripping, seeding, and placing physical barriers.” FEIS at 15, 53. Specific routes are listed to receive some version of this treatment, which is often referred to as “decommissioning.”
  3. Under NEPA and applicable regulations, as well as internal Forest Service determinations, ground-disturbing decommissioning actions must undergo site-specific NEPA analysis.
  4. The Final ROD and Project documents do not contain site-specific analysis for road/trail decommissioning.
  5. Decommissioned routes, depending on the decommissioning techniques employed, can range from difficult to nearly impossible upon which to subsequently resume travel. Techniques such as “ripping,” “recontouring” and “reseeding” involve physically removing the road/trail prism and/or altering the landscape to modify erosion, promote revegetation, or prevent recreation of access along the prior route.
  6. Routes that are decommissioned, including during the pendency of this action, would likely not be viable candidates for further analysis or reconsideration of their designation status.
  7. Defendants’ actions described above are made reviewable through the APA and are arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law; in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without observance of procedure required by law; or otherwise in violation of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and should therefore be declared unlawful and set aside by this Court.
  8. Plaintiffs have exhausted all administrative remedies required by law in order to seek relief from Defendants’ actions addressed in this claim for relief.
  9. Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, harm and injury to their legal interests arising from and associated with their use and enjoyment of the Area as a result of the allegations contained in this claim for relief, and these injuries will go unredressed absent judicial relief.

COUNT SEVEN: FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY RESPOND TO PUBLIC COMMENT 

  1. Plaintiffs hereby incorporate by reference each statement and allegation previously made.
  2. NEPA and applicable regulations require agencies to respond to public comments submitted on a DEIS and proposed action. In particular, “[a]n agency preparing a final [EIS] shall assess and consider comments…and shall respond by one or more of the means listed below, stating its response in the final statement.” 40 CFR § 1503.4(a). There are five “possible responses” described, all of which necessitate identification of both the particular comment, as well as the specified response. Id. at (1)-(5). The regulations further provide “[a]ll substantive comments received on the draft statement (or summaries thereof where the response has been exceptionally voluminous), should be attached to the final statement whether or not the comment is thought to merit individual discussion by the agency in the text of the statement.” Id. at (b).
  3. Defendants attempt at responding to comments here occurred in Appendix K to the FEIS. Appendix K does not comply with the above-cited regulations.
  4. Defendants’ actions described above are made reviewable through the APA and are arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law; in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without observance of procedure required by law; or otherwise in violation of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and should therefore be declared unlawful and set aside by this Court.
  5. Plaintiffs have exhausted all administrative remedies required by law in order to seek relief from Defendants’ actions addressed in this claim for relief.
  6. Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, harm and injury to their legal interests arising from and associated with their use and enjoyment of the Area as a result of the allegations contained in this claim for relief, and these injuries will go unredressed absent judicial relief.

COUNT EIGHT: ACTIONS INCONSISTENT WITH THE SAN JUAN FOREST PLAN

  1. Plaintiffs hereby incorporate by reference each statement and allegation previously made.
  2. Under NFMA, Forest Service actions must be consistent with the governing Forest Plan. 16 U.S.C. § 1604(i).
  3. The governing 2013 San Juan Forest Plan contains direction relevant to the Project. The Plan contemplates shared use of recreational trails “based on mutual courtesy and on a strong stewardship ethic that is primarily self-enforced and maintained by individuals and user groups.” FEIS at 183 (quoting Forest Plan desired condition). This directive “points toward collaboration between motorized, mechanized and nonmotorized user groups….” Id.
  4. The Final ROD and Decision documents do not explain how elimination of one form of user is consistent with these concepts and directives.
  5. The Forest Plan also contains specific direction for elk habitat and management. In general, a desired condition for all terrestrial wildlife states “[e]cosystems and habitat conditions for terrestrial wildlife species sensitive to human disturbance are maintained.” Forest Plan Desired Condition 2.3.9. Similarly, guidelines for ungulates state that “to provide for healthy ungulate populations capable of meeting state populations objectives, anthropomorphic activity and improvements across the planning area should be designed to maintain and continue to provide effective habitat components that support critical life functions.” Forest Plan Guideline 2.3.63; see also, Guideline 2.3.62 (projects or activities “should be designed and conducted in a manner that preserves and does not reduce habitat effectiveness”).
  6. Rather than “maintain” or “continue to provide” or “not reduce” habitat, the Decision tries to enhance or exceed relevant metrics for elk management.
  7. Defendants’ actions described above are made reviewable through the APA and are arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law; in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without observance of procedure required by law; or otherwise in violation of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and should therefore be declared unlawful and set aside by this Court.
  8. Plaintiffs have exhausted all administrative remedies required by law in order to seek relief from Defendants’ actions addressed in this claim for relief.
  9. Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, harm and injury to their legal interests arising from and associated with their use and enjoyment of the Area as a result of the allegations contained in this claim for relief, and these injuries will go unredressed absent judicial relief.

COUNT NINE: VIOLATION OF THE APA 

  1. Plaintiffs hereby incorporate by reference each statement and allegation previously made.
  2. Defendants’ failure(s) described above to comply with NEPA, NFMA, regulations and the APA are arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law; contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege or immunity; in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without observance of procedure required by law; short of statutory right; or otherwise in violation of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and should therefore be declared unlawful and set aside by this Court.
  3. Plaintiffs have exhausted all administrative remedies required by law in order to seek relief from Defendants’ actions addressed in this claim for relief.
  4. Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, harm and injury to their legal interests arising from and associated with their use and enjoyment of the Area as a result of the allegations contained in this claim for relief, and these injuries will go unredressed absent judicial relief.

REQUEST FOR RELIEF

Wherefore, having alleged the above-described violations of law, Plaintiffs respectfully request judgment in their favor on each and every claim alleged herein, and request that the Court rule, adjudge, and grant relief as follows:

  1. Declare unlawful and set aside the Final ROD and/or Decision;
  2. Remand the applicable matters inadequately addressed in the ROD and Decision for further analysis and action in accordance with applicable law;
  3. Award the Plaintiffs their reasonable fees, costs, and expenses of litigation as allowed by the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 241 et seq. and other applicable law or rule of court; and
  4. Grant such further and additional relief as the Court deems just and proper.

 

Dated:  September 14, 2018.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

    /s/ Paul A. Turcke
Paul A. Turck
MSBT Law, Chtd.
7699 West Riverside Drive Boise, ID 83714
Telephone: (208) 331-1800
Facsimile: (208) 331-1202
pat@msbtlaw.com

Attorneys for Plaintiffs

 

Download the pdf 

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Sue and Settle Secretarial Order

This effort will move towards greater transparency in the land management process and hopefully reduce the use of the endangered species act as an alternative to planning by those opposed to multiple use.

 

Letter dated September 13th from Tim Williams, Deputy Director External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior:

On  Friday, September 7, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed a Secretarial Order to prevent the practice known as “sue and settle” by promoting public engagement, transparency, and accountability in Consent Decrees and Settlement Agreements.

Over the past five years, the Department of Interior (DOI) has been party to a staggering number of settlement agreements and consent decrees, often with no input from or even notice to the American people, leaving the door open for potential abuse.  

Between  January 1, 2012, and January 19, 2017, DOI agreed to enter into over 460 settlement agreements and consent decrees (an average of over 90 per year) and agreed to pay over $4.4 billion in monetary awards. From January 1, 2016 through January 19, 2017 alone,  DOI entered into approximately 96 settlement agreements or consent decrees, agreeing to pay over $1.7 billion in monetary awards.  This high number of settlement agreements and consent decrees and accompanying tab has sparked concerns that taxpayer dollars and DOI’s regulatory agenda are being handed off to special interest groups, contrary to the wishes of Congress and the American voters.

Secretarial Order 3368 is intended to alleviate concerns the litigation process has been used to undermine the procedural safeguards Congress put in place by giving the American people a window into where the money is going and a voice before DOI makes a recommendation to accept or enter into a settlement with large policy or budgetary implications.

Main points of the Secretarial Order (See link below for more detail):

  • Within  30 days, DOI will establish a publicly accessible “Litigation” webpage that is prominently linked from the Office of the Solicitor’s homepage.
  • Within  90 days,  DOI will post a searchable list of final judicial and administrative consent decrees and settlement agreements that continue to govern Departmental actions, including a brief summary of each decree or agreement, a note of any attorney’s fees or costs paid, and a link to the text of the decree or agreement.
  • Any proposed consent decree or settlement agreement that commits DOI to seek a particular appropriation or budget authorization from Congress or formally reprogram appropriated funds, and/or places obligations on the Department that extend beyond five years at the top of the Litigation page, publish notice of the proposed consent decree or settlement agreement in the Federal Register, and provide a public comment period of at least 30 days.
  • DOI,  including any agency or bureau thereof, will not recommend that the Department of Justice enter into a consent decree or settlement agreement that:
    • Converts into a mandatory duty the otherwise discretionary authority of the Secretary and/or his designees (including bureau and office heads) to revise, amend, or promulgate regulations.
    • Commits DOI or any of its bureaus and offices thereof to expend funds that Congress has not appropriated and that have not been budgeted for the action in question.
    • Requires  DOI or any subdivision thereof to pay attorney’s fees and costs unless the plaintiff or petitioner has established a strong likelihood of obtaining such fees under the law.
    • Prohibits  public disclosure of any consent decree or settlement agreement, except to the extent necessary to protect proprietary information, such as trade secrets, or otherwise mandated by law.

Here is a link to SO 3368. 

 

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Conceptual paper on Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act Proposal

DRAFT – DRAFT – DRAFT – DRAFT – DRAFT – DRAFT

Conceptual paper on Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act Proposal (HR 2554) for discussion purposes only December 13, 2016

Who we are:

We start first with a brief description of each Organization, in order to allow a complete understanding of our concerns. The Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion. There are 30,000 registered snowmobiles in the State of Colorado. CSA seeks to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling in Colorado by working with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators.

The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization of 150,000 registered OHV users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

The Trail Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) is a Colorado based 100 percent volunteer organization whose intention is to be a viable partner, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding. The TPA is an advocate of the sport and takes necessary actions to help insure that the USFS and BLM allocate to trail riding a fair and equitable percentage of access to public lands.

The Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) is a national not-for-profit trade association of motorized off-road related businesses formed to promote and preserve off-road recreation in an environmentally responsible manner based in California.

Landscape Concerns

  1.  Any previous Congressional boundaries for existing Wilderness or release of areas for multiple use or prohibitions on buffer managements and designations must be honored as previous legislation was badly out of balance in terms of protecting usages and often we are now talking about designation of areas previously released.
  2. Resolution of WSA issues is a priority for the motorized community in numerous areas.

General concerns regarding Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act Proposal (HR 2554)

  1. Overall HR 2554 is a Wilderness bill designating 35,449 acres of Wilderness and another 16,621 where public access is restricted despite the already high levels of Wilderness designated in the State. Currently 15.7% of USFS lands in Colorado are designated as Wilderness. By comparison, less than 2% of USFS lands are designated as Wilderness in New Mexico.
  2. While Colorado has historically been effective in moving large areas of public lands into Wilderness designations, there has been no release or protection of lands to balance usages and protections in previous legislation. As a result of the lack of balance in previous Legislation a very small amount of lands is suitable for new Wilderness designations but there are many areas where uses could be protected and Wilderness study area reviews can be permanently resolved. Recreational usage of these areas represent major economic drivers for local communities and once management clarity is provided in Legislation additional funding for maintenance and improvement of these important resources can move forward.
  3. Colorado has a benchmark for a balanced land use bill that can be supported by a truly diverse range of interests in the Hermosa Watershed Legislation that was passed into law in 2014. When compared to the Hermosa Legislation, HR 2554 falls well short of obtaining the diversity benefit for multiple use and other interests that are claimed. In Hermosa, access to public lands was provided at a more than two to one ratio when compared to designated Wilderness in the Hermosa Legislation.
  4. Similar to previous legislative actions designating Wilderness, current versions of HR 2554 provides no new opportunity areas for multiple use or increases protection of multiple use access areas for the general public. This is contrary to claims of balance in the Proposal. It is our position HR 2554 simply results in a significant net trail loss as almost every area proposed to be designated as Wilderness negatively impacts multiple use recreation at some level.
  5. HR 2554 creates a single Special Management Area (Ten Mile) where multiple use is alleged to be balanced. This area has exceptionally limited opportunities currently (less than 10 miles of route) and minimal opportunity for growth due to topography of area and the value of this area for multiple use is questionable at best. The Tenmile SMA protects significantly less miles of routes than are lost in other areas of the Proposal (Spraddle Creek, Williams Fork)
  6. Many of the areas that we are requesting to be Congressionally designated as a “special management area” have been the basis of on-going discussions for possible Wilderness designations since the area was declined for suitability either through the RARE process or WSA inventory process in the late 1970’s. We would like to confirm/protect multiple use in these areas by designation of SMA. The SMA principal, with the proper criteria, appears to be effective vehicle to achieve this goal based on the Hermosa Legislation implementation.
  7. Many of the areas proposed to be Wilderness in HR 2554 were analyzed for possible Upper Tier Roadless designation in the 2011 Colorado Roadless Rule. After these areas were found unsuitable for Upper Tier designation in the Roadless Rule process, many view the Legislation as another route to obtain closure of these areas and another step in the never ending discussion working towards a Wilderness designation.
  8. Most areas proposed to be classified as Wilderness under HR 2554 are not currently managed as recommended Wilderness in existing planning and as a result designation as Wilderness could impact many other uses.
  9. Our Proposal extends outside Congressman Polis district, as we simply cannot balance the impact of 60k acres of Wilderness/closure with the opportunities in that district. Much of our Proposal in Congressman Polis district asks that commitments made in previous Wilderness Legislation be honored. Support from Udall/Polis/Bennett Offices to move forward with honoring these commitments (Rollins Pass Road) has been non-existent to date.

Existing trail areas that would be lost under current version of HR 2554

1. Spraddle Creek Potential Wilderness area §2(a) pg 4 line 9 – 2,338 acres proposed- MAJOR IMPACT TO CURRENT ACCESS

  1. The Spraddle Creek Potential Wilderness contains an extensive high quality summer trail network for motorized and bicycle community centered around FSR 700/719 that would be lost. These are important routes due to their proximity to local population centers. There are more miles of multiple use routes are lost in the Spraddle Creek Potential Wilderness area than are protected in Tenmile SMA.

    map: Spraddle Creek Summer MVUM

    Spraddle Creek Summer MVUM

    map: Spraddle Creek Current Snowmobile Suitability

    Spraddle Creek Current Snowmobile Suitability

    (Each represents lost opportunity with expanded Wilderness)

  2. The Potential Spraddle Creek Wilderness represents an important snowmobile opportunity areas that would be lost.
  3. Many users believe that closure of this area was due to 10th mtn. hut in area. Almost all 10th mtn. division huts now have a buffer area, as a result of recent planning which has resulted in the long term loss of motorized opportunities around huts. Users are very sensitive to additional lost opportunity around any of the huts.
  4. Is there precedent for automatic change of any area to Wilderness designation merely with the passage of time? Adopting such a principal could set a dangerous precedent moving forward and HR 2554 provides no requirement that mitigation measures be completed prior to moving to the Wilderness designation. Mitigation measures can frequently take more than the 10 years to complete.

2. Spraddle Creek Wilderness- §2 pg 4 line 3 MAJOR IMPACT TO CURRENT ACCESS

  1. Numerous summer routes in the new Spraddle Creek Wilderness area and this area is an expansion area for future winter motorized usage. Motorized routes 786 and 719 currently exist in the area and dead-end at two scenic overlooks. With the addition of the Spraddle Creek Wilderness access to these overlooks would be lost and 786 and 719 outside the Wilderness would be at risk for closure moving forward as these trails would now just dead-end at the Wilderness boundary.
  2. The snowmobile community worked hard with the USFS in recent planning to establish a boundary that was easily enforceable in the area for snowmobile usage(currently on top of a cliff). Expanding the Wilderness would again move the boundary into an area where enforcement would be difficult at best and probably result in a large amount of conflict and enforcement expense. Relevant maps are included with #1 above.

3. Williams Fork Wilderness §2(a)(25) 9,338 acres- MAJOR IMPACT TO CURRENT ACCESS

  1. There are significant miles of multiple use routes in the northern end of the proposed Wilderness area addition that would be lost. These routes are all heavily used routes in the summer due to their proximity to Green Mountain Reservoir and other developed recreational resources such as campgrounds. The entire area that is proposed to be designated Wilderness is an expansion area for future snowmobile usage
map: Williams Fork Wilderness

Williams Fork Wilderness Current Summer MVUM

 

map: Williams Fork Wilderness Winter Suitability

Williams Fork Wilderness Winter Suitability

(Each represents lost opportunity with expanded Wilderness)

4. Freeman Creek Wilderness – §2 pg 3 line 23 – 1,290 acres – significant long term concerns due to proximity

  1. Expansion of Wilderness in this area could prohibit OSV usage connecting Spraddle Creek area to Spring Creek groomed network north of Eagles Nest Wilderness. This type of a connection was left as a long term option in the recent travel plan for the area. We understand there is some conflict over exact location of Wilderness boundary and any groomed route developed in the area in the future. This is a major concern as any possible routes that could connect the areas are limited due to rugged topography of the area.
  2. A connection of Spraddle Creek and Spring Creek areas would be highly valued by OSV community as currently Spring Creek trailhead is a lengthy drive (more than 1 hour) on US 9 north of Frisco. With this connection, access to the Spring Creek area would be a short drive outside Frisco.
  3. We are concerned that the proximity of a possible groomed route/existing designated summer route and this Wilderness boundary. Our concern is the expanded boundary would result in significant conflict between users and also present a major management issue for the USFS due to increased signage etc. The close proximity of these management areas has resulted in significant conflict in other areas.

5. Ute Pass Wilderness/Acorn creek/Ptarmigan Addition – §2(a)(1) Acres 6349- Significant long term concerns due to expansion

Entire area is available for expansion of OSV usage in the future – – maps are attached in item #3.

6. No Name Wilderness Significant long term concerns due to proximity and expansion

Map: Ute Pass Wilderness/Acorn creek/Ptarmigan Addition - Winter suitability currently

Ute Pass Wilderness/Acorn creek/Ptarmigan Addition – Winter suitability currently

MAP: Ute Pass Wilderness/Acorn creek/Ptarmigan Addition - Current summer travel

Ute Pass Wilderness/Acorn creek/Ptarmigan Addition – Current summer travel

(Each represents lost opportunity with expanded Wilderness)

  1. Entire No Name area is a winter expansion area in the future and would convert FSR703 to a cherry stem into an important OSV area for winter usage as there would now be Wilderness on both sides of the route.
  2. FSR703 is the Holy Cross City route that is consistently identified as one of the top ten OHV routes in the country.
  3. Additionally, the eastern Boundary is a currently designated summer route and expanding the boundary would result in conflict between usages.

7. Hoosier Ridge Wilderness Area significant long-term concerns due to proximity to heavily used areas

map: Hoosier Ridge Wilderness Area

Boreas Pass area is a major summer destination area. Given the proximity of the Wilderness to highly used routes, conflict between these uses would be a concern.

8. Tenmile Wilderness

Minimal concerns as area is closed to motorized and not an expansion area for snowmobile usage in the future

9. Porcupine Gulch Protection area – §4

Prohibits motorized and mechanized travel-
Tenderfoot Mountain project is within the boundary and would be lost Heavily used winter trail network in the area that would be lost?

10. Tenmile Special Management Areas – §3 pg 8 line 6 -Acres 11,417 – very minimal benefit

  1. There is an exceptionally limited benefit to the multiple use community from proposed designations/usages of the SMA due to small amount of routes in the SMA. The SMA also prohibits any road development in the future in this area, which is more restrictive than current management of the area. Non-motorized usages does not appear to be subject to this limitation.
  2. There are only a small amount of roads in the area and is a limited long-term opportunity area given the difficult topography of the area. Despite claims of high-value recreational opportunity from these protections, the area is not a high priority for the motorized community. We must question value to any user group given the topography and restrictions moving forward.
  3. The criteria for management of the area are a concern as multiple usages are not a characteristic to be protected and preserved in the area. pg 9 line 4 . Multiple usage must be on balance with other usages or these usages will diminish moving forward.
  4. Designation of the Tenmile SMAV expands impact of Hardscrabble SRMA closures in recent BLM Colorado River Valley RMP on motorized community. Hardscrabble remains a difficult topic with many users in the area as trails built and maintained by motorized are now open only to bicycles.
  5. The SMA relies heavily on the principal of a “vehicle class” which is not defined in the Legislation and is not a term defined in standard USFS travel planning. This principal is probably a major barrier to new usages of the area due to hybridization of recreational activities.

Current commitments in Congressman Polis District to be resolved prior to exploring additional 60,000 acres Wilderness/restricted access in HR 2554

1. Rollins Pass Road issue on Boulder RD

Existing Legislative commitments should be honored prior to any discussions about additional Wilderness in the District.

  1. The Rollins Pass Road issue is one of the few concessions that was made in previous Wilderness Legislation to try and balance multiple usages. This concession has been of no value to date due to the failure to implement commitments on the ground. The highly detailed commitment was made to reopen a route in this area in 2002 James Peak Wilderness expansion legislation. This commitment was to be implemented if one of three identified counties made a request.1 This commitment has never been followed through with despite numerous requests from multiple counties every year since 2002 and numerous requests in writing to both Sen. Udall and Congressman Polis office’s from user groups and numerous public meetings to gauge continued public support in the route.
  2. A connector route between Winter Park and Front Range in this corridor would be a valuable route for a wide range of user groups.’
  3. We are unsure if roadblock on issue is USFS or Boulder County in honoring commitment made in previous legislation.
  4.  We would seek a merged alternative of existing legislation requirements and resources on the ground due to deterioration of road referenced in legislation/maps.
    (i) seasonal high clearance road connecting Winter Park and Rollinsville areas utilizing corridor between James Peak Wilderness and Indian Peaks Wilderness that generally honors legislative requirements;
    (iii) hard deadline for project completion; and
    (iv)source of funding for part/all of the project.

Our Ask for Rollins Pass Road Issues

This is a previous commitment regarding an important motorized route that must be honored prior to new commitments being made in Representative Polis district around any Wilderness proposals.

2. Lefthand Canyon OHV Area in Boulder RD –

Existing NEPA planning should be honored in the area and there are serious concerns that the area may never reopen to multiple use.

 

map: Lefthand Canyon

  • Only area open to OHV usage within a short travel time of the North Denver area.
  • Primary access route and area partially damaged due to 2013 flooding.
  • Access remains closed due to the placement of small creek in the primary access road to the area after lead remediation efforts needed due to illegal shooting in the areas. No public input on the location of the creek in the road.
  • We know of no planning in place for reopening of the area, even in a preliminary stage. Frequently funding is identified as a concern in reopening the area but the USFS will not support any grant applications for the area.
  • Lefthand OHV remains closed to motorized usage despite significant motorized money, obtained without a grant submission being used to repair area after the flood, which we believe is a violation of state law regarding use of OHV fun.
  • Possible designation of the area as a special management area based on 2006 NEPA for the area that has never been completed.
  • Requires that no fees for usage of the area despite review in 2006 NEPA.
  • Strong partnerships for the area are in place but not being used.

Our Ask for Lefthand Canyon OHV area –

Designate area as SMA for world class motorized recreational usage in order to compel managers to take steps to reopen the area in a timely manner

Designations to reopen historical access and new protections for existing usage in Congressman Polis district

1. Pennsylvania Gulch area on Dillon Ranger District

For purposes of this section is referring to Pennsylvania Gulch as the area generally south and east of Breckenridge running east of Route 9 to Boreas Pass and associated fingers to the north as generally outlined in green below

map: Pennsylvania Gulch - Suitability prior to winter travel plan

Pennsylvania Gulch – Suitability prior to winter travel plan

map: Pennsylvania Gulch - Current summer MVUM

Pennsylvania Gulch – Current summer MVUM

(Each represents lost opportunity with expanded Wilderness)

  • Snowmobile access was closed in recent travel planning to expand non-motorized opportunities.
  • No one is using the area in the winter as it is too difficult to access without motorized means or packed ungroomed routes from OSV travel.
  • Boreas Pass/Pennsylvania Gulch area also a very important area for summer OHV as well.
  • Southern portions of Pennsylvania Gulch was included for Wilderness designations in original version of Hidden Gems.
  • Also proposed to be Upper Tier Roadless and not designated.

Our Ask for Pennsylvania Gulch

Designate the area as SMA for world-class motorized recreational usage in summer and winter in order to restore winter access and protect summer.

2. Area northwest of Eagles Nest – Dillon RD Acreage per HG 37,800 acres

  • High-quality motorized area both summer and winter at issue all the time for possible Wilderness/closures etc.
  • Identified as Crazy Horse Creek, Lower Piney and Elliot Ridge in Hidden Gems
map: Hidden Gem Wilderness Proposal in Area

Hidden Gem Wilderness Proposal in Area

map: Hidden Gem Wilderness Proposal in Area - Current MVUM for area

Hidden Gem Wilderness Proposal in Area – Current MVUM for area

map: Hidden Gem Wilderness Proposal in Area - Winter Suitability under current planning

Hidden Gem Wilderness Proposal in Area – Winter Suitability under current planning

(Each represents lost opportunity with expanded Wilderness)

Our Ask for North Eagles Nest Area

Designate the area as SMA for world-class motorized recreational usage in summer and winter.

Areas outside Congressman Polis District where historical usage restored or existing usage protected.

1. North Sand Hills WSA/ISA release in Kremmling FO outside Walden CO 600 acres -protects existing usage

map: North San Hills

North Sand Hills – Reference map of the area from BLM shows more than release area

  • Congressman Tipton’s HR 5570 proposes release
    • Highly valued by the motorized community
    • Truly broad coalition of users already in place to support the release
    • Only about 600 acres in size for WSA/ISA release

Our Ask for North Sand Hills

Release area from WSA/ISA designations and designate area as SMA for world-class motorized recreational usage in summer and winter

2. Uranium mesas east of Gateway – GJFO – Rep. Tipton District Acres TBD – protects existing usage

An important area where planning was deferred in recent planning efforts for GJFO causing concerns for the long-term access to the area.

map: Uranium mesas east of Gateway - Current version of travel management sought to be protected

Uranium mesas east of Gateway – Current version of travel management sought to be protected

Levels of closures in draft plan were much higher than the final version- making us very concerned for the long-term future of the multiple use access to the area

 

map: Uranium mesas east of Gateway - Proposed closures in draft RMP

Uranium mesas east of Gateway – Proposed closures in draft RMP

(these maps are included to create understanding in the basis for our concern)

  • There are a lot of high-quality riding opportunities in the area that could be at risk in future planning due to proposed closures in recent RMP.
  • While the current field office staff has been supportive of usage we are concerned that if there was a staff change these areas would be at risk of closure again.

Our Ask for Uranium Mesas

Designate the area as SMA for world-class motorized recreational usage in summer and continue current access levels

3. North Desert area outside Grand Junction – GJFO – Rep. Tipton District Acres TBD- protects existing usage

An important area where planning was deferred in recent planning efforts for GJFO.

 

map: Grand Junction - Current Version of travel management we would like to protect

Grand Junction – Current Version of travel management we would like to protect

 

map: Grand Junction - Proposed closures in draft RMP

Grand Junction – Proposed closures in draft RMP

(these maps are included to create understanding in the basis for our concern)

  • Area was very hard hit with proposed closures in the draft RMP.
  • There are a lot of high quality riding opportunities in the area that could be at risk in future planning.
  • While the current field office staff has been supportive of usage we are concerned that if there was a staff change these areas would be at risk of closure again.

Our Ask for North Desert

Designate the area as SMA for world class motorized recreational usage in summer and continue current access levels

4. DeBeque single track area- GJFO – Tipton District Acres TBD- restores historic usage

HIGHLY valued areas outside DeBeque Colorado that was closed in recent BLM planning

map: Debuque

DeBeque – red routes on map above represent closures of DeBeque Trail network

  • Can honestly be summarized as some of the best single track trail riding in the multi-state region.
  • Political working group already in place on the issue – believed to include Brian Meinhart with Congressman Tipton; Mesa County; Town of DeBeque; Betsy Bair with Sen Gardner Office and State Rep Willette.
  • Long history of legal motorized and multiple use trail usage in the area.
  • BLM used motorized groups to “voluntarily close” routes prior to plan and then RMP closed all routes anyway.
  • Detailed proposal for area is attached.

Our Ask for DeBeque

Designate the area as SMA for world-class motorized recreational usage in summer and restore access to something similar to previous levels

5. Red Table/Adam Mountain/Woods Lake and related areas- Mostly Rep. Tipton – protects existing usage Acres 1,750/6,900/11,970

Important multiple use recreational area that struggles from ongoing possible designation as Wilderness despite numerous unsuccessful attempts to designate the area. Also was reviewed and found unsuitable for upper tier designation as part of the Roadless Rule.

map: Red Table - Hidden Gems Proposal

Red Table – Hidden Gems Proposal

map: Red Table - Summer MVUM of Red Table area

Summer MVUM of Red Table area

 

map: Winter suitability of Red Table area

Winter suitability of Red Table area

  • Large amount of motorized recreation in this area both summer and winter.
  • Proposed Wilderness in HG that was removed early in the discussion .
  • Large portions of the area were again proposed to be Upper Tier Roadless and then declined for designation.
  • Any trail construction or maintenance in the area remains problematic due to previous Wilderness discussions.
  • Specific boundaries are open for discussion.

Our Ask for Red Table and related

Designate area as SMA for world class motorized recreational usage in summer and winter

 

 

1 See PL 107-216 at §7b.

 

DRAFT – DRAFT – DRAFT – DRAFT – DRAFT – DRAFT

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GMUG RMP Revision Wilderness Inventory

GMUG National Forest
Att: Planning Team Revision
2250 South Main Street
Delta, CO 81416

Re: GMUG RMP Revision Wilderness Inventory

Dear Sirs:

Please accept this correspondence as the input of the Organizations identified above with regard to the draft Wilderness Evaluation report of the GMUG RMP (“Evaluation”). We welcome this opportunity to provide input addressing the complete failure of the wilderness evaluation to provide a transparent inventory of the Wilderness suitability that is broad and inclusive of all factors that are required to be analyzed. This inventory is woefully inadequate and fails to satisfy NEPA and other requirements for Wilderness inventory process and as a result directly impairs the public ability to provide meaningful comment on the management of these areas.  While the evaluation provides significant analysis of reasons why to designate an area as recommended Wilderness, the evaluation fails:

  1. to address numerous Congressional actions that directly impact the availability of many areas for designation as Wilderness on the GMUG;
  2. Many existing and legal uses of the areas are not addressed in the inventory;
  3. Operates on the foundation that the Continental Divide Trail is a proper basis for recommendation of Wilderness; and
  4. Fails to address all citizen Wilderness proposals addressing lands within the GMUG.

Prior to providing initial thoughts and concepts on the development of the GMUG Wilderness evaluation, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed.  The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization the 150,000 registered OHV users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

The Trail Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) is a 100 percent volunteer organization whose intention is to be a viable partner, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding.  The TPA acts as an advocate of the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate to trail riding a fair and equitable percentage of access to public lands.

Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion. CSA advocates for the 30,000 registered snowmobiles in the State of Colorado.  CSA has become the voice of organized snowmobiling seeking to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling by working with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators. For purposes of this document CSA, COHVCO and TPA are identified as “the Organizations”.

In these comments, the Organizations have provided a detailed analysis of the extensive and highly detailed reviews of possible Wilderness areas on the GMUG, many of which occurred before the Wilderness Act was even passed by Congress. None of this information is even mentioned in the current inventory.  These multiple reviews have been heavily relied on in previous Congressional action designating Wilderness areas on the GMUG and also in Congressional decisions:

  1. Releasing significant portions of the GMUG from further inventory and requiring non-wilderness multiple use management moving forward;
  2. Prohibiting buffer areas around Wilderness areas;
  3. Repeal of primitive area designations on large portions of the GMUG; and
  4. Explaining why boundaries of designated Wilderness areas are in the locations that they are.

USFS inventory requirements specifically require that such Congressional actions be honored and addressed in the Wilderness inventory process but the GMUG has chosen not to provide this information in violation of federal law and USFS planning requirements.

These Wilderness and Wilderness release determinations by Congress have often been the result of years of consensus building around the legislation that was passed in 1980 and 1993 and represents some of the largest collaborative efforts around land management in Colorado history.  This level of collaboration is highly relevant as one of the consistent themes we have heard from land managers is the position that diverse groups should come together on tough issues and build a recommendation for resolution of the issue.  With Wilderness on the GMUG, this consensus process has occurred and the Organizations are asking that land managers not disrupt this consensus management position by recommending Wilderness in areas where the consensus position, memorialized in federal law, is that the area is not suitable.  The fact that one group did not get exactly what they wanted in the consensus position does not mean the consensus should be disrupted, despite posturing in draft legislation that there is some level of support for change in the consensus.  The history of the legislative efforts since 1993 evidences a lack of political support for such a change rather than a basis for changes in management of these areas. Again, none of this the weak legislative history around the citizen Wilderness proposals is mentioned in the inventory, despite the fact that some of these proposals have been in existence for more than 20 years and barely received any Congressional support.

The honoring of all aspects of federal land management legislation is critically important to the Organizations as the Organizations have devoted years of effort to obtaining balance in recent land management legislation that has actually been passed into law by Congress.  This is directly evidenced by the Hermosa Watershed Legislation on the San Juan NF,[1] which did designate a sizable Wilderness area but also released the remaining portions of the West Needles Wilderness Study area and specified the area must be used for motorized recreation and also designated a special management area where motorized recreation was a characteristic of the area due the ongoing Wilderness recommendation for the area in forest planning. It is interesting to note that when this legislation was moved forward, BLM managers sought to manage the West Needles area as a WSA despite the fact the Congressional designation had been revoked in 1993 and this decision was roundly criticized by all parties in the development of the Hermosa Watershed Legislation.  If designations requiring non-Wilderness management are not honored and may simply be cast aside at will, the Organizations would note that such a casting aside would impair community efforts for land management decisions in the future.

In addition to the Congressional determinations regarding the usage of many areas of the GMUG, the USFS has recently completely inventoried the GMUG again to review the lesser classification of upper tier roadless designation.  The inventory again fails to provide this information to the public, despite the chronological relevance of the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule development and USFS planning requirements requiring Roadless characteristics be addressed in the Wilderness inventory process.

2a.  The current Wilderness inventory fails to address all citizen Wilderness proposals for lands on the GMUG.

The Organizations have been heavily involved in Wilderness discussions for more than a decade in areas throughout the State of Colorado and as a result have developed their own Wilderness Legislative Proposal for use in Forest Plan development and Legislative discussions. This proposal has been reviewed by Congressman Tipton’s Office and Senator Gardner’s office when discussions around obtaining balance in usage in any piece of federal land management legislation.  A copy of this proposal has been provided for your reference and we can assist you in clarifying the status of this proposal with our various elected officials. [2] Given that compliance with existing federal law determinations protecting multiple use is a cornerstone of this proposal, the Organizations submit that such a proposal must be equally weighted with the various Wilderness proposals that are recognized in the inventory already.  The fact that we are asserting federal law must be honored also weighs in favor of addressing these areas in the inventory.

2b. The Gunnison Public lands initiative is not supported by the motorized community.

The Organizations have previously identified the opposition of the motorized community to the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative efforts as this process starts from the position that all lands are suitable for Wilderness designation and then requires the public to provide input as to why they disagree with that. Often many of our members that have sought to provide input have not received a warm welcome at public meetings, which is troubling for a proposal that asserts to seek broad community support.

We have prepared detailed comments on this issue which were submitted to this planning process as there appears to be growing confusion in these efforts between the participation of Organizations and support for the recommendations of the efforts. The Organizations have attempted to provide in person meetings but have been told they only occur in the Gunnison area and anytime we have been in the Gunnison area, GPLI representatives have been too busy to meet with us.  The motorized community has participated but does not support the Proposal. Generally, the public process around the entire discussion is badly flawed and far from complete and at best objectives of the planning process that have not been achieved are often presented as goals of the process that have been achieved. This entire process should be approached with great caution by planners.

3a.  Many of the areas found to be suitable for recommended Wilderness designation have been previously found unsuitable for designation by Congress.

Prior to addressing the specific and extensive history of areas on the GMUG of areas being reviewed by Congress and specifically identified as unsuitable for designation as Wilderness, the Organizations must address two significant landscape level concerns that have arisen around many of the recommended Wilderness areas from the 2007 draft RMP. Our first landscape level concern involves the relationship of the site-specific inventory of much of the GMUG by Congress and specific release of many areas from further review for possible designation as Wilderness in the future by Congress.  The specific release of areas by Congress from future designation as Wilderness greatly outweighs the fact that there may be legislation now before Congress on this issue in the form of a citizen-based Wilderness proposal.  Any other conclusion lacks any basis in law or fact.

USFS guidance regarding citizen Wilderness proposals specifically requires that the relevant dates for citizen proposals be addressed in the Wilderness inventory as follows

“The Interdisciplinary Team shall record all lands included in the inventory on a map of the planning area.  In addition, the Team shall identify on the same map (or a series of maps), at a minimum, the following lands:

Congressionally designated wilderness study areas, and any wilderness proposals pending before Congress. Indicate relevant statutory dates, if any.” [3]

While USFS requirements specifically address the need for dates to be addressed in the inventory process regarding citizen Wilderness proposals, there is simply no mention of any relevant dates for hearings, submission of Proposals to Congress or any other relevant information. This is a direct violation of the USFS planning requirements.  The addition of this information to the inventory process provides direct evidence of the comical lack of support for these proposals rather than a valid planning requirement, especially when proposals such as the “citizen Wilderness” proposals are not identified or locatable on the internet.

There is great pressure on land managers to recognize legislative drafts that have been before Congress, sometimes for decades, in planning but the Organizations must note that the decision NOT to list these areas as Wilderness that actually passed Congress and became law must be properly weighted again the existence of a legislative proposal that has not passed either house of Congress and often completely lacks even a sponsor in the House of Representatives.  Any argument that a stalled legislative proposal should carry more weight than a site-specific analysis and decision that has actually passed Congress regarding the ineligibility of the area for future designation is probably lacking legal and factual basis.  The Organizations submit that many of the citizen Wilderness proposals that are currently addressing GMUG lands are not moving because they are simply badly out of balance and would designate Wilderness in areas that were released in previous Wilderness legislation.

Here the need to properly weigh proposed legislation in relation to current federal law is valuable and will provide more clarity to why we are asserting the mere proposal of Wilderness on the GMUG is not a management or analysis issue for planners. Planners must insure that Congress has not spoken affirmatively against the Proposal.  This comparison involves mountain bike usage in Wilderness areas.  Similar to the San Juan and Continental Divide legislation now before the US Senate, there was also draft legislation in the 115th Congress to allow mountain bikes in Wilderness (HR 1349) that actually moved out of the House committee hearing. After passing committee, HR 1349 moved no further in the House and failed to obtain any Senate sponsors. Clearly this type of legislation could not be applied by land managers in the planning process to allow mountain bikes in Wilderness areas, as it directly contradicts federal law despite the draft Legislation being proposed. Congress has spoken on this issue and there is no basis to overturn that position without further action actually passing Congress.

The application of standards for the treatment of proposed legislation by land managers must be consistently applied.  If Congress has said “no” that determination must be consistently applied rather than being recognized as a basis for new Wilderness and ignored when it states the area is unsuitable for Wilderness.  Planners certainly would not address mountain bikes in Wilderness due to the conflict with federal law and for the same reasons there should be no recommendation of Wilderness designations in GMUG areas already repeatedly addressed by Congress and found unsuitable and released back to multiple use. Each is a direct violation of federal law, despite what has been asserted by those advocating for more Wilderness. Existing federal law must outweigh proposed legislation in the planning process.

Any assertion of a valid basis for management of areas recommended for Wilderness in proposed legislation instead of recognizing existing federal law ignores the weak legislative support for these types of proposals in Colorado.  The history of both the Continental Divide Proposal, and earlier versions of this legislation that trace back to the original Hidden Gems Proposal and San Juan Wilderness Proposals by Senator Bennett clearly shows the lack of support for the expanded designations across larger communities.  Rather than being a basis for management of these areas as recommended Wilderness these proposals provide a concrete basis for management of these areas in compliance with existing federal law mandating multiple use.

A brief history of the San Juan Wilderness Legislation reveals a long history of nonsupport for the proposal in Congress, as there has never been a house sponsor even named for the Proposal[4]. Even in the Senate, the proposal has moved to hearings on several occasions and while it has gotten out of committee, the larger Senate has never even voted on this Proposal. This is a strong indication of the LACK of support for the Proposal. Even more troubling is the fact that the San Juan Legislation has not even been introduced in the Senate since 2013.  The Organizations submit that the 5-year hiatus for the legislation speaks volumes to the true amount of support for the Legislation.

While the Continental Divide Legislation does not address lands on the GMUG, it provides further basis for the caution that land managers should be approaching any proposal with.  The Legislative history of the Continental Divide Legislation provides no basis for management decision as this Proposal has been submitted in various forms for almost a decade and has also not moved beyond committee hearing, and many years has been unable to even get a hearing. This Legislation was originally proposed in Congress in 2010 with claims of broad support and extensive vetting of the Proposal through the Hidden Gems based discussions.  Vetting of the proposal provided to be less than complete and many problems were immediately identified and as a result the Central Mountains version of Hidden Gems was reworked several times as exemplified by the Rocky Mountain Recreation and Wilderness Preservation Act of 2012[5].  This did little to build community support for the Proposal.  Recently the legislative name was changed and minor changes to the proposal were undertaken, and this version again failed to move.

The Organizations would be remiss if the troubling legislative history of other proposals that have incorporated San Juan and Continental Divide boundaries was not addressed, such as Congresswoman Dianna DeGette’s Colorado Wilderness Act that was originally introduced in 1999 was not mentioned[6].  These Proposals have also failed to move beyond a committee hearing despite being introduced for almost two decades as well.  As result, managers now have a clearly identified basis to not incorporate these legislative proposals into planning as there is clearly defined track record of minimal public support for the Proposals.  The failure of these proposals in Congress simply does not create a valid basis for planning actions by Congress.

This lack of support for the San Juan and Continental Divide version of Hidden Gems, is further evidenced by the fact that while these proposals have languished in Congress for more than two decades in one form or another, other land use legislation including Wilderness designations has been developed and rapidly moved through Congress regarding Colorado public lands.  This legislation would be the Hermosa Watershed Legislation of 2013, which was developed, passed into law and subsequent planning completed in a decade less time than San Juan and Continental Divide have been languishing in Congress without larger support.  While the mandates of the Hermosa Watershed Legislation are not legally binding on the GMUG, the factual differences are highly relevant to the value of land management legislation that does not move.  In 2013, the Hermosa Watershed Legislation[7] was not even a Legislative Proposal but this legislation was developed from the ground up, passed both houses of Congress and was signed by the President while other pieces of legislation remained stalled. [8] While the Hermosa Watershed Legislation does not impact GMUG planning the rapid movement of this legislation through Congress speaks volumes to the lack of support around the other pieces of Legislation that have been in existence for much longer and simply never moved. Their value in planning is marginal at best.

While USFS policy asserts that citizen Wilderness proposals be addressed in the planning process, the Organizations vigorously assert that the mere existence of a Proposal is not enough review for the planning process.  The Organizations submit that the entirety of the history of these citizen Proposals must be reviewed in the planning process as many of the areas have been the basis of citizen Wilderness Proposals since before 1980 as directly evidenced by the 1980 Colorado Wilderness act[9] when the boundaries of many of these areas were established and drawn to protect many of the same usages that remain in these areas to this day.  The boundaries proposed for many areas on the GMUG in planning are the same areas that Congress specifically excluded from Wilderness when the areas were designated, as exemplified by the discussions of why wilderness boundaries are in the locations they currently are as provided on page 7 of House Report 96-617 issued in conjunction with the passage of the 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act.  Those provisions are discussed in greater detail in subsequent portions of these comments.

The second landscape level concern around merely designating recommended Wilderness based on citizen proposals for Wilderness is a policy concern and involves a consistent position taken by land managers that the public should work together attempt to bring solutions to issues to them. When land managers are recommending areas for possible designation that have been previously released by Congress, the managers are now working against the public collaborations that were the basis for the release of the area back to non-wilderness multiple use.   If there is a consensus position regarding the management of areas that has been achieved and passed into law by Congress it should be enforced with regard to all interests, regardless of the position. Consensus positions should be supported and defended by land managers in Colorado as there has been a lot of balancing and collaboration that has gone into the Congressional action for management of public lands for decades. When land managers recommend Wilderness for areas that have been specifically inventoried by Congress and found ineligible, land managers are undermining a consensus position that was achieved. Despite insisting that collaborative efforts targeting consensus management are needed here, managers would be undermining the very consensus they seek to obtain by trying to recommend Wilderness in many areas on the GMUG. Additionally, recommending Wilderness based on these proposals would undermine the public process as the legislation is simply badly out of balance in terms of land use and as a result has little support from the general public.

3b. The extensive history of Congressional action addressing non-wilderness use of public lands on the GMUG must be addressed in the inventory and has been ignored.

There is a long and vigorous history of Congress specifically addressing the non-Wilderness management of public lands on the GMUG and of those protections being able to move land management legislation through Congress. It is troubling that many of the areas that have been specifically identified for non-Wilderness multiple use management in order to develop a balanced land management bill that would move through Congress were recommended for Wilderness in the 2007 draft RMP for the GMUG. Congressional protections of multiple use on lands recommended for Wilderness include:

  1. Non-wilderness multiple uses being identified for areas not designated as Wilderness;
  2. No restrictions of usages outside Wilderness areas to create buffer areas for the Wilderness;
  3. Specifically crafting boundaries to protect existing usages outside the Wilderness; and
  4. Removal of primitive area designations.

The Organizations submit the 2007 RMP recommendation fails to account for previous Congressional actions regarding these areas and directly undermines the ability of balanced land management legislation to move at the landscape level and will result in land management that directly conflicts with federal law.  Many of the same flaws that plagued the 2007 GMUG RMP are carried forward into this version of the draft RMP, despite the per se violation of federal law governing many of the areas.

The Organizations are very concerned regarding the overly narrow view of Wilderness inventory that is provided in the January 2018 Wilderness Inventory guidance on the Forest, as this document completely fails to address the extensive Congressional actions that have been taking regarding management of lands on the GMUG for Wilderness and other uses. The overly narrow scope of analysis in the inventory is reflected as follows:

“After applying the size and improvements criteria, the handbook directs the Responsible Official to review information provided through public participation during the assessment phase of the plan revision process, including areas that have been proposed for consideration as recommended wilderness through a previous planning process (i.e., the 2007 GMUG Proposed Plan), collaborative effort, or in pending legislation. With respect to areas proposed for consideration as recommended wilderness through collaborative efforts, two citizen proposals for wilderness and other special designations were submitted to the GMUG during the assessment phase. These proposals will be considered in combination with other public comments received throughout the GMUG wilderness process.” [10]

While addressing issues involving legislative history may seem unnecessary, it is important as many of the areas recommended for addition to the Wilderness system in the 2007 Draft RMP Proposal have been the basis of ongoing discussions for possible Wilderness designations since well before the Wilderness Act was originally passed in 1964. As a result, the lack of success around recent efforts to add these areas is important but also the history of not only each Wilderness areas that were designated and also areas that were not designated is important as   A large portion of the areas recommended for Wilderness in the Draft 2007 RMP have been specifically reviewed and released from further management by Congressional action to be managed under non-Wilderness standards.   In addition to the determinations of why these areas were found unsuitable for Congressional designation, these areas have been the basis of extensive inventory by the USGS and Bureau of Mines pursuant to §3b of the Wilderness Act as these were existing Primitive Areas when the Wilderness Act was passed in 1964.  Given the specific review and release of many of these areas from further designation by Congress, the Organizations must question how the same areas could be recommended for Wilderness in the USFS planning process, despite what has been more than 50 years of review of possible basis for designation. Additionally, many of the areas were also found unsuitable still for even Roadless area upper tier areas under the Colorado Roadless Rule.

3b (1).  Congressional determinations of non-wilderness management are not addressed in the inventory.

As previously noted there is a long history of Congressional determinations around usages of lands on the GMUG and throughout Colorado and these determinations are simply never mentioned in the inventory of the GMUG despite the fact it is existing federal law which must be recognized in planning under basic principles of law and under Forest Service requirements for the development of Wilderness areas in planning.  Forest Service guidance documents governing Wilderness inventory specifically require federal determinations of areas for non-wilderness usages MUST be recognized as follows:

“In addition, the Team shall identify on the same map (or a series of maps), at a minimum, the following lands:

National Forest System lands statutorily designated for management for nonwilderness purposes. Indicate effective dates, if any.” [11]

Given the repeated decisions of Congress specifically identifying areas on the GMUG for multiple use and unsuitable for designation as Wilderness the Organizations assert strict application of the above standard could easily result in an RMP recommendation that conflicts with federal laws specifically governing these areas. This must be avoided and currently these types of determinations are not even mentioned in the inventory.

This clarity of Congressional action regarding non-wilderness usages on large areas of the GMUG and throughout the state is exemplified in the 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act that created the Colligate Peaks, Raggeds and Fossil Ridge Wilderness areas. Given the high levels of relevance of this legislation to these discussions of the 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act, a copy has been enclosed for your convenience as exhibit 3. The 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act specifically spoke of the need to protect non-wilderness multiple use in areas it was not designating as Wilderness as follows:

“SEC. 101. (a) The Congress finds that-

(3) the Department of Agriculture’s second Roadless Area Review and Evaluation of National Forest System lands in the State of Colorado and the related congressional review of such lands have also identified areas which do not possess outstanding wilderness attributes or which possess outstanding energy mineral, timber, grazing, dispersed recreation and other values and which should not now be designated as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System but should be available for nonwilderness multiple uses under the land management planning process and other applicable laws……

(b)(2) The purposes of this title are to……. Insure that certain other National Forest System lands in the State of Colorado are available for non-wilderness multiple uses.” [12]

The desire of Congress to return non-Wilderness uses to areas not designated as Wilderness is evidenced by the fact that this desire was stated twice in the 1980 version of the Colorado Wilderness Act. Additional clarity regarding the desire of Congress to return multiple use to areas that were not designated as Wilderness in the 1980 legislation is also provided by Section 107 of the 1980 Colorado Wilderness legislation, which clearly states as follows:

“(3) areas in the State of Colorado reviewed in such Act; for study by Congress or remaining in further planning upon enactment of this Act need not be managed for the purpose of protecting their suitability for wilderness designation pending revision of the initial plans; and”[13]

Given the long history of clear Congressional action regarding the non-Wilderness management of so much of the GMUG planning area, the Organizations are HIGHYLY frustrated by the fact that at no point in the inventory are these provisions even recognized.  This frustration is compounded by the fact that many areas identified for non-Wilderness usages were recommended for Wilderness in the 2007 RMP draft. Any assertion that such an oversight is permissible lack basis in fact and law and directly contradicts both federal law and Forest Service inventory requirements to recognize these areas specifically in the inventory.

Clearly these previous Legislative actions developed high levels of public participation and consensus and should be honored.  The fact that one group did not get exactly what they wanted in consensus efforts previously does not create the need for new consensus efforts without a serious change in the circumstances in the area. Also, recommendations of Wilderness in these areas must at least recognize the previous legislative determinations and explain why these determinations are not controlling for these areas any longer and why these areas may again be recommended for designation as Wilderness by Congress.

3(b)(2). Many of recommended Wilderness areas directly violate Federal law prohibiting buffer areas around many Wilderness areas on the GMUG.

As identified above there have been significant Congressional actions to address the management of many areas within the GMUG planning area for more than 50 years. The 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act specifically released areas not designated back to non-wilderness multiple use.  The 1993 Colorado Wilderness acts implemented additional protections for usages of areas outside the designated Wilderness areas with the addition of the “no buffer” concept to further protect multiple usage in boundary areas.  Congress has specifically reviewed these areas and determined where the boundaries should be located.  Fossil Ridge, Colligate Peaks, Uncompahgre, Powderhorn and Raggeds Wilderness areas were created by the 1980 and 1993 Colorado Wilderness Act, and both of these pieces of legislation specifically required no buffer requirements as the 1993 Colorado Wilderness Act as follows:

“(e) BUFFER ZONES. —Congress does not intend that the designation by this Act of wilderness areas in the State of Colorado creates or implies the creation of protective perimeters or buffer zones around any wilderness area. The fact that nonwilderness activities or uses can be seen or heard from within a wilderness area shall not, of itself, preclude such activities or uses up to the boundary of the wilderness area.” [14]

While federal law is exceptionally clear on the usages that are allowed outside Wilderness areas this clarity is not conveyed even generally in the Evaluation despite the fact that almost every Wilderness area on the GMUG is subject to these restrictions in the federal legislation that designated the Wilderness.   Again, these are specific Congressional determinations that must be addressed in Wilderness inventory under USFS requirements as follows:

“5.  Evaluate the degree to which the area may be managed to preserve its wilderness characteristics.  Consider such factors as:

c. Specific Federal or State laws that may be relevant to availability of the area for wilderness or the ability to manage the area to protect wilderness characteristics;” [15]

Despite this clear mandate, at no point are buffer areas being designated for multiple use even raised in the inventory.    Rather that addressing specific determinations on the lack of buffers for Wilderness many of the designations are based on the idea that such a boundary change would make preservation of Wilderness characteristics of the areas easier to manage.  Asserting such a basis for management designation would be exactly the type of buffer that is specifically prohibited under the Colorado Wilderness Act and its amendments.

The complete failure to recognize existing federal law requiring “no buffers” for Wilderness is exemplified by the repeated recognition of the positive effects of an area to provide additional buffers for existing Wilderness areas in the inventory.

The shocking disregard for the Congressional determinations regarding the Congressional determinations of the lack of necessity for additional buffers in the Wilderness Inventory is exemplified by the following portions of the inventory. In the Tellurium G11 inventory provisions the buffer is recognized as follows:

“As is, this area provides an effective buffer between travel routes and Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.”[16]

In the Taylor Canyon G15 inventory provisions the buffer is recognized as follows:

“As is, this area provides an effective buffer between NFSR 742 and both Fossil Ridge Wilderness and Fossil Ridge Recreation Management Area.”[17]

In the Slumgullion P5 inventory provisions the buffer is recognized as follows:

“As is, this area provides an effective buffer between NFSR 709/private property and West Elk Wilderness.”[18]

The complete disregard for the “no buffer” provisions for Colorado Wilderness areas currently existing in federal law that is displayed by these portions of the USFS is astonishing and is vigorously opposed by the Organizations. What is even more frustrating is the fact that many of these buffer areas were actually recommended for Wilderness management in the 2007 draft RMP despite the clear Congressional determination that non-wilderness usages were permissible in these buffer areas.

3d.  A large portion of the GMUG has been inventoried as primitive areas and released back to multiple use by Congress.

In addition to the extensive Congressional action specifically drawing many of the boundaries of Wilderness areas on the GMUG, Congress additionally reviewed the inventory of three primitive areas that were existing in the southern portions of the GMUG when the Wilderness Act was passed in 1964. These three primitive areas were identified as the Uncompahgre Primitive area, Uncompahgre Adjacent Primitive area and the Wilson Mtn Primitive areas.   Again, when the 1980 Colorado Wilderness act was passed these inventories were reviewed for possible designations by Congress and areas that were found suitable for designation were designated as Wilderness and the primitive areas were abolished and returned to multiple use.

The 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act clearly abolished exiting primitive areas designations areas as follows:

“The previous classifications of the Uncompahgre Primitive areas and Wilson Mountain Primitive area are hereby abolished”  [19]

In the 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act, Congress then clearly identified in §101 of this Legislation the fact that any areas not designated as Wilderness was to be released back to non-wilderness multiple use as follows:

“(b) The purposes of this title are to—

(2) insure that certain other National Forest System lands in

the State of Colorado be available for nonwilderness multiple

uses.”

The Organizations submit that any assertion that the primitive area designations existing on the GMUG and specifically released for non-wilderness multiple use could again be recommended for Wilderness by the USFS defies both legal and logical defense. Despite specific federal law on this issue, these previous designations are not even addressed in the inventory.

These types of determinations regarding primitive areas are again clearly identified to be within the scope of the Wilderness Inventory process as follows:

“The Interdisciplinary Team shall record all lands included in the inventory on a map of the planning area.  In addition, the Team shall identify on the same map (or a series of maps), at a minimum, the following lands:

1.Existing designated wilderness and primitive areas….

4. National Forest System lands statutorily designated for management for nonwilderness purposes. Indicate effective dates, if any.”[20]

While Congress has designated extensive portions of the GMUG as possible primitive areas in the past and then removed these designations with a specific requirement of using these areas for non-wilderness multiple usage in areas not designated as Wilderness, these determinations are again not even addressed in the Wilderness evaluation.

We have enclosed the complete inventory of each of these primitive areas as Exhibit 4 to allow planners to fully understand the detail and scope of these inventories and understand the scope of what was released by Congress for non-wilderness multiple use and then recommended for Wilderness in the 2007 draft RMP and again not even addressed in the current Wilderness evaluation report. After a detailed review of these reports, it should be noted that many of the pre-existing usages recognized in these reports and inventory that prohibited Congressional designation of these areas as Wilderness in 1980 have existed in these areas since at least the early 1970s.  These usages and management challenges often remain in the areas that were recognized by the Department of Interior and Bureau of Mines, adding more credibility to the USFS inventories of these areas subsequently undertaken.  Again, we simply cannot understand a fact pattern where Congress could specifically decline an area for designation as Wilderness, protect the non-Wilderness multiple use and then land managers would again recommend the same areas for designation in the planning process. Such a position simply lacks rational basis in facts or law.

3e. Specific boundaries of the Uncompahgre (Big Blue) and Mt. Sneffels Wilderness were drawn with great detail by Congress.

In addition to the release of the large primitive areas that predated the 1964 Wilderness Act and comprised a large amount of the southern portions of the GMUG, the 1980 Colorado Wilderness act addressed the specific locations for the boundaries of both the Uncompahgre and Mount Sneffels Wilderness with unusually high levels of detail.  The value of this level of detail should not be overlooked and again would draw any assertion of suitability for these areas as recommended Wilderness in the RMP into question.

Section 9 of the House Report issued for the 1980 Colorado Wilderness act provides a large amount of highly site-specific detail into the scope of analysis undertaken by Congress in developing this legislation and why boundaries are in the locations they are in. This bill memo provides:

“9. Lizard Head, Mount Sneffels, and Big Blue Wildernesses: These three separate wilderness proposals of 40,000, 16,200, and 100,000 acres, respectively, comprise what many feel is the most scenic and spectacular area in the entire State of Colorado, and is sometimes called the “Switzerland of America”. The area’s outstanding beauty and wild nature has been officially recognized since 1932 when the Wilson Mountains and Uncompahgre Primitive Areas were established by administrative regulation. In accordance with section 3 (b) of the Wilderness Act, the wilderness character of the two primitive areas was reviewed, and a wilderness recommendation on five separate tracts was forwarded to Congress in 197 4. The RARE II process resulted in further wilderness recommendations on lands contiguous to three of the five tracts. The Committee reviewed the Administration’s recommendations and determined that the 16,200-acre Mount Sneffels proposal was adequate to protect the highly scenic country north of Telluride. To the south west, the Committee proposes a 40,000-acre Lizard Head Wilderness to link up the Administration’s Mount Wilson and Dolores Peak recommendations and include the headwaters of the Dolores River plus the landmark Lizard Head and Wilson Meadows. These additional lands largely lie within the existing Wilson Mountains Primitive Area and have important wildlife values as well as superlative wilderness qualities. The Committee therefore determined that wilderness should replace the current primitive area designation.

Similarly, the Committee recommends a 100,000-acre Big Blue Wilderness to join the Administration’s Big Blue and Courthouse Mountain proposals. The Committee additions include the heart of the eastern urut of the Uncompahgre Primitive Area and such outstanding natural features as Matterhorn Peak, Wetterhorn Peak, Precipice Peak, Dunsinane Peak, Cow Creek and portions of the West, Middle and East Forks of the Cimarron River. The Committee feels the addition of these lands is vital to the overall integrity of any Big Blue Wilderness, and especially notes their outstanding scenic and watershed values. At the same time, the Committee recognizes that the public currently relies on motorized access to certain key areas, and therefore amended the bill to exclude lands in the vicinity of Nellie Creek and to excise two road corridors which extend part of the way up the Middle and West Fork Cimarron River drainages. Another boundary adjustment was made on the extreme western end of the area near Baldy Peak to exclude about 1,500 acres which are used by grazing permittees for frequent motorized access and intensive management activities associated with livestock grazing. The bill abolishes the Uncompahgre and Wilson Mountain Primitive Area designations for those residual Primitive Area lands lying outside the boundaries of the three proposed wildernesses. Most of these remaining lands are so interspersed with patented mining claims that their management as wilderness would prove infeasible.”

A complete copy of this House Report memo outlining the high levels of sight specific analysis that was undertaken by Congress is attached to these comments for your reference.  Given that many of the uses that Congress wanted to avoid impacting are still existing in these areas and have been specifically protected by federal law the Organizations must ask why manager would ever want to violate the clear statements of Congress as to the location of these Wilderness boundaries.

When both the Mt Sneffels and Lizard Head Wilderness Areas were designated as Wilderness in 1980, the following provisions were included in the preamble of that legislation:

“(3) the Department of Agriculture’s second Roadless Area Review and Evaluation of National Forest System lands in the State of Colorado and the related congressional review of such lands have also identified areas which do not possess outstanding wilderness attributes or which possess outstanding energy, mineral,

timber, grazing, dispersed recreation and other values and which should not now be designated as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System but should be available for nonwilderness multiple uses under the land management planning process and other applicable laws.”[21] 

The Organizations must question why areas that have been specifically released by Congress for multiple use management and consistently found unsuitable for designation as Wilderness would ever be found now available for Wilderness designation. The Congressional release of roadless areas, such as Sunshine, Wilson Mesa, Whitehouse and Liberty Bell is highly relevant due to the proximity of many of the new proposed Wilderness Area additions to both the Mt. Sneffels and Lizard Head Wilderness and that these areas were specifically excluded by Congress from Wilderness management previously.

3f. Most areas proposed to be Wilderness was found unsuitable for designation as Upper Tier Roadless areas in the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule Process.

The Organizations wish to highlight the repeated exclusion of many areas now sought to be identified as recommended Wilderness in the RMP from lower levels of management in previous administrative reviews as part of the development of the Colorado Roadless Rule. Again, USFS requirements for the Wilderness Inventory process require inclusion of this information as follows:

“The Interdisciplinary Team shall record all lands included in the inventory on a map of the planning area.  In addition, the Team shall identify on the same map (or a series of maps), at a minimum, the following lands:

3.Areas identified in the Forest Service Roadless Area Conservation Final Environmental Impact Statement (Volume 2, November 2000), or in a Forest Service State-specific roadless rule, or identified as undeveloped or for primitive nonmotorized management in the current land management plan.”

While Roadless inventory information is specifically required in the inventory process at no point in the GMUG wilderness inventory is the conclusions of the 2012 Roadless Rule inventory for the proposed area even mentioned. Throughout the Roadless area inventory process many conclusions regarding the unsuitability of areas for recommended Wilderness were again reached in the development of the 2012 Roadless Rule.  The systemic conclusions that many of these areas were never suitable for inclusion in the Wilderness system started with the RARE and RARE 2 inventories due to the high levels of existing usages of these areas included high levels of recreational value. These areas would include the Wilson Mesa area, Sunshine, Whitehouse, Liberty Bell and many other areas.[22] While the site-specific information from the RARE and RARE 2 process is available for review if your office should desire such a discussion, these conclusions are not discussed at length in these comments as they are repetitive to the conclusions of the Colorado Roadless Rule development in 2012.  The Organizations must ask why these areas, which have never been suitable for designation as Wilderness, despite almost 50 years of inventory, would now be thought suitable for designation as Wilderness?  The question about the need for Wilderness designations becomes more concerning when Congressional action has previously returned these areas to multiple use management.

The Organizations were heavily involved in the development of the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule, where both additional management flexibility was to be provided in Roadless areas and additional protection of less developed areas was explored.  Unlike the single standard of management in the national roadless rule, in the Colorado Roadless Rule process, generally two categories of management inventory were explored, which were Colorado Roadless areas and Upper Tier Roadless areas.  In an Upper Tier roadless area, management was closer to a Congressionally Designated Wilderness and in Colorado Roadless Area management direction was moved towards higher levels of usage and flexibility. Extensive site-specific inventories of areas were again provided as part of development of the Colorado Roadless Rule to ensure that current information about any area was relied on in the inventory process.  As a result of this process, significant portions of the areas now recommended Wilderness were inventoried for possible inclusion in upper tier roadless designations under the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule development.  Similar to the RARE inventory conclusions almost every area proposed to be recommended Wilderness was found unsuitable for management as upper tier only a few years ago. The Organizations must question why the heightened restriction of Wilderness management is thought to be warranted, when lower levels of protection have already been identified as unsuitable several times. Clearly this is information that must be included in the Wilderness inventory and has not been.

In the Colorado Roadless Rule development extensive portions of public lands were inventoried for various levels of management.  Alternative 2 (preferred) the designation of Upper Tier Roadless management is reflected in areas highlighted in yellow on the map below and alternative 4 of the Proposal provided a more extensive acreage of areas for possible upper tier designation, which is reflected in the red freckled areas on the map below.[23]  The stark differences between the scope of alternative 2 and alternative 4 of the inventories are reflected in the map below:

Maps - alternative 2 and 4

The Organizations must note that almost EVERY area now recommended Wilderness with a HIGH designation was reviewed under Alternative 4 of the Roadless Rule EIS and found to be unsuitable for the lower level of protection and management of an Upper Tier management designation.   In the site-specific descriptions of each of these areas, a detailed discussion of the reasons for designation of these areas either as CRA or Upper Tier was provided.  The overlap of the CRA process and RARE inventories conclusions is significant and weighs heavily against the recommendation of any of these areas as Recommended Wilderness in the draft RMP.

The Organizations must question any assertion that these areas are suitable for Wilderness recommendations in a Forest Plan, when these areas were recently inventoried and found unsuitable for the lower level of protection provided by an Upper Tier Roadless designation.  Any assertion of factual basis for such management would not be supported by the extensive site-specific inventory and review that was created as part of the Colorado Roadless Rule development. The Colorado Roadless Rule process was another administrative confirmation that these areas do not warrant heightened protections and should be managed for multiple use but such a discussion is simply not provided in the Wilderness Inventory.

5a. The multiple use Continental Divide Trail is not the basis for designation of recommended Wilderness.

The Organizations have participated in a large number of planning efforts throughout the western United States where an unusual issue has come up in the planning process, mainly public pressure around the need to designate exclusionary corridors around routes designated under the National Trails System Act, which would be most commonly the Continental Divide Trail on the GMUG. The Organizations are surprised at this effort as the management of these routes has been a long-settled issue under federal law and not been a basis for significant concern on most forests in the Western United States. As a result, the entire concept of an exclusionary corridor is both creating a problem where on simply does not exist currently but also would be implementing management that Congress has specifically forbidden with numerous revisions of the NTSA. This issue has again reared its head in the Wilderness Inventory on the GMUG as repeatedly the mere presence of the CDT is cited as a reason for the designation of the area as Wilderness.

The Organizations are vigorously opposed to any decisions with regard to the need for an exclusionary corridor or landscape exclusion of motorized usage from the CDT as such a position would be completely without basis in law or fact.  As accurately noted in the CDT plan more than 14% of CDT is currently on a motorized road and an unspecified percentage more is located on motorized trails and significant portion of the CDT are groomed for winter motorized recreational usage.  All these management decisions have been in place for decades and operate without major conflict. The long history of successful management of these areas for the benefit of all is simply never addressed by those seeking a landscape level exclusion nor is the conflict between proposed exclusions and existing federal law resolved or even addressed by those seeking an exclusion.  As a result, the Organizations are vigorously opposed to any closures of lands adjacent to the CDT to multiple use. Congress has consistently moved to protect multiple use access to the CDT with every amendment to the NTSA.

5b. Designations of recommended Wilderness due the CDT directly conflict with federal law.

The Organizations are also vigorously opposed to the repeated reliance on the existence of the Continental Divide Trail in particular locations as a factor weighing in favor of recommending Wilderness in a particular area. The management of NTSA corridors and routes has a long and sometime conflicting management history when only 1968 legislation is reviewed but significant clarity in Congressional intent for management of routes and corridors is provided with the review of Congressional reports provided around passage of the NTSA in 1968.  Significant clarity in addressing the Congressional desire for multiple use management has been added with every amendment to the NTSA since 1968.  Multiple uses of corridors and trails was originally addressed in House Report 1631 (“HRep 1631”) issued in conjunction with the passage of the NTSA in 1968.

HRep 1631 provides detailed guidance regarding the intent of the Legislation, and options that Congress declined to implement in the Legislation when it was passed.  HRep 1631 provides a clear statement of the intent of Congress regarding multiple usages with passage of NTSA, which is as follows:

“The aim of recreation trails is to satisfy a variety of recreation interests primarily at locations readily accessible to the population centers of the Nation.”[24]

The Organizations note that satisfaction of a variety of recreation interests on public lands simply is not achieved with the implementation of any width corridor around a usage or trail.  Rather than providing satisfaction for all uses, implementation of mandatory corridors will result in unprecedented conflict between users. This simply must be avoided.

HRep 1631 clearly addresses the intent of Congress, and the internal Congressional discussions regarding implementation of the NTSA provisions for the benefit of all recreational activities as follows:

“however, they both attempted to deal with the problems arising from other needs along the trails. Rather than limiting such use of the scenic trails to “reasonable crossings”, as provided by the Senate language, the conference committee adopted the House amendment which authorizes the appropriate Secretaries to promulgate reasonable regulations to govern the use of motorized vehicles on or across the national scenic trails under specified conditions.”[25]

Subsequent amendments to the NTSA the need to balance all uses is a concern that Congress has consistently and repeatedly addressed with higher levels of clarity in the NTSA.   Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the first time when agency planning sought to implement restrictions on other usages around a NTSA route in contradiction to federal law.

Subsequent to the passage of the NTSA in 1968, Congress further refined and clarified the management practices for public lands with the passage of Federal Land and Policy Management Act (“FLPMA”) of 1976.  While FLPMA did not specifically address the relationship of its provisions with the NTSA, FLPMA altered the entire landscape of federal lands management and the implementation of multiple use mandates for the agencies. Subsequent to the adoption of FLPMA, the NTSA was amended in 1983 to clarify that FLPMA and multiple use principals controlled the management of not only the footprint of NTSA routes but also the corridors around those routes with the passage of Public Law 98-11. The 1983 NTSA amendments removed any basis for the principal of management of adjacent lands for the benefit of the route and replaced the adjacent lands concept with the following provisions:

“in selecting the rights-of-way full consideration shall be given to minimizing the adverse effects upon the adjacent landowner or user and his operation. Development and management of each segment of the National Trails System shall be designed to harmonize with and complement any established multiple-use plans for that specific area in order to insure continued maximum benefits from the land.”

In addition to clearly stating multiple use principals controlled NTSA routes and areas, Congress clarified the usages of NTSA designated routes by directly stating motorized usages in all forms were permitted by adding 16 USC 1246 (j), which remains in place to this day.  This provision states:

“Types of trail use allowed Potential trail uses allowed on designated components of the national trails system may include but are not limited to…the following: snowmobiling, Vehicles which may be permitted on certain trails may include motorcycles, bicycles, four-wheel drive or all-terrain off-road vehicles.”

7c continues with extensive guidance regarding multiple uses on the CDT as follows:

Other uses along the historic trails and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which will not substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of the trail, and which, at the time of designation, are allowed by administrative regulations, including the use of motorized vehicles, shall be permitted by the Secretary charged with the administration of the trail[26]

The Organizations vigorously assert that any USFS guidance should not be placing one of the conflicting usages above another in a manner that directly conflicts with clearly stated guidance from Congress but rather should be identifying the conflict clearly and then assisting managers in resolving this conflict in a manner that addresses the clearly stated intent of Congress, which is the NTSA was intended to benefit all activity. Again, this situation must be reviewed and corrected.

5c. The CDT plan does not support designation of recommended Wilderness as there are extensive provision for management of multiple uses.

The 2009 CDT plan also provides high quality information regarding levels of usage that the 2016 USFS CDT guidance appears to assert are prohibited.  A meaningful and complete review of the CDT plan reveals it clearly states:

“(2) At the time the Study Report was completed (1976), it was estimated that approximately 424 miles (14 percent) of existing primitive roads would be included in the proposed CDNST alignment.”[27]

In addition to the 14% of the CDT that is a motorized road, there are extensive but unspecified portions of the CDT located on motorized trails and significant portions of the CDT are groomed by the motorized community to access backcountry recreational areas for decades.  This simply cannot be reconciled with exclusionary corridors.

It is significant to note that Continental Divide Trail (“CDT”) plan has adopted a blanket recognition of relevant travel management of areas around the CDT in its management plan. The 2009 CDT Plan provisions are as follows:

“Motor vehicle use by the general public is prohibited on the CDNST, unless that use is consistent with the applicable land management plan and……. (5) Is designated in accordance with 36 CFR Part 212, Subpart B, on National Forest System lands or is allowed on public lands and:

(a) The vehicle class and width were allowed on that segment of the CDNST prior to November 10, 1978, and the use will not substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of the CDNST or

(b) That segment of the CDNST was constructed as a road prior to November 10, 1978; or

(6) In the case of over-snow vehicles, is allowed in accordance with 36 CFR Part 212, Subpart C, on National Forest System lands or is allowed on public lands and the use will not substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of the CDNST.”[28]

Given the fact that the CDT plan specifically states the need to recognize travel management as the controlling factor for use of the trail tread and adjacent corridors in a manner consistent with multiple use requirements, the Organizations vigorously assert that these portions of the CDT plan would be rendered irrelevant with the designation of exclusionary corridors.  This is a direct indication there is a problem with the corridor concept being recommended.

The failure to accurately review all relevant decision documents is even more problematic when site specific Congressional action on a particular trail is brought into the discussion.  While our Organizations do not have guidance documents regarding the PCT, these concerns regarding this type of conflict are highlighted on the PCT, which is also a designated route under the NTSA.  Congress has specifically identified crossing points that are to be reopened on the PCT as exemplified by the designation of two crossing locations on the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Humbolt-Toiyabe NF.[29]  Again the Organizations must express serious concerns about any landscape level guidance documents for a NTSA route excluding motorized usage that brought management into clear conflict with these Congressional actions and related planning efforts.

5d.  While the CDT is referenced throughout the inventory, no mention is made of the extensive motorized trails in many of the recommended areas.

The Organizations would be remiss if the conflicting treatment of trails in the inventory process was not raised as well.  While the CDT appears to be relied on as a basis for designation of the area for Wilderness there is no mention of the extensive motorized trail networks, both summer and winter, that are present in many of these areas.  This is simply unacceptable as many of these trail networks have existed for decades in these locations without issue and the groomed winter trail network is highly valued by all users as this network is relied upon by all users to gain access to the backcountry.   If trails are going to be addressed, and we submit an extensive trail network in any area is evidence of trammeling by man, then all trail networks should be treated equally. Land managers should not be able to include trails when it supports a decision and then exclude other trails that don’t support the decision.  That is an exceptionally poor way for the managers to build partnerships with the community and is also a violation of NEPA and numerous other federal planning requirements.

6. Conclusion.

We welcome this opportunity to provide input addressing the failure of the wilderness evaluation to provide a transparent inventory of the Wilderness suitability that is broad and inclusive of all factors that are required to be analyzed. This inventory is woefully inadequate and fails to satisfy NEPA and other requirements for Wilderness inventory process and as a result directly impairs the public ability to provide meaningful comment on the management of these areas.  While the evaluation provides significant analysis of reasons why to designate an area as recommended Wilderness, the evaluation fails:

  1. to even mention numerous Congressional actions that directly impact the availability of many areas for designation as Wilderness on the GMUG;
  2. Operates on the foundation that the continental Divide Trail is designated as Non-motorized only;
  3. Many existing and legal uses of the areas are not addressed in the inventory; and
  4. Fails to address all citizen Wilderness proposals addressing lands within the GMUG.

In these comments, the Organizations have provided a detailed analysis of the extensive reviews of possible Wilderness areas on the GMUG, many of which occurred before the Wilderness Act was even passed by Congress. None of this information is even mentioned in the inventory.  These multiple reviews have been heavily relied on in previous Congressional action designating Wilderness areas on the GMUG and also in Congressional decisions:

  1. Releasing significant portions of the GMUG from further inventory and requiring non-wilderness multiple use management moving forward;
  2. Prohibiting buffer areas around Wilderness areas;
  3. Repeal of primitive area designations on large portions of the GMUG; and
  4. Explaining why boundaries of designated Wilderness areas are in the locations that they are.

USFS inventory requirements specifically require that such Congressional actions be honored and addressed in the Wilderness inventory process but the GMUG has chosen not to provide this information in violation of federal law and USFS planning requirements.

These Wilderness and Wilderness release determinations by Congress have often been the result of years of consensus building around the legislation that was passed in 1980 and 1993 and represents some of the largest collaborative efforts around land management in Colorado history.  This level of collaboration is highly relevant as one of the consistent themes we have heard from land managers is the position that diverse groups should come together on tough issues and build a recommendation for resolution of the issue.  With Wilderness on the GMUG, this consensus process has occurred and the Organizations are asking that land managers not disrupt this consensus management position by recommending Wilderness in areas where the consensus position, memorialized in federal law, is that the area is not suitable.  The fact that one group did not get exactly what they wanted in the consensus position does not mean the consensus should be disrupted, despite posturing in draft legislation that there is some level of support for change in the consensus.  The history of the legislative efforts since 1993 evidences a lack of political support for such a change rather than a basis for changes in management of these areas. Again, none of this the weak legislative history around the citizen Wilderness proposals is mentioned in the inventory, despite the fact that some of these proposals have been in existence for more than 20 years and barely received any Congressional support.

The honoring of all aspects of federal land management legislation is critically important to the Organizations as the Organizations have devoted years of effort to obtaining balance in recent land management legislation that has actually been passed into law by Congress.  This is directly evidenced by the Hermosa Watershed Legislation on the San Juan NF,[30] which did designate a sizable Wilderness area but also released the remaining portions of the West Needles Wilderness Study area and specified the area must be used for motorized recreation and also designated a special management area where motorized recreation was a characteristic of the area due the ongoing Wilderness recommendation for the area in forest planning. It is interesting to note that when this legislation was moved forward, BLM managers sought to manage the West Needles area as a WSA despite the fact the Congressional designation had been revoked in 1993 and this decision was roundly criticized by all parties in the development of the Hermosa Watershed Legislation.  If designations requiring non-Wilderness management are not honored and may simply be cast aside at will, the Organizations would note that such a casting aside would impair community efforts for land management decisions in the future.

In addition to the Congressional determinations regarding the usage of many areas of the GMUG, the USFS has recently completely inventoried the GMUG again to review the lesser classification of upper tier roadless designation.  The inventory again fails to provide this information to the public, despite the chronological relevance of the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule development and USFS planning requirements requiring Roadless characteristics be addressed in the Wilderness inventory process.

The Organizations would welcome a discussion of these opportunities and any other challenges that might be facing the GMUG moving forward at your convenience.  Please feel free to contact  Don Riggle at 725 Palomar Lane, Colorado Springs, 80906, Cell (719) 338- 4106 or Scott Jones, Esq. at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504.  His phone is (518)281-5810 and his email is scott.jones46@yahoo.com.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Scott Jones, ESq.
CSA President
TPA & COHVCO Authorized Representative

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

 

 

 

[1] See, A complete history of the passage of the Hermosa Watershed Legislation into law is available here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr1839/text

[2] A copy of this Proposal is attached as exhibit A to these comments.

[3] See, USFS Wilderness Inventory Handbook at 1909.1271 (2).

[4] More information on this Proposal is available here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/senate-bill/1635?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22s1635%22%5D%7D&r=1

[5] More information on this legislation is available here:  https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-bill/1701?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%221701%22%5D%7D&r=79

[6] More information on this legislation is available here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/106th-congress/house-bill/829?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22degette+colorado+wilderness+act%22%5D%7D&r=12

[7] A complete history of the passage of the Hermosa Watershed Legislation into law is available here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr1839/text

[8] Various press coverage of the passage of the Hermosa Watershed legislation as part of the National defense Authorization act of 2014 is available here: https://www.bennet.senate.gov/?p=release&id=3209

[9] See PL 96-560

[10] See, GMUG Wilderness inventory process document- January 2018 at pg 2.

[11] See, USFS Wilderness Inventory Handbook at 1909.1271 (3)(4)

[12] See, PL 96-560 at §101.

[13] See, PL 96-560 at §107.

[14] See, PL 103-77 @ §3(2)(3).  Similar provisions are found in section 110 of the 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act.

[15] See, USFS Wilderness Inventory Handbook at 1909.1271 (5).

[16] See, USFS GMUG Wilderness Evaluation at pg. 31.

[17] See, USFS GMUG Wilderness Evaluation at pg. 36.

[18] See, USFS GMUG Wilderness Evaluation at pg. 70.

[19] See, Public Law 96-560 at §102(b).

[20] See, USFS Wilderness Inventory Handbook at 1909.1271 (1) & (4).

[21] See, PL 96-560 @ §101(a)(3).

[22] See, USDA Forest Service; FEIS Roadless Area Review and Evaluation; Appendix E; January 1979 at pg. 216  & 220.

[23] A complete electronic version of the conclusions of these inventory process for Colorado Roadless Rule upper tier designation is available here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5366289.pdf

[24] See, HRep 1631 at pg. 3873.

[25] See, HR 1631 at pg. 3873.

[26] See, 16 USC §1246(c)

[27] See, 2009 CDT Plan at pg. 19.

[28] See, USFS, Continental Divide National Scenic Trail Comprehensive Plan 2009 at pg. 19.

[29] See, generally Omnibus Public Lands Management Bill of 2009 and various supporting analysis available here: http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/forestservic.download.akamai.com/11558/www/nepa/73978_FSPLT2_059530.pdf

[30] See, A complete history of the passage of the Hermosa Watershed Legislation into law is available here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr1839/text

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OHV Grant Writing Assistance

The Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) has staff with substantial experience with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division’s (CPW) Trails Program.  This statewide program within CPW provides grants for trail-related projects on an annual basis.  Local, county, and state governments, federal agencies, special recreation districts, and non-profit organizations with management responsibilities over public lands may apply for and are eligible to receive non-motorized and motorized trail grants.

The Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) (aka motorized) Program seeks to improve and enhance motorized recreation opportunities in Colorado while promoting safe, responsible use of OHVs. The grant program combines OHV registration and permit fees with federal Recreation Trails Funds (RTP) to fund the annual OHV trail grant process. OHV Grants are available for projects related to recreational use of OHVs on lands open to the public.

The TPA can provide OHV grant application review services, technical assistance, and consultation for those clubs/organizations seeking and preparing CPW OHV grants.  The TPA cannot prepare the actual grant application but will provide advice and expertise with the intent to improve a club/organization’s competitiveness of an individual grant application.  The TPA can also help mentor and coach persons preparing to make presentations to the CPW OHV Subcommittee.

OHV programmatic or competitive project grants can address the full spectrum of OHV recreation support needs in Colorado. Eligible grant-funded activities may include:

  • Construction, reconstruction or maintenance of OHV routes or multi-use trails that allow for motorized use
  • Crossing structures, bridges, railings, ramps, and fencing
  • Bank stabilization and retaining structures
  • OHV trail corridor re-vegetation and erosion control
  • Trailhead development and/or support facilities related to OHV or multi-use trails including parking areas, restrooms, and related facilities
  • Project Materials, Tools, and Supplies
  • Equipment needed to build or maintain OHV trails
  • Fleet vehicle(s) for trail crewmembers – fixed and variable expenses, fuel and fluids.
  • Normal maintenance and repairs on trail machines (trail bikes, ATV’s) and equipment (dozers, chainsaws, generators, etc.), fuel and fluids.
  • Signs – directional, regulatory, and interpretive signage for OHV routes
  • Printing – maps/guides, safety and educational materials Programs, publications and videos on safety and OHV recreation
  • OHV trail or system planning, engineering, or design
  • Land acquisition or easement projects. NEPA review and environmental compliance work required under NEPA or other statutes
  • Restoration of closed trails or damaged areas where a nexus exists between OHV misuse and needed repairs
  • Salary, compensation, and benefits for crew members or project employees
  • Employment-required immunizations, background checks
  • Law enforcement wages for enforcing State OHV Law (CRS 33-14.5)
  • OHV Education and safety programs
  • Liability and Workers Compensation Insurance required for OHV projects.
  • Insurance coverage for physical damage and theft on equipment purchased with OHV funding that is valued at over $10,000

Provided below are some useful links to the CPW OHV Grant Program:

Dirt bike, motorcycle or OHV clubs that are interested in requesting support from the TPA during the preparation of a CPW, OHV grant application can contact the undersigned at (719) 338-4106 or at info@coloradotpa.org to discuss a proposed OHV grant and needs for support.

 

E. Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

 

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Council on Environmental Quality Comments

Council on Environmental Quality
Att: Edward Boling, Assistant Director of NEPA
Via portal only@ www.regulations.gov

Re: CEQ-2018-0001

Dear Mr. Boling:
The above Organizations welcome the opportunity provided in this comment period on how to refine and streamline the NEPA planning process and CEQ process to develop a more efficient and effective management process. After reviewing each of the 20 specific questions that were provided in the Federal Register notice on a variety of issues around the Endangered Species Act planning process and related topics, the Organizations above would answer each question in the affirmative.

The Organizations additionally would like to comment on two significant barriers to the efficient implementation of NEPA on public lands:

  1. Executive orders addressing travel management are simply out of date and require extensive re-analysis of issues resolved under planning requirements subsequently passed by Congress;
  2. Wilderness inventory processes in planning is cumbersome and redundant as planner often re-inventory areas Congress has specifically determined stated are not available for Wilderness designation and often directly contravenes the determinations in areas where multiple agencies have reviewed areas and determined them to be unsuitable.

The Organizations would also like to thank the CEQ for undertaking this review, as often planning documents and concepts are put in place and never reviewed again for basic relevance and meaning after the passage of time. Often this failure to review NEPA requirements results in repetition and confusion in the NEPA process that often generates only minimal on the ground benefits. It is not the Organizations intent to provide a complete list of these challenges but rather to highlight two of the more repetitive and confusing issues that are involved in the NEPA process..

1. Who we are.

Prior to addressing the specific concerns, our Organizations have regarding the NEPA process to date and streamlining of the process moving forward, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

The Trail Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) is a 100 percent volunteer organization whose intention is to be a viable partner, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding. The TPA acts as an advocate of the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate to trail riding a fair and equitable percentage of access to public lands.

Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion. CSA has also become the voice of organized snowmobiling seeking to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling through work with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators telling the truth about our sport.

The Off-Road Business Association (“ORBA”) is a national not-for-profit trade association of motorized off-road related businesses formed to promote and preserve off-road recreation in an environmentally responsible manner and appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on this issue.

The Idaho Recreation Council (“IRC”) is a recognized, statewide collaboration of Idaho recreation enthusiasts and others that will identify and work together on recreation issues in cooperation with land managers, legislators and the public to ensure a positive future for responsible outdoor recreation access for everyone, now and into the future.

One Voice is a non-profit national association committed to promoting the rights of motorized enthusiasts and improving advocacy in keeping public and private lands open for responsible recreation through strong leadership, advocacy, and collaboration. One Voice provides a unified voice for motorized recreation through a national platform that represents the diverse off-highway vehicle (OHV) community. For purposes of this correspondence TPA, COHVCO, CSA, ORBA, IRC and One Voice will be referred to as “The Organizations”.

Collectively the Organizations have been actively involved in easily thousands of NEPA actions throughout the Western United States over their more than 30 years of existence with US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Dept. of Defense, and Bureau of Reclamation ranging from the recent landscape level forest plan amendments involving Sage Grouse and previous efforts on the Canadian Lynx to planning efforts involving management plans on a particular Forest or Field Office to small level planning efforts involving only a small portion of a field Office or Ranger District.

2. Landscape Concerns.

The CEQ has asked a series of general questions in the Federal Register notice on this issue and the Organizations would answer each of these questions in the affirmative. While we have not included a detailed response to each of the particular questions identified in the Federal Register notice, the Organizations have provided a full copy of the comments previously submitted with regard to the USFS planning revision process, commonly identified as the EADM process, and our comments submitted relative to the Western Governors Association efforts targeting Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Reform. The Organizations have been active participants in these processes and are aware there is a significant amount of overlap between these efforts and the current proposal from the CEQ. The Organizations hope that by providing more detailed information and input on our experiences with the NEPA process on a wide range of public lands issues in the hope that previous mistakes will not be repeated and that this information will allow the CEQ to develop a Proposal that addresses challenges in the most effective and cost-efficient way possible.

The Organizations are providing these more extensive comments as we are aware that often the “why” behind a position that is taken is as important as the position itself. In these comments, the Organizations are targeting changes that can be undertaken in the planning process under the current legislative systems. While the Organizations support changes to the Legislative structure that governs planning, such as revising and updating the Endangered Species Act, the Organizations are also aware that such changes are outside the scope of the request from your Office.

3a. Maintenance backlogs, partner resources and NEPA.

The Organizations are intimately aware of the challenges faced on Federal public lands in terms of limited maintenance budgets and barriers to the effective use of partnerships to address maintenance issues as a result of the administrative barriers that in place as part of the current NEPA review process. While many in the recreational community are asserting volunteers are sufficient to address the maintenance backlog, this position fails to recognize that many maintenance issues simply cannot be solved with some hoes and shovels, regardless of how well intentioned any volunteer group maybe. Any effort at the levels necessary to address these levels of backlogs require funding and equipment, which the motorized community has provided for decades through their OHV registration programs. Often these funds are not fully utilized or matched due to land management budgets being directed to administrative inefficiency and the need to reconfirm decisions that have already been made. Resolving these inefficiencies would allow more funding to be available for basic maintenance and for the more effective engagement of partners on the ground.

These inefficiencies can result from the lack of clarity around Executive Orders and existing planning requirements in efforts to implement forest level planning obligations in subsequent site specific NEPA efforts. This lack of clarity in the decision making process often results from planners being forced to reopen decisions in site specific planning that were already resolved in landscape level NEPA to insure that conflicts and confusion in planning requirements are resolved. As President Trump accurately summarized in EO 13807:

“The poor condition of America’s infrastructure has been estimated to cost a typical American household thousands of dollars each year. Inefficiencies in current infrastructure project decisions, including management of environmental reviews and permit decisions or authorizations, have delayed infrastructure investments, increased project costs, and blocked the American people from enjoying improved infrastructure that would benefit our economy, society, and environment.”1

The confusion and conflict from overlapping or conflicting planning obligations is a major barrier to the effective use of partner resources to address infrastructure issues on public lands. The Organizations are aware that federal funding for maintenance of infrastructures on public lands is limited but partner resources are significant as the voluntary registration programs in many states more than double the amount of funding available to land managers for maintenance and operations. The voluntary registration programs adopted by the OHV community have created exceptional state partners for the management of federal lands The California OHV registration program has now contributed more than $500 million in partner funding to land managers2, and the Colorado motorized registration program is approaching $100 million in funding for land managers3. while these programs are highlighted in these comments, they are no means an anomaly as most western states have developed highly effective voluntary registration programs which institutionalize partnering with the federal lands managers. The motorized community is highly vested in resolution of these issues and is intimately aware of the barriers to effective management and full utilization of existing resources that are presented by the often repetitive or conflicting NEPA requirements for resolution of recreational infrastructure projects on the ground.

3b. Economic benefits of recreation limited by NEPA.

As President Trump also accurately identified, recreational activities on federal lands is also a major economic driver for local communities. The Department of Commerce recently concluded that recreational spending contributed more than 2% of the Gross Domestic product and was growing faster than the Gross Domestic Product as follows4:

Growth in Outdoor Recreation Value Added vs. Growth in US GDP

The Department of Commerce further concluded that the overwhelming portion of this economic benefit flows from motorized access and usage. The Department of Commerce conclusions on this were stark as follows:

Chart showing Gross Output for Selected Conventional Outdoor Recreation Activities - 2016

Motorized Vehicles was the largest activity within conventional outdoor recreation in 2016, accounting for $59.4 billion of gross output. Recreational vehicles accounted for more than half of this value at $30billion.

Many state level research efforts have targeted this question with more detail, such as the 2012 Economic Contribution study from the State of Colorado, which concluded this activity contributed more than $2.3 billion in spending to the state economy and most of this was centered in small communities that are now overly reliant on recreational activity for basic sustainability of the community. A copy of this study is enclosed with these comments.

Documentation is major barrier despite USFS desire to expand usage of partners and volunteers and passage of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship act by Congress in 2016. In these comments, the Organizations are not attempting to provide an exhaustive list of the challenges that are faced by the voluntary registration programs in their partnerships with land managers but rather identify major systemic challenges that consistently reduce the effectiveness of current monies on the ground.

4. Executive Orders regarding travel management are simply out of date and are a major barrier to effective infrastructure investment.

As noted previously, the Organizations have participated in thousands of NEPA actions throughout the Western United States over the last 40 years and one of the most consistent barriers to effectively managing issues on the landscape is the Executive Orders governing what has become known as the Travel Management Orders and Rule. The original Travel Management Order was issues by President Richard Nixon in 1972 (EO 11644) and was only substantively updated by President Carter in 1977(EO 11989). Planning agencies have updated internal requirements around travel management but even most recent of those was 2005. The fact that the Travel Management Orders were issued almost 50 years ago and have not been meaningfully reviewed speaks volumes to the need for this type of review to insure basic relevance of these orders to issues on the ground.

While the age of these Orders alone would pose a minimal issue, the age becomes more problematic when subsequent Congressional actions regarding management of public lands is integrated into the planning process. Congress enacted FLPMA in 1976 which has guided the management of public lands since its enactment and required identification of goals and objectives for particular areas on public lands, including the density or intensity of development allowed inn particular planning designations. As a result of the FPLMA planning process, the travel orders are almost entirely redundant with FLPMA requirements. As federal land managers are now moving forward with updating the first round of landscape level management plans created under FLPMA, the conflict and confusion between FLPMA processes and the TO is becoming more of an issue. Planners are unsure if these are separate planning goals, can be combined and often over-plan and analyze as a result in the hope of avoiding litigation on decisions being brought. Significant public pressure from those opposed to the general principal of multiple use is applied and seeks to determine that existing forest planning and minimization criteria are entirely separate planning requirements and that minimization must be done at every step of the planning process.5

The age and overlap of these Orders results in a large amount of conflict and confusion in the planning process over time and artificial elevation of travel management to levels of priority that simply are not warranted on the ground. This artificial elevation of travel management would be exemplified by planning to address trails on a forest or ranger district where tree mortality has exceeded 90%. There can be no rational argument that planning for roads and trails should be a higher priority in this situation but often pressure is applied to move forward with minimization of impacts from roads and trails. In addition to the hot bed of litigation against the agencies, the lack of clarity in the planning process results in efforts that are taken to address issues impacting resources due to flooding or fires are often delayed for years in the NEPA process. Rather than moving forward with funding that might be available almost immediately, federal land managers are forced to enter into lengthy NEPA planning efforts in order to explain the decision being made.

Additionally there are concepts in these Executive Orders that are older than every forest plans created in the first rounds of planning under FLPMA. Everyone agrees those forest plans are comically out of date and badly in need of updating, and similar concerns could be raised about the age of the Executive Orders addressing travel management. The age and overlap of these orders is often a hot bed for litigation challenging the end result of any NEPA process as often the redundancy of these orders and FLPMA making full documentation a long and drawn out process that has minimal impacts or benefits on the ground. Often these Executive Orders introduce concerns into the NEPA process that are entirely redundant with planning requirements that are now required by Federal Management requirements under FLPMA and other planning requirements. Minimization criteria in these Executive Orders would be one example of the redundancy that has resulted from these orders not being updated to reflect actions by Congress subsequent to the issuance of these orders, such as FLPMA.

Additional redundancy of planning and the minimization criteria required under the Executive Orders results from the diversity of paths taken by land managers in complying with these requirements. Some forests addressed minimization at the landscape level and developed forest level travel maps that were often unrelated to conditions on the ground, while other forests addressed with site specific planning efforts on an as needed basis. Each of these issues present separate and unique challenges in planning but both are impacted by the high levels of employee turnover within federal agencies and often poor retention of planning records. While challenges are often brought against both processes, site specific planning also allows litigation against the overall process by groups that participated in the original site specific planning and failed to raise any concerns about compliance with landscape level planning requirements at the local level. These issues are compounded by the fact that managers are now having to manage documents that were created almost 40 years ago. Documentation of decisions was complied with an entirely different levels 50 years ago simply due to the evolution of technology.

Further delay in management and maintenance of public lands results from the Executive Orders results from the fact that minimization of impacts is often a major concern in subsequent smaller scale planning to advance usage in areas that might be identified as high usage areas in existing forest level planning. This confusion is despite the fact that minimization has already occurred at the Forest level and the area has been identified for high levels of usage.

The conflict and confusion between the Executive Orders, which are now badly in need of updating and FLPMA is compounded by the fact that many forests are now moving to update forest level planning document under FLPMA. With these efforts, there is now significant pressure being applied for managers to start from scratch on minimization questions, even when there is a solid paper trail in place to explain the process to date on the forest. When managers are not able to document minimization, that pressure is increased as would be exemplified on the recent litigation surrounding the Pike/San Isabel (“PSI”) National Forest in Colorado. The PSI was sued in 2010 and that litigation was settled in 2016 due to the fact managers could not document the organization of their site specific travel planning process. As a result, a forest level travel plan was to be developed and the minimization criteria have become a major hurdle in that process, which alone raises concern on the conflict due to the fact that the PSI forest plan was completed almost a decade after the issuance of the Executive Orders and passage of FLPMA. There can be no rational argument made that the forest plan did not comply with these requirements, but since managers are not able to justify the decisions made more than 3 decades ago, planning is again brought to the forefront.

The PSI litigation and subsequent settlement provides for another opportunity for redundant and burdensome planning requirements as the PSI is planning to update their Forest plan immediately after the issuance of the Forest level travel decision. As part of the development of the second Forest Plan, the minimization criteria must again be addressed due to forest management goals objectives changing. Essentially the PSI will have to comply with the minimization criteria in the Executive Orders, create a forest plan and re-minimize under the new forest plan criteria. This is the pinnacle of redundant and ineffective governmental process as decades of planning efforts, millions in resources which will improve not single acre of land on the forest or the growing maintenance backlog of facilities on the forest.

A second example of how the Executive Orders age and redundancy are resulting in a horribly inefficient utilization of resources and delaying improvement of conditions on the ground is provided in the recent elevation of the entire winter travel management process for over the snow vehicles (“OSV”) travel. This would be another example of where the travel management orders could be refined and updated in order to obtain significant new efficiency in the NEPA process. Despite recent court actions, winter travel management has already occurred on overwhelming portion of forests with snow and again the planning process was highly divergent on forests throughout the country as some forests never got snow, others only received snow on a small portion of the forest while others received significant snow across the forest. While there was not a national policy or other national action, the diversity of planning made a lot of sense on the ground due the highly variable nature of weather and snowfall. Many forests effectively engaged a diverse range of interests and concerns in the development of snowmobile plans for areas and these areas have been effectively managed for many decades. The successful and effective management of OSV issues is again an issues as much of this planning occurred several decades ago and most decision makers have retired and documentation has been lost. The conflict and confusion of existing planning under FLPMA and the Executive Orders is again coming to the forefront.

The conflict between the Executive Orders, FLPMA and the age of forest plans has resulted in widespread litigation of existing snowmobile planning, as demonstrated by recent litigation against several forests in California around their winter grooming programs, the challenge to the entire winter planning process brought in Idaho courts and subsequent challenges to forests that have moved forward under the terms of the settlement agreements. Now planners are being forced to return to an issue most offices thought were settled and defend decisions that have been effectively managing issues for decades as a result of litigation being brought. The conflict and confusion between the Executive Orders and forest planning requirements has resulted in land managers poorly defending winter travel decisions. Winter travel is an issue that was resolved under FLPMA planning without objection from those now challenging these decisions many decades later, but must be re-reviewed to insure impacts have been minimized as required under Executive Orders. Conflict between FLPMA planning and the Executive Orders is again raised as a major planning concern by those seeking to restrict usage and public access to infrastructure.6

The Organizations encounter the conflict and confusion that results from the conflict between the outdated Executive Orders and existing FLPMA planning which has complied with NEPA on an almost daily basis. This conflict and confusion slows the effective engagement of partners to improve recreational infrastructure on public lands and reduces economic benefits to local communities, both of which were clearly identified in President Trump’s EO 13807.

Possible resolutions of Travel Management Rule issues:

  • Update out of date Executive Orders targeting travel management;
  • Provide presumption that minimization in second round of forest planning is complied with unless can be proven otherwise;

5. Wilderness inventory process and WSA management provide areas where significant efficiency is now available.

A second area where significant efficiency gains could be achieved is through the re-review and updating of conflicting management guidance the inventory and planning for future Wilderness designations in the FLPMA/NEPA planning process. Many of the concepts that are identified in the Wilderness Act for the inventory of public lands are simply out of date and again result in numerous extra steps in the planning and analysis process. While much of this inventory process is mandated under the Wilderness Act, there is extensive efficiency gains that could be achieved in the second round of NEPA planning under FLPMA by limiting the scope of review to areas that are available for designation and currently managed for such an objective. Managers should also be made aware of the fact that the mere inventory of areas for Wilderness suitability often makes any subsequent management of the area for multiple use more complex.

When the Wilderness Act was passed in 1964, there was simply very limited data even available regarding the characteristics of undeveloped tracts of federal land. Over the next 50 years, undeveloped lands under federal management have been the basis for extensive federal analysis and discussion and hundreds of thousands of public lands have been protected by Congressional action. While extensive tracts of land were designated as Wilderness, extensive other areas were consistently identified as unsuitable for designation in the inventory process and a smaller portion were released by Congress from the need for further review. While extensive areas have never been suitable for designation, managers are forced to re-inventory these areas in each planning process.

Given this extensive inventory and subsequent Congressional action that has occurred since passage of the Wilderness Act, there can be no factually based assertion there are large areas to be inventoried for possible Wilderness for the first time, as there is a finite number of acres of public lands and these have been repeatedly inventoried and addressed by Congress. The possibility of finding new lands that might be suitable for Wilderness designation is minimal at best. While the probability of finding new Wilderness is very limited, land managers are often forced to re-inventory areas found unsuitable previously or areas that have been specifically released by Congress or are hesitant to rely on previous determinations excluding an area from designation due to a particular usage even when that usage is still present in the areas being inventoried.

While there is minimal chance of finding new Wilderness areas for designation in second rounds of planning, there is no process to recognize the repeated inventory of lands and Congressional action in new rounds of planning or NEPA analysis. Without this type of a presumption, land managers are often forced to fully review areas that have never been suitable. Managers must also inventory lands released back to multiple use as part of previous Congressional actions, simply because of the requirement that citizen Wilderness petitions are specifically identified as a planning element in the inventory process. Often these citizen petitions fail to recognize previous Congressional action releasing areas or protecting multiple usage and garner little support from the public in the Legislative process. Despite these facial failures to establish a valid planning issue, land managers are forced to address these citizen petitions. Clarifying that areas not managed for Wilderness are probably not suitable for future designation would significantly streamline planning and NEPA analysis and allow for the more efficient management of federal lands.

An examples of the administrative burdens and inefficiency that result from the repetitive nature of the Wilderness inventory process is exemplified by management history of significant acres on the GMUG and San Juan national forest. Significant portions of the forest were found unsuitable in RARE 1&2 processes, unsuitable in Primitive Area analysis by Bureau of Mines and were released by Congress after highly site specific analysis and discussion with diverse interests in Wilderness legislation due to high levels of recreational activity in these areas. Land managers are still forced to address these areas for possible Wilderness designation in the future due to citizen inventories and legislative proposals that have been introduced since previous Congressional determinations on the areas. Land managers feel compelled to re-inventory these areas despite the fact that legislative proposals expanding these designations have never moved forward in the legislative process despite being introduced for decades and the clear Congressional action releasing the area from future Wilderness inventory.

The inefficiencies and barriers to utilization of these areas is presented by the ongoing Wilderness inventory process involving the North Sand Hills area outside Walden Colorado. This area provides a unique recreational opportunity that local, state and federal managers would like to expand and improve. This expansion and improvement is functionally prohibited by the fact that the area was inventoried as a WSA due to existing primitive area designation when the Wilderness Act was passed. Development is functionally prohibited despite the area being found unsuitable in original rounds of inventory. Motorized access to sand dune type riding exceptionally limited in Rocky Mountains and the opportunities provided in the North Sand Hills is probably unique in the Nation in the fact that users can ride sand dunes in the morning and then connect to extensive trail network in Rocky Mountains in the afternoon. Currently rustic camping and minimal services are provided on North Sand Hills. Everyone would like to expand these opportunities to improved camping facilities and integrated trail network to provide a solid economic driver for local communities. This expansion which has been supported by wide range of interests including Wilderness Society and other conservation groups. While this area has been the basis of specific WSA release legislation that legislation has not moved due to the exceptionally small size of the area. 7 The barrier to management and utilization of this area due the lingering WSA designation functionally prohibits expansion and utilization of the area due the possible designation of the area as Wilderness.

These lingering inventory and designation issues are not isolated to a small number of sites, but rather impact a large number of acres of public lands and result in other challenges that limit the effective and efficient utilization of these lands for the benefit of local communities. The ongoing inventory requirements lead to conclusions that are simply beyond rational description being made in the land management process as exemplified by the management of the West Needles WSA outside Durango, CO. This area was identified as a WSA in the 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act8 and subsequently inventoried in 1982, where a large portion was suitable for designation and a small portion was found unsuitable due to high levels of usage in that area. This recommendation was moved forward in 1993 Colorado Wilderness designations and the WSA designation was repealed.Despite this repeal of the WSA designation, the WSA designation remained in place due to the inventory of the area once and these existing usages were again put at risk in 2012 when land managers sought to close these usages due to the previous inventory. This issue was finally resolved when Congress again sought to release the area with the designation of the area as an SMA for motorized usage, which was passed into law in 2014.10 While the issue was legislatively resolved, the inefficiency and limitation on utilization of the area is immediately apparent.

These issues are not limited to Colorado as similar challenges have been encountered in Idaho, where certain Roadless areas were specifically identified as areas where access is to be expanded in previous Congressional action but continue to be inventoried or managed for Wilderness. In the 1980 Idaho Wilderness Act, use of numerous backcountry airstrips was specifically excluded and protected11, but despite these protections, land managers have continued to have to manage these airstrips as if they were impairing Wilderness. This process has again complicated maintenance of these areas and limited the economic benefit from these areas.

Possible resolutions of Wilderness inventory issue:

  • Provide presumption that areas previously found unsuitable or released have not become suitable merely due to the passage of time

6. Conclusion

The above Organizations welcome the opportunity provided in this comment period on how to refine and streamline the NEPA planning process and CEQ process to develop a more efficient and effective management process. After reviewing each of the 20 specific questions that were provided in the Federal Register notice on a variety of issues around the Endangered Species Act planning process and related topics, the Organizations above would answer each question in the affirmative.

The Organizations additionally would like to comment on two significant barriers to the efficient implementation of NEPA on public lands:

  1. Executive orders addressing travel management are simply out of date and require extensive re-analysis of issues resolved under planning requirements subsequently passed by Congress;
  2. Wilderness inventory processes in planning is cumbersome and redundant as planner often re-inventory areas Congress has specifically determined stated are not available for Wilderness designation and often directly contravenes the determinations in areas where multiple agencies have reviewed areas and determined them to be unsuitable.

The Organizations would also like to thank the CEQ for undertaking this review, as often planning documents and concepts are put in place and never reviewed again for basic relevance and meaning after the passage of time. Often this failure to review NEPA requirements results in repetition and confusion in the NEPA process that often generates only minimal on the ground benefits. It is not the Organizations intent to provide a complete list of these challenges but rather to highlight two of the more repetitive and confusing issues that are involved in the NEPA process.

If you have questions please feel free to contact either Scott Jones, Esq. at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504. His phone is 518-281-5810 and his email is scott.jones46@yahoo.com or Fred Wiley, ORBA’s Executive Director at 1701 Westwind Drive #108, Bakersfield, CA. Mr. Wiley phone is 661-323-1464 and his email is fwiley@orba.biz .

Respectfully Submitted,

Scott Jones, Esq.
COHVCO & IRC Authorized Representative;
CSA President

Fred Wiley, ORBA President and CEO;
Authorized Representative of One Voice

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

 

CC: Vickie Christiansen, Chief USFS

 

1 Executive Order 13807 of August 15, 2017 Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects Federal Register Vol. 82, No. 163 Thursday, August 24, 2017
2 For more information on the California program please see: http://ohv.parks.ca.gov/
3 For more information on the Colorado OHV/OSV programs please see: http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/TrailsGrantsOHV.aspx
4 A complete copy of this research is available here: https://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/industry/orsa/orsanewsrelease.htm
5 This documentation is exemplified by the following document: https://wilderness.org/sites/default/files/ORV%20Minimization%20Criteria%20White%20Paper—May%202016.pdf
6 This conflict is again exemplified by the following guidance documents from those opposing multiple usage: https://winterwildlands.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/BMP-Final.pdf
7 See, HR 5570 of 114 Congress.
8 See, PL 96-150 §105(a)(9)
9 See, PL 103-77 §4a
10 See, PL 113-291 §3062
11 See, PL 94-951 §7a.

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In Defense of Off-Roading

Dirt bikes and 4x4s aren’t nearly as bad for the environment as you might think. (Hear me out.)

Outside Online image of car in dirtEvery time we publish an article about a truck, dirt bike, or off-road vehicle, some of our readers protest. Off-roading just doesn’t square with a lot of people’s vision of responsible outdoor recreation. I think those people have it wrong. Allow me to explain.

Off-Roaders Don’t Actually Go Off-Road

Probably the biggest misconception about “off-roading” is that people just go out and drive wherever they please. This simply isn’t true. Virtually all off-road driving takes place on designated dirt roads, trails, or in special off-highway vehicle (OHV) areas. In fact, “off-highway” (as in off-pavement) is a much more accurate name for the collection of sports that make up off-roading—it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I spoke with Sam Logan and Molly Chiappetta of Stay the Trail Colorado, a nonprofit that promotes responsible, ethical off-highway vehicle use in that state. They spend their time visiting OHV trailheads and events and informing trail users of environmentally responsible ways to enjoy their vehicles. They say that staying on-trail is the most important thing off-roaders can do to minimize their impact—and that the vast majority of participants are good about doing that. Exact statistics on how many off-roaders leave designated trails are impossible to calculate, but Chiappetta describes them as “the one percent who give us all a bad name.”

“Many roads or trails have been in place for decades,” Chiapetta says. Some even started as wagon tracks in the 1800s. The soil is compacted and stable, making it able to stand up to the weight of vehicles passing over it. On such routes, off-roaders can safely travel into or through fragile ecosystems without further damaging them, she says…

Read the full article: https://www.outsideonline.com/2325941/defense-roading 

 

 

Excerpt from:
Outside Online www.outsideonline.com
by Wes Siler
Read the full article: https://www.outsideonline.com/2325941/defense-roading 

 

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