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Recreational Trail Users of All Types Enjoy the Monarch Crest Trail Together

This is the Monarch Crest Trail, probably one of the most scenic and used trails in Colorado, by all trail user groups.
You see all of types of recreational trail users here – all enjoying the view together, each others company, and sharing the trail.

This is how it should be, multi-use single track trail that all user groups can share and enjoy.  This needs to be the new norm for FS and BLM recreation planning.  There is not enough non wilderness trails to go around, for everyone to have his own private trail.

For people that do not like to share the trail, they can go into the wilderness. Public access needs to preserved for all user groups.

Thank you Stephanie Munsell (Colorado Motorized Trail Riders Association) for these beautiful photographs taken September 2017.

Monarch Crest Trail - Motorcyclists, bicyclists and horse riders all enjoying the Monarch Crest Trail view
Monarch Crest Trail - Motorcyclists, bicyclists and horse riders all enjoying the Monarch Crest Trail view
Monarch Crest Trail - Motorcyclists, bicyclists and horse riders all enjoying the Monarch Crest Trail view
Monarch Crest Trail - Motorcyclists, bicyclists and horse riders all enjoying the Monarch Crest Trail view Monarch Crest Trail - Motorcyclists, bicyclists and horse riders all enjoying the Monarch Crest Trail view Monarch Crest Trail - Motorcyclists, bicyclists and horse riders all enjoying the Monarch Crest Trail view

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San Juan Trail Riders ‐ Member ALERT!

From: The SJTR Board of Directors

The Rico/West Dolores issue has spiked again, with the November 14, 2017 release of two Draft Records of Decision.  We make this announcement to inform our members and supporters, to assure you of our plan for responding, and to seek consistency in how we respond to the agency and implement our plan of action.

The proposed decision(s) would impose drastic and unacceptable reductions in access.  They would reduce about 30 percent of existing motorcycle riding, on prime trails in Bear Creek and Little Bear Creek, would eliminate motorized trail access to the Town of Rico, would eliminate critical connectivity, and would impose seasonal restrictions.  These restrictions on motorcycle access appear to be justified, in part, by a contrived effort to “create” new opportunities for larger motorized vehicles, including 62” width class vehicle.

San Juan Trail Riders has been working on this issue for years, particularly since the 2009 Backcountry Hunters & Anglers lawsuit, which we aided the Forest Service in successfully defending.  We have worked in concert with Trails Preservation Alliance, COHVCO, PAPA, and BRC/Sharetrails.org.  We continue to engage experienced legal professionals.  We will continue to vigorously participate and take aggressive legal action, as needed, to maintain historical riding opportunities in the Rico/West Dolores.

These decisions are NOT yet final.  They cannot be implemented until the objections are ruled upon, and any instructions resolved by the Dolores Ranger District.  We appreciate the efforts and support of our members and partners.  This promises to be a long and difficult process.  The best way to fight for access and fight against these closures is to provide financial support for our efforts.  We recommend making donations to the Trails Preservation Alliance, which is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) nonprofit.  The donation should include a note it is for the “RWD project” and can be made by visiting http://www.coloradotpa.org/how-to-help/donations/.

The next step in this process will be to file formal objections to the proposed decisions.  We do NOT recommend that you take individual action or file personal objections.  As indicated, we will proceed through legal counsel and will leave no stone unturned in that effort.  The objection process is NOT like commenting on an environmental impact statement – too many objections will cloud the issue, consume the agency’s attention/resources, and dampen any ability we might have to achieve change through the objection process.  We assure you that we will vigorously and with full transparency advance our community’s interests in this process, and any ensuing litigation.

To provide additional background for those who are interested or may not be aware, your San Juan Trail Riders legal and government relations team has been working with the Dolores Ranger District in Dolores, CO since 2009 on the Travel Management Plan for the Rico / West Dolores landscape.  It has been an up and down exercise with the USFS and anti-access / anti-motorized activists to keep 14 significant and premier single-track motorized trails open for our type recreation even though these trails have over 50 years of historical motorcycle use.  And, just 3 years ago the 10th Circuit agreed with the USFS that these trails should remain open to the single-track motorized designation.  This was a true win for our recreation type that was supported monetarily by all of you through memberships and special donations.  We thank you again for helping to keep these world-class trails open to so many.

Most recently SJTR has worked through 3 years of USFS meetings, planning sessions, compromise meetings, alternative recommendations meetings and supervisory sessions to try and work through a plan to preserve these critically important trails for our recreation.  Today the Draft Decision for the entire Rico / West Dolores landscape was released by District Ranger Derek Padilla.  With much dismay I must report to you that the USFS has neglected to accept any of our input to the plan and is recommending a plan to reduce the last of our high quality trail riding by over 30%.  In addition, the plan calls for a full seasonal closure that will also limit riding time on the few remaining trails for single-track use.  In his plan he gives preference to those who have moved into the existing trail areas who do not want motorcycle use to continue.  He also gives significant preference to a private resort area that now wants the nearby trails for their personal use over the general public.  He gives grazing permit holders preference over the general public to close trails that may possibly disturb cattle in the area of current motorized trails.  He has also closed a key public easement to only motorcycles that has been used by our recreation type for more than 40 years.  The Plan completely prevents motorcycles from using existing trails into Rico, CO for fuel and food.  In his Draft Decision the District Ranger provides much less restriction to all other users, only motorcycles get the axe and he announces this proudly.

San Juan Trail Riders made it clear to the Dolores District going into this TMP / EIS Process that we would work hard with them to work out a plan and that we would accept no net loss of trail miles in the end.  We recommended multiple opportunities and options to replace the trail miles they wanted to designate as non-motorized.  They refused to consider even one option.

The project file, Draft Records of Decision and Final EIS can be viewed online at  https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=44918.

Rest assured that we will be reviewing the entire document very carefully over the next short period of time to assess potential objections that we will submit during this next step in the process.  Our submissions will be public record, and we will keep you posted and abreast of any additional actions to be taken as we fight to preserve this historic riding area.

Again, we want to let you know how serious we are taking this.  It should not be necessary at this time to submit a flood of written responses to the Dolores District.   We will advise you along the way as to what actions, when appropriate, will be needed to support the fight.  Right now, your donations in dollars is what will be most needed to take on this challenge.  Please consider anything you can contribute and rest assured it will be used wisely on your behalf.

 


Location: National Forest lands on either side of Hwy145 from north of Dolores, Colorado to Lizardhead pass. Includes Lone Cone, Fish Creek, Dunton Road, Bear Creek, Ryman Creek, and Lizardhead areas.

District: Mancos/Dolores Ranger District

Proposal to adjust the road and trail system. Actions may include designating types of use, timing restrictions, and the addition, removal or realignment of some of the roads or trails. Proposal includes a Forest Plan Amendment. A 45-day comment period on the Draft EIS begins May 6th. For more information contact Debbie Kill at 970-882-6822 or dkill@fs.fed.us

Draft Decision Cover Letter

USDA Forest Service Cover Letter

Summary:
The Final Environmental Impact Statement and two Draft Records of Decision are available for the Rico West Dolores Roads and Trails (Travel Management) Project. Per the information provided below the project will now enter a pre-decision objection process. The information in the Draft Records of Decision is preliminary. If no project changes are identified in the pre­decisional objection process the information in these Draft Records of Decision will become the final decisions of the project. The Draft Records of Decision explain the Minimum Road System, designations for motor vehicle use, and project specific amendments to the San Juan National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan). Only those persons who commented during one or more of the public comment periods held previously will have standing to object to these Draft Records of Decision. Instructions for submitting objections are explained below. I welcome those of you who commented to read the documents posted on the website. This is not a public comment period so comments about the alternatives or the analysis are not solicited, however, my staff and I are available to answer questions about the project at any time. I have read the public comments received previously and feel these draft decisions reflect my understanding of public concerns and impacts to the environment.

Draft Record of Decision without maps and attachments

 USDA Draft Record of Decision

Summary: 
This Record of Decision (ROD) documents my decision and rationale on the Rico West Dolores Roads and Trails (Travel Management) project. The project involves proposals to change motorized travel management in the Rico West Dolores (RWD) area. The Forest Supervisor will issue a separate Draft Record of Decision for a recommended amendment of the San Juan Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan).

This decision includes,

  1. Motor vehicle designations for roads and trails
  2. Location and maintenance levels of roads that will make up the minimum road system
  3. Roads or trails to decommission or convert to motorized trails that would not be part of
    the minimum road system
  4. Location, trail class, allowed uses, realignments and trail developments for motorized trails

Draft Final EIS without maps and appendices

  Rico-West Dolores Roads and Trails (Travel Management) Project Final Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Summary:
The analysis area is comprised of 256,256 acres total of FS and non FS lands. Non FS acres total 11,702 and FS acres total 244,544. Within the 256,256 total acres there are 129, 865 acres of Colorado Roadless area (51 percent) and 20,682 acres that make up a portion of the Lizard Head Wilderness (8 percent). Five alternatives are analyzed in detail. The preferred alternative is Alternative B (Modified) and modifications are described.

Alternative B (Proposed Action) – This alternative is the December, 2014, proposed action for scoping, with refinements. It would make minor changes to the road system, and remove motorcycles from some trails to address resource impacts, livestock distribution concerns and balance requests for nonmotorized areas. This alternative includes seasonal restrictions on motor vehicle use of trails. New trails for vehicles 62-inches or less (ATV/UTV/Motorcycle) are also included.

Link to project reports:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=44918

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2017 Colorado Outdoor Industry Leadership Summit (COILS)

Background: In 2015, Governor Hickenlooper launched the formation of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) (https://choosecolorado.com/key-industries/tourism-outdoor-recreation/). OREC is one of only two offices currently in the nation that provides a central point of contact, advocacy, resources and support at the state level for the diverse constituents, businesses, communities and groups that rely on the continued well being of the outdoor recreation industry.  OREC is guided and mentored by leaders and mentors from the outdoor industry through the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Group, of which the TPA’s Don Riggle is a founding member.  More info on the Advisory Group can be found at: https://choosecolorado.com/key-industries/tourism-outdoor-recreation/outdoor-recreation-advisory-group/

The OREC gathered outdoor industry champions from across the state in Grand Junction on Oct. 5 – 6, 2017 for the second annual Colorado Outdoor Industry Leadership Summit (COILS). As the OREC strives to foster a flourishing recreation-based economy in Colorado, OREC invited and assembled leaders from all over the state’s outdoor industry for a cooperative working session to help establish and execute a vision for the future. Attendees included CEOs, state and federal government officials, executive directors, entrepreneurs, students, and leaders from across the state that represented different cross-sections of the outdoor economy in Colorado. The day and half summit provided opportunities for networking, idea exchanges and expert discussions designed to catalyze the action the State needs to take to elevate and sustain the flourishing outdoor economic systems in Colorado. Topics included economic development, conservation, education, workforce recruiting and training along with the health and wellness benefits of recreating outdoors.  Discussions and presentations included business growth and topics such as cultural loans for small outdoor recreation businesses to pursue the obtaining of capital.

The TPA attended this year’s COILS event to represent and advocate for multiple use/motorized recreation.  The TPA observed that there are exceptional opportunities for small businesses supporting multiple use/motorized recreation to be recognized by the OREC and leverage the collective efforts that are being made on a statewide platform to promote, grow and encourage outdoor reaction activities including motorized and OHV recreation.  The multiple use/motorized business segment was noticeably under represented at the COILS event amongst the plethora of businesses and organizations supporting non-motorized activities.

The COILS event is expected to continue to be a reoccurring assembly of outdoor industry leaders.  Opportunities for businesses that support multiple use/motorized recreation ought to consider participation in future summits, and become partners in the discussion and efforts to expand their individual segments of the outdoor recreation industry. Motorsports businesses can add their company information to the State’s Outdoor Recreation Directory at: http://directory.choosecolorado.com

For additional information contact Bill Alspach at 719-660-1259, williamalspach@gmail.com or Don Riggle at 719-338-4106, info@coloradotpa.org

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PDAC Report on the 2017 Colorado Legislative Session – Bills of interest for powersports/motorcycle dealers

SB17-100

This landmark legislation changes the unobtainable insurance requirements of the Colorado Procurement Department to allow OHV clubs and snowmobile trail groups to continue getting grants for trail maintenance and construction.

COHVCO took the lead on this bill and simultaneously so did PDAC because as your consultant, I crafted and developed the bill in consultation Department of Natural Resources staff. We moved it through the General Assembly with timely aid from our lobbyist, Jim Bensberg.

Without this amendment to Colorado law, access to public lands for motorized recreation would have died in less than five years, leaving little if anything for the public.  Because of TABOR, if the current program would have been repealed, it would not have been replaced, at least in not in our lifetimes.

At the bill signing in the Governor’s office, Jim Bensberg represented both PDAC and COHVCO.

PDAC strongly supported this bill. Signed into law by the Governor in the same form as reported. Effective date: Aug. 9, 2017.

PDAC/COHVCO advocate Jim Bensberg joins Colorado Representatives Arndt, Landgraf, and Sen. Sonnenberg as Gov. Hickenlooper signs SB17-100 into law.

 

HB17-1105

Narrows the circumstances in which a physical inspection of a vehicle is required before issuing a title.  The Colorado Department of Revenue will not require inspections before registration or title if:

  • The applicant for a new registration presents an MCO or sales receipt from the dealer or out-of-state seller from whom the applicant bought the vehicle and either document shows it is a new vehicle purchase, or, at the time of application the vehicle is registered in another county of the state.
  • of Revenue will not require a physical inspection of a vehicle for a title if the applicant presents an MCO or receipt from the dealer or the out-of-state seller from whom the applicant purchased the vehicle and either document shows the purchase was a new vehicle purchase.
  • The Colorado State Patrol will operate a pilot program no later than Jan. 1, 2018, requiring a transportation association to verify commercial VINs.

PDAC supported. Governor has signed into law, effective date:  July 1, 2017.

 

HB17-1107

This bill implements a completely new computer system for the Division of Motor Vehicles to facilitate the administration of the operation of motor vehicles in the state. The current Colorado state titling and registration system that you have grown to love  (CSTARS), will be replaced by a new alphabet soup program called Colorado driver’s license, record, identification and vehicle enterprise solution (Colorado DRIVES)  A committee of local government employees will oversee the transition.

Of course, there is the promise of better service for everyone.  It’s really who gets the money and how much, state or county?   And, we’re told, new, right-sized temporary tags will be available to motorcycle dealers in August 2018.

PDAC closely monitored the bill, but did not take a position. Governor has signed into law.      Effective date:  The repeal of CSTARS takes effect August 2018, implementation date for Colorado DRIVES is August 2018.

 

HB17-1044

This is better known as the Autocycle bill.  This bill addresses Polaris Slingshots that, as of last year, were classified simultaneously as autocycles and as motorcycles.  Most customers were purchasing motorcycle plates when they should have been purchasing a special autocycle plate.  The previous law was confusing and the definition of autocycles was unclear.

So, HB17-1044 was introduced. The State Patrol brought this bill with the intention to ban their use by taking them out of the motorcycle category and calling them simply motor vehicles. A CSP rep last year called them “death traps” in a committee hearing.

PDAC worked very hard with the Polaris lobbyist to successfully amend this bill so that autocycles continue to be defined as motorcycles, and we made sure that they will be plated as motorcycles by abandoning the special autocycle plate.

Polaris prohibits the use of child restraints for obvious reasons.  Most states either ban their use or set an age limit of 8-years-old to ride in the vehicle.  This bill also prohibits child restraints.  After PDAC amended the bill, we were able to support it with positive testimony in the House and Senate Transportation Committees.

Of huge importance to Slingshot dealers, no longer will customers have to show a motorcycle or trike endorsement to test drive or operate these vehicles as a result of this bill’s passage and our support. This should greatly simplify the sales process!

PDAC strongly supported, after amendments. Signed by the Governor. Seat belt law applies to all operators and passengers.

 

SB17-240

A bill to ”sunrise” (reinstate) the Motor Vehicle Dealer Licensing Board: this bill that renews a regulating body to oversee all motor vehicle and powersports sales in Colorado.

PDAC strongly supported reauthorization. Signed by the Governor.

  • Authorizes the Dealer Licensing Board until 2029
  • Defines consumer
  • Created the office of the Director of the Motor Vehicle Industry Division, primarily for administrative purposes
  • New MV definition retains MSO requirement, gives the Board the authority to determine mileage limit to be considered a new motor vehicle
  • A major change is how transfer of ownership or partial ownership of a dealership is subject to more stringent requirements including a review by the Board. If you are planning such a change, start it before July 1, of this year. That is when the new law takes effect.

There are other changes, but they cannot all be identified here.  I suggest you contact the Motor Vehicle Industry for additional information.

 

SB17-213

A bill to authorize autonomous driving systems in Colorado.  This is a very important bill.  Jim Bensberg closely followed this bill and has talked to the sponsor on multiple occasions.  NHTSA has yet to promulgate rules assuring the safety of motorcyclists and scooter operators.  Depending on what happens at the federal level, this bill requires close scrutiny by the state of the current federal standards and prevents local control by cities and counties. The bill prohibits the operation of an autonomous system deemed unsafe for vehicles and/or pedestrians until it is found safe by the State Patrol.  This extra layer of protection is invaluable and had PDAC’s strong support.

PDAC strongly supported. Governor signed the bill. 

 

SB17-243

This year marks the sunset of the Motorcycle Operator Safety Training Program (MOST).  After many complaints, including those from PDAC, that CDOT was mishandling the program, the Senate Transportation Chairman decided the state would no longer allow a renewal of the program unless it was moved to the Colorado State Patrol.  The California State Patrol has managed its program for decades without problem.

PDAC conditionally supported.

 

SB17-1205

This bill was introduced by the Colorado Independent Auto Dealers (CIADA).  We originally opposed the bill as written because it removed the subjective test for determining when a vehicle was totaled, that is, if the repairs exceeded the fair market value of the vehicle.

This bill, however also contained a very positive element because vehicles that are currently totaled are regularly purchased by businesses that rebuild and sell them.  When this occurs, the vehicle in most cases does not have a salvage title and the dealer may have no other means for determining the condition of the vehicle.  We also requested that powersports vehicles that are currently titled through a powersports dealer be covered by the bill.  Working with CIADA proved beneficial since the bill was amended to return to the subjective test,  and add powersports as a category.

PDAC supported with amendments. Bill signed by the Governor.

 

 HB17-1249

“Concerning the Unlicensed Selling of Motor Vehicles:  unlicensed sales continue to be a problem for dealers.  This bill pulls in every possible player in the business; manufacturers, distributors, manufacturer representatives, new dealers, used dealers, salespersons, wholesalers, buyer agents, and wholesale motor vehicle auction dealers.  It also increases fines up to $25,000.  It mandates community service and the court may no longer suspend the fines.

PDAC supported after amendment. Governor signed. Effective date:

 

 SB17-298

Concerning the relationship between a motor vehicle manufacturer and motor vehicle dealers who have franchise agreements with the manufacturer.  Current law prohibits a motor vehicle manufacturer (manufacturer) from requiring a motor vehicle dealer (dealer) to substantially alter a facility or premises if the manufacturer required it within the last seven years at a cost set in statute based on the type of dealer. Section 1 of the bill extends this prohibition to 10 years. Section 1 also prohibits a manufacturer from:

  • Selling a similarly equipped motor vehicle to one dealer at a lower price than to another dealer;
  • Requiring or enforcing a contract giving the manufacturer a right of first refusal or an option to purchase the dealership; and
  • Using an unreasonable, arbitrary, unfair, or surprise performance standard in determining a dealer’s compliance with a franchise agreement.

Section 2 repeals a provision that gives a dealer a right of first refusal for new franchises when the dealer was terminated due to the insolvency of the manufacturer. Section 2 also authorizes a dealer to sue in court to contest a manufacturer adding or moving a dealership to a market with a current dealer when this action would materially and adversely affect the dealer or the public. Such an action may currently be done administratively. Procedures are set for the civil action and an administrative hearing. Standards are set for determining the outcome. A prevailing party may get attorney fees and costs.

Notice to the dealers of new or relocated franchise

(b)  The date on or after which the manufacturer intends to be engaged in business with the additional, reopened, or relocated motor vehicle dealer at the proposed location;

AND

(c)  The identity of all motor vehicle dealers who are franchised to sell the same line-make of vehicles with licensed locations in the relevant market area where the additional, reopened, or relocated motor vehicle dealer is proposed to be located.

Section 3 authorizes a dealer to sue a manufacturer in court to contest whether a termination was for just cause or for failing to provide notice of a termination. Such an action may currently be done administratively. The current process for staying the termination is strengthened. The manufacturer has the burden of proof. A prevailing dealer may get attorney fees and costs.

Section 4 requires a manufacturer, when the manufacturer requires the dealer to stop selling a used motor vehicle due to a technical mechanical issue, to provide parts and a solution within 30 days or to provide compensation to the dealer. Standards are set for eligibility and payment.

Sections 5-11 add Powersports dealers.  This is the section demanded and added by PDAC, otherwise dealers would be operating under a different set of franchise laws depending on product.

The link below is to the Act.  It is easy to read for a dealer.  Highly recommended that you do so.

http://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2017A/bills/2017A_298_enr.pdf

Supported by PDAC. Awaiting the governor’s signature.  Effective date Aug. 9, 2017

 

SJR17-038

Concerning the designation of May, 2017 as “Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.”

Jim Bensberg noted it had been some time since the General Assembly had introduced a resolution supporting May as “Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.”  Jim obtained sponsors and lobbied the resolution through the Legislature.  This is important, not only to keep motorists aware, but to show that safety is a concern of the motorcycling community, each and every year.

The list of legislators that signed on is indicative of the positive response this resolution received.  Every single legislator present asked to be added as a sponsor of the resolution. We are cognizant of the efforts of Sen. Jack Tate, Rep. Terri Carver and Rep. Joann Ginal. We also worked closely with representatives of Colorado ABATE.

SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 17-038

BY SENATOR(S) Tate, Aguilar, Baumgardner, Cooke, Coram, Court, Crowder, Donovan, Fenberg, Fields, Garcia, Gardner, Guzman, Hill, Holbert, Jahn, Jones, Kagan, Kefalas, Kerr, Lambert, Lundberg, Marble, Martinez Humenik, Merrifield, Moreno, Neville T., Priola, Scott, Smallwood ,Sonnenberg, Todd, Williams A., Zenzinger, Grantham; also REPRESENTATIVE(S) Carver and Ginal, Arndt, Becker J., Becker K., Beckman, Bridges, Buck, Buckner, Catlin, Coleman, Covarrubias, Danielson, Esgar, Everett, Exum, Foote, Garnett, Gray, Hamner, Hansen, Herod, Hooton, Humphrey, Jackson, Kennedy, Kraft-Tharp, Landgraf, Lawrence, Lebsock, Lee, Leonard, Lewis, Liston, Lontine, Lundeen, McKean, McLachlan, Melton, Michaelson Jenet, Mitsch Bush, Navarro, Neville P., Nordberg, Pettersen, Rankin, Ransom, Rosenthal, Saine, Salazar, Sias, Singer, Thurlow, Valdez, Van Winkle, Weissman, Willett, Williams D., Wilson, Winter, Wist, Young.

 

HB17-1151

Classifies motorized bicycles into three classes, two of which are now able to access bicycle lanes.  The issue here was to closely monitor these definitions to make sure no dealer product fell into this classification as there are severe limitations on two of the classes.  It was not that long ago that mopeds and 50cc scooters were listed as motorized bicvcles.  PDAC remedied that as we worked to make sure there was no backsliding.

PDAC monitored closely. Signed by the Governor. Effective Aug. 9, 2017

 

Bills that were Postponed Indefinitely (killed)

SB17-210

This “stop-sale” bill on used motor vehicles was postponed indefinitely (killed) by the Senate Transportation committee.  The bill would have allowed a percentage of reimbursement to dealers if manufacturers failed to make a repair of the used defective vehicles within 90 days (think airbags.)  At this point the manufacturers of motor vehicles prevented it from moving on, at least for now.  Since it was apparent the bill would be killed in committee, PDAC just monitored it.  Given that motorcycles are now coming with things like airbags, we will see if the bill turns up again.

PDAC monitored and supported

 

SB17-1153

This bill addressed the following issues related to congestion:

The bill clarifies that high occupancy vehicle lanes are lanes on which a vehicle carrying 2 or more individuals, including the driver, may travel and that high occupancy toll lanes are lanes on which a vehicle carrying fewer than 2 individuals, including the driver, must pay a toll. The bill also raises the priority of currently unfunded projects to expand the capacity of I-25 on 17 miles between the town of Castle Rock and the town of Monument and between State Highway 14 and State Highway 66 (high priority projects).

Upon investigation by Jim Bensberg, it was clear that the last portion of the bill would kill it in the first committee.  Had it a chance, we would have worked hard to include motorcycles in the toll free portion of the bill on toll roads.

PDAC monitored.

 

SB17-047

Waste tire disposal.  This bill did not have a direct negative impact on PDAC dealers.  However, it is an example of a bill title so broad it could create serious problems even if that was never the intent of the sponsors.  Many bills with broad titles must be watched.  This bill could have tripled the fee for waste tires or brought in powersports tires.

PDAC closely monitored

 

HB17-1321

Colorado Parks and Wildlife are woefully underfunded.  This bill would have given CPW the authority to raise fees including hunting and fishing licenses.  They did not ask for permission to raise fees on the OHV/snowmobile programs.  While no one likes to see fees rise, it would have been imprudent to believe that the Department of Natural Resources would never again attempt to steal our OHV program monies as our fees would have to be raised by a bill run through the General Assembly rather than allowing the CPW Commission to raise fees.

PDAC/COHVCO supported.

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Action Alert! The Rio Grande NF has released their draft resource management plan!

The Rio Grande NF has released their Proposed Action for the upcoming Forest Plan revision.

We are supporting Alternative C of the Proposal as this provides a significant expansion of motorized areas in a manner that is simple and easy for the public to understand.  We believe this flexibility is important for the forest moving forward and the simplicity in the plan will increase public engagement and understanding of future planning efforts. The Preferred Alternative carries forward current management allocations on the Forest (which is unheard of) and the Forest Service should be commended for that.

Alternative Primitive Semi Primitive Non- motorized Semi-Primitive Motorized Roaded Natural Rural
A 8 43 28 20 1
B 7 44 28 20 1
C 7 33 36 23 1
D 36 19 25 19 Less than 1

Maps associated with the RMP should be uploaded by Oct 2, 2017.

 

Upcoming meetings

To Be Determined

More information on the preferred alternative (including maps) is available here:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/riogrande/landmanagement/projects/?cid=fseprd560334

 

Our Thoughts:

  1. The resource plan is supposed to be a landscape level document that provides landscape level guidance. Providing this information in a simple easy to use format for the public must be a goal for the new plan. Too often the public is simply unable to understand the current plan due the numerous factors and categories included in the RMP and the RMP is a barrier to site-specific planning rather than a resource to ease local planning.
  2. Alternative C moves in the right direction with the reduced number of categories but we strongly encourage the Forest Service to explore further streamlining of even Alternative C.  This streamlining would make the plan easier for the public to use and understand in the future, reduce costs for projects and build a better relationship between the USFS and partners.
  3. We support Alternative C due to the long term flexibility in the plan and expanded multiple use opportunities.
  4. Again voice the importance of multiple use access for recreation, the economic benefits to local communities from multiple use and the compelling need to address poor forest health on the Rio Grande NF.

We will forward more specific talking points for comments after our review.

 

Send Comments via USPS to:
Rio Grande National Forest
Att: Forest Plan Revision
1803 US Hwy 150
Monte Vista, CO 81132

Comments via email to:
rgnf_forest_plan@fs.fed.us

Deadline for Comments:
December 29, 2017

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ANNOUNCEMENT: PSI Public Motor Vehicle Use EIS – Scoping Report is now available for public review

Scoping Report release announcement – Trails Preservation Alliance & COHVCO
 Scoping Report Pike and San Isabel National Forests, Public Motor Vehicle Use Environmental Impact Statement – USDA Forest Service

  1. Background: The Pike and San Isabel National Forest (PSI) is working to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS) for travel management on the PSI as the result of a 2015 court settlement agreement. Analysis in the EIS will determine and decide which roads and trails will be open for public motorized use and included in future Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs).
  2. The project Scoping Report is now complete: The formal public scoping comment period began on July 25, 2016 with the publication of the Notice of Intent (NOI), and was slated to run 45 days and end on September 8, 2016. However, the PSI extended the scoping comment period by 15 days until September 23, 2016, thereby giving the public more time to submit comments on the proposed project. The final scoping report analyzing these comments was approved by the PSI in September 2017 and is now available for public review at http://www.psitravelmanagement.org/scoping-results.
  3. Next Steps: The TPA and COHVCO recommend that our constituents consider the following in response to the release of the PSI Scoping Report:
    • This Scoping Report is the first “official document” coming out of the PSI EIS process.
    • In general there appears to be a lot of support for continued multiple-use/OHV recreation and access. Several local governments and utilities are supporting Alternatives C or D.
    • The process is moving forward and we cannot afford to be complacent, all interested parties should remain vigilant, engaged and interested. Regularly check the TPA’s website, “News Page” (https://www.coloradotpa.org/news/) for updates and information.
    • All routes, roads and trails that were initially at risk are still all at risk.
    • The full scoping report can be downloaded at: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57754b452994ca3f91e9085e/t/59c92c3bcd0f687a8b327861/1506356314788/FinalPSItravelMgtScopingReport.pdf
    • A copy of the scoping report, highlighted by the TPA for easier reading, is available at the top of this page.
    • The TPA and COHVCO recommend that our constituents review the report, if individual comments were provided, we recommend individuals review the report to see if their comments were indeed received and included, and if the comments were considered “substantive” or “non-substantive”. (Excerpt from the NEPA Handbook 6.9.2.1)
      • Substantive comments do one or more of the following:
        • Question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of information in the EIS or EA.
        • Question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of, methodology for, or assumptions used for the environmental analysis.
        • Present new information relevant to the analysis.
        • Present reasonable alternatives other than those analyzed in the EIS or EA.
        • Cause changes or revisions in one or more of the alternatives.
      • Comments that are not considered substantive include the following:
        • Comments in favor of or against the proposed action or alternatives without reasoning that meet the criteria listed above (such as “we disagree with Alternative Two and believe the USFS should select Alternative Three”).
        • Comments that only agree or disagree with USFS policy or resource decisions without justification or supporting data that meet the criteria listed above (such as “more grazing should be permitted”).
        • Comments that don’t pertain to the project area or the project (such as “the government should eliminate all dams,” when the project is about a grazing permit).
          • Comments that take the form of vague, open-ended questions.
    • It is important to see and understand the conflicting goals and aspirations of the pro multiple-use/OHV citizens and the anti-access groups and understand the level of effort and amount of resources the anti-access groups are willing to expend to reduce and drastically close access to multiple-use/OHV recreation on the PSI (the Wilderness Society alone had 58 pages of comments listed in Appendix D).
    • We suggest that our constituents review and read the comments that the TPA/COHVCO has submitted for the project scoping phase (TPA comments begin at Submittal Comment No. 1062, pg. D-226)
    • This is just the beginning of the process and will continue for about another year, and it will be very important for folks to remain engaged, go to future meetings and once again prepare and provide at least one more round of meaningful and substantive public comments. Public comments are not required at this time. Form letters do little, each of us must continue to be specific about what is important to us, which routes are important to us and why. A good example of scoping comments was prepared and submitted by the Central Colorado Mountain Riders (Submittal Comment No. 935, pg. D-47).
  1. What can you do now?: Maintaining periodic dialogs with your local PSI, USFS, District Ranger staff will continue to be important to better understand all of the issues and challenges. Also, helping to inform and educate your local elected officials, local leaders and business owners on the positive economic impacts of OHV recreation and the potential for substantial and extensive loss of routes, roads and trails on USFS lands in the PSI.  When speaking to elected officials, be sure to have a plan, an organized list of discussion topics and make sure to do your homework regarding the discussion topics that are important to your respective local officials and business owners.
  2. The PSI Public Motor Vehicle Use EIS project and the resulting decision will likely have long-term implications for multiple-use/OHV recreation nationwide on all USFS lands, and the importance of this decision cannot be understated.
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Palisade Plunge Trail

Palisade Plunge Trail

Katie Stevens
Field Manager
Grand Junction Field Office
2815 H. Road
Grand Junction, CO 81506

Dear Katie:

Thank you for your quick and detailed response to our request for an update on the Palisade Plunge Project. It is unfortunate that the BLM did not receive any comments from the motorized community on the Palisade Plunge Trail (Perhaps the future public outreach process can better identify and notify a broader cross section of potential users and affected citizens). The Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) along with Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) did indeed submit comments to Great Outdoors Colorado on April 21, 2017 and a copy of those comments are provided with this letter.

We believe that the TPA understands and appreciates the political climate and emphasis associated with the Palisade Plunge Trail Project along with the prominence placed on the Colorado the Beautiful “16 in 2016”. However, we strongly feel that the idea of a single user group recreation trail, with limited accessibility and projected use and a relatively high cost (e.g., NEPA cost, actual construction costs, ongoing maintenance costs) is not the best use of funds from any source. Our concern expands on this issue when the more than $3million project cost is recognizing as exceeding the amount that the trails program has available for all other non-motorized projects in the state. This project, as currently planned, lacks any consideration for multiple-use recreation and users of motorized means. Proceeding with this project with a single, primary use by one particular user group is discriminatory and will certainly foster resentment and poor relationships with other user groups.

Nationally, years ago land managers and the motorized community collectively resolved that segregation and discrimination was a policy that was iniquitous and should no longer be tolerated and fostered, yet the Palisade Plunge Project, as currently planned, seeks to do just that. The Grand Junction Field Office has a unique opportunity to set an example to shift from an attitude and policy of segregating users and providing infrastructure for select user groups at the cost of others, to providing a true multiple-use trail for a diverse spectrum of users. We would offer that the landscape is just no longer big enough to offer trails and associated infrastructure dedicated to unique, distinct or small user groups (i.e. hikers, mountain bikes, equestrians, motorized users, etc.).

The concept of a trail that offers financial and economic assistance to area towns and a private ski area is certainly admirable and honorable. However, this same project, with some relatively minor modifications to construct a true multiple-use trail, could be an exceptional opportunity to expand and compound those same positive economic impacts by embracing a broader and more diversified set of users. A recently completed study commissioned by the COHVCO and the TPA has shown an annual contribution of $2.3 billion to Colorado’s economy from tourism and sales activity directly associated with off-highway vehicle recreation (https://www.coloradotpa.org/2017/01/25/economic-contribution-of-off-highway-vehicle-recreation-in-colorado/).

The TPA would also like to offer that the non-motorized users of the Grand Junction Field Office’s area, most notably the mountain bike community, has benefited significantly from the expenditure of State of Colorado OHV grant dollars on true multiple-use trails throughout the Field Office’s areas. To move forward with this Palisade Plunge Project, with a primary use of mountain bikes and other non-motorized users would be prejudicial and discriminatory to the motorized users in your community and those served by your Field Office. Many of those same motorized users have worked diligently over the past several years with the Grand Junction Field Office to obtain and expend hundreds of thousands of dollars within the Field Office’s area, all the time sharing those trails with all non-motorized users. If the Palisade Plunge Project were designed to be a multiple-use trail, Colorado OHV grant dollars could possibly be used for construction and future maintenance.

We also feel compelled to point out that trails and infrastructure for bicycles, especially mountain bikes have been escalating throughout the State despite somewhat flat, and in some instance declining per capita sales and use. Non-motorized trails, primarily used by mountain bikes, have proliferated both officially and unofficially on public lands, as you are very much aware of. Similarly, many if not most commercial ski areas are also adding trails for mountain bikes to their footprints without those trails and opportunities ever being captured by the Federal Land Manger’s inventory, maps or Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) analysis. Therefore we challenge that the Palisade Plunge Project is just one more addition to an already burgeoning inventory of trails for a small, select and declining demographic, a trail without a dedicated source to fund its construction or maintenance; all the while at the expense and exclusion of countless other users of public lands. We would also offer that the expected growth in e-bike sales will soon be a major recreational activity that must be recognized, positioned on and apportioned some ration of the landscape in addition to the myriad of existing activities. Will e-bikes simply be relegated to historic motorized trails (e.g., Moab), a prescription we believe is inappropriate, undesirable, and inappropriate or will e-bikes be allowed on trails like the Plunge?

The TPA appreciates the motorized recreation that the Grand Junction Field Office’s has helped develop to date. However, we feel a couple of issues deserve our perspective. Many of the, multiple-use/motorized examples you mentioned have been in the works for years, and are just now being approved and funded. We sincerely appreciate these projects and all of the efforts by your staff to bring these projects to fruition. However, we feel compelled to point out that all of these projects are multiple–use trails and projects and will be available to all user groups. While projects like the Palisade Plunge Project are for a very small, exclusive user group. The TPA staff and volunteers have ridden most of the areas you mentioned, and also most of the new areas east of Gateway in the former uranium mining areas. In fact we rode and inventoried this area in detail with the BLM staff as they were mapping and gathering data for the Resource Management Plan

Once again, we emphasize that the Grand Junction Field Office has the opportunity to establish a new paradigm for the coexistence of trail users and promoting tolerance and diversity of users. Instead of excluding users, a broader spectrum of trail users will benefit if the Grand Junction Field Office will work with vigor and diligence to encourage an attitude of cooperation and tolerance among all user groups. The planning for the Palisades Plunge Project needs to step back in order to be more inclusive and provide an opportunity for all user groups to include motorized use. The most expedient path forward in our judgment would be to develop this new trail in a way that it is truly “multiple purpose” and will provide shared opportunities for all users, non-motorized and motorized alike.

We thank you for considering our comments.

Sincerely,
Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

 

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GMUG Resource Management Plan Revision

GMUG Resource Management Plan Revision

GMUG National Forest
Att: Scott Armentrout, Forest Supervisor
2250 South Main Street
Delta, CO 81416

Re: GMUG Resource Management Plan  Revision

Dear Mr. Armentrout:

Please accept this correspondence as the input of the Organizations identified above with regard to the Proposed Revision of the GMUG RMP. We welcome this opportunity to provide input following  the first round of public meetings addressing the proposed forest plan revision.   We would like to provide input on a few components in the final RMP which we believe could streamline planning significantly moving forward, provide new information and address several issues that consistently arise early in the Forest Service planning process on other forests in the hope of partnering with the GMUG to develop an effective long term plan for the forest.  These comments are submitted as a supplement to the site specific input provided from the local clubs on a wide range of issues, such as culvert size and future utilization of decommissioned roads as trails.  The Organizations vigorously support the input from these local clubs.

Prior to providing initial thoughts and concepts on the development of the GMUG RMP, 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 insure 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”.

While the primary mission of the Organizations most directly relates to motorized recreation, the overall scope of the Organizations often has a larger impact as motorized recreation and access can take many forms and involve many activities, including camping, hunting and fishing and other recreational activities where motorized access to public lands is critical but not the primary recreational activity sought.  Under federal land management standards, when an area is open to motorized access it is rarely closed to any other activity.

The Organizations welcome the opportunity to provide input on forest level issues facing the GMUG and are additionally providing new information and research in these comments on a variety of issues to insure that the best available  information is relied on by Forest planners in the development of the Resource Plan.  The Organizations would urge planners to clearly identify the three major challenges that are expected to be encountered on the Forest over the life of the RMP, in order to streamline and insure alignment of any subsequent site specific planning with addressing these challenges. The Organizations also would like to clarify our position on several issues, such as our complete lack of involvement in the development of the Gunnison Public lands Initiative and the fact that the Organizations are vigorously opposed to the Proposal.  The Organizations also submit that issues such as the Gunnison Public lands Initiative are good examples of Proposals that should be entirely avoided in the RMP development as they will direct the ever declining Forest Service resources away from the major challenges that are facing the GMUG and could in fact make addressing the poor forest health issues both more costly and difficult on the GMUG in the future.

1a.  Landscape level planning should address landscape level issues.

The Organizations welcome the Forest planner’s  desire expressed in the presentation boards at the initial round of public meetings, to address landscape level issues with landscape level planning and avoiding the often high levels of pressure to transform landscape level planning into nothing more that numerous local plans that have been merged together. It has been the Organizations experience that merely combining numerous small plans into a single large plan results in poor analysis of issues facing these projects, poor coordination of planning efforts and an exceptionally complex plan that results in large barriers when landscape level plans issues are addressed.    This should be avoided.

An important component of landscape level planning is the fact that the RMP should provide general guidance on issues and streamline subsequent site specific planning on the forest. The Organizations submit that identifying a limited number of landscape level challenges facing the Forest will serve as an important guide for the development of the RMP and any subsequent localized projects. Identifying these challenges will provide clear and easily reviewable guidance for subsequent projects on the Forest and avoid creation of site specific projects that would contradict the forest level guidance on issues. This will also insure that all actions being undertaken in site specific planning are working towards these forest level objectives and avoids the artificial elevation of issues in local planning. By insuring these factors are addressed in all planning efforts subsequently, the limited resources that are available to land managers will be directed in the most effective manner in addressing these challenges.

The Organizations believe that the following criteria reflect the major challenges the forest is facing, and are already reflecting in the supporting documents that have been provided to the public:

  1. Poor Forest health/large number of dead trees on the GMUG overall;
  2. Declining federal budgets will continue to decline and result in the need for stronger partners; and
  3. Increasing demands being placed on forest resources due to a rapidly increasing State population.

The GMUG has been heavily impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic and is on the boundary areas of being heavily impacted by several other invasive species such as the Spruce Beetle.

This challenge has to be the first priority to be addressed in the RMP development and the Organizations would note that the Rio Grande NF has already identified poor forest health as the single largest challenge to be faced in their RMPM development. These are factors and issues that can be addressed in forest planning to stimulate and streamline timber sales and timber management in conjunction with managed fire to remediate impacts. The Organizations are aware that there is significant pressure on managers to reduce public access to public lands through route closures, but addressing any route specific  impacts without addressing the poor forest health simply makes little sense.

1b.  The primary threat to be addressed on the GMUG over the life of the next revision of the RMP has to be the poor forest health overall and the large number of dead trees.

Developing  an accurate identification of the challenges that will be facing the GMUG managers over the life of the next revision of the GMUG RMP must be the major goal of any scoping efforts.  Planners must avoid the artificial elevation of issues simply as a result of political pressures or concerns that are not based on issues seen on the GMUG.  The Organizations vigorously submit that theoretical concerns, such as a groups desire to bring balance and diverse recognition of landscapes into the National Wilderness System are political issues that have been artificially elevated by that Group and simply are not realistic goals in the current funding environment and with the major challenges facing land managers on the GMUG. The Organizations are deeply concerned regarding the poor forest health in the GMUG as a healthy forest translates into a quality recreational experience for ALL USERS.  While an short term recovery of the GMUG planning area to a healthy forest status is probably not realistic, major steps can be taken to remediate impacts and return a healthy forest to the public in subsequent generations.

The Colorado State Forest Service recently issued their annual Forest Health report for the state and the conclusions of these impacts are staggering, especially on water quality.[1]  The Highlights of the 2016 report are as follows:

  • 8% of ALL trees in the state are dead and the rate of mortality is increasing;[2]
  • the total number of dead trees has increased 30% in the last 8 years;[3]
  • Research has shown that in mid-elevation forests on Colorado’s Front Range, hillslope sediment production rates after recent, high-severity wildfire can be up to 200 times greater than for areas burned at moderate to low severity.[4]
  • A 2011 study involved monthly monitoring of stream chemistry and sediment in South Platte River tributaries before and after fire,  and showed that basins that burned at high severity on more than 45 percent of their area had streams containing four times the amount of suspended sediments as basins burned less severely. This effect also remained for at least five years post-fire.[5]
  • High-severity wildfires responsible for negative outcomes are more common in  unmanaged forests with heavy fuel loads than in forests that have experienced naturally recurrent, low-intensity wildfires or prior forest treatments, such as thinning. It is far easier to keep water in a basin clean, from the source headwaters and through each usage by recipients downstream, than to try and restore water quality once it is degraded.[6]
  • During 2016’s Beaver Creek Fire, which burned 38,380 acres northwest of Walden, foresters and firefighters were given a glimpse into likely future challenges facing wildfire suppression and forest management efforts. These include longer duration wildfires due to the amount and arrangement of heavy fuels. Observations from fire managers indicated that instead of small branches  on live trees, the larger, dead fuels in jackstraw stands were the primary driver of fire spread…. “The hazards and fire behavior associated with this fuel type greatly reduce where firefighters can safely engage in suppression operations”[7]

The Colorado State Forest System has prepared an annual report on the declining forest health in the State for more than a decade and copies of these reports are available on their website. Clearly even the worst site specific issues with any trail or road will never result in impacts comparable to those impacts addressed above.  These are landscape level challenges that must be addressed with landscape level management.

USFS research indicates there is a huge correlation between Congressionally designated Wilderness and areas hardest hit by invasive species. A copy of this research conclusions are below. Research from the Colorado State Forest Service confirms that the minimal management allowed for forest health in Congressionally designated Wilderness areas has dramatically impacted forest health in the GMUG planning area.

Map of Forest Insect and Disease Progression in Colorado 1996-2010
[8]

Given the fact that 1 in 12 trees in the entire state of Colorado is dead, and based on the Organizations experience the GMUG rates of forest mortality is significantly higher than the state average  and that amount is increasing rather than even stabilizing, the Organizations must be opposed to any new management standards that would make timber management more difficult or impossible. The Organizations vigorously assert that a healthy and sustainable forest is a critical component to ALL recreational activities in and around the GMUG and to the high quality of life that is associated with the communities in the planning area. The Organizations would also urge land managers to resist assertions that other smaller challenges are posing a similar scale threat to the GMUG planning area.

The relationship of poor forest health and heightened restrictions on management of public lands has also been repeatedly addressed by the USFS researchers.   In a Rocky Mountain Research Station report reviewing the USFS response to the bark beetle outbreak, management restrictions were clearly and repeatedly identified as a major contributing factor to the outbreak and a major limitation on the response.  This report clearly stated:

  • Limited accessibility of terrain (only 25% of the outbreak area was accessible due to steep slopes, lack of existing roads, and land use designations such as Wilderness that precluded treatments needed to reduce susceptibility to insects and disease).[9]
  • In general, mechanized treatments are prohibited in designated wilderness areas. The Arapaho Roosevelt, White River, and Routt National Forests in Colorado have a combined total of over one million acres of wilderness; the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming has more than 78 thou­sand acres. A large portion of these wilderness acres have been impacted by the current bark beetle outbreak.[10]
  • Owing to terrain, and to budgetary, economic and regulatory limitations—such as prohibitions on entering roadless areas and designated wilderness—active management will be applied to a small fraction (probably less than 15%) of the forest area killed by mountain pine beetles. Research studies conducted on the Sulphur Ranger District of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest help us understand the implica­tions of this situation.[11]

With clear management concern regarding the impacts of restrictive management on the pine beetle response, the Organizations must question any restrictions on active management of GMUG resources moving forward.

Many other researchers are now recognizing the negative impacts of Congressionally designated Wilderness on Forest Health and the ability to manage these areas in response to the challenges presented by the changing climate of the planet. In a review of pine blister impacts to forests in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area, researchers again concluded that the

Live vs. Dead Whitebark density
[12]

Again these areas were much more heavily impacted than adjacent areas where management had been more active in nature.   Given the clearly negative relationship between heightened management restrictions in any area and more rapid and severe impacts to forest health, the Organizations must express serious concerns regarding any management in the new RMP that made addressing forest health issues more difficult.

2a. Forest Service Budgets will continue to decline over time.

The Organizations are intimately aware of the ongoing budgetary challenges that are facing federal land managers and the fact that the budgetary declines are not anticipated to rebound.  The changing budgetary situation facing federal land managers presents a major challenge for land managers moving forward, as the Organizations are aware that often partner support is high when new facilities or routes are being constructed but also tends to wane when basic operational expenses are addressed.  Land Managers consistently inform us that basic operational activity, such as maintaining routes, cleaning toilet facilities and trash removal have consistently become more expensive and now pose major challenges for managers moving forward. The Organizations believe that the RMP revision provides a great opportunity to highlight this challenge and guide site specific projects in a manner that maximizes not only the short term partner funding relied on for construction but also the long term programmatic type funding that is becoming a more important factor in providing all recreational opportunities.

2b. USFS partnerships reports could provide high quality information on partner resources.

With the passage of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act in 2016, Congress mandated the creation of a volunteer strategy report to improve partnerships between land managers and user groups for the benefit of trails on federal public lands.  While this report is not to be published until 2018, this report should be highly relevant in addressing budgetary shortfalls and identifying partners where resources are more limited and partners where resources are more available as the report requires:

” (b) REQUIRED ELEMENTS.—The strategy required by subsection (a) shall—

(1) augment and support the capabilities of Federal employees to carry out or contribute to trail maintenance;

(2) provide meaningful opportunities for volunteers and partners to carry out trail maintenance in each region of the Forest Service;

(3) address the barriers to increased volunteerism and partnerships in trail maintenance identified by volunteers, partners, and others;

(4) prioritize increased volunteerism and partnerships in trail maintenance in those regions with the most severe trail maintenance needs, and where trail maintenance backlogs are jeopardizing access to National Forest lands; and” [13]

The largest single partner with both the BLM and USFS in Colorado is the motorized trail user community, both in terms of direct funding to land managers through the CPW Trails Program and with direct funding and resources from clubs in the GMUG planning area.  The partnerships impact is further expanded by the fact that all motorized routes on the GMUG are available for all other recreational activities. The major barrier to partnerships is closures of routes when resources are available to address the resource concerns that are the basis of the route closure and the failure to treat all recreational user groups in a similar manner.

The identification of partner resources available to GMUG managers must be a major priority in the development of the RMP as well.  While there are many partner groups who volunteer time and resources in partnership with GMUG managers, the OHV community is the only partner that provides direct and consistent funds to GMUG managers through the CPW OHV grant program to assist in achieving sustainable recreational opportunities. The USFS Regional office has clearly identified that just the OHV program in Colorado more than doubles the amount of agency funding that is available for recreational activity on USFS public lands. After a review of the CPW Statewide Good Management Crew program based in the Sulphur Ranger District of the Arapahoe/Roosevelt NF managers clearly identified that CPW OHV good management crews were provided money in a more consistent and timely manner than the funding that was provided through USFS budgeting and over time the CPW program funding had significantly increased while USFS budgets had significantly declined.  There is simply no basis for a decision that this long term reduction in funding will change and this should be factored into planning for projects on the ground.

In 2017, GMUG managers asked for almost $600,000 in direct  funding for annual maintenance crews and for site specific projects from the CPW OHV program alone. This funding provides three trained seasonal crews who perform on the ground trail maintenance, provide basic maintenance services for more developed sites and expand the law enforcement presence on the GMUG.  Additionally, these crews are able to leverage a significant amount of mechanized equipment in the GMUG planning area, such as the several Sutter trail dozers, mini-excavators and tractors owned by local clubs to address larger maintenance challenges in a very cost effective manner.  We have attached the Ouray  RD good management crew grant application to the CPW OHV program (#6) and OHV dozer (#5) application as exhibits with these comments in order to provide clear documentation of the support coming from the CPW OHV program to GMUG managers and the success of these partnerships in maintaining trails.

The availability of these resources exemplifies the strong relationship that the GMUG resource managers have with some of the strongest partner clubs in Colorado, and probably the Nation including the Thunder Mountain Wheelers, West Slope ATV, Grant Mesa Jeep Club and Uncompahgre Valley Trail Riders.  These clubs routinely work on projects, such as bridge construction and heavy trail maintenance, that are simply beyond the scope of comprehension on most other forests.  These clubs also provide extensive additional funding for resource maintenance such as grants obtained from the Extreme Terrain Grant Program, BF Goodrich Tires Exceptional Trails and Yamaha Access grant program and Polaris TRAILS grants.  This funding easily exceeds another $100,000 per year in funding that is available to maintain routes on the GMUG and other public lands in the vicinity.

In addition to the OHV grant funding and exceptional partnerships available through summer use clubs, CPW funding through the Snowmobile Registration Program provides an additional  $500,000 in funding  to local clubs for operation of the grooming programs, who maintain almost 400  miles of multiple use winter trails on the GMUG. The snowmobile registration program further partners with the local clubs to purchase grooming equipment used on these routes, which now is consistently exceeding $200,000 to purchase used.  This CPW funding is again leveraged with exceptional amounts of volunteer and community support for these grooming programs from local clubs and often times the CPW funding is less than half the operational budget for the clubs maintaining these routes.  These winter trails are the major access network for all users of GMUG winter backcountry for recreation and all these opportunities are provided to the general public free of charge.

While there has been a significant decline in direct funding through the agency budget process, motorized partners on the GMUG have been able to marshal resources at levels that are unheard of other forests for the benefit of all recreational users.  The Organizations would ask that if budget constraints are identified as a challenge for recreational usage of the forest moving forward, that these constraints are applied to all recreational usages and that the fact that the GMUG has been the beneficiary of some of the strongest partnerships with the motorized community in the country for literally decades be properly balanced in addressing any budget shortfalls.

3a.  Growing state populations will continue to seek recreational opportunities on public lands.

The Organizations believe that the third  major challenge that will be faced by managers on the GMUG will be significant increases in the population of communities in the GMUG planning area and the expansion of utilization of GMUG opportunities by those living on the Front Range of Colorado.  These new visitors to the GMUG area will continue to expect the high quality recreational opportunities that have  become synonymous with the GMUG.  Compounding this challenge will be the fact that USFS resources are declining slowly in terms of absolute dollars and declining far more rapidly in terms of that funding ability to address challenges on the Forest.  This relationship results in a critical need for the RMP to facilitate the management and maintenance of GMUG lands in the lost cost effective manner possible and avoid placing unnecessary restrictions or prohibitions on the management of areas on the GMUG.

The Colorado State Demographer estimates that the Colorado population is expanding at a rate of more than 100,000 citizens per year and will almost double by the year 2050. The Demographer breaks down this forecast as follows:

population forecast
[14]

The Organizations would be remiss if the relationship of the time needed to double the state population and the anticipated life span of the GMUG RMP was not raised.  While Projections estimate that a large portion of the population will settle along the Colorado Front Range and not be living directly within the GMUG planning area, the Organizations submit that these residents will still seek out the high quality recreational opportunities that have become synonymous with Colorado.  The Organizations believe that the RMP should strive to maintain current levels of access and meaningfully address areas where recreational access can be expanded in order to address this expanded usage in a thoughtful manner that protects resources and provides opportunities.  Failing to address this expanding demand will not stop the population from visiting public lands but rather will result in low quality opportunities being provided and resources being impacted as a result of the lack of planning.

4. The Gunnison Public Lands Initiative is not supported by the motorized community and would result in negative impacts to the three criteria identified as management challenges on the GMUG moving forward.

The Organizations feel compelled to address the scope of a recent public lands initiative  that has been in development for several years  as we believe this will become an avenue to try and direct management of specific areas on the GMUG during the RMP revision. The timing of the GMUG RMP revision and the development of the public outreach portion of this project simply cannot be overlooked as is more than a mere coincidence.

The motorized community has participated in the development of the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative(GPLI) but vigorously assert the GPLI needs significant addition development before  being a document that our user group could support if only based on motorized recreational interests. There are numerous important riding areas that remain at risk of loss in the Proposal   specific recommendations .   This position  is directly contrary to much of the press information being provided which is touting diverse support for the proposal and prominently displays a motor vehicle on the cover that is being provided around this project.  The Organizations would note that the most vigorous supporters of the Proposal are Organizations that are not losing any opportunity areas.

We cannot support the current version of this Proposal due to the negative impacts to multiple use recreation and the numerous new barriers it would put in place to addressing the poor forest health of these areas in a cost effective manner. The Organizations anticipate any discussion of addressing would result in significant revision of the legislation to develop something we could support.

5. Summer recreational usage should be limited to designated routes for all user groups.

There are significant discussions occurring around moving other user groups to a designated trail system for recreation in a manner similar to the process that has been applied to summer motorized usage.   The Organizations do not support moving to an entirely designated trail system in the winter due to the fact that summer and winter recreation are significantly different given the buffer provided by snowfall between the recreational activity and the resources that are buried in the snow. Large open riding areas are strongly preferred by the winter motorized users and this is a viable management position due to the buffer between resources and recreational activity provided by snow.   These issues are discussed more in depth later in these comments.

The Organizations would support moving other summer user groups to a designated network of roads and trails, as many of these user groups face resource challenges similar to those identified in a poorly maintained motorized network.  While the motorized community has become a strong partner with GMUG managers in addressing these challenges, other user groups have  failed to adopt this “pay to play” model and as a result resources are not available to remedy possible impacts.  The Organizations believe that moving everyone to a designated trail system would allow a more complete leveraging of resources and improve recreational opportunities in the long run due to minimized resource impacts.

A large number of adjacent planning offices such as the BLM Grand Junction Field Office, Colorado River Valley Field Office, Domingez-Escalante National Conservation Area, the White River National Forest, the San Juan National Forest and the Tres Rios Field Office have moved many user groups to a designated route system in order to protect resources and stretch the ever reducing federal funds available to maintain recreational opportunities. The Organizations believe that consistency of the planning offices will be highly valuable in educating users of these changes and leveraging resources.

Moving other users, such as mountain bikers, to a designated route system would reduce user conflict. Often the members of the motorized community are highly frustrated that other users are allowed to “ride in” trails in areas with little to no management oversight simply due to the fact that such practices remain legal in most areas. Frustration of members of the motorized user community increase as often these routes are blamed on the motorized community, who is then obligated to remediate possible impacts to resources that result from this unmanaged recreation.  This should be avoided.

6. OHV recreation is a major economic driver for local communities.

The Organizations would also like to provide new information on the economic impact of OHV recreation to the local communities in and around the GMUG planning area. COHVCO has partnered with the USFS, BLM and CPW in order to develop an entirely new analysis of the economic contribution of OHV recreation in the State of Colorado.  A complete study of this 2014-2015 study is submitted with these comments as Exhibit 3.   This new research concluded that more than $2.3 billion in total economic contribution to the Colorado economy results from OHV recreation. This economic contribution results in more than 16,500 jobs and more than $250 million in tax revenue to local communities in the State.  A more detailed breakdown of this contribution is provided below.

2014-15 Economic Contribution

OHV recreation in the GMUG planning area results in more than $340 million in economic contribution, almost 3,000 jobs in local communities and more than $56 million in tax revenue to communities that often struggle to provide basic services, such as schools and  road maintenance to residents.  A full breakdown of this information is provided on pg 18  of the complete study.

This research also identifies that the Central Colorado region, encompassing a large portion of the GMUG planning area is the largest destination for both Colorado residents and non-residents seeking OHV opportunities. This information will be highly relevant in addressing the public demand for opportunities in the ever expanding Colorado population seeking to obtain high quality recreational opportunities.

trip percentages residents

trip percentages non-resident

Group spending profiles for the motorized community are some of the highest in the recreational community  and that winter motorized users spend at an amount similar to that of the developed downhill skiing community.  This research indicates that motorized user groups spend at a minimum $221 per day when taking a day trip and up to $2,300 for groups going overnight more than 50  miles from home and these conclusions are supported by detailed itemized information to support the spending conclusions.[15]

The Organizations are aware that there are a growing number of cursory studies addressing the economic contribution of other users of public lands.  The Organizations welcome this additional information on the economic contribution of other forms of recreation but would also urge planners to review some of this research very closely as much of the underlying research has not been peer reviewed and is often not fully vetted or consistent with usage on the GMUG.   Our concerns on this issue would be exemplified by the fact that users frequently identify a Whisler BC mountain bike study to support the fact that the mountain biking community spends at similar levels to the motorized community.  These conclusions are entirely inconsistent with both COHVCO research and the USFS own research on these issues, which concludes that the bicycle community only spends 50% of what a similar motorized user spends. [16]The Organizations don’t contest the conclusions on the developed ski area but would note that this profile is only relating to mountain bikers at a developed ski area utilizing ski area resources, such as lift passes is probably not highly relevant to areas where these highly developed resources are not available.  Again planners must insure than any information relied on for management decisions is high quality, reviewing a similar activity to the one being reviewed on the GMUG and is basically relevant to the discussion being had.

7. Document reviews from anti access groups addressing wildlife concerns with motorized recreation must be critically reviewed.

Up to date science must be relied on in the development of the RMP and that survey documents created by user groups opposed to multiple use are not a substitute for best available science. This is an issue we are forced to address in our comments as we are aware of several documents that have been circulated under the guise of best available science that are far from a planning resource but rather appears to desire to address travel management without regard to other management challenges or the priority threats on the issue.  The Organizations would be remiss if the reliance on the works of Switalski asserted to be “Best Management Practices for OSV management” was not specifically addressed.  While there are numerous anti-access organization science summaries in circulation, the Winter Wildlands Alliance (“WWA”) brochure appears to be the most common right now and targeting winter recreation only but is too often applied to all recreational activity.

The Organizations are intimately familiar with this document as it is readily available on the Winter Wildlands website[17]  and it has been embraced as best available science in several other planning documents. This is simply astounding as WWA is a propaganda document created by those opposed to multiple use recreation, rather than a survey of best available science on the issue and the Organizations submit that this is exactly the type of document that must be strictly reviewed by planners. Representatives of the Organizations have attempted to discuss  our concerns about the basic validity of the document with WWA representatives and have not had any success.  We have included the American Council of Snowmobile Associations 2014 “Facts and Myths about Snowmobiling on Winter Trails” booklet as Exhibit 4 to these comments, in order to provide a complete background of all research on OSV travel in an timely and balanced manner.  This document is a result of years of effort and a genuine interest in accurately reflecting the management issue and scientific research at the time of publication and often directly reflects the position of the USFS or USFWS on issues in order to provide a single point of reference on agency position.

A cursory review of the Switalski/WWA  document quickly identifies best management practices standards that were BADLY out of date at the time the document was published in 2015.  The Organizations submit that the grim picture of multiple use recreation portrayed in  this document is provided in an attempt to pull the range of alternatives towards closing routes.  After a review of the booklet, the Organizations believe this document to be an attempt to move their Organizations mission of  “snow less traveled” than a true survey of best available science on many issues as many studies have been repeatedly superseded or completely inaccurately summarized in this work. The Organizations believe a complete review of best available science and the position conveyed in the WWA brochure on each issue is not warranted but the Organizations believe several examples of the quality of low quality information or badly outdated nature of the information  provided in this document are sufficient to substantiate our inclusion of this issue in our comments.  The Organizations believe that the first step in developing truly effective management of any issue is establishing the landscape level summary of the threats and challenges for the species, as many factors are heavily influenced by activities that are totally unrelated and beyond management by the USFS. Overly restrictive management on public lands can directly  undermine species management efforts being undertaken in partnership with private lands interests.

The first relevant example of outdated and misleading and questionably relevant information being provided in the WWA brochure involves OSV emissions.  The EPA is an Agency that  has been specifically developed to address  vehicle emissions and air quality and the USFS should not be addressing these types of issues in travel planning, as the USFS expertise is not in air quality and emissions standards.   If the units are in compliance with EPA standards that should be the end of the USFS interest in emissions for vehicles. The Organizations vigorously assert that landscape level standards are that all units being produced and used in Colorado  are well below EPA requirements for these types of vehicles.  Additionally EPA and partner analysis  find that localized air quality issues are totally unrelated to  OSV travel further drawing the relevance of this information into question for travel management purposes. The WWA brochure provides the following information without any basis for comparison to other activities:

exhaust chart
[18]

This information might have been minimally informative to land managers in the decision making process in 2002 but have to question the value of this information decades later, as the overwhelming percentage of 2002 snowmobiles simply are no  longer in use.  Newer snowmobiles are more cost effective to ride, more reliable and operate in full compliance with EPA air quality requirements, which have reduced the number of emissions from this class of vehicle by more than 100%.  The 2012 EPA standards for OSV travel are reflected in the following air quality standards:

EPA Snowmobile emission standards
[19]

Any snowmobile manufactured after 2012 may only produce ½ the emissions that a 2002 unit was allowed to produce.  The Organizations are aware that most new units are producing emissions far below even EPA standards for these types of vehicles. The Organizations have to question the relevance of any emissions information for vehicles that were produced more than a decade ago and are no longer used.  Again the Organizations must question if assertions regarding the relevance of 2002 emissions outputs decades after those emissions standards have been superseded is truly relying on best available science. An additional question could be raised on this issue, mainly since pollution appears to be asserted to be the basis for travel management closures, does the fact that 2017 equipment produces more than 50% less emissions than similar 2002 equipment mean areas should now be opened? Clearly such a question has no place in travel management analysis regardless of the direction of the question.

This is not the only time that severely limited or questionably relevant information is provided in the WWA brochure. The WWA brochure also provides summaries of Water/Air Quality studies that are inaccurate at best and are sometimes simply erroneous. An example of such a summary involves the Musselman study, which the WWA brochure attempts to summarize as follows:

“During the winter, snowmobiles release toxins such as ammonium, nitrate, sulfate, benzene, and toluene which accumulate in the snowpack (Ingersol 1999), and increase acidity (Musselman and Kormacher 2007).”[20]

Any summary of the Musselman work which attempts to support such a position is misleading and frustrating to the snowmobile community, as the snowmobile community partnered in the development of this study in an effort meaningfully address issues and develop parking facilities at the study location.  The Musselman study clearly stated their conclusions as follows:

“Seasonal differences were evident in air chemistry, specifically for CO, NO2, and NOx, but not for NO or O3. NO2 and NOx were higher in summer than winter, while CO concentrations were higher in winter than summer. Nevertheless, air pollutant concentrations were generally low both winter and summer, and were considerably lower than exceedence levels of NAAQS.”[21]

“Nevertheless, an air pollution signal was detected that could be related to snowmobile activity; but the pollutant concentrations were low and not likely to cause significant air quality impacts even at this high snowmobile activity site.”[22]

The Organizations have never asserted that motors used for OSV recreation do not produce certain levels of emissions, as that would simply be insulting to all parties involved.  Rather researchers  have asserted these issues are very minimal in nature when addressing any landscape level emissions  that might be in an area, as these new units are EPA compliant. Even  when OSV emissions are addressed locally, they are found to be insufficient to warrant any further monitoring.  If air quality is an issue that should be addressed at the landscape level, the Western Slope planning area is generally well within air quality standards for the EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health. [23]  Any air quality concerns on the Western Slope are localized and related to particulate matter being released from wildfires in the vicinity.  This issue again highlights the value of identifying a limited number of threats on the GMUG, such as poor forest health, as these factors can insure that limited resources are directed to poor forest health and subsequent wildfires rather than OHV/OSV emissions.

A second example of the misleading use of science in the WWA booklet involves lynx  management standards and again provide a stark example of the systemic usage of out of date information in the WWA brochure. Lynx management is an issue the Organizations have now partnered with CPW/USFS and USFWS in addressing for more than decade and now have significant time and resources vested into in an attempt to insure best available science on since reintroduction of the lynx in Colorado.  This support has taken a wide range of efforts including some direct donations of resources, significant support such as fuel oil and equipment retrieval in the backcountry.

The WWA brochure clearly asserts that “no net gain” remains the rule for OSV travel in lynx habitat, stating as follows:

“The Canada Lynx Assessment and Conservation Strategy set planning standards on Forest Service lands that include, “on federal lands in lynx habitat, allow no net increase in groomed or designated over-the-snow routes and snowmobile play areas by Lynx Analysis Unit… and map and monitor the location and intensity of snow compacting activities that coincide with lynx habitat, to facilitate future evaluation of effects on lynx as information becomes available” (USDA FS 2000, p.82).”[24]

This was a relevant summary of research in 2000, as research on the lynx was exceptionally limited in 2000 and “no net gain” was temporarily relied on for management of these areas.   Research in 2000 on this issue was more aptly summarized as identifying the numerous gaps in research rather than a peer reviewed body of science to develop a management plan.  As these gaps in research were resolved, new management guidelines were periodically released for management of lynx habitat and as a result the 2000 LCAS has been superseded by the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendments in 2008 and the 2013 release of the updated Lynx Conservation Assessment and Strategy, which was signed and developed in partnership with the USFS. A complete copy of this document is attached to these comments as Exhibit 5.  These management documents have clearly moved away from the “no net gain” standard and towards a truly science based management structure.  The 2013 LCAS specifically addresses new research on many recreational issues as follows:

  • The 2013 LCAS specifically and clearly superseded all previous planning documents and clearly states that the 2013 LCAS is now the definitive planning document for lynx issues in federal land planning; [25]
  • Recreational usage of lynx habitat is a second level threat and not likely to have substantial effects on the lynx or its habitat. Previous theory and management analysis had placed a much higher level of concern on recreational usage of lynx habitat; [26]
  • Lynx have been known to incorporate smaller ski resorts within their home ranges, but may not utilize the large resorts. Dispersed motorized recreational usage certainly does not create impacts that can be equated to even a small ski area; [27]
  • Road and trail density does not impact the quality of an area as lynx habitat;[28]
  • There is no information to suggest that trails have a negative impact on lynx; [29]
  • Snow compaction from winter recreational activity is not likely to change the competitive advantage of the lynx and other predators;[30]
  • Snow compaction in the Southern Rocky Mountain region is frequently a result of natural process and not recreational usage; [31]
  • Winter recreational usage of lynx habitat should only be “considered” in planning and should not be precluded given the minimal threat this usage poses to the lynx; and [32]
  • Failing to manage habitat areas to mitigate impacts of poor forest health issues, such as the spruce and mtn pine beetle, is a major concern in lynx habitat for a long duration.[33]

The conflict between the 2000 LCAS relied on in the Winter Wildlands brochure and accurate up to date management standards clearly provided in the 2013 LCAS is immediately apparent, and not addressing this conflict would possibly allow a plan to be developed based on badly out of date information and research. Given that the WWA/Switalski document was not released until 2 years after the release of the 2013 LCAS, there was more than enough time to provide accurate information in the WWA/Switalski survey. The Organizations submit that the failure to reflect best available science on the lynx casts a shadow over the reliability of the entire document.

Since the release of the 2013 LCAS, Colorado Parks and Wildlife  has also explicitly addressed Canadian Lynx issues in Colorado, which have resulted from the successful reintroduction efforts of the lynx in Colorado as follows:

“Lynx have successfully been re-established in Colorado and a self-sustaining population is believed to persist in the region. The management actions taken to re-establish the population to Colorado were done considering the landscape of the time – there is no intention of attempting to change, alter or remove historic and current land uses from the landscape. Many of these industries can and have developed practices that have the potential to allow the long term persistence of the lynx within the context of existing land use.”[34]

Given these clear statements from both Federal and State species management experts that OSV/OHV usage is not impacting the Canadian Lynx and that there should not be any changes in land use as a result of lynx activity and position that closing any  area to OSV/OHV  would benefit the Canadian Lynx would be inaccurate and conflicting with best available science.

A third example of the misleading usage of science in the WWA document involves a comparison of the Wolverine management standards from the USFWS and the WWA brochure, which  again provides evidence of the lack of scientific basis for much of the WWA brochure.  The WWA brochure summarizes Wolverine management standards as follows:

“Key management schemes for protecting wolverine include limiting disturbance and retaining and restoring habitat connectivity. Managers can reduce the potential conflict with snowmobiles and wolverine by identifying areas of overlap and managing accordingly.”[35]

This management position simply cannot be reconciled with recent USFWS  listing decisions regarding the Wolverine that convey a very different standard for the management of recreational activities in Wolverine habitat. USFWS management specifically states:

“there should be no changes to forest management as the result of an area being designated as habitat”.[36]

While there was concern regarding the climate change being identified as the primary threat to the Wolverine in the most recent listing decision that ended in determination that the Wolverine was not warranted for listing as threatened or endangered,  no concerns were registered regarding the accuracy of these management position that was taken with regard to general forest management standards.  Given the clarity of these USFWS statements, the Organizations again are concerned that best available science has not been relied on for the development of the WWA brochure. Awareness of the lack of basic accuracy in the WWA document is critical in establishing a high quality science based RMP for the GMUG.

8. Land managers must be aware of the severely checkered past performance of those proposing best management practices.

As noted in the previous sections of these comments, there are serious conflicts between what is recognized as best available science on numerous issues and that being provided from user groups who are proposing best management practices for users outside their interest group. The basic concern for these standards is not limited to a lack of scientific basis, but also extends to the implementation of social values as part of the BMPs.  It is unfortunate that these documents are not the first time BMP’s have been proposed based on inaccurate science and the Organizations believe that understanding the exceptionally poor response and immediate user conflict that resulted when the USFS moved to adopt these BMP’s will be critical in avoiding creation of an institutional user conflict in the GMUG RMP.

Adam Switalski, the author of the WWA Booklet, has proposed OHV management BMP’s previously which were adopted by the USFS as Appendix D  of the ” Comprehensive Framework for Off-Highway Vehicle Trail Management”.  The Organizations have enclosed relevant portions of this guide and related documents  as this guide was immediately withdrawn by the USFS when vigorous public opposition to the BMP’s was voiced.[37]  The Framework is not locatable on the internet currently to our knowledge. The Organizations would be remiss if the huge levels of overlap between the BMP’s in the Framework and WWA Booklet were not addressed both from a scientific and social aspects.  While the framework BMPs targeted all multiple use recreation, the implementation of the WWA Booklet BMPs for a smaller subset of the multiple use community is no more acceptable to the Organizations.

This overlap starts with the fact that both documents were published in the same scientific journal and given the immediate vigorous response to the original BMP’s, the Organizations would question why any journal would not review any further articles with a high level of scrutiny.  Additionally, many of the same standards are again proposed to be best management practices for multiple use recreation.  A few examples of the significant overlap of socially based standards are as follows:

  • Both publications assert motorized usage should be prohibited in a proposed     Wilderness Area;
  • both attempt to tie multiple use recreation to management challenges unrelated to     multiple use, such as the impairment of water quality;
  • require multiple use only occur in areas with a trail density of less than 1 mile per  square mile;
  • both provide identical offset distances for watershed related issues; and a blanket prohibition of multiple use in areas identified as habitat for endangered or  sensitive species.

While the verbiage of the BMP’s is clearly more polished in the WWA booklet, the BMP’s that were the basis of the immediate user conflict have not changed. Often standards are provided with absolutely no basis for the standard, such as 1 mile per square mile standard or are standards that conflict with best available science or are standards, such as the prohibition of motorized usage in WSA areas, where historical usages are specifically recognized and protected by federal law.

The Organizations believe that avoiding the vigorous user conflict that resulted immediately from adoption of the BMP’s from Mr. Switalski by the USFS nationally in the GMUG RMP revision.   Implementation of socially based management standards is no more acceptable at the forest level   than it was at the national level.  The Organizations submit that if there is truly an issue to be resolved, the motorized community has a long and proud history of partnering with GMUG managers to resolve the issue.  Inadvertent implementation of management BMP’s that are not soundly based would negatively impact this partnership and should be avoided and a full awareness of the history of all proposals is a critical component of avoiding these negative impacts.

9. The minimization criteria in the 2005 Travel Rule require goals and objectives of the forest plan to be created before moving to travel management analysis.

There is a significant amount of information of again questionable accuracy and public pressure from a small vocal group being applied to planners regarding the minimization criteria of the Travel Management Rule.  This is exemplified by The Wilderness Society documents entitled  “Achieving Compliance with the Executive Order “Minimization Criteria” for Off-Road Vehicle Use on Federal Public Lands: Background, Case Studies, and Recommendations and  Travel Analysis Best Practices: A Review of Completed Travel Analysis Process Reports.”  We are aware that this document has been submitted in numerous forest planning efforts and as a result we are forced to assume that this document has been submitted to the GMUG.

Again this document much be approached with a great deal of caution by planners, as it fails to address relevant decision documents and legislation in what appears to be an attempt to support a position that the USFS has never accepted. Rather than recognizing that the Forest Plan must set the goals and objectives for management of areas BEFORE minimizing any impacts, this document would reverse this relationship and require a complete minimization of impacts and Forest Plans then being tailored to this goal.   All relevant versions of the Travel Rule clearly require minimization of possible impacts to achieve the goals and objectives of the Forest Plan.  The most recent version of the Travel Management Rule EO 11644,  clearly states as follows:

“Sec. 3. Zones of Use. (a) Each respective agency head shall develop and issue regulations and administrative instructions, within six months of the date of this order, to provide for administrative designation of the specific areas and trails on public lands on which the use of off-road vehicles may be permitted, and areas in which the use of off-road vehicles may not be permitted, and set a date by which such designation of all public lands shall be completed. Those regulations shall direct that the designation of such areas and trails will be based upon the protection of the resources of the public lands, promotion of the safety of all users of those lands, and minimization of conflicts among the various uses of those lands. The regulations shall further require that the designation of such areas and trails shall be in accordance with the following–

(1) Areas and trails shall be located to minimize damage to soil, watershed, vegetation, or other resources of the public lands.

(2) Areas and trails shall be located to minimize harassment of wildlife or significant disruption of wildlife habitats.

(3) Areas and trails shall be located to minimize conflicts between off-road vehicle use and other existing or proposed recreational uses of the same or neighboring public lands, and to ensure the compatibility of such uses with existing conditions in populated areas, taking into account noise and other factors.

(4) Areas and trails shall not be located in officially designated Wilderness Areas or Primitive Areas. Areas and trails shall be located in areas of the National Park system, Natural Areas, or National Wildlife Refuges and Game Ranges only if the respective agency head determines that off-road vehicle use in such locations will not adversely affect their natural, aesthetic, or scenic values.

(b) The respective agency head shall ensure adequate opportunity for public participation in the promulgation of such regulations and in the designation of areas and trails under this section.

(c) The limitations on off-road vehicle use imposed under this section shall not apply to official use.”

While the Wilderness Society documents attempt to provide a compelling legal argument that minimization criteria requires minimization of all impacts,  this simply is not the case and the USFS specifically declined to apply this standard in the 2005 Travel Rule.  In the response to public comment to the 2005 Travel Rule the USFS planners clearly address this position as follows:

“Response. The Department has retained the proposed language, ‘‘the responsible official shall consider effects on the following, with the objective of minimizing,’’ in the final rule. The retained language is mandatory with respect to addressing environmental and other impacts associated with motor vehicle use of trails and areas. The Department believes this language is consistent with

E.O. 11644 and better expresses its intent. It is the intent of E.O. 11644 that motor vehicle use of trails and areas on Federal lands be managed to address environmental and other impacts, but that motor vehicle use on Federal lands continue in appropriate locations. An extreme interpretation of ‘‘minimize’’ would preclude any use at all, since impacts always can be reduced further by preventing them altogether. Such an interpretation would not reflect the full context of E.O. 11644 or other laws and policies related to multiple use of NFS

lands. Neither E.O. 11644, nor these other laws and policies, establish the primacy of any particular use of trails and areas over any other. The Department believes ‘‘shall consider * * * with the objective of minimizing * * *’’ will assure that environmental impacts are properly taken into account, without categorically precluding motor vehicle use.

Section 212.55(c). This section of the rule contains specific criteria for designation of roads.”[38]

This is also a position that the USFS has litigated and won.  In addition to completely failing to reflect relevant Executive Orders and related agency  analysis, these documents frequently operate on the assumption that roads are the only threats on public lands and the only way to address an impaired stream is through route closure.  Such a position is facially faulty as the position fails to answer a critical question, mainly “Why is stream health impaired?”. These are foundational questions to developing a forest plan based on science.  Too often on the GMUG poor water quality is the result of mine related discharges, high levels of particulates resulting from the stream traveling over highly erosive soils  or the proximity of the stream to an area that has been impacted by Wildfire. None of these challenges to water quality will be addressed with route closures, and closure of routes to mines in need of remediation may actually further impair basic maintenance and oversight of a compromised mine site.

The Wilderness Society further clouds other management issues such as aquatic species either listed or proposed to be listed as Endangered or Threatened.  Again the Wilderness Society analysis provided in the documents identified above  fails to identify a critical question of “What is the primary threat to the species?” and simply moves to the assumption that routes are the primary threat to the species. There is simply no basis for this position in the ESA and again directly conflicts with science based planning requirements in federal regulations.  Such a position is not supported by best available science as the US Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station recently released extensive analysis of the effectiveness of travel management restrictions on addressing sensitive species issues at the landscape level.  These conclusions specifically found that travel management was not effective in addressing many species related issues.  The Research Station conclusions specifically stated as follows:

“Actions such as limiting grazing or closing OHV trails have historically been some of the primary tools used by land managers in southern Nevada to reduce the effects of anthropogenic stressors on species of conservation concern….. It is evident from this body of research that very little is known about the relative threats posed to, or the mitigation actions needed to protect, virtually any species, except perhaps the desert tortoise. Too often research jumps immediately to mitigation strategies without first determining what specific factors pose the greatest threats and are the most important to mitigate. In addition, the evaluation of potential threats typically focuses upon the usual anthropogenic suspects (e.g. OHVs, livestock grazing, invasive species, and climate change) without first carefully considering which factors are most likely to pose the greatest threats.” [39]

These general management positions regarding the effectiveness of travel management in addressing sensitive and endangered species issues are supported by specific analysis of GBCT threats.  The 2009 FWS listing decision does identify trails usage as a “threat” but only a low level threat, as follows:

“Low level threats include the ongoing negative effects of past mining operations on water quality; the impacts of grazing, logging, and road and trail construction and use on riparian habitat and streambanks, causing increased erosion, sediment deposition, and in turn elevated water temperatures and higher turbidity; and the co-occurrence of nonnative salmonids with greenback populations.” [40]

The 5 year listing decision specifically states that land managers have a significant amount of latitude in addressing these low level threats to the trout.  The listing decision recommended management of this issue as follows:

“Regulatory and land management agencies have the ability to improve habitat conditions and eliminate or minimize these threats by…. by implementing conservation measures to avoid streamside habitat degradation while approving new grazing, logging, and road and trail construction proposals; by moving existing roads and trails away from streamside habitats and rehabilitating disturbed riparian habitats;….. All of these positive activities are ongoing throughout the subspecies’ range and are implemented based on agency priorities and funding levels on an annual basis.”[41]

Management of sensitive trout species has occurred in habitat areas where there are extensive but properly managed routes and trails available and researchers have specifically found that:

“[s]tudy streams were accessible by road or trail and generally supported good to excellent habitat conditions.”[42]

Given the explicit nature of this statement, clearly recreational usage and trout habitat designations are not mutually exclusive designations as are proposed by the Wilderness Society documentation.  Clearly these management standards cannot be summarized as a high priority management tool or requiring closure of any habitat areas to recreational usage.

The relationship of aquatic species and road management exemplifies the high value that could result from identifying a limited number of major challenges in the GMUG planning area moving forward in order to provide a quick confirmation of management decisions on these issues.  Poor forest health is clearly a high priority concern for the GMUG moving forward and  fire is specifically identified as a disturbance that results in trout habitat being unsuitable for centuries.  This relationship has been clearly stated in Conservation Assessments stating:

“In particular, disturbances that dramatically alter channels or riparian zones—debris torrents…and severe fires—will change the discharge-sediment transport regime, re-set forest succession and large wood dynamics, and redistribute suitable and unsuitable habitat in a basin, sometimes for decades or centuries…” [43]

Again the Organizations must stress that species decline and roads and trails in a habitat area are completely unrelated when best available science on the issue is reviewed drawing into question the basic premise of minimizing routes to protect a trout species.

The Organizations vigorously assert that the tremendous pressure that is often applied to land managers in an attempt to improperly apply the minimization criteria must be resisted as a complete review of previous USFS decisions and relevant regulations require any forest plan to balance multiple uses of public lands in the planning process before addressing a minimum road network necessary to achieve the goals and objectives of the forest plan.  The balancing of multiple uses is a critical step in insuring the economic stability of local communities in the GMUG planning area that are now overly reliant on the GMUG for the basic sustainability of the community moving forward. Land managers must insure that any management decision actually addresses the “why?” of the issue rather than simply moving to a position that roads and trails are the primary reason for every decline on public lands.  Not only does this insure the limited resources of managers are most effectively applied to primary challenges to any issues but effective management builds partnerships to address issues in the future.

10. The Colorado Roadless Rule must be accurately applied in the GMUG RMP.

The Organizations submit that the development of the Colorado Roadless Rule (“CRR”) is generally poorly understood by many of the groups submitting comments in favor of expansion of Wilderness and Recommended Wilderness in the Planning Process.   The Organizations submit the CRR development was an extensive site specific analysis of many of the same areas that have been the basis for possible Wilderness designations in the past and the CRR provided clear guidance for development of non-Wilderness management of these areas moving into the future in the hope of avoiding what has become a never ending discussion of possible designation of these areas. The CRR clearly states that no further protections of these areas is warranted and that the characteristics inventoried should be protected and preserved.

The Organizations were actively and extensively involved in the development of the CRR with the USFS, and can assert without hesitation that the CRR sought to provide a dispersed recreational experience for all users, which is a significant difference from the position asserted by the Wilderness Society in their comments on this issue. The Organizations submit that any interpretation of the CRR in the manner asserted in the Wilderness Society comments twists both the direct language of the CRR and the spirit and intent in developing the CRR.  Application of this twisted version of the CRR must be avoided in the development of the GMUG RMP.  This alternative based on the Wilderness Society position  was specifically reviewed in the development of the CRR and was declined to be implemented.

While the Roadless Rule never altered the multiple use mandates for these areas, the development of the Colorado Roadless Rule went a step further on multiple uses and specifically identifies motorized usage as a characteristic of a Colorado Roadless Area.   The CRR specifically states this as follows:

“Roadless areas are, among other things, sources of drinking water, important fish and wildlife habitat, semi-primitive or primitive recreation areas, including motorized and  nonmotorized recreation opportunities, and natural-appearing landscapes. There is a need to provide for the conservation and management of roadless area characteristics.”[44]

Documents developed around the CRR further clearly state this relationship as follows:

“The final rule does not prohibit use of existing authorized motorized trails nor does it prohibit the future development of motorized trails in CRAs (see 36 CFR 294.46(f)). The final rule allows continued motorized trail use of CRAs if determined appropriate through local travel management planning.”[45]

The Organizations believe that proper application of the CRR review and analysis process provides significant information regarding areas that should not be managed in a manner similar to Wilderness.  Under this review, a significant portion of the GMUG planning area was specifically reviewed for possible Upper Tier Roadless designation and found to be unsuitable.

GMUG map
[46]

Given that a large portion of the Non-Wilderness areas in the GMUG planning area where recently inventoried for possible increases in management to levels that remained below Congressionally designated Wilderness, the Organizations must question what situation or condition has changed in these areas that would allow these areas to become suitable for Wilderness recommendations in the RMP within  such a short period of time.

11. Congressionally designated Wilderness is already an underused recreational resource on the GMUG.

The Organizations feel compelled to address this issue as we are aware that there has already been extensive comments submitted seeking significant expansions of these areas and the 2005 revision of the GMUG forest plan recommended another 125,000 acres of Wilderness on the GMUG.  This is simply staggering and must be avoided in the development of the new RMP.  While the Organizations are aware that various federal planning statutes require an inventory for Wilderness Character in the planning process, the Organizations must stress that this is an inventory only and does not require any management of these areas as Wilderness.

Again this public pressure on managers from a small vocal group fails to address the fact that Colorado has a long history of effectively moving large portions of public lands into the National Wilderness system. Currently, Colorado Forests represent 5% of ALL Congressionally designated Wilderness in the Country. [47]  If there is a lack of balance in representative landscapes in the Wilderness System, these landscapes should be pursued in other planning areas such as New Mexico or Utah were these states represent less than 1% of the system despite large public lands holdings.

Currently 556,000 acres of Wilderness on the GMUG or about 17% of the management area, placing the GMUG well in excess of many other forests inside Region 2 of the USFS.  By comparison approximately 14% of USFS lands in Colorado are Congressionally designated Wilderness.   Again, if there is an under representation of Wilderness areas, the GMUG is not contributing to this under representation.

While Wilderness advocates consistently assert the strong demand of users for recreational opportunities in designated Wilderness areas,  this has not proven to be the case on the GMUG were the USFS National Visitor Use Monitoring identified that only 4% of GMUG visitors even sought to visit a Wilderness area despite 17% of the forest already being designated as such.[48] As a result of these designations, 96% of all visitation to the GMUG is occurring on only 83% of the planning areas. Recreational usage of GMUG opportunities continues to be tied to motorized access as driving for pleasure, relaxing, and viewing wildlife and natural resources continues to be strong.   Given the significant underutilization of recreational opportunities on the GMUG in Wilderness areas, the Organizations must question the recreational value that could be placed on any expansion of Wilderness like management to expand “quiet use” recreational opportunities. There is simply to scientific basis for such a management expansion.

Expanding Wilderness like management also conflicts with the primary threat to land managers on the GMUG, mainly dealing with the exceptionally poor forest health in the planning area in a timely and cost effective manner. While Wilderness Society  and others assert that catastrophic wildfire on public lands is an effective tool for managing these areas, managers are aware that the true public support for fire as a management tool has been marginal at best. Management of any forest area without the ability to use mechanical equipment is simply generally publically accepted meaning the only cost effective management tool to address forest health is streamlining timber production and the Organizations submit that basic cost effectiveness of any management standards must be a priority of any planning. While the Colorado Wilderness Act of 1993 permitted the use of mechanized equipment for maintenance of Wilderness, the Organizations are not aware of use of this authorization due to the vocal opposition to such an activity based on a philosophical opposition.  Again this must be addressed and balanced in planning.

In addition to Wilderness being a hugely underutilized recreational resource on the GMUG and a major barrier to cost effective management of the poor forest health on the GMUG, there has been almost no Congressional support for expansion of Wilderness on the GMUG.  Many of the areas on the GMUG that are asserted to be suitable for inclusion in the Wilderness system in proposals such as Hidden Gems have been repeatedly analyzed for these issues and consistently found to be unsuitable for inclusion.  Congressional action subsequently has repeatedly failed to designate these areas as well.  The Organizations are again submitting this information in the hope that a science based management plan can be developed for the GMUG moving forward.

12. User conflict often cannot be resolved with route closures, especially in the winter.

The Organizations believe that analysis of how best available science supports the management decisions and direction any proposal constitutes a critical part of the planning process, especially when addressing perceived user conflicts.  This analysis will allow the public to understand the basis of alleged user conflicts and why travel management has been chosen to remedy the concern.   Relevant social science has clearly found this analysis to be a critical tool in determining the proper methodology for managing and truly resolving user conflicts.

When socially based user conflict is properly addressed in the Proposal, the need for travel management closures will be significantly reduced. Researchers have specifically identified that properly determining the basis for or type of user conflict is critical to determining the proper method for managing this conflict.  Scientific analysis defines the division of conflicts as follows:

“For interpersonal conflict to occur, the physical presence or behavior of an individual or a group of recreationists must interfere with the goals of another individual or group….Social values conflict, on the other hand, can occur between groups who do not share the same norms (Ruddell&Gramann, 1994) and/or values (Saremba& Gill, 1991), independent of the physical presence or actual contact between the groups……When the conflict stems from interpersonal conflict, zoning incompatible users into different locations of the resource is an effective strategy.  When the source of conflict is differences in values, however, zoning is not likely to be very effective. In the Mt. Evans study (Vaske et al., 1995), for example, physically separating hunters from nonhunters did not resolve the conflict in social values expressed by the nonhunting group. Just knowing that people hunt in the area resulted in the perception of conflict. For these types of situations, efforts designed to educate and inform the different visiting publics about the reasons underlying management actions may be more effective in reducing conflict.” [49]

Other researchers have distinguished types of user conflicts based on a goals interference distinction, described as follows:

“The travel management planning process did not directly assess the prevalence of on-site conflict between non-motorized groups accessing and using the yurts and adjacent motorized users…..The common definition of recreation conflict for an individual assumes that people recreate in order to achieve certain goals, and defines conflict as “goal interference attributed to another’s behavior” (Jacob & Schreyer, 1980, p. 369). Therefore, conflict as goal interference is not an objective state, but is an individual’s appraisal of past and future social contacts that influences either direct or indirect conflict. It is important to note that the absence of recreational goal attainment alone is insufficient to denote the presence of conflict. The perceived source of this goal interference must be identified as other individuals.”[50]

It is significant to note that Mr. Norling’s study, cited above, was specifically created to determine why winter travel management closures had not resolved user conflicts for winter users of a group of yurts on the Wasache-Cache National forest. As noted in Mr. Norling’s study, the travel management decisions addressing in the areas surrounding the yurts failed to distinguish why the conflict was occurring and this failure prevented the land managers from effectively resolving the conflict.

The Organizations believe that understanding why the travel management plan was unable to resolve socially based user conflicts on the Wasache-Cache National Forest is critical in the GMUG planning area.  Properly understanding the issue to be resolved will ensure that the same errors that occurred on the Wasache-Cache are not implemented again to address problems they simply cannot resolve.  The Organizations believe that the GMUG must learn from this failure and move forward with effective management rather than fall victim to the same mistakes again.

13a.  Factors for analysis in over the snow suitability review on the GMUG.

Winter travel management has had a long and successful management  history within the USFS and more specifically on the GMUG. The Organizations are aware that winter travel has been effectively managed for an extended period of time on the GMUG in partnership with local clubs, Colorado Snowmobile Association and Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Organizations are not aware of any major challenges to the continued management of GMUG opportunities for high quality winter recreation.  USFS planners have already recognized that many forests have effectively managed OSV usage and those that have are simply allowed to publish a map based on prior decisions as follows:

“(b) Previous over-snow vehicle decisions. Public notice with no further public involvement is sufficient if an administrative unit or a Ranger District has made previous administrative decisions, under other authorities and including public involvement, which restrict over-snow vehicle use to designated routes and areas over the entire administrative unit or Ranger District, or parts of the administrative unit or Ranger District, where snowfall is adequate for OSV use to occur, and no change is proposed to these previous decisions.”[51]

The Organizations are submitting the following comments in an attempt to identify, outline and streamline many of the factors that have been balanced for decades in the OSV management of the GMUG. This has been a long process and while understood many factors were never clearly identified in the management process.  Many of the recommendations made in these comments are consistent with the recommendations on these issues that are made by the International Association of  Snowmobile Administrators on these issues.  The Organizations are also aware that winter recreation is often the basis of large levels of hybridization of traditionally separate uses in order to access the backcountry, such as hybrid skiers and fat tire bicycles.  In this section the Organizations will also attempt to provide thoughts and science on many of these new uses of the GMUG winter opportunities to facilitate effective management of these usages.

13b. Minimum snowfall to trigger OSV management.

At the landscape level, the Organizations urges the GMUG  to start any OSV review with the principal that areas with sufficient snow cover  should remain open, unless there is a clear reason for an area to be closed to OSV usage. The idea of sufficiency of snowfall is a principal that is woven throughout the new Winter Travel Rule as exemplified by the following quote from the national winter travel efforts:

“OSV use occurs only when sufficient snow is present, in contrast to other types of motor vehicle use, which can occur at any time of the year.”[52]

The Organizations submit that this trigger is the recognized standard for implementation or triggering of OSV travel decisions under the new Winter Travel Rule and is the primary method of resource protection for OSV recreation.  The recent USFS winter travel rule specifically identified the reasoning for this trigger  as follows:

“When properly operated and managed, OSVs do not make direct contact with soil, water, and vegetation; whereas most other types of motor vehicles operate directly on the ground.”[53]

The Organizations agree with this position and are only aware of one situation where lower amounts of snowfall should be explored on a non-landscape level, and that is where a designated route is being used to connect an access point(parking area) at a lower altitude to a play area at a higher altitude where more snow is present.  Often these routes are groomed along a forest service or county road making concerns regarding possible resource impacts from insufficient snow cover minimal, as the route surface under the snow is built to sustain wheeled summer travel.   In additional to the improved surface of the roadway under the groomed route, often groomer operators are very successful in moving sufficient packed snow long distances onto the groomed route in order to insure that resources and operator equipment is protected. Several forests in California are exploring having a minimum snowfall amount for the use of groomed routes and another higher amount to allow for off trail riding, such as the Lake Tahoe Basin, Plumas and Stanislaus. Several areas on GMUG are in a similar situation and the Organizations would support a designated trail connecting these lower altitude parking areas with higher altitude deeper snow riding areas as a means of maintaining these high quality recreational opportunities for all users as the groomed route is the sole source of access to these areas for all users.  The Organizations believe this question could be resolved at the landscape level with a determination that one amount of snow is required to use an OSV off of a designated route and a lesser amount of snow is required to use an OSV on a designated route.

The operation of an OSV in areas where thin or marginal snow is available and resources could be impacted is a self enforcing restriction as a result of the severe and expensive damage that can occur to equipment when sufficient snow is not available to cool the machine.  This damage can be immediate as OSVs rely on snow being thrown on the radiators behind the tunnel/seat to cool the engine and when there is not enough snow contacting these radiators, overheating is almost immediate.  In addition to cooling the engine, this snow also lubricates the rear  suspension and points where the rear track is in contact with the skid.  Without sufficient snow the plastic contact points for the track contact points simply melts and locks the track to the skid.  Running an OSV without sufficient snow is the equivalent of removing the fan belt from your car and driving it down the road with the radiator blocked.  Damage to your car will come quickly and damage will be costly and the same occurs when OSVs are operated without sufficient snowfall.

The Organizations further submit that snowfall sufficiency  should be judged on the landscape level based on usages on and off trail,  as there are areas where maintaining snowfall is difficult, such as windswept bluffs and south facing slopes and snow compaction in the Southern Rockies is the result of natural processes. Given that serious damage can result to equipment after only a short period of use on insufficient snowfall, these areas are avoided by almost all snowmobile users. Any attempt to review the sufficiency of snowfall on a smaller scale will result in inconsistent results as sometimes snow falls are heavy in one location and not at others.  These threshold snowfall questions are almost academic in the GMUG areas as snowfall frequently exceeds minimum amounts very quickly and often snowfall persists into the early summer.

The Organizations also submit that the compaction of snowfall should not be a major concern in the review of snowfall sufficiency, as several inches of fluffy snowfall frequently compacts down to only a few inches of compacted snow as the result of natural processes.   While the snowfall maybe more compact, the protection of resources under the snow remains the same as often the water content of the snowfall does not change. The ACSA Facts and myths book notes several studies where only a few inches of compacted snowfall provides significant protection to resources under that snowfall. Again the Organizations stress that snowmobiles are simply forced to go around larger objects that might be uncovered as snowfall compacts as larger objects simply result in the rider crashing.

13c.  Dates to trigger OSV management

The Organizations have been involved with the attempted usage of hard dates (such as Nov 1- Apr 1) for the triggering and stopping of OSV usage in particular areas and the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area (“VPWRA”) on the White River National Forest would be one such example.   The Organizations submit that this management standard is more the result of held over principals from the summer travel management process than a reasoned management standard for OSV usage.   Often these dates at the VPWRA have little to do with snowfall in the areas managed for OSV usage, as frequently there are early heavy snowfalls that result in high amounts of frustration as snowmobilers want to ride the more than sufficient snow and are not able  simply because the storm has come too early.

The lack of snowfall on the start date (reverse situation of the early storm)  does not balance out the lost opportunities of early storms as if the date arrives for OSV management and there is insufficient snowfall, riders still cannot use these areas due to the severe damage that can result to their equipment from operation on insufficient snow.    The Organizations submit that hard dates can also significantly shorten seasons as well, as often the heavy snowfall in the GMUG does not occur until later in the winter seasons (March or April) and significant snowfalls on riding areas are not unusual in May. These late season storms can provide major snowfall and resource protection and exceptional riding opportunities due to the well established base of snow that remains on the ground but often fall outside trigger dates for OSV travel.  Relying on hard dates to trigger OSV management simply result in lost riding opportunities and significant frustration of users without generating additional resource protection.

The Organizations submit that the usage of hard dates to trigger the start of OSV management creates a lot of frustration for users and conflict between managers and users that is completely unnecessary.   As a result the Organizations submit that dates alone should be avoided and if hard dates are explored as the trigger for OSV travel that these dates be made a long as possible and as an alternative to minimum snowfall (18 inches of snowfall or Nov 1) rather than in conjunction with a minimum snowfall (18 inches and Nov. 1).

13d. Altitude to trigger OSV management

The Organizations are aware that several forests in California (Stanislaus, Plumas, Tahoe) are exploring an altitude restriction as part of their OSV decision making process. (ie: OSV only allowed above 6,500 ft).  The Organizations are opposed to this type of factor being relied on for triggering of OSV management, as this factor simply does not relate to snowfall at a particular location and carries forward many of the concerns the Organizations have with hard dates to trigger OSV usage.

Additionally, the scientific  basis for this decision and standard is unclear at best. The Organizations are further concerned that the introduction of a third type of trigger for OSV travel will make it difficult to educate users regarding the trigger being in existence and will also result in significant new expense for users who would now be required to carry an altimeter into the backcountry as well.  It has been the Organization’s experience that most hand held altimeters are effective in identifying hundreds of feet difference but simply lose accuracy when trying to address altitude more accurately due to their inability to correct for temperature and barometric pressure fluctuations. The Organizations submit that an OSV traveler being issued a ticket when there is sufficient snowfall based on a couple of foot discrepancy between his altimeter and an officers is not a fact pattern that appeals to users.  The Organizations are very concerned that such management will make little sense on the ground, lacks a valid scientific basis and result in significant conflict between managers and users that is completely unnecessary and achieves no additional resource protection. While triggering OSV travel based on altitude is a novel idea to be explored, there are too many challenges with this standard for it to be implemented.

13e.  All types of usage should be included in OSV planning

It has been the Organizations’ experience that there is an ever expanding diversity of recreational usage in the winter backcountry and often new usages are coming into the backcountry that simply were never envisioned even a few years ago.  The Organizations expect this to be the norm moving forward rather than an isolated incident and would support some experimental type designations in the GMUG  area for research on a wide variety of factors to determine what types of usage are scientifically defensible.

While the Organizations welcome new uses, winter recreational management decisions must remain science based in order to be defensible in court as the local clubs that are grooming areas are almost always named in litigation addressing OSV usage.  Scientifically defensible management of a user group should not be put at risk of legal challenge to accommodate other usages without the same level of scientific defensibility. This is an issue the snowmobile community feels very strongly about as the snowmobile community has directed tens of millions of dollars and the entirety of people lives to identifying and defending  the scientific basis for the OSV distinction from summer travel.  The Organizations would also like to avoid reopening discussions regarding wheeled vehicles on winter trails, such as jeeps and pickup trucks.  These vehicles were excluded from winter groomed routes, and the Organizations would like to move forward from that decision as the high pressures these vehicles apply on the snow damage trails and remove the effectiveness of the snow buffer between recreational users and resources protected by the buffer.

Often when new users have come into the winter backcountry,  each of these new user groups feel the need to have a separated area of the forest for their desired usage and this has led to problems with existing usage and unnecessary user conflict. The Organizations would be opposed to the large scale designation of separate play areas for each usage, as the Organizations vigorously believes that all usages should be encouraged to play together in the backcountry as winter recreation is heavily dependent on the groomed winter route network provided by the local snowmobile clubs for access to any portion of the GMUG.  Not only does requiring one community to maintain access to recreational opportunities for other user groups free of charge create user conflict issues, it could easily place local clubs in a position where grooming violates Colorado legal requirements that clubs only groom areas open to motorized usage.  Localized planning based on these factors would be more problematic and could lead to the loss of OSV open area opportunities, which would be opposed by the Organizations.

If there are areas where usages that are inconsistent, the Organizations  do support separate parking areas for these usages in order to reduce conflicts as most conflict of winter users occurs at trailheads as access points are often limited in the winter. The Organizations are also aware that separate parking areas often is not possible due to the fact that groomed routes are the primary method of accessing the backcountry and those winter groomed routes are provided predominately by the CPW winter grooming program paid for with snowmobile registration funds.  This is an issue where a balance simply must be struck due to funding limitations for grooming activities.

13f.  Expanding usages have decreased the relevance of many previous planning  factors

The Organizations support access being provided to all types of winter backcountry users in a scientifically responsible manner and these new usages will impact the suitability analysis of areas for recreational usage.  Historically areas have been found unsuitable for OSV usage for a variety of reasons such as steep terrain or dense trees. It is the Organizations position that new usages of the winter backcountry have almost entirely removed many factors for analysis due to the recreational needs of these new user groups and provide further justification for moving to a minimum snowfall standard only. The Organizations provide the following examples of impacts to new backcountry usages from traditional forms of analysis, not as an exhaustive list, but rather in an attempt to justify why basic snowfall requirements should be the primary factor looked at for winter travel and these traditional factors are no longer relevant.

The Organizations would note that steeper terrain has become far more accessible and desirable for all backcountry winter users over recent years.  These steep areas are often the most highly valued opportunities for some newer usages in the winter backcountry such as hybrid skiers(skiers using snowmobiles to access backcountry skiing opportunities).   Often avalanche chutes and other slide areas are the most sought after areas for hybrid or backcountry skiing, making these areas difficult to call unsuitable for motorized usage. While the Organizations share basic safety  apprehensions about some of these uses with land managers, excluding these hybrid skiing areas from OSV suitability due to concerns about the steepness of terrain would render many of these highly sought after areas unavailable for hybrid skiing.

The Organizations is also aware that suitability reviews in other areas have attempted to include areas of dense tree growth in areas found unsuitable for OSV, however this type of review has not worked well in summarizing areas where OSV’s are and are not able to traverse.  Additionally  this is a very subjective standard that non-snowmobile users struggle with and these types of standards have not adapted to the fact that snowmobiles are far more agile  for the average rider now  when compared to those units made even 10 years ago. It has been the Organizations experience that while these units have allowed intermediate riders to access more advanced areas, advanced riders are not accessing new areas, simply because these riders could access most areas even on older units.   The improved maneuverability of these units makes tree areas more usable for intermediate skill OSV, which can make these areas even more valuable under poor light or storm conditions as the trees provide contrast for riders to use that  simply cannot be found in open meadow areas.

Tree density is a factor where hybrid usage, mainly Timbersleds, have greatly changed the relevance of tree density in the suitability analysis, as  hybrid users find more densely forested areas of the backcountry the desired recreational opportunity.  These hybrid users easily traverse areas that are difficult to traverse on a traditional snowmobile and simply don’t seek  the more open areas favored by traditional snowmobile usage. Many users of Timbersled type conversions find dense tree areas very desirable, as these areas can be easily traversed with Timbersleds and this provides a riding experience similar to a technical single track trail in the summer time for a motorcycle rider.  Timbersled riders also find that better snow conditions persist longer in dense trees than open meadows as these areas are shielded from direct sunlight. While snowmobiles are more agile and able to access these more dense areas, Timbersleds can traverse areas where no traditional snowmobile can travel in areas of dense trees.

13g.  Access points for the winter backcountry have changed

The Organizations submit that access issues related to backcountry winter recreation  have changed with the invent of hybrid usages such as fat tire bikes, Timbersleds, sled decks and hybrid skiers, and these changes are most commonly seen in terms of parking as well.   Historically areas have been closed to OSV usage based on limited parking or access to an area, as traditional OSV usage has been hinged around a trailer to transport vehicles. While some users loaded and unloaded snowmobiles into trucks to ride in a particular area, this was not the overwhelming portion of the snowmobile community since this process can be difficult to do and almost always results in damage to the pickup truck bed that snowmobiles are being loaded into.  Many hybrid users are not limited by the need for a trailer under any conditions and advances in ramp design now allow the cost effective and easy loading of a snowmobile in a pickup truck bed without damage,  making this transportation method more viable for the traditional snowmobile user.[54] The Organizations are also aware that many riders choose to use a sled-deck design on their pickup truck due to the increased flexibility provided by this transportation option. [55] The following pictures are provided in order to insure full understanding of these new trailerless transport products:

trailerless conversion trailerless conversion
[56]

This trailerless model of transportation is the norm for most hybrid uses as multiple Timbersled, or fat tire bicycle type vehicles can easily be loaded in a pickup truck bed without special equipment. As there is no trailer being moved, smaller access points to the winter backcountry represent viable access points for winter hybrid users.  Areas that have traditionally had  lower levels of usage due to parking limitations are often sought out by hybrid users or snowmobilers no longer towing a trailer who seeking a more dispersed recreational experience in the backcountry.

With the reduced need for trailers to participate in the winter backcountry, the Organizations submit that limited parking should not be a significant factor in the analysis of any areas for suitability for OSV usage. Parking next to a high speed arterial road poses many safety concerns but this is not the normal situation for accessing snowmobile areas as many are accessed off low speed forest service roads with users pulling to the side of the road in wide areas to access adjacent opportunities.

13h.  Flexibility moving forward

The Organizations are aware that there are numerous hybrid vehicles and uses being developed, such as fat tire bicycles that were simply unheard of several years ago. The Organizations believe that continued development of these types of vehicles will result in the merger of even more non-traditional usages of the backcountry, such as fat tire E-Bikes or tracked bicycles.  It has been the Organizations experience that while often these conversions are marketed as being able to easily convert from summer to winter usage, these conversions are often difficult and expensive and as a result once converted, vehicles often remain in their winter converted form.  The Organizations do not see these conversions/hybrid as replacing the more traditional snowmobiles, rather the Organizations believe these units do have a place in the spectrum of winter motorized recreation. For purposes, the Organizations will divide these new users into two general categories: 1. Those who are adapting their vehicles to use a track or tracks to traverse snow; and 2. Those that are seeking to traverse snow by merely relying on larger wheels and tires.  These two user groups pose different management challenges for OSV.

While the Organizations welcomes new uses, winter recreational management decisions must remain science based.  The Organizations have ongoing concerns with impacts to trails and other resources that arise from use of wheeled vehicles on winter trails, however the Organizations’ experiences with tracked conversion summer vehicles has been significantly different and welcomes these conversion vehicles, after they have complied with State OHV registration regulations for use of motor vehicles on groomed winter trails. Our initial research indicates that these tracked conversion vehicles exert similar pressures on the snow  as traditional snowmobiles, making any risks of resource damage from usage of these conversions similar to that of snowmobiles.[57] These impacts have already been well documented as minimal to entirely non-existent.  These tracked conversion vehicles also allow entirely new classes of public users into the winter backcountry to experience the exceptional opportunities these areas provide, either by accessing their local lake for winter ice fishing opportunities or by making the more traditional winter backcountry motorized experience available.

These track conversion  vehicles include motorcycles where the front tire has been removed in favor of a snowmobile like skis and the rear wheel is exchanged in favor of a large track. The Organizations are aware of discussions around trying to manage these conversion vehicles based on the intent of the designers of the vehicles, and this position is problematic with the Organizations.  These summer based  conversions provide the winter backcountry experience at reduced cost to users as multiple vehicles are less needed or lower costs units can be converted. Under certain conditions, these conversions provide a more durable recreational experience than a traditional snowmobile on warmer days, or days when the snow has become very firm, as these conversions do not rely on loose snow contacting any portion of the vehicle for the reduction of operating temperatures. These vehicles are designed to cool without any external assistance from snow contacting the vehicle.

Photos of some of these types of  motorcycle conversion vehicles are below:

Timbersled
[58]

The Organizations are aware that there has been similar vehicles, designed specifically for over the snow travel, to these motorcycle conversions in production for a long time under the Snow hawk brand. The following picture represents the Snow hawk vehicle:

Snowhawk
[59]

It has been the Organizations’ experience that while the Snowhawk may have struggled in the market place for reasons that are unclear, the conversion motorcycles have rapidly developed a strong customer base and are frequently seen in the backcountry.  Permitting a Snowhawk to be managed under winter travel management guidelines, while prohibiting the motorcycle conversions  as they are not designed for winter travel could easily appear arbitrary and lead to difficulties for local managers and partners.

Similar track conversion are not just limited to motorized vehicles and  are now available for bicycles.  The Organizations are not aware of the background or viability of   bicycle based conversions for winter use, such as that pictured below, but  the Organizations are aware these vehicles are growing in popularity and will probably be seen in increasing numbers in the winter backcountry areas in the near future.

bicycle conversion
[60]

Given the expected life of the RMP, the usage of these human powered types of vehicles would become an issue for travel management as these types of designs would anticipated to be perfected within the lifespan of the RMP.

The Organizations are also aware that many traditional ATVs and side by side vehicles  exchange tires for track assemblies that allow these vehicles to easily travel over snow.  The following photos represent an ATV that has undergone this track conversion:

ATV Track Conversion
[61]

Clarity in management of these ATV conversions is further made necessary by recent industry actions regarding the sales and support of tracked conversions.   Both Polaris Industries and BRP  are now selling track kits for delivery on ATVs and Side by Side vehicles  with full warranties and OEM parts availability  for both the tracks and vehicle being provided from Polaris or BRP.[62]  In addition, the Organizations understand that several models include provisions for the operator to choose if the vehicle is using tracks or wheels in the vehicles operation system.   This provision allows accurate information on data, such as vehicle speed to be automatically compensated for the use of tracks or wheels.  With these provisions, data on vehicle speed could be off by as much as 30%.  The Organizations believe that these industry actions provide a credible argument that these traditional OHVs are also designed to be OSVs.

Enforcement of travel restrictions based on the source of these pieces of equipment would be problematic and could lead to management being based on if the manufacture of the track system was by the vehicle manufacturer or if the tracks came from a third party.  Clearly, precluding a Kawasaki ATV with a Camoplast track kit while allowing a Polaris ATV with Polaris tracks would lead to nothing but conflict with users and arbitrary standards that had no relationship to mitigation of damages to resources.   This should be avoided and a broad OSV definition would resolve this issue.

The Organizations are concerned that the overly narrow definition of an OSV could impact permitted grooming activities at some time in the future, as this type of vehicle certainly could become more suited for use in Colorado.  Farm tractor conversions are now frequently used for trail grooming activities in certain parts of the country, as the track conversion kits allow for use of the grooming equipment throughout the year by adding or removing tracks depending on the season.

Farm Tractor Conversion
[63]

While these grooming  conversions are not heavily used in Colorado due to exceptionally steep terrain and deep snow conditions, it is our understanding that clubs or state agencies in other areas of the Country that are  utilizing these conversions can significantly reduce overall costs incurred in grooming activities.  While most questions regarding the use of a conversion farm  tractor for grooming could be resolved in the permitting process, the inability of a grooming organization to use a tracked farm tractor based  groomer on federal lands could be a major barrier to a club or organizations that grooms large tracts of non-federal lands,  where the farm tractor on tracks would be a cost efficient and acceptable alternative to dedicated grooming equipment. These types of conflicts or questions should be avoided.

The second major category of winter vehicle conversions, mainly those users attempting to traverse the winter back country by merely adding larger tires to their chosen means of travel is more problematic. This is an issue where motorized management has clearly been established for a long time and this should not be altered at the landscape level.  At this time the most prominent of users of larger wheels and tires for winter travel is the bicycle community as the usage of motorized vehicles with the mere addition of larger wheels and tires has been declined. The Organizations have already experienced fat tire bicycle usage on winter trails, such as that pictured below:

Fat Tire Bicycle
[64]

While larger tires is asserted to be a valid use of winter trails from the bicycle community, the idea of merely accepting larger wheels for traversing snow has already been declined for motorized usage.  While this usage is asserted to be valid by the manufacturer, the Organizations are concerned about the basis for this position.  The Organizations must question the basis for such a distinction as the only research on pressures from fat tire bicycles[65] yields the following results:

Tire Ground Pressure Comparisons

The Organizations concerns are far from abstract on this issue as the Stanislaus  NF is closing significant areas to OSV usage due to possible contact with Yellow legged Frog and Yosemite Toad from grooming until questions regarding pressures on the hibernating toad from grooming can be resolved.  Higher pressure of fat tire is major concern in these areas as the higher pressure bicycle tire would be more likely to strike and kill a toad than low pressure track assemblies on grooming equipment.  This list of issues is far from comprehensive but the Organizations believe it is important to recognize these issues and questions already exist and will probably not simply fade away over the life of the RMP.  These questions will simply expand with every new hybrid usage accepted into the winter backcountry.

Given this research and that all relevant travel determinations have excluded both wheeled ATV and UTV from winter trails due to the pressure that these vehicles exert on the ground, any attempt to permit fat tire bicycles due to a lack of pressure or impacts would be problematic at best. The basic lack of scientific evidence to support the position would be a major concern for the snowmobile community as this is the community that has directed hundreds of millions of dollars and peoples entire lives to establishing the scientific basis of the snow buffer.

The Organizations believe that laying the ground work for management of these wheel conversion vehicles in the RMP is sound policy and good management. The Organizations have significant experience in partnering with USFS to educate users of these conversions.  Often this educational partnership has been made more difficult as confusion in classifying these conversion vehicles makes it difficult to educate winter recreational users of these conversions as to when they can and when they cannot use particular vehicles and if they are legal at all, which leads to frustration to users. The Organizations have struggled with assisting the public in identifying if a particular vehicle is allowed in a particular Ranger District at a particular time of the year.

The Organizations are aware that in some areas of the country groomed routes and other facilities such as bridges may not be of sufficient size to accommodate some of the conversion vehicles. While these situations exist, they certainly are not the norm.  The Organizations believe  local managers are able to easily address any site specific issues either with weight or width restrictions for vehicles using trails in these areas.  Summer motor vehicle management has proven these types of local decisions addressing width or weight restrictions highly effective.  The public awareness of these types of standards will allow weight or width restrictions to translate easily to winter travel management process and decisions in areas where they might be necessary.

14. Factors to be addressed with usage of hybrid motorized/winter mechanized under GMUG OSV suitability.

The Organizations believe these hybrid usages will increase over the life of the RMP and will result in vehicles that simply are not even imagined at this time and that these are rapidly growing areas of usage that needs consistency in management.  While there is a generally good relationship between certain user groups and traditional snowmobile clubs, current management is causing conflict as there is a wide range of relationships between snowmobile and winter mechanized users ranging from openly hostile to active partnerships.  Additionally,  there is serious conflict between traditional non-motorized and mechanized winter usage and avoiding those issues is important to the snowmobile community as they do not involve the snowmobile community, such as the attempted usage of fat tire bicycles on groomed cross country ski trails.  The Organizations are aware this conflict was immediate on the Rabbit Ears pass outside Steamboat Colorado and the snowmobile community was immediately implicated but successfully avoided much of this conflict.

Generally management should be based on how the vehicle contacts the snow buffer(ski/track or wheel) and what is the impact of the use on the snow buffer and resources underneath that buffer  rather than how it is propelled.  Currently many hybrid motorized usages are simply unable to spin the tracks used for over the snow travel but the Organizations simply do not expect that situation to persist throughout the expected life of the RMP. Providing guidance based on how the usage contacts snow in the RMP allows for more consistency and predictability for new uses moving forward. Principles/Concerns at issue include:

14a. The principal of winter travel management is based on the buffer that exists between recreational activities on the snow and resources below the snow.  The  protection of the effective buffer between recreational usage and resources must be major priority in review of any issue. Where the buffer is present, additional review of resource issues should be limited as the buffer is best available science and closure should be avoided unless there is a compelling reason for such closure.  The snowmobile community has invested decades of effort and hundreds of millions in this science surrounding the snow buffer and is sensitive to any major impairments of this protections by uses that might exert higher pressures on the snow. Any concerns on these usages will probably result in the snowmobile community being drawn into litigation and possible loss of opportunity as litigation moves forward.

14b.  The groomed route system provided by the snowmobile/permitees community is overwhelming provider of access to backcountry for all users. 

14c.  All routes that are groomed by snowmobile clubs must remain multiple use unless specifically developed, funded and maintained for non-motorized/winter mechanized usage. Colorado law  prohibit usage of snowmobile registration monies to maintain trails that are closed to snowmobiles.

14d.  Usage should not be permitted over the objection of local snowmobile clubs or permitees grooming area due to huge amount of volunteer support for grooming efforts and many areas would not be groomed without permitees activity.  Protecting this partnership is a critical component of maintaining high quality winter recreational opportunities on the GMUG.

14e.  Best available science must be relied on for any usage of hybrid motorized/winter mechanized travel decisions.   Challenges to any decision permitting  hybrid motorized/winter mechanized will result in the snowmobile community will be forced to defend that decision to avoid loss of traditional groomed routes as the challenge will be to all OSV travel and not just hybrid motorized/winter mechanized. As a result the snowmobile community has a vested interest in best available science being relied on for the addition of new types of usages. Snowmobile access has already been lost in areas of California where there were concerns over pressure of usage possibly negatively impacting several species of toad. Clearly concerns like this expand when higher pressure vehicles are allowed.

14f.  Hybrid motorized/winter tracked mechanized must exhibit similar levels of pressure on the snow as a traditional snowmobile to be fully permitted in open areas.  Hybrid motorized/winter mechanized tracked vehicles utilizing some type of ski/track combo exhibit very low pressure on the snow and are of minimal concern currently based on research.

14g. Pressure from  vehicles simply using larger tires is a more serious concern due to small contact areas with the snow buffer which results in higher pressures on the snowbuffer. Primarily this is a concern with fat tire bicycles but usage of traditional mountain bikes on winter groomed trails provides even more concern due to the narrower tires resulting in higher pressures. The Organizations submit that signing to the allow ability of a fat tire bicycle on a route while prohibiting a traditional mountain bicycle will be difficult and must be resolved by that user group. The Organizations are willing to partner on these efforts but the determinations and resources to manage these questions must come from the cycling community, simply to avoid user conflict between the groups.  The management of these pressure related questions are issues that the Organizations sees the user groups for these new types of usage being a significant resource in resolution of these questions on usage. Any research we have been able  to locate to date is concerning effective management of these basic questions has been sparse at best.

Effective management of possible impacts from winter mechanized are more significant if trail conditions are soft due to warm temperatures or intense sunlight.  Cutting through snow buffer could shorten the life of the trail by exposing dirt and accelerating melting of the snow buffer. The Organizations simply is unaware of any research addressing the pressure of a fat tire wheeled vehicle on the snow in order to mitigate concerns or provide a scientifically defensible decision that could be defended in court.

14h.  Decisions regarding winter wheeled usage must be highly site specific.  The Organizations have serious concerns about allowing this usage but submit if such usage is permitted it must be strictly managed due to fact that winter mechanized exhibit 100x pressure on snow when compared to other OSV.  At most, the Organizations would be willing to explore  possible usage of existing summer routes that are groomed in the winter until science can be developed to clarify our concerns.  The highly localized decision making for hybrid motorized/winter mechanized is consistent with the position  of the International Association of Snowmobile Administrators on this issue.

14i. Wheeled vehicles should remain prohibited at the landscape level  as wheeled vehicles are simply not suitable on groomed winter routes.  The Organizations and land managers are aware that  big tire 4×4 and wheeled ATV seriously damage  groomed routes.  This is an issue that has basically been resolved in many areas and the snowmobile community would like to avoid reopening the discussion unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

14j.  Off trail/open area usage should remain prohibited for winter wheeled  usages due to resource and safety concerns from higher pressure usages on the snow buffer.  These safety concerns would include snowbridges built on trails across creeks and water crossings and willow areas may be seriously impacted by high pressure usages, which can easily be traversed by lower pressure vehicles.   Until such time as the pressure of a fat tire bicycle can be clearly determined to apply less pressure than usages already prohibited due to pressure concerns, these areas would be a concern for resource impacts.

14k.  There may be opportunity areas for winter mechanized  usage that are currently not utilized such as paved bike routes etc.  These are areas  that should be explored as opportunity areas for winter wheeled usage. These areas might even be available for use of traditional mountain bikes in the winter time.

14l.  Many groomed OSV routes are not suitable for winter mechanized  travel, such as those that rely on creating a groomed snowbridge for OSV usage across streams.  OSV routes may also have steep hills/limited visibility areas where hybrid/mechanized usage may not be appropriate, and the idea of an OSV user having to ride around hybrid usage pushing bikes up a hill is a safety concern for all users. Maintaining snowbridges under higher pressure usages will increase costs to the Organizations maintaining the area.

14m.  The relationship between  seasonal closures of particular routes for summer MVUM purposes and opening of usage for winter mechanized in the OSVUM process is unclear and will need to be clarified.

14n.  Any hybrid mechanized designations must be developed on best available science to avoid unintended consequences to the traditional OSV community of users.  The Stanislaus  NF is closing significant areas to OSV usage due to possible contact with Yellow legged Frog and Yosemite Toad from grooming.  Higher pressure of fat tire is major concern in these areas as the higher pressure bicycle tire would be more likely to strike and kill a toad than low pressure track assemblies on grooming equipment.  This list of issues is far from comprehensive.

14o.  Hybrid motorized/winter mechanized must be registered with the state for respective season of usage.  Colorado is currently accepting registrations for snowbikes.   Valley county in Idaho already requires registration of hybrid mechanized usages on winter routes  and has been very successful to date. The Organizations submit that this is an important factor in expanding usages as current funding for OSV grooming is simply insufficient.

14p.  All vehicles ridden at night must have a visible lighting system.  The Organizations would recommended use of some type of lighting system  at all times due to poor weather conditions that frequent riding areas.  This provides safety for all users of the area.

14q.  Funding for additional management resources must be identified prior to allowing usages.  New usages will need extensive signage and education which will not be funded by the snowmobile community and should not become an additional burden on USFS  limited resources.  As previously noted the Organizations are not aware of any proposal for signage of usage of areas for fat tire bicycles and any method to permit fat tire bicycles and exclude traditional mountain bikes.

14r.  Enforcement/education actions must be undertaken if routes are opened to only a particular usage.  On the WRNF, which has excluded mountain bikes very little enforcement has occurred despite prohibitions of winter mechanized  in numerous forest plans. Enforcement/education efforts are a critical component of resolving these questions as without the actions there will be no motivating factor to move forward in resolving some difficult questions.

14s.  Congressional/ special designations – Congressional designations, such as Wilderness and Special Management areas,  should be followed in the  development of winter travel plans.   While compliance with these designations is very important, the management of these areas should not impact areas outside those that Congress has specifically spoken regarding the management or usage of.

The White River NF made a blanket designation of all downhill ski areas as unsuitable for motorized usage as part of their winter travel plan. This decision has resulted in several unintended consequences for local snowmobile  clubs who would partner with local ski areas to allow OSV usage after the close of the traditional ski season as a special event.  These events were conducted with the issuance of  a special event permit and were vigorously supported by both communities as these events were a fund raiser for local clubs grooming efforts and often search and rescue or avalanche programs at the ski area.   After ski areas being found to be non-motorized areas unsuitable for motorized usage these events ceased to occur.  These events provided exceptionally unique opportunities for usage of these areas and were significant steps in building partnerships between these two traditionally isolated user groups. The Organizations submit that any plan should allow the flexibility to issue these types of permits as the loss of these events on the White River NF was both unfortunate and negatively impacted each community.

14t.  Grooming – A review of the suitability of any area should reflect both groomed routes and designated routes that are not groomed should be included in any OSV analysis as ungroomed routes can provide  significant access to the backcountry play areas that are highly valued by the OSV community.

14u.  Best available science – simply must be followed and applied for all usages. The Organizations submit that if best available science is not applied for all uses in the winter backcountry litigation will result.  In this litigation The Organizations will either be named due to the grooming of the area or usage of the area or be forced to intervene with the USFS  to avoid loss of grooming permits etc even if the lawsuit is challenging usages that are not traditionally snowmobile related, such as fat tires on groomed winter routes.   The Organizations would like to avoid this situation if possible and if such a situation does come to be, that the USFS decision is defensible and does not require OSV planning to start over again as a decision was not made on best available science and resource impacts could be occurring from the non-OSV related activity.

14v.  Wildlife winter range – while this should not be a major area of conflict on the GMUG due to the minimal overlap of possible winter range and OSV usage areas this is a factor that should be reviewed as any planning moves forward.  Possible concerns of OSV usage can be mitigated by moving to a designated route system in winter range for deer and elk range instead of closing the area.

The Organizations vigorously asserts that if an area is of such significance for wildlife winter range to warrant a closure of the area to OSV , that the area should be closed to all usages, as often wildlife response to hikers and other non-motorized is similar to OSV and Wildlife response to an off leash dog is disproportionate to all other uses. [66]

15. Conclusion.

The Organizations welcome the opportunity to provide input on forest level issues facing the GMUG and are additionally providing new information and research in these comments on a variety of issues to insure that the best available  information is relied on by Forest planners in the development of the Resource Plan.  The Organizations would urge planners to clearly identify the three major challenges that are expected to be encountered on the Forest over the life of the RMP, in order to streamline and insure alignment of any subsequent site specific planning with addressing these challenges. The Organizations also would like to clarify our position on several issues, such as our complete lack of involvement in the development of the Gunnison Public lands Initiative and the fact that the Organizations are vigorously opposed to the Proposal.  The Organizations also submit that issues such as the Gunnison Public lands Initiative are good examples of Proposals that should be entirely avoided in the RMP development as they will direct the ever declining Forest Service resources away from the major challenges that are facing the GMUG and could in fact make addressing the poor forest health issues both more costly and difficult on the GMUG in the future.

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] A complete copy of this report is enclosed with these comments for your reference as Exhibit 1. (hereinafter referred to as 2016 Forest Health report.

[2] See, http://csfs.colostate.edu/2017/02/15/800-million-standing-dead-trees-colorado/

[3] See, 2016 Forest Health Report at pg 6

[4] See, 2016 Forest Health Report at pg 24

[5] See, 2016 Forest Health Report at pg 24

[6] 2016 Forest Health Report at pg 24

[7] 2016 Forest Health Report at pg 5

[8] See, Colorado State Forest Service;  2010 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests Continuing Challenges for Colorado’s Forests: Recurring & Emerging Threats 10th Anniversary Report at pgs 7-8.

[9] See, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station;” A review of the Forest Service Response: The Bark Beetle Outbreak in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming prepared at the request of Senator Mark Udall’: September 2011 at pg i. (Hereinafter referred to as the “Udall Forest Health Report”)

[10] Udall Forest Health report at pg 5

[11] Udall Forest Health Report at pg 18

[12] Retzlaff, Molly L.; Leirfallom, Signe B.; Keane, Robert E. 2016. A 20-year reassessment of the health and status of whitebark pine forests in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, Montana. Res. Note RMRS-RN-73. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 10 p.

[13] See, 16 USC §583k-2

[14] See, Colorado State Demographer” Preliminary Population Forecasts by region and county ” September 2016.  A complete version of these projections, assumptions  and other supporting documentation is available here: https://demography.dola.colorado.gov/demography/publications-and-presentations/#publications-and-reports

[15] See, COHVCO study at pgs 23-24.

[16] See, Stynes and White; Updated Spending Profiles for National Forest Recreation Visitors by Activity; JOINT VENTURE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE USDA FOREST SERVICE PACIFIC NORTHWEST RESEARCH STATION and OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY; September 2010 at pg 6.

[17] See, Winter Wildlands Alliance website at http://winterwildlands.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/BMP-Final.pdf.  (Hereinafter referred to as the “WWA booklet”)

[18] See, WWA booklet at pg 7.

[19] See, Fact and Myths book at pg 7&8.

[20] See, WWA brochure at pg 12.

[21] See,  Robert C. Musselman & John L. Korfmacher; USFS Air Quality at a snowmobile staging area and snow chemistry on and off trail in a rocky mountain subalpine forest, Snowy Range Wyoming. 2007 at 332

[22] See, Musselman at 333.

[23] See, https://www.colorado.gov/airquality/report.aspx

[24] See, WWA Brochure at pg 11.

[25] See, Interagency Lynx Biology Team. 2013. Canada lynx conservation assessment and strategy. 3rd edition. USDA Forest Service, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management, and USDI National Park Service. Forest Service Publication R1-13-19, Missoula, MT at pg 1. (Hereinafter referred to as the 2013 LCAS)

[26] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 94.

[27] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 83.

[28] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 95.

[29] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 84.

[30] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 83.

[31] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 26.

[32] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 94.

[33] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 91.

[34] See, 2015 CPW State Wildlife Action Plan at pg 173.

[35] See, WWA Booklet at pg 11.

[36]  USFWS summary fact sheet available here http://www.fws.gov/idaho/Wolverine/WolverineProposed4dRule031113.pdf

[37] See, Exhibit 6 to these comments.

[38] See, Department of Agriculture; US Forest Service; 36 CFR Parts 212, 251, 261, and 295 Travel Management; Designated Routes and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use; Final Rule; Federal Register /Vol. 70, No. 216 /Wednesday, November 9, 2005 /Rules and Regulations 68281

[39] See, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station; The Southern Nevada Agency Partnership Science and Research Synthesis; Science to Support Land Management in Southern Nevada; Executive Summary; August 2013 at pg 38.

[40]  See, USFWS 5 year listing decision at pg 34

[41]See, USFWS 5 year listing decision at pg 34-35.

[42] See, McGrath and Scott; Length Variation in Age-0 Westslope Cutthroat Trout at Multiple Spatial Scales; North American Journal of Fisheries Management 28:1529–1540, 2008 at pg 1531.

[43] See, Dr Michael Young; Greenback Cutthroat Trout; A technical Conservation Assessment; February 6, 2009 at pg  21.

[44] See, Department of Agriculture Forest Service 36 CFR Part 294 Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation; Applicability to the National Forests in Colorado; Final Rule Vol. 77 Tuesday, No. 128 July 3, 2012 at pg 39577.  (Hereinafter referred to as the “Colorado Roadless Rule Final”).

[45] See, Colorado Roadless Rule Final at pg 39580.

[46]  A complete version of this document is available here:  https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5366289.pdf

[47] See, http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/chartResults?chartType=AcreageByStateMost

[48] See, USFS – Visitor Use Report Grand Mesa Uncomp Gunnison NF USDA Forest Service Region 2 National Visitor Use Monitoring Data collected FY 2009 – last updated December 16, 2016 at pg 10.  Full report available here.  https://apps.fs.usda.gov/nfs/nrm/nvum/results/ReportCache/2009_A02004_Master_Report.pdf

[49] Carothers, P., Vaske, J. J., & Donnelly, M. P. (2001). Social values versus interpersonal conflict among hikers and mountain biker; Journal of  Leisure Sciences, 23(1) at pg 58.

[50] See, Norling et al; Conflict attributed to snowmobiles in a sample of backcountry, non-motorized yurt users in the Wasatch –Cache National Forest; Utah State University; 2009 at pg 3.

[51] See, 212.81(b)

[52] Federal Register /Vol. 80, No. 18 /Wednesday, January 28, 2015 /Rules and Regulations 4501

[53] See, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE;  Forest Service 36 CFR Parts 212 and 261 Use By Over-Snow Vehicles (Travel Management Rule) 4500 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 18 / Wednesday, January 28, 2015 /

[54] http://www.discountramps.com/snowmobile-loading-ramps/p/50BS/?CID=PSC-PLA-Bing-750-BS-snowmobile-ramps&st-t=bing-snowmobile-ramps&CAWELAID=820562990000003621&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=PLA-ALL%20Products(BSC)&utm_term=1100008095214&utm_content=All%20Products

[55] These photos and further information on these products is available at http://truckbossdecks.com/SNOW.html

[57] A Copy of this study has been enclosed with these comments for your reference and complete review as Exhibit 7.

[58] Picture credit to timbersled industries and more information is available regarding these products here http://www.timbersled.com/snowbike.htm

[59] More information on these vehicles is available here: http://www.motosportsthibeault.com/

[60] More information on this conversion is available here: http://www.ktrak.es/indexeng.htm The Organizations are not taking a position as to the management of these vehicles, as we have never seen one or are aware of any research on pressure the vehicle applies to snow. The Organizations  are providing this portion of our comments as an example of the rapidly changing nature of this class of vehicles.

[61] http://www.atvtracks.net/

[62] http://www.polaris.com/en-us/rzr-side-by-side/shop/accessories/tracks or http://store.can-am.brp.com/products/683518/APACHE_TRACK_SYSTEM

[63] http://www.soucy-track.com/en-CA/products/grooming/groomers/st-600wt/photos

[64] Further information on this usage is available here: http://thedailynews.cc/2014/01/27/fat-tire-biking-is-a-growing-trend-in-winter-months/

[65] See, American Council of Snowmobile Associations; Fat Tire Bicycle Use on Snowmobile Trails; Background Information and Management Considerations; July 2016 pg 7. This research is exhibit 8 to these comments.

[66] See, Sime, C. A. 1999. Domestic Dogs in Wildlife Habitats. Pages 8.1-8.17 in G. Joslin and H. Youmans, coordinators. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: A Review for Montana. Committee on Effects of Recreation on Wildlife, Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society. 307pp.

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Looking for a trail? Check out the The Colorado Trail Explorer!

Colorado Parks WildlifeThe Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) is an online interactive map connecting Coloradans and visitors to rewarding trail experiences by enabling anyone with a browser to explore over 39,000 miles of recreational trails.

The Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) is powered by the Colorado Trail System (CTS) mapping project. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is leading the CTS effort which aims to map every trail in the state. Providing enjoyable and sustainable outdoor recreational opportunities that educate and inspire current and future generations to serve as active stewards of natural resources helps CPW meet its mission.

The Colorado Trail Explorer map breaks down the trails by four different categories: Non-motorized trails, motorized roads or trails, bike routes and recreational routes. You can also search for trails up to 25 miles away from your location and break down the search by trails that allow bikes, horses, pack animals, OHVs or trails that have season restrictions.

So far the map holds about 85% of Colorado’s trails – but it will continue to grow.

Check out this overview:

The COTREX – desktop map includes advanced search tools and is best suited for browsers with some screen real estate. The  COTREX – mobile map is a streamlined version intended for smartphones and tablets.

 

 

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Welcome Ranger McCombs

Welcome Ranger McCombs

Gunnison Ranger District
216 N. Colorado
Gunnison, CO 81230

Attn: Matt McCombs, District Ranger

 

Dear Ranger McCombs:

On Behalf of the Colorado Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), Colorado Off-­‐ Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) and the Colorado Snowmobile Association (CSA) we would like to “welcome” you to the Gunnison National Forest and the Gunnison Ranger District. Below is a brief summary of each of our organizations followed by an brief description of how Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) users have helped fund operations and projects in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.

The TPA is a volunteer 501c3 nonprofit 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 insure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse trail, multiple-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 multiple-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.

The Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter-motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion. The CSA advocates for the 30,000 registered snowmobiles in the State of Colorado. The 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”.

While the primary mission of the Organizations most directly relates to motorized and OHV recreation, the overall scope of the Organizations often has a larger impact as motorized recreation and access can take many forms and involve many activities, including camping, hunting and fishing and other recreational activities where motorized access to public lands is critical but not the primary recreational activity sought.

The largest single partner with both the BLM and USFS in Colorado is the motorized trail/OHV user community, both in terms of direct funding to land managers through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Trails Program and with direct funding and resources from clubs in the GMUG area. The partnerships impact is further expanded by the fact that all motorized routes on the GMUG are available for all other user groups and recreational activities.

In 2017, GMUG managers asked for almost $600,000 in direct funding for annual maintenance crews and for site-specific projects from the CPW OHV program alone. This funding provides three trained seasonal crews who perform on the ground trail maintenance, provide basic maintenance services for more developed sites and expand the law enforcement presence on the GMUG. Additionally, these crews are able to leverage a significant amount of mechanized equipment in the GMUG planning area, such as the several Sutter trail dozers, mini-excavators and tractors owned by local clubs to address larger maintenance challenges in a very cost effective manner.

The availability of these resources exemplifies the strong relationship that the GMUG resource managers have with some of the strongest partner clubs in Colorado, and probably the Nation including the Thunder Mountain Wheelers, Western Slope ATV Association, Grant Mesa Jeep Club, the Uncompahgre Valley Trail Riders and the Gunnison Valley O.H.V Alliance of Trailriders (G.O.A.T.S.). These clubs routinely work on projects; such as bridge construction and heavy trail maintenance. These clubs also provide extensive additional funding for resource maintenance such as grants obtained from the Extreme Terrain Grant Program, BF Goodrich Tires Exceptional Trails and Yamaha Access grant program and Polaris TRAILS grants. This funding easily exceeds another $100,000 per year in funding that is available to maintain routes on the GMUG and other public lands in the vicinity.

In addition to the OHV grant funding and exceptional partnerships available through summer use clubs, CPW funding through the Snowmobile Registration Program provides an additional $500,000 in funding to local clubs for operation of the grooming programs, who maintain almost 400 miles of multiple use winter trails on the GMUG. The snowmobile registration program further partners with the local clubs to purchase grooming equipment used on these routes, which now is consistently exceeding

$200,000 to purchase used. This CPW funding is again leveraged with exceptional amounts of volunteer and community support for these grooming programs from local clubs and often times the CPW funding is less than half the operational budget for the clubs maintaining these routes. These winter trails are the major access network for all users of GMUG winter backcountry for recreation and all these opportunities are provided to the general public free of charge.

Our Organizations believe that continued multiple-use access and motorized recreation within the GMUG and especially the Gunnison Ranger District is vitally important to the preservation and conservation of our public lands and the well being of our citizens. Our Organizations have a history of partnering with the USFS to protect our forest resources while reducing and eliminating barriers that are continuing to make it difficult for Americans to get outside and travel on a multiple-use trail or share a road as part of their outdoor recreational experience.

For you use and reference, we are including a copy of the recent report, 2014‐2015 Economic Contribution of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation in Colorado showing the trends and the substantial economic contributions of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation in Colorado (http://www.coloradotpa.org/2017/01/25/economic-contribution-of-off-highway-­vehicle-recreation-in-colorado/) and a fact sheet that provides you with additional details on the Trails Preservation Alliance. We also hope that you will continue to foster the working relationships with our three affiliated off-road motorcycle clubs in your area, namely the Central Colorado Mountain Riders (CCMR), the Tomichi Trail Riders (TTR), and the Gunnison Valley O.H.V Alliance of Trailriders (G.O.A.T.S.). We would also like to request an introductory meeting with you in the near future either at your office in Gunnison or perhaps during a future visit to the Front Range.

 

Scott Jones, Esq.
COHVCO Co-Chairman
CSA President

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

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Closure and elimination of public access to the northern end of NFST 625

 Closure and elimination of public access to the northern end of NFST 625

Gunnison Ranger District
216 N. Colorado
Gunnison, CO 81230

Attn: Beth Anderson, Acting District Ranger & Matt McCombs, Incoming District Ranger

 

Dear Beth & Matt:

Please accept this correspondence on behalf of the Colorado Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), Central Colorado Mountain Riders (CCMR), Tomichi Trail Riders (TTR), and the Gunnison Valley O.H.V Alliance of Trailriders (G.O.A.T.S.)

GMUG Travel Map

Figure 1. Excerpt from the 2011 Gunnison Public Lands Motor Vehicle Travel Map

We are writing you to document our concerns, but more importantly to present our offer of cooperation and potential resources to ensure continued access to NFST #625 in the Gunnison Ranger District of the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests. It is our understanding that public access to the segment of NFST #625 from the intersection of NFSTs #625 and #474, north to the Marshall Pass County Road has been closed to public access, and that this closure is due to the absence of a legal USFS public use easement through private property near or adjoining the Marshall Pass County Road.

We fully understand the issues and complexities associated with USFS public use easements through private property, the often-arduous process of negotiations with landowners and the passion associated with landowner property rights. However, this particular closure and loss of access has substantial impacts and antagonistic affects to OHV recreation in this area and specifically causes an obvious reduction in historic and cherished riding opportunities for motorcycles. Therefore we are offering our assistance and potentially a spectrum of our resources to assist you and the Gunnison Ranger District in re-establishing access to NFST #625.

In order to facilitate a prompt re-establishment of trail access (e.g. we are aware that there are opportunities for a short bypass, approximately 3/8 of mile in length and other opportunities for more lengthy re-routes) and to help curtail the potential for future conflicts between trail users of this historic access, the property owner and your USFS staff, we request an immediate in-person meeting (preferably onsite) to discuss and better understand your USFS concerns, constraints and review potential actions for resolution.

We would offer that the urgency of this issue will be exacerbated with the rapidly approaching hunting season, therefore our prompt collaboration and cooperation will be beneficial to all parties involved but most importantly to you, the USFS and the trail users. To facilitate the conversation and make for a productive meeting, we request that as a minimum the following topics be discussed:

  • Prior to the most recent property owner, was there a formal or an informal easement with any previous property owner(s)?
  • If there was an easement prior to the most recent property sale/transfer, was that easement documented in writing by the USFS and or recorded with the Saguache County Clerk? Was that easement (if there was indeed one) Temporary or Permanent?
  • Were negotiations conducted with the existing/new property owner to renew or establish a new public use easement? What is the current status of any ongoing negotiations for an easement?
  • What is the status of a trail reroute or a new trail to reestablish access to NFST #625? How will this trail reroute be funded? What NEPA actions are required prior to construction of a reroute and what is the status of any required NEPA actions?
  • Review the process and timeline eliminating the northern portion of NFST #625 from the most current

The TPA along with our partner clubs, have concerns that the situation eliminating access to NFST

#625 may once again be an action by the Gunnison National Forest that we feel demonstrates an unenthusiastic attitude toward OHV Recreation and does not go far enough to work diligently and proactively to provide quality and dispersed OHV recreational opportunities for one of the largest recreational user groups of the Gunnison National Forest. That this action eliminating access to NFST #625, has similarities in our opinion to the “emergency closures” of dispersed camping in the Tincup and Gothic areas that many of our constituents feel is directed specifically at OHV recreationalist.

We look forward to hearing from you soon. I am available for immediate discussion via telephone at 719-338-4106.

Sincerely,

D.E. Riggle
Director of Operations
Trail Preservation Alliance

 

 

cc

Scott Haas, USFS Region 2
Scott Armentrout, Forest Supervisor Greg Austin, Gunnison Ranger District
Central Colorado Mountain Riders (CCMR) Tomichi Trail Riders (TTR)
Gunnison Valley O.H.V Alliance of Trailriders (G.O.A.T.S.) Paul A. Turke, MSBT Law

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Recreation Not Red Tape Act

Recreation Not Red Tape Act

Senator Ron Wyden
221 Dirksen Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Congressman Rob Bishop
123 Canon Office Building
Washington DC 20515

 

Dear Senator Wyden and Congressman Bishop;

Please accept this correspondence as the input of the Organizations identified above with regard to the Recreation Not Red Tape Act (“RNR”).  The Organizations welcome the bipartisan discussion exploring a legislative resolution to some of the issues and challenges facing recreational users of federal public lands.  We believe that this unique opportunity must be leveraged in order to develop a cost effective management structure that provides an efficient process to advance recreational opportunities on public lands.

The Organizations have spent decades working with federal land managers and federal legislators on many of the challenges addressed in the RNR.  Our efforts have ranged from partnering with local clubs to obtain permits for not-for-profit events, to partnering with land managers to develop and implement hundreds of site specific projects at a variety of levels, to management of landscape level travel management issues such as the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and expansions of the 29 Palms Marine Base in southern California. The Organizations have had a wide range of results from these partner efforts and we are seeking to highlight efforts that have been effective in these comments in the hope of avoiding the pitfalls of our prior partnership efforts moving forward.

Prior to addressing the specific concerns our Organizations have regarding the RNR, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed.  The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization of approximately 2,500 members 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 insure 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 currently has 2,500 members.  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; improve 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”. The Organizations would like to provide input on the six following issues:

1. While the Organizations submit any legislative efforts to streamline the recreational permitting process is a step forward, there are many challenges to obtaining recreational permits that are not resolved in the RNR. Our Organizations have been working with Congressman LaMalfa’s Office in the development of the Guides and Outfitters (“GO”) Act (HR 289) which addresses the wider range of permitting challenges that our Organizations have faced in the permitting process. Some of the issues addressed in the GO Act include:

Clearly identifying that previous environmental analysis developed for permits should remain the basis for the issuance of categorical exclusions for the event unless there is a significant change in the event;

Clearly identifying that costs associated with the event operation, such as lodging outside federal lands or food provided to participants is a deductable expense when calculating revenue from events for permitting applications;

Providing a 3% cap of the adjusted gross revenue of the event cap on permit costs; and
Explicitly providing a waiver of cost recovery provisions under specific conditions.

We have asked that the scope of the GO Act be expanded to cover joint permits between USFS/BLM and other agencies such as DOD or Bureau of Reclamation as we obtain many permits for events that are issued in conjunction with the smaller federal land management agencies.

2. The RNR requires the development of an economics/labor report which may have significant overlap with the economic analysis and reporting required under the REC act (Public Law 114–249) which was passed in December of 2016. Given the limited nature of current federal budgets for land management agencies, and the high levels of information that can only be sourced from the federal land managers regarding recreational activity on federal lands, the Organizations must question the value of a second report with such a high level of possible overlap.

3. While the RNR addresses immunity for volunteers in title four, the immunity provisions still fail to include a limitation on organizational liability for volunteer groups that are working on stewardship projects on public lands. With the expansion of partnerships as a resource tool for federal land managers, NPO will be expanding partnership projects with land managers and they should be clearly protected in these situations. This liability is a huge concern for the Organizations as we are aware of several state level partners who have been sued in these situations. Several of these Organizations were defended under insurance that was in place but the Organizations failed to survive the lawsuit. Often these defenses are undertaken without clear language in the policy and the Organizations are concerned that at some point this type of coverage will not be provided to the not for profit partners.

In Colorado, we are aware of several clubs that have undertaken stewardship projects on trails on federal public lands and after consulting in detail with their general liability insurer, were either entirely dropped from future coverage renewals or were provided with quotes that were entirely out of reach for the club.  Many of these quotes exceeded $10,000 per year for the club as insurers were treating the project in a manner similar to construction of a major interstate highway rather than repair of a trail on federal public lands.   While clubs can cover small insurance requirements, these are volunteer organizations with limited resources to cover insurance.

Another club undertook annual stewardship projects, ranging from periodic trail maintenance to the purchase of maintenance equipment in partnership with land managers after obtaining grants from the State OHV program.  This club was obtaining project specific insurance riders on their general liability insurance policy for each stewardship project.  Issues subsequently arose when sufficient documentation regarding the land managers acceptance of the  completed projects could not be obtained despite the projects being completed according to the project specifications.  Staff for these acceptance reviews was simply not available. After several of these riders could not be satisfied, the insurer was forced to cancel any further insurance coverage based on the perception that liability was resulting to the club due to failure to perform projects in a manner acceptable to land managers. This simply was not the case but without documentation this conflict was difficult to resolve. With the expansion of club immunity to these types of projects would avoid these challenges to partners.

4. The Organizations must question the value of the entire National Recreation System to be created under the RNR. While we welcomed the specific reference to motorized usage in the RNR, the Organizations concerns involve the basic method of identification and inclusion of lands in the expanded NRA system.  The basic process for NRA in the RNR very closely resembles the WSA/RARE inventory process performed by the BLM and USFS  in the 1970’s through 1980’s. After completion of the inventory, areas found suitable were to be designated by Congress and areas found unsuitable were to be released.  This model has proven to be less than effective and in most cases has just created mountain of residual paperwork and planning in areas that were subject to the inventory as a result of the management and designation remaining unresolved by Congress. The Organizations submit there must be a better way to inventory and advance recreation on federal public lands.

In addition to the Organizations concerns regarding the inventory process for the NRA, the Organizations must express concern over the future of existing NRA.   There are numerous NRA that are currently identified throughout the country and each NRA has an area specific management plan in place which balances a wide range of specific factors in the area.  Given the diversity of issues and challenges addressed in these site specific plans, the Organizations must believe there is conflict between existing plans and the criteria identified in the RNR. The Organizations submit that additional planning for these areas would provide minimal benefits to the recreational users of these NRA when compared to the plans currently in place. The Organizations believe there must be extensive discussions in the development of the RNR to address how these conflicts would be resolved.

5. The RNR also provides for a 3 year period (pg. 31) to create a management plan for an NRA.  It has been the Organizations experience that developing any landscape level planning document and associated Environmental Impact Statement within 3 years is simply unrealistic. It has been the Organizations experience that often an Environmental Assessment cannot be completed for significantly smaller planning areas within 3 years.  Imposition of an unrealistically short planning deadline for landscape level planning will result in plans that are not targeting development of high quality planning document but rather seek to comply with the tight planning deadlines in any Legislation.  This will result in lower quality plans that rapidly lose value for the planning area.

6. The Organizations must also question the priority trail maintenance proposal and believe there are many more factors to be balanced in the identification of priority trails for maintenance. Given the large number of routes that are not being maintained to acceptable standards, the Organizations must question the value of only identifying 9 to 15 trails nationally that are to receive elevated maintenance.  It has been the Organizations experience that land managers in small planning areas can easily identify 9 to 15 trails on their district that need heavy levels of maintenance. The Organizations must question the value of identifying a national list of priority trails for maintenance, as the limited resources of land managers will be not fully utilized for maintaining trails at the local level but will be directed to developing the national list.

The Organizations submit that numerous additional factors must be balanced in the identification of priority trails for maintenance.  One additional factor should include leveraging of resources available from partners for the maintenance of the route now and for the foreseeable future.  The Organizations submit that the long term financial sustainability of any priority routes that are identified must be reviewed, as maintaining a trail in the short term  that has no additional sources to insure the long term usage of the route simply makes little sense.  Insuring the long term financial sustainability must be addressed in any review process to insure that resources directed to a priority route or area in the short term are not lost in the long term for many of the same factors that might have placed the route on the list in the beginning.

When identifying priority maintenance routes the basic sustainability of the route must be addressed as many routes simply are not in ideal locations for maintenance.   Often routes are in locations for reasons other than the recreational usage of the area, such as routes in creek beds and routes that have been placed due to historical usage of the areas by pack animals and wildlife.  Identifying priority trails for maintenance should not omit questions such as: “Is the route in a sustainable location?” or “Does the route make sense from a cost/benefit analysis?”.

The definition of what a “substantial increase” in maintenance must also be defined in the RNR in order to insure the long term success of the program.  A poor definition of substantial increase in maintenance could create a shockingly low threshold of success for a trail maintenance project as maintenance may never been done in the area or has been poorly documented for a variety of reasons. The RNR  must provide some type of definable and identifiable metric for the success of any maintenance that may be undertaken.

Conclusion.

The Organizations welcome the bipartisan discussion regarding how to elevate the importance of recreation on federal public lands and how to streamline recreational management moving forward.  The Organizations would request that the RNR  address:

  • the  numerous challenges in the permitting process that remain hurdles to permit applicants in the current version of the RNR;
  • address the  overly narrow scope of liability protection to Organizations that are becoming more and more important to land managers;
  • several provisions of the RNR appear to duplicate efforts of land mangers already in motion and this repetition must be avoided;
  • The Organizations further submit that rather than repeating the failed inventory process that has plagued WSA/RARE inventory process;
  • the RNR should develop a more efficient and streamlined inventory process that is flexible enough to allow existing NRA plans to move forward and identify planning opportunities that will benefit recreational usage on public lands.  The Organizations are concerned the RNR in its current form would create significant amounts of new paperwork and red tape rather than streamlining any portion of the process;
  • seek to develop a method for local land managers to address the priority trails on their            districts to allow limited resources to be most effectively applied on the ground rather than being lost in developing a national list; and
  • provide a wide range of factors to be developed and balanced in the localized priority trail review.

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.
ORBA/TPA/COHVCO Representative
CSA President

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Fred Wiley, CNSA Past President
ORBA President and CEO
One Voice Authorized Representative

Sandra Mitchell, Executive Director
Idaho Recreation Council

 

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Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests -­ Forest Plan Revision

Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests – Forest Plan Revision

Attn: Forest Plan Revision Team
Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests
225 South Main St
Delta, Colorado 81416

Dear Forest Plan Revision Team:

Please accept these initial and preliminary comments regarding the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests – Forest Plan Revision on behalf of the Trails Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) and the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”). These comments are likely to be augmented and supplemented in the future as our discussion and participation in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests -Forest Plan Revision continues. 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 insure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse trail multiple-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 multiple-‐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 regarding the Assessment Phase of this project.

  1. The following comments are provided regarding the published Assessment Updates for PlanRevision (https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd542434.pdf )
    1. Topic Area – Recreation: The existing document lists two new recreation technologies, drones and fat [tire] bikes. We feel it is vitally and equally important to list and recognize the changes in Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROV) and Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTV) (AKA “Side by sides”) sizes and technologies along with the proliferation of “e-bikes”. We also feel the meteoric rise in demand for multiple-‐use single track must also be specifically listed and recognized.
    2. Topic Area – Infrastructure: In order to address the USFS’s emphasis on identifying and implementing a“Minimum Roads System (MRS)”, the opportunity to convert existing National Forest System Roads (NFSR) to multiple-‐use National ForestSystemTrails (NFST) should be included and listed as an appropriate “update”.
    3. Topic Area – Ecosystems, including Drivers and Stressors: To address the topic of climate change, minor updates due to data changes should be listed for potential USFS design criteria to include values such as Design Storm Frequency, Rainfall Intensity, Runoff Coefficients coupled with appropriate sizing of the supporting drainage infrastructure(e.g. ditch sizing, culvert sizing, rip rap sizing, re-‐vegetation practices, trail/road alignment, etc.).Updates to these criteria should be developed to mitigate more extreme weather events and any increased flows that might be attributed to climate change.
    4. Topic Area – Social and Economic Contributions:The following report must be utilized to help identify changes, trends and the substantial economic contributions of OffHighway Vehicle Recreation in Colorado: http://www.coloradotpa.org/2017/01/25/economic-contribution-of-off-highway-vehicle-recreation-in-colorado/
  2. The TPA and COHVCO both firmly believe that multiple-‐use access and motorized recreation within the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests is, and will continue to be, vitally important to the economic vitality of Southern Colorado and an expected component of the recreational experiences provided by our public lands. We stand behind a sustainable and robust network of multiple-use/motorized routes and trails that sufficiently serve the needs and demands of all forest visitors.
  3. The Organizations believe that continued multiple-use access and motorized recreation within the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests is vitally important to the preservation and conservation of our public lands and the well being of our citizens. Our Organizations have a history of partnering with the USFS to protect our forest resources while reducing and eliminating barriers that are continuing to make it difficult for Americans to get outside and travel on a multiple-use trail or share a road as part of their outdoor recreational experience.
  4. Together the TPA and COHVCO are committed to the development of a fair and reasonable revised forest plan, and are pleased to offer our collective assistance and expertise to this vitally important project. As with the ongoing Pike & San Isabel National Forests’, Motor Vehicle Use Environmental Impact Statement and the Rio Grande National Forest, Forest Plan Revision Project, our Organizations are both prepared to apply our combined resources as a contributing partner and involved constituent in this project.

 

We thank you for reviewing and considering these comments and suggestions.

Sincerely,

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

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

 

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Input Regarding BLM Planning Process

Input regarding BLM planning process

US Department of Interior
Att: Secretary Ryan Zinke
1840 C Street NW
Washington DC 20006
Via 1st Class Mail and electronic submission

Bureau of Land Management
Att: Director Mike Nedd
1849 C Street NW #5660
Washington DC 20006

Re: Input regarding BLM planning process

Dear Secretary Zinke and Director Nedd:

The above Organizations are contacting your Offices’ to provide more detailed information and input on our experiences with the BLM 2.0 planning process and planning processes on a wide range of public lands in the hope that previous mistakes will not be repeated.  The Organizations are providing these more extensive comments to supplement our electronic submissions 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 Offices’.

Prior to addressing the specific concerns, our Organizations have regarding the BLM planning process to date and revision 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 of approximately 2,500 members 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 insure 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 currently has 2,500 members.  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; improve 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”.

The Organizations submit that any new planning rule for the BLM must: 1. Have large amounts of public participation both in the development of the rule and subsequent implementation of more localized planning efforts; 2. Planning efforts must strive for development of a high quality planning documents that remain relevant over the expected life of the Plan rather than planning documents that are quickly developed;  3.  Regional planning documents must provide regional guidelines on regional issues and avoid becoming a replacement for local planning; 4. BLM planning should streamline NEPA processes with clarification of lower levels of NEPA analysis such as the use of Categorical Exclusions and expand good neighbor authority in planning; 5.   Historical uses of any area should be addressed with a presumption that the usage be continued unless a credible scientific basis can be provided to rebut the presumption; and 6.  Credible partner resources must be utilized while a high level of scrutiny must be applied to citizen science in order to develop high quality planning documents in partnership with local communities that effectively address long term protection and utilization of public lands while avoiding science that advances a particular agenda without relying on valid scientific processes.

1. The Organizations would like to thank you for changes made to date.

The Organizations would like to thank your Offices’ for your efforts subsequent to the repeal of BLM Planning 2.0 by President Trump. The Organizations welcome this additional public process and input in developing the new planning rule, as the Organizations were very concerned regarding the exceptionally limited public input provided in the BLM 2.0 process and the direction that Field Office planning had already taken since the adoption of the BLM 2.0 process. The early implementation of the BLM 2.0 plan simply confirmed many of our concerns regarding the imbalance in the new planning process and we welcome the opportunity to create the proper balance between resource utilization and resource protection.

The Organizations would also like to thank your Offices’ for the staffing changes at various state offices that have been undertaken since the election. The Organizations believe that these new managers will bring new ideas and new solutions to these Offices as they work to resolve the monumental challenges faced by public land managers in the western US.

2a. The Organizations submit a vigorous public process in all phases of public lands planning is an important component of successful planning.

The Organizations submit a vigorous public process in all phases of public lands planning and meaningfully addressing this input in a timely manner are important components of successful planning. Too often the goal of finalizing a plan quickly is placed higher on a planning priority list than developing a quality plan with a long life expectancy and wide public support.  It has been the Organizations experience that the vigorous public process develops higher quality planning documents and increases public support for the end result of the planning effort.  With the expanded reliance on the public/private partnership for the management of public lands, public support for any plan during implementation will remain an important component of long term plan success.  The development of meaningful public input is often time consuming and costly in the early stages of plan development but these costs are offset with reduced operational costs and increased levels of partnership when any plan is implemented.

One of the primary concerns that must be addressed in the development of a new BLM Planning Rule is insuring  that meaningful public input is developed, all input properly balanced to avoid any user group being provided a priority position in the process.  Public input must be address in a timely and meaningful manner.  The development process for the BLM 2.0 Rule was entirely too short and many in the public perceived that the objective of the process was to create a new Planning Rule quickly rather than developing a high quality balanced plan. The Organizations must note that partner involvement at the Denver meeting was surprisingly limited, which compounds concerns about limited public/partner involvement in the new planning process and over reliance on contractors as a substitute for public input.  The meeting was well attended by environmental organizations, but traditional partners who provide ongoing funding and support to BLM, such as State and local government agencies and user groups were almost non-existent. This should have been a red flag that the process for developing public input was not working, but this flag was overlooked.

The new planning rule must also insure that no user or interest group should be provided a priority position in the planning process and unsolicited public input provided outside an active request must not be allowed to delay or alter the implementation of a plan after the planning process has been finalized.  Our concerns on these points is not abstract as the Organizations are aware of a Field Office where an unsolicited inventory of Wilderness Characteristics areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern was submitted by the public almost 10 years after the Field Office Plan was finalized.   No action was taken on this document until protests raising the lack of response to the inventory were filed in response to an oil and gas development plan on a small portion of the Field Office several years later.  Rather than clarify the inventory was never timely submitted, this protest was confirmed and moved forward in a recent Field office travel plan, more than 10 years after the citizen inventory was originally filed.  All actions were taken under the guise of the new BLM 2.0 process.  Compounding the inappropriate nature of this entire public process was the fact that the local County was developing a landscape plan for the management of the FO lands in partnership with the County and BLM FO.  Direction of the collaborative community efforts was directly contradictory to the direction of the ACEC and WCA inventory and there was no mention of the inventory to the County in the collaborative efforts.       The faults with this process are many but highlight the need to respond to public input in a timely manner, even when the public input is unsolicited and to work with partners in a transparent manner.

The determination that the BLM 2.0 Planning Rule could be developed under a Categorical Exclusion, given the long term vision and results from the Rule  on BLM lands for decades to come, placed the planning process at a disadvantage from the beginning.  The Organizations submit that public outreach for the development of the new BLM planning rule must be far more like USFS used for development of the USFS 2012 Planning Rule, where extensive public input was obtained with dozens of public meetings throughout the Country rather than BLM 2.0 efforts that provided only two meetings for public input. Targeting public input should include the development of any new national planning rules and implementation of the planning rule in smaller planning efforts at the regional or field office level in the future.

The Organizations believe that public input must be a priority in planning and the Planning Rule should also encourage land managers to reach out to impacted user groups to insure their input is obtained due to nature of planning efforts.  Many times users are familiar with traditional planning efforts, such as a travel management plan, but often plans are expanding in scope and identified under a wider range of planning process, such as Recreation Access Management Plans or merged with a timber sale. While the scope of the process may be different, the need to engage affected user groups and obtain public input on all issues remains critical and land managers should be encouraged to reach out to partners when planning could impact them and that partner may not be aware of the scope of planning.

While current review efforts are targeting the BLM national planning rule, the Organizations submit this review must be expanded to include not only land planning rules but also BLM handbooks, as often these documents direct policy and are directly applied in local planning efforts.  Often these important guiding documents are developed with little to no public input, which results in standards and guidelines being directly moved into lower level plans that lack public support and often in direct contradiction to more localized reviews.

2b. Quality and not speed must be the goal for any planning efforts.

The Organizations have participated in a wide range of planning efforts with the Department of Interior and very frequently these planning efforts are plagued by an artificial urgency to comply with often unrealistically short deadlines for the planning process.  As a result of the artificial urgency, the development of a quality planning document that will remain relevant and useful over its anticipated life span is placed lower than developing a decision quickly.   This type of prioritization must be avoided.

The artificial elevation of short timelines also creates a planning environment where it is simply impossible to utilize partner resources to address questions that arise in planning efforts.  Again this is an issue where an example of this conflict would be very valuable.  In the development of the Greater Sage Grouse RMP amendment and listing process, Garfield County Colorado expressed significant concerns regarding the accuracy of habitat inventory information being provided by the BLM planners early in the RMP and listing process.  Immediate concerns were raised regarding the overly broad nature of the habitat modeling and that in many areas the species was simply was not present. As a result Garfield County hired nationally recognized experts and embarked on mapping of habitat in the County at a much finer scale than that of the BLM efforts, which resulted in significantly more accurate habitat mapping.  While clearly this effort was the type of highly valuable local information sought from partners, often the development of this information was unnecessarily confrontational and driven by the artificial need to complete the RMP revision rather than the desire to develop a proposal based on the best available science to most accurately benefit the species. Too often similar time constraints are placed on planning, even outside an ESA listing related planning effort.   Again this situation simply must be avoided.

3a. Regional planning should target regional issues to streamline more localized planning and avoid issues beyond the scope of regional planning.

While the Organizations commend the DOI for their interest and lead in addressing global climate change in the planning process, the Organizations must question the value of even a large regional plan for BLM lands seeking to address climate change.   While climate change may garner a large amount of news coverage, there are many factors that are impacting DOI lands and specific species  that are not related to climate change which must still be managed and are more suited to regional or local planning efforts.  Regional planning can address regional issues in a cost effective manner and provide high levels of consistency in local planning efforts if that planning is meaningfully undertaken and addressing regional issues. – Effective regional planning can insure that healthy landscapes are addressed such as the major threat throughout the Western United States of poor forest health and invasive species, rather a particular usage or challenge which can often be focused on in local planning efforts such as pursuing travel management for western states without addressing the exceptionally poor forest health.

The Organizations vigorously support the idea that certain management issues can be effectively addressed with general standards or guidelines at the landscape level and the converse is also true as some challenges are beyond the scope of regional planning.  This balance must be maintained in any regional plan and the Organizations believe that State Wildlife Action plans and the NOHVCC motorized action plans represent regional planning documents that streamline local planning and do not serve as a replacement for local planning.  An example of an effective landscape level standard in the new Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan would involve the lynx where the Colorado State Wildlife Action plan clearly provides:

“Lynx have successfully been re-established in Colorado and a self-sustaining population is believed to persist in the region. The management actions taken to re-establish the population to Colorado were done considering the landscape of the time – there is no intention of attempting to change, alter or remove historic and current land uses from the landscape. Many of these industries can and have developed practices that have the potential to allow the long term persistence of the lynx within the context of existing land use.”[1]

The Organizations further support the fact that if a usage is not a landscape level challenge it should be clearly stated as such, in order to avoid further analysis of non-issues at the local level.  The recently released 2013 Lynx Conservation Assessment and Strategy provided effective standards to streamline subsequent site specific planning with standards as follows:

  • Road and trail density does not impact the quality of an area as lynx habitat;[2]
  • There is no information to suggest that trails have a negative impact on lynx; [3]
  • Snow compaction from winter recreational activity is not likely to change the competitive advantage of the lynx and other predators;[4]
  • Snow compaction in the Southern Rocky Mountain region is frequently a result of natural process and not recreational usage; [5]

Rather than providing meaningful guidance on regional issues, many planning efforts started at the regional level are seen as replacement for local planning and seeks to address local usages or issues with highly specific local standards applied through regional planning. Rather than seeing the need for site specific local boundaries in regional planning as a red flag that regional planning is becoming too localized, many in regional plans see this as effective implementation of the Plan.  The Organizations vigorously disagree with this position and believe that when regional planning seeks to plan at local levels and address specific routes or areas, this is a strong indication that local planning must be moved forward with to insure that the proper communities are engaged on the  issue.

The Organizations submit that the utilization of a regional planning effort to address site specific issues became on the large weaknesses with the development of the Desert Renewable Energy Planning efforts in the Southern California desert which attempted to apply area specific local standards under the guise of regional planning.  An example of the improper application of local standards in regional planning is provided in the preferred alternative of the DRECP precludes all energy development in NLCS areas as follows:

“Conservation and Management Actions in National Conservation Lands Renewable energy projects and related ancillary facilities are not allowed”[6]

The DRECP also applies a disturbance cap to all NLCS areas as follows:

Disturbance caps – Development in National Conservation Lands would be limited to 1% of total authorized disturbance, or to the level allowed by collocated ACEC, whichever is more restrictive.” [7]

This DRECP standard has a note as follows:

“Wildlife habitat disturbance caps only apply to lands not already included under ACECs or Wildlife Allocation disturbance caps, as described in the Special Unit Management Plans in Appendix L.”[8]

No information is provided in the DRECP to explain the scientific basis for the 1% disturbance cap, which viewed in isolation, is only somewhat problematic.  When the DRECP standard is compared to Greater Sage Grouse planning disturbance caps more concern is provided as the GRG efforts stimulated significant discussion regarding disturbance caps ranging from 3% to 5% and the significant change in impacts that could result from differences in the disturbance caps.  The direct contrast to the extensive discussions regarding possible impacts resulted in the GSG efforts, the implications of a 1% disturbance cap in the DRECP was simply never addressed as there was significant pressure on the DRECP process to simply get the DRECP completed.

No analysis was provided to inform the public regarding areas that might be within DRECP planning jurisdiction that were currently in compliance with the 1% disturbance cap and areas that already exceeded this disturbance cap. Additionally, these site specific management standards were also provided without mention of the California Desert Conservation Act requirements that the California desert contains historical, scenic, archeological, environmental, biological, cultural, scientific, educational, recreational, and economic resources that are uniquely located adjacent to an area of large population. [9]  Clearly meaningful public process should clarify how standards applied in the regional plan are addressing relevant federal laws for the area.

The Organizations submit that the DRECP provides regional guidance that truly is site specific planning decisions that simply have no place in the development of a regional plan. The DRECP site specific standards are a stark contrast to the regional guidance that has been provided in both the State Wildlife Action plans and other regional planning documents.  The BLM planning efforts to develop a new BLM planning rule must focus on developing regional plans that address regional issues and avoid combining local planning efforts under the claim of regional planning.

3b. Landscape level planning will only be effective if it is meaningfully undertaken.

Recently, the development of  new landscape level plans on a variety of issues to guide the subsequent development of  field office level plans has occurred, which the Organization support as an effective tool to deal with regional issues and streamlining local planning  specific issues. The Organizations have been actively involved with the USFS and USFWS regional efforts on various species including the Canadian Lynx, Greater Sage Grouse, Wolverine and numerous aquatic species and recognize that these landscape level plans have been reasonably effective in benefitting the species and provided clear guidance on best available science on these issues. These were extensive documents with significant partner and public input that were based on best available science for a wide range of multiple usages, which took years to develop. While the benefits of such a vigorous process should be immediately apparent, this level of analysis and review does not appear to be present in many other planning efforts, as exemplified in the development of the Rapid Ecological Assessments (“REA”) and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (“LCC”).  Rather than being examples of how the objectives of effective application of landscape level principals, it is the Organizations position the REA and LCC efforts  are examples of what can happen when the principals and objectives of the Landscape level are not applied properly.

The Organizations have been involved in the BLM Sage Grouse planning process over the last several years, and believe declaring that planning process a success and the model for a new planning process is somewhat premature.  The Organizations submit the GSG planning process was at least meaningfully undertaken and highlighted the value of landscape level planning efforts, the GSG efforts also highlighted numerous areas for improvement in future planning.  While the GSG Planning efforts have effectively brought together a diverse range of interests on the issue, these efforts have not been without challenges and may not be able to be replicated again in the future either due to limited partner resources or smaller issues being addressed.  The Greater Sage Grouse efforts highlighted the need to provide the proper balance for local flexibility while addressing landscape level issues and provide a good comparison tool for other planning efforts undertaken at the same time.  Rather than delving into site specific local planning, regional plans should streamline local planning not replace it – often overly specific landscape plans make local planning more difficult rather than streamlining it

The Greater Sage Grouse planning process provided highlights an ongoing concern regarding the lack of public participation in the planning process.  This concern was highlighted by the Western Governors Association summary of state and local participation in the landscape Sage Grouse planning process as an “afterthought” in correspondence to the BLM and USFS[10].  Often stakeholders in the Sage Grouse process were not meaningfully engaged and input was not meaningfully incorporated in final versions of the RMP.  Similar sentiments have been vigorously expressed from a large number of Congressman and Senators in response to the Sage Grouse planning process.  It is the Organizations position that there is significant room for improvement in the process relied on in the GSG initiatives.

In the GSG Planning process, many local partners in the habitat areas have effectively managed local sage grouse issues for years and have significant data to support the effectiveness of this management in a manner that has directly and clearly benefitted sage grouse populations.  Simply reconciling the BLM landscape level planning with these highly effective local planning efforts has proven problematic, resulting in frustration of partners.  Many local partners have expressed serious concerns about basic information relied on in the BLM landscape level Sage Grouse planning process, such as population of Sage Grouse and threats to the species identified in the National Technical Team (“NTT”) Report.   The NTT report often relied on theoretical information that seriously conflicted with significant portions of high quality localized data available.  Localized threats to the Sage Grouse is an issue where there appears to be significant conflict between the various BLM landscape plans and best available science from local partners.  These conflicts were so severe that the BLM was forced to issue a 66 page supplement to the NTT report to address the issues that were raised by partners once the NTT report was released.  This change would require at least a review of more localized Sage Grouse plans developed in the amendment process to insure the revised NTT has been properly addressed in these more localized plans.  This type of process would indicate a serious concern about collaborating with partner organizations and that development of an effective and efficient plan will be the result of the Sage Grouse Planning.

While there was room for improvement in the public engagement in the GSG process, the development of the REA and LCC provide another landscape level planning effort that has caused concern for the Organizations.  The process for development of many of the REA and LCC provide concrete examples of processes that completely fail to engage the public in manners far worse than those criticized in the GSG process and provide examples of how NOT to undertake regional planning. The Organizations’ are aware that the principal of an REA has been effectively applied to management of a wide range of parks and other issues, but this process is not a replacement for quality public input.    The Organizations are very concerned with the process that has been relied on by BLM in the development of the REA plans, as BLM appears to have chosen to merely hire a contractor to prepare the Colorado Plateau Rapid Ecological Assessment (“CPREA”) rather than involve the public and partners[11]. The Organizations are not aware of any public/partner input being sought for the development of these documents, despite these documents now being relied on to guide the development of field office plans on a variety of issues.  The Organizations must question the basic value of a regional plan that has been developed in this manner.

Another example of concerns regarding landscape level planning to date was the development of LCC partnerships. The Organizations were not familiar with BLM efforts regarding the development of LCC until well after many plans were in place. Subsequent evaluation of this issue recognized that the LCC website identifies 22 LCC plans currently in place in the country, and that several have been in place for multiple years. As a result, one would expect detailed examples of how these LCC are working with partners to be easily available for public discussion. That simply is not the case and providing meaningful comments on these initiatives is difficult as many of the links on the LCC website[12] are dead or provide at best general information.  Only two non-DOI partners are even identified in the national brochure on the program.

The national LCC guidance brochure further provides quality examples regional standards that will not streamline local planning, as often the national LCC brochure provides information is in the form of somewhat random comments of DOI agencies that often do not relate to the goals and objectives of the LCC process.  Examples of these comments include:

“Glorious fall foliage provides a backdrop for foraging Sandhill cranes.” [13] Or

“A majestic bull elk pauses  for a drink in the southern Rockies.” [14]

These types of random statements are often highly frustrating to many partners and more properly suited as a note to a picture in a travel brochure rather than part of a mission statement for meaningfully undertaken landscape planning that will result in effective and efficient management of issues on the ground.  The Organizations assert these efforts fall well short of seeking best available science and a more dynamic and streamlined planning process with expanded collaboration of the public and partners, even if the statements are largely symbolic. The goals for regional planning must seek to obtain higher quality regional documents than are currently being provided.

Further numerous comments in the national LCC brochure attribute issue specific statements to agencies that are completely unrelated to that agency’s mission or expertise.    An example of such a quote would be the following quote attributed to NOAA:

“Preserving cultural artifacts and traditions creates vibrant, healthy communities.”[15]

While NOAA is an impressive organization that does great work, NOAA’s expertise is not in cultural resources and the Organizations must question any decision that sought to rely on NOAA in such a capacity.  There are a wide range of true partner organizations that have long histories of effective management of this issue, such as state historic preservation offices and the national register of historic places, and failing to rely on these organizations for their expertise may complicate partnerships with them in the future.

Clearly these statements are largely symbolic, development of landscape plans and related coordination with partners will require significant efforts to develop high quality decisions that can be effectively applied. The  implications of these types of statements to partners should not be overlooked as many partners operate with limited budgets and are highly interested in “on the ground” success in managing issues rather than moving generalized and abstract concepts forward. These type of statements would not indicate a similar desire from BLM. Rather partners could easily conclude high quality landscape level planning is not  being developed, as much of this information provided to date  appears to fall well short of high quality analysis necessary for more efficient and dynamic planning.

The Organizations are very concerned regarding the failure to develop meaningful public/partner input in the development of the REA development process and the long term implications of these failures.  This failure will result in limited funds for the management of challenges being directed away from resolution of the true factors towards other issues. These concerns have already manifested themselves in response to the REA as the  Wilderness Society has asserted that REA are now the proper basis for all management. [16] Given the prima facie failures of the REA development process to address a wide range of issues, the Organizations are not optimistic that any management undertaken would be effective. Rather than streamlining the process, the application of inaccurate and out of date will be an additional barrier development of effective management on the ground at the field office level.

3d.  Planning efforts should strive to remain consistent with the scope and objectives of the Process.

In the development of any planning efforts, maintaining the scope and goals of the planning effort is critical as the planning effort moves forward, as often planning efforts can drift away from the original goals and objectives of the plan.  This issue is of more significant concern  in larger planning efforts as often when landscape level planning efforts drift away from the original intent of the process seeking to address numerous localized issues, the public is not properly engaged and there are numerous collateral impacts.  Also this mission drift makes it harder to avoid artificially inflated management issues in the planning process.

The Organizations  were actively involved in development of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (“DRECP”) which sought to streamline the permitting process  for large renewable energy development projects in large sections of the California desert area. A significant driver of the DRECP project was high oil prices in the marketplace when the planning efforts commenced. As the DRECP process moved forward, oil prices receded and other smaller scale priorities were elevated, often with minimal research or analysis, in an attempt to maintain political support for the project.  The Plan that resulted only marginally related to the original goals and objectives of the project and addressed a wide range of local decisions that were outside the scope of the original project. The end result of the project was a Plan that was roundly criticized and was opposed by almost all local communities involved and businesses that were originally intended to be beneficiaries of the effort.

Planning efforts must strive to address challenges that can actually be addressed at the scale of planning being undertaken and avoid directing resources towards artificially elevated planning issues.  Any planning rule and subsequent regional planning must be meaningfully undertaken, avoid taking what are largely symbolic gestures on issues, avoid making local site specific  decisions at the landscape level  and insure that the final regional plan is a high quality document that meets the original goals and objectives of the regional planning efforts.

4. The new planning rule must streamline and clarify the applicability of Categorical Exclusions  and other lower levels of NEPA for projects.

The new planning rule must streamline and clarify the applicability of Categorical  Exclusions  and other lower levels of NEPA for projects in order to provide consistency in the decision making process while reducing costs and speeding the resolution of management challenges.  Often single projects or events cross multiple planning boundaries or involve multiple agencies which can result in inconsistent analysis or decisions between districts for the same project.  Similar projects are often analyzed differently based on target audience of the project,  such as lower levels of NEPA being required for a heavily used bicycle trail while more NEPA analysis is often required to address a minimally used multiple use trail. While this can be defended based on guidance currently in place, this application simply makes no sense on the ground.

With the high rate of transition among field staff, this clarity in guidance will also avoid significant changes in NEP necessary for a particular project which often results in conflict between partners and delayed resolution of issues with higher costs.  An example of this concern is again helpful.  Many times when recreational trails are crossing wetlands or other riparian areas, these crossing need periodic maintenance and this periodic maintenance provides a good example of where streamlining would be very helpful.   Some land managers will see this as a wetland or riparian restoration that can clearly be done with a categorical exclusion, while other managers will see this type of project as a trail construction issue and require at least an EA. If this type of transition occurs in the middle of the project, the project may basically stall until the higher level of NEPA is satisfied and all the while the resource damage continues to occur.

When there are multiple agencies or jurisdictions involved in the planning process, any lack of clarity in the Planning Rule or implementation documents results in higher levels of NEPA being applied to the Project. This results in significant additional time and resources being directed towards analysis of the project rather than resolving the management issue on the ground.  Any new planning rules should encourage managers to look at any issue in the manner that requires the least amount of NEPA analysis.  This is an issue where planning rules and subsequent guidance handbooks can provide a significant opportunity to streamline and provide line officers with an identifiable agency position that allows the project to move forward and not get bogged down in NEPA analysis.

5a.  Recognize that planning in place may effectively be challenges.

The Organizations are aware that often there is significant public pressure on land managers to enter into planning efforts in response to a wide variety of pressures or concerns.  Any new planning Rule must provide the ability to local land managers to allow a decision not to move into planning in response to a challenge.  As highlighted in recent Greater Sage Grouse planning habitat management was a major planning challenges are directly impacted by private lands adjacent to public lands.  Often in Sage Grouse planning, habitat areas were located more than 50% of the time on private lands adjacent to public land.  As a result, planning efforts required collaboration at much higher levels than planning that only addressing public lands.  Managers should be allowed to recognize this issue and rather than reenter planning simply work collaboratively with private land owners as habitat management was often an issue outside the scope of federal authority.

The Organizations also vigorously assert that recognition of existing planning effectiveness will be critical in addressing the “minimization criteria” provided for in the Travel Management Rule[17] when new planning efforts are adopted. Under the minimization criteria, possible resource impacts from roads and trails are to be minimized while allowing managers to achieve the management objectives for the area.  Too often extensive pressure is applied on managers to minimize impacts without regard to planning in that portion of the forest.  The Organizations submit that there is a limited relevance of the minimization criteria to most planning efforts unless there is a significant change in management or an intervening Congressional action such as a Wilderness or Special Management area designation. Land managers should be provided with clear management direction on this issue to avoid a management issue that after most forest planning should be resolved.

5b. Historical usages should be provided a presumption in planning that the usage will continue unless there is a compelling reason to remove the historical usage.

The Organizations are intimately familiar with the complete failure of many planning efforts to meaningfully recognize historical usage of public lands and often these historical usages, which are often the lifeblood of many small western communities, are lost without meaningful review of the economic contributions from these actions to local communities. While historical usages are an important factor for local communities, when these actions are addressed in planning the burden of proof to allow the usage to continue simply is unrealistic.  Many times planners are seeking information that was never compiled regarding the usage of the area. The Organizations submit that historical usages of an area should enjoy a presumption in planning that the usage will continue unless there is a compelling reason to remove the historical usage.

The Organizations believe an example of this concern would be highly valuable. In a recent permit renewal for a snowmobile grooming operation that had been permitted for decades, the historical issuance of the permit and specific recognition of the activity in the Resource Management Plan was not sufficient to renew the permit as the BLM had a new Wilderness Study area manual, that allegedly forbade motorized.  Immediately the community rallied in support of the grooming activities, produced decades of local news articles, numerous documents from local guides and rental operations identifying high levels of use for generations, numerous documents regarding fundraisers based in the area such as poker runs,  a manufacturer’s television advertisement from the late 1960’s that clearly showed local landmarks and high levels of riding in the WSA.   Managers were also provided with a copy of the first round WSA inventory for the area that identified high levels of snowmobile usage of the area in the 1970’s.

This information was alleged to be insufficient to support the continuation of the historical usage.  In order to issue the permit managers asserted that an exact count of visitation to the area in the 1960’s and 1970’s was needed despite the fact that managers had never collected and the open admission that even if such information was collected it had been destroyed due to BLM document management protocols.  While this issue eventually was resolved through Congressional action protecting the historical usage of the area, this issue highlights many of the shortcomings frequently encountered in the management of historical usages of an area.  While this issue has been resolved the relationship between land managers and the local community was BADLY fractured and will need decades to repair.

6a. Credible partner information/resources can be a great resource.

One of the preliminary planning decisions that must be highlighted to develop high quality resource plans on public lands is identifying the  distinction between high quality partner based science and citizen science that may not be based on the same level of vigor in development.  Too often citizen science is developed in a process that seeks to advance a specific conclusion or idea rather than developed in a scientific process were the process  leads to a conclusion. Then that group prepares various inventories for submission to a land manager to influence the planning process. Additionally, if the partner organization has developed high quality site specific information under a valid scientific method, that Organization often will remain after the planning effort and provide either direct funding resources or other partner resources.  Too often high quality site specific information is overlooked in favor of generalized planning principals that may be based on limited scientific research with a high level of public pressure.

The distinct difference is the quality of these resources is provided when the Western Governor Sage Grouse Inventory, developed based on a valid scientific process with dedicated partners is compared with citizen acec/wca inventory submitted in the RMP process.
Often these citizen inventory are  based on habitat inventory that may have been declined to be implemented in other planning process, such as the designation of critical habitat by the Fish and Wildlife Service.  The planning rule must provide clear guidance that partner inventories should not be allowed to become an alternative method of moving forward with closures of modeled but unoccupied habitat created with a high degree of scientific uncertainty.  Often these citizen inventories are associated with a high level of pressure from the user groups to move forward with the information despite its questionable scientific basis.

The Organizations would note that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has recently moved forward with heightened requirements for the listing of a new species and is requiring significantly more detailed information.  Allowing low quality interest group information to be developed into WCA/ACEC inventory that is consistently moved upon by land managers in planning will result in these groups moving away from the USFWS and to land management agencies like the BLM.  The Organizations submit the BLM is poorly suited to address the scientific validity of an expanded citizen science driven agenda and it would be unfortunate if the USFWS revisions to the listing process were allowed to be avoided as this would simply shift management burdens currently burying the USFWS onto land management agencies that are often in a worse position to address these issues.   The Rule must provide clear guidance that site specific information from credible partners must be relied on for planning over citizen inventories that are based on a high level of scientific uncertainty to insure that high quality planning documents are developed and also to allow the development of high quality partners with that land manager for the implementation of any subsequent decisions.

6b. Relationship of Federal lands planning and the Endangered Species listing process.

The Organizations submit that a proposed listing of any species should not be a driver for landscape level planning as often the rush to avoid the listing results in planning that lacks scientific basis and often fails to meaningfully address many of the factors to be balanced in federal lands planning and in the identification of critical habitat for a species. The Organizations understand this issue is more a result of the inflexibility and imbalance of the Endangered Species Act, there may be opportunity to address this issue in a revision of BLM planning requirements as well. While resource plan amendments certainly assisted in avoiding a listing of the Greater Sage Grouse, the experiences with the Greater Sage Grouse are often not the normal fact pattern and probably cannot be replicated. Rather than dealing with a single species covering an entire planning area, many land managers are forced to plan for areas that that may provide small habitat areas  for numerous species, some of which may be listed, some of which may be in the listing process and still others that have been declined to be listed. This is a significantly different management challenge than that provided in GSG planning.

Despite the  experience with Greater Sage Grouse too often a proposed listing of a species is given an artificially elevated priority in the planning process despite numerous decisions that the species does not warrant listing. Federal lands planning should not function as a replacement for the listing process under the Endangered Species governed by US Fish and Wildlife Service. Recent reviews of USFWS listing efforts find thousands of species under a proposed listing status, with thousands more involved in petitions under development or involved in litigation after a non-listing decision has been made by the USFWS.  With this volume of work related to ESA listing, allowing too strong a relationship between a proposed listing and federal lands planning, would result in a federal land planning process that was overwhelmed and even the best federal lands plans would simply never be implemented on the ground.  On the ground benefits must remain the priority.

US Fish and Wildlife Service has embarked on an extensive effort to streamline and balance the listing process for a proposed species. The Organizations expect that as a result of these efforts a higher emphasis will be placed on the Federal lands planning process to serve as a replacement vehicle to achieve  goals and objectives that previously had targeted the USFWS listing process. The BLM managers must be aware this issue and clear guidance must be provided at a national level  not allow the land management plan development  process to become a replacement for the USFWS listing process, which has already become badly out of balance and directly impacting the USFWS to provide basic services in furtherance of the agency mission.

6c. Leveraging of USFS resources and partner efforts.

As funding for federal land management agencies continues to decline, the utilization of partner decisions and information must be more heavily leveraged across agency lines.  Not only will this result in more cost effective planning, the leveraging of information and research minimizes the possibility of conflicting determinations on an issue, merely because of administrative differences in the planning process, as these  types of differences breed conflict with partners and directly undermine the credibility of both management agencies determinations.

The Organizations are aware that the BLM has been moving towards adopting the  National Visitor Use Monitoring (NVUM) model and conclusions, where possible of the USFS.  This determination provides a good example of an area where partner information could be utilized and be obtained in a cost effective manner.  The Organizations vigorously assert that the NVUM process should be continued to be used at the landscape level as this process is simply far more developed than the  Recreation Management Information System  (RMIS) system currently utilized by the BLM. While there may be localized issues or events that are accurately and meaningfully tracked in the RMIS system, these events are not the norm.

Significant savings and streamlining of planning efforts could result from the  DOI  seeking to expand good neighbor authority to streamline project planning and efforts that are being undertaken on state or private lands adjacent to Federal public lands.

6d. Time must be provided for any planning efforts to show results.

Often a proposed listing of a species on the Endangered Species list or development of regional planning documents can be a major catalyst for  partner planning and efforts.  While a proposed listing can be a major driver of local efforts, if these efforts are meaningfully undertaken and are even holding what was thought to be a declining population at stable levels,  they must be given time to be put in place and then yield results before moving forward with federal lands planning. Too often the development of this credible high quality science from partners is subjected to the same artificial urgency concerns that have been expressed previously in these comments regarding federal lands planning.  Any new planning rule should allow the flexibility in the planning process that if a credible partner agency, such as a state fish and game management agency, moves forward with resolving a valid scientific question that sufficient time will be provided in the planning process to insure the conclusions of the research is accurately implemented.

7. Travel management specific recommendations.

In this section of the comments, the Organizations would like to highlight several issues or challenges that are technically outside the scope of development of the formal National Planning Rule  but represent issues where significant cost savings and streamlining of the planning process could be obtained. These recommendations may provide a cost effective resolution of issues or insure that meaningful public input is provided for the project.

a. BLM recognition of the USFS determination that winter travel is different than summer travel

The Organizations submit that a formal recognition by the BLM of the recent US Forest Service determination that winter over the snow travel and summer travel on federal public lands are significantly different planning issues and often provide different recreational opportunities highlights an opportunity where significant cost savings could be obtained.  The Organizations submit that such a determination would further many of the local determinations that have been made as most users are not aware of BLM management of an area for winter recreation as a result of the Service First principals.

b. Travel management planning must occur at the local level.

The Organizations have been significantly involved in a wide range of travel management plans developed at the Field Office level.  The Organizations welcomed the repeated assertions in the Denver meeting regarding the BLM planning 2.0 proposal  that the BLM was moving away from field office level travel planning in favor of more localized management decisions.  After participating in numerous field office level travel plans, the Organizations believe moving to a more localized analysis level makes a lot of sense.

It has been the Organizations experience that too often meaningful public input on site specific issues or routes are lost or clouded as a result of the desire to attempt to address travel on an entire field office at once.  The scope of the project  simply overwhelms the public and often concerns are centered on certain issues or areas and other areas are simply overlooked despite the high levels of public interest or utilization of the area. These oversights gain significance when the travel planning process hinges on the position that routes are closed if the route is not identified in the Field Office plan.

8. Conclusion.

The Organizations submit that any new planning rule for the BLM must: 1. Have large amounts of public participation both in the development of the rule and subsequent implementation of more localized planning efforts; 2. Planning efforts must strive for development of a high quality planning documents that remain relevant over the expected life of the Plan rather than planning documents that are quickly developed;  3.  Regional planning documents must provide regional guidelines on regional issues and avoid becoming a replacement for local planning; 4. BLM planning should streamline NEPA processes with clarification of lower levels of NEPA analysis such as the use of Categorical Exclusions and expand good neighbor authority in planning; 5.   Historical uses of any area should be addressed with a presumption that the usage be continued unless a credible scientific basis can be provided to rebut the presumption; and 6.  Credible partner resources must be utilized while a high level of scrutiny must be applied to citizen science in order to develop high quality planning documents in partnership with local communities that effectively address long term protection and utilization of public lands while avoiding science that advances a particular agenda without relying on valid scientific processes.

If you have questions please feel free to contact either Fred Wiley, ORBA’s Executive Director at 1701 Westwind Drive #108, Bakersfield, CA.  Mr. Wiley’s phone number is 661-323-1464 and his email is fwiley@orba.biz.  You may also contact 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.
ORBA/TPA/COHVCO Representative
CSA President

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Fred Wiley, CNSA Past President
ORBA President and CEO
One Voice Authorized Representative

Sandra Mitchell, Executive Director
Idaho Recreation Council

 

 

 

[1] See, Colorado Parks and Wildlife; 2015 Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan at pg 175.

[2] See, Interagency Lynx Biology Team. 2013. Canada lynx conservation assessment and strategy. 3rd edition. USDA Forest Service, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management, and USDI National Park Service. Forest Service Publication R1-13-19, Missoula;  at pg 95. (Hereinafter referred to as the 2013 LCAS)

[3] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 84.

[4] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 83.

[5] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 26.

[6]  See, Dept of Interior;  Bureau of Land Management; Draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan; September 2014  at pg II.3-382. (Hereinafter referred to as “DRECP”).

[7] See, DRECP at II.3-382

[8] See, DRECP at pg II.3-382.

[9] See, 43 U.S.C. 1781 (a)

[10] See, http://www.westgov.org/news/298-news-2014/800-western-governors-concerned-federal-work-with-states-on-sage-grouse-conservation-an-afterthought-seek-clear-concise-input

[11]  See, http://consbio.org/products/projects/blm-rapid-ecological-assessment-rea-colorado-plateau

[12] http://lccnetwork.org/ accessed 10/15/14

[13] See, Department of Interior, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Brochure – undated at page 3.  available at http://lccnetwork.org/Media/Default/Misc/LCC_brochure_web.pdf

[14] See, Department of Interior, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Brochure – undated at page 1.  available at http://lccnetwork.org/Media/Default/Misc/LCC_brochure_web.pdf

[15] See, Department of Interior, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Brochure – undated at page 2.  available at http://lccnetwork.org/Media/Default/Misc/LCC_brochure_web.pdf

[16] http://wilderness.org/sites/default/files/TWS%20–%20BLM%20report_0.pdf

[17] See, Executive Order 11644 as amended.

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Boggy Draw Trail System Expansion

Boggy Draw Trail System Expansion

Dolores Ranger District
Attn: Tom Rice, Recreation Staff Officer
29211 Highway 184
Dolores, CO 81323

Dear Tom:

Please accept these comments as part of the public record of comments for the Boggy Draw Trail System Expansion project.

As stated and depicted in the Proposed Action, the project is flawed and cannot be supported as it promotes segregation and lacks a diversity of users. This plan completely lacks any consideration for multiple-use and users of motorized means.

Years ago, in this country, we collectively decided that segregation and discrimination was a policy that was wrong and would no longer be tolerated and fostered, yet this proposal seeks to do just that.

The Dolores Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest needs to shift from an attitude and policy of segregating users and providing infrastructure for select groups at the cost of others, the landscape is just not big enough for each and every user group (i.e. hikers, mountain bikes, equestrians, motorized users, etc.) to have their own exclusive set of trails and associated infrastructure. The Dolores Ranger District needs to set the example for the coexisting of users, promoting tolerance and diversity of users on true multiple-use trails. Proceeding with this project with a primary use by one particular user group is discriminatory and will certainly foster resentment and poor relationships with other user groups. Instead of excluding users, it would benefit the entire spectrum of trail users if the Dolores Ranger District were to be working with similar vigor and diligence to be inclusive and accepting of all user groups and embracing an attitude of cooperation and tolerance.

The proposal lacks any substantive details on how and where the resources and funding will come from to construct this trail system, and more importantly how it will be maintained! The non-motorized users of the San Juan National Forest, most notably the mountain bike community, has benefited significantly from the expenditure of State of Colorado OHV grant dollars on true multiple-use trails throughout the San Juan National Forest. To move forward with this plan, that is for the primary use of mountain bikes and other non-motorized users is prejudicial and discriminatory to the motorized users in the community. Those 2 motorized users have worked diligently with both the Dolores Ranger District over the past several years to obtain and expend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the San Juan National Forest, all the time sharing those trails with all non-motorized users.

The planning for this project needs to step back in order to be inclusive and provide similar opportunities for all user groups. The most expedient path forward would be to develop this new trail network such that it is truly “multiple purpose” and provides shared opportunities for all users, non- motorized and motorized alike.

If this trail plan were to include similar opportunities, and new opportunities for all user groups (e.g., multiple use and motorized users), then this plan could receive our support.

We thank you for considering our comments.

Sincerely,

Don Riggle
Director Of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

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ACTION ALERT! La Sal Mountains, Utah

Motorcycle Trail Riders,

For the next couple days, we have a chance to show that responsible riders want some real trails in the La Sal Mountains in southeast Utah.

Writing a simple comment to the U.S. Forest Service could go a long way. If you’ll be heading out for the weekend, then please comment now!

Ride with Respect (RwR) is only contacting a hundred people who make the pilgrimage to Moab for their love of motorized singletrack, so your voice is vital.

The Forest Service is finally revising its 1986 Forest Plan for the Manti-La Sal, which includes the Manti, La Sal, and Abajo ranges. The agency’s draft assessment report indicates that they’re aware of the need for some new connections to make more loop opportunities out of the current trail systems. This goal is sufficient for the Abajo’s, which already have a foundation of motorized singletrack (motorcycle), 50″ trail (ATV), and full-size vehicle (side-by-side and 4WD) trails. In the La Sals, however, the current travel plan provides no singletrack (except at Upper Twomile Canyon, which is on a small block of SITLA property that can be closed at any time), no ATV trail (except Hideout Mesa, which is far away and low in elevation), and no real 4WD trails (except around Brumley and Dorry canyons, which is a small area with big cobble rock). Although RwR has enjoyed working with the Forest Service on Abajo trails, the agency needs to hear from more people who want to ride Moab in summertime without having to drive 60 miles to reach the Abajo’s.

RwR has identified a Brumley-Twomile motorcycle loop (see second-to-last attachment) that would require adding 21 miles to the travel plan in order for motorcyclists to park north of Pack Creek, ride around the flank of South Mountain, tie into the Upper Twomile trails on SITLA property, then follow singletrack that would parallel Dark Canyon and Geyser Pass Roads to reach the Brumley and Dorry 4WD trails for a complete loop. Compared to re-opening all the non-motorized trails, it’s a modest proposal. At least a couple parts of this loop (near the La Sal Loop Road) should be open to ATV or side-by-side users so that they can make more connections to existing 4WD trails. Parts of this loop would benefit mountain biking, and none of it would intrude on the most primitive recreation settings or remote wildlife habitat. Regardless of details, I hope many of you can convey that such an opportunity is long overdue, and that there are many potential volunteers to help construct and maintain new trail. With shrinking budgets, the USFS is understandably reluctant to add new trails that it would increase its maintenance burden. However, by rerouting several miles of singletrack in the Abajo’s, RwR has proven its ability to design and construct trails that are virtually maintenance free, other than clearing logs which can be done by volunteers each summer.

Although the current process of revising the Forest Plan will not directly result in putting new off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails on the ground, it will absolutely set the stage for doing so (or for not doing anything) in the near future. A new Forest Plan should recognize the need for more OHV loop opportunities, particularly motorcycling in the La Sals. Five years ago, USFS developed a Moab Non-Motorized Trails Project, and it’s high time to start a Moab Motorized Trails Project.

Please check out RwR’s latest comments (attached), which summarize 18 benefits of a Brumley-Twomile motorcycle loop. Consider putting some of this proposal and reasoning into your own words, and feel free to include your personal experiences / factual data / photographs.

According to…
https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd548400.pdf
…you can comment in one of three ways.

1. Enter your name, contact info, and text or attachments here:
https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=50121

2. Email your comments to:
mlnfplanrevision@fs.fed.us

3. Mail your comments to:
Manti-La Sal National Forest
Forest Plan Revision Team
559 West Price River Dr., Ste. A
Price, UT 84501

Again, please submit comments by this Saturday, July 22nd, and send a copy of your comments to me as well.

This is an exciting first step to establish epic summertime riding prospects right outside Moab. Thanks -Clif

p.s. If you snowmobile or snow bike, also let the land managers know that zoning your use away from skiers makes sense in small areas, but that most of the La Sals should remain open for over-snow travel in a dispersed fashion.

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Hermosa Watershed Management Plan

Hermosa Watershed Management Plan

Columbine Ranger District
ATTN: Hermosa Comments
POB 439 / 367 South Pearl Street
Bayfield CO, 81122

RE: Hermosa Watershed Management Plan 

Dear Matt:

Please accept this correspondence as the vigorous support of the above Organizations for Alternative 3 of the Hermosa  Watershed Management Plan (“The Proposal”), which  would improve multiple use opportunities to a greatest extent in the Hermosa planning area.  While the additional single track (Dutch/Pinkerton) and side by side trails (Pasture Creek) may be short in terms of mileage, these routes would be highly valued by the OHV community and would add significant quality to the existing opportunities in the Hermosa Planning area. The loop opportunities provided by these new routes would dramatically improve recreational opportunities in the planning area.  The Organizations have major concerns regarding the preferred Alternative as a result of the new “No Net Gain” standard that would be applied to trails in the Proposal area.  The Organizations are vigorously opposed to Alternative 4 of the Proposal, due to the numerous conflicts with the intent of the Hermosa Watershed Legislation and numerous closures proposed.  The Organizations are also concerned that Alternative 4 provides for expanded quiet use opportunities in the SMA area, without addressing that the Legislation provided expanded quiet recreational opportunities in the new Wilderness areas designated, which was vigorously supported by the representatives of quiet users over the numerous years needed for development of the Legislation.

The Organizations are also concerned that much of the science relied on in the Proposal could be more accurately summarized as the “most restrictive” theory rather than “best available science” on the issue.  The Organizations submit that when best available science is relied on for planning, Alternative 3 provides a very balanced recreational opportunity with minimal risks to wildlife.  The Organizations will address the specific components of Alternative 3 to allow for  meaningful input on the merits of Alternative 3 above all others and why these standards or issues are important to the community. We do not intend this to be an exhaustive list of each component but is provided to allow for understanding of why we believe Alternative 3 is the best and to show this decision is not merely based on the highest number of trail miles.

We start first with a brief description of each Organization, in order to allow a complete understanding of our concerns. 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 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.  For purposes of this document CSA, COHVCO and TPA are identified as “the Organizations”.

1. Columbine RD staff assistance was deeply appreciated in developing the Hermosa Legislation.

The Hermosa Special Management Planning area was specifically designated in the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Legislation of 2014, which recognized the importance of continued motorized recreation in the planning area and removed various Wilderness review standards in the area. Over the several years of development of this Legislation, Organizational representatives welcomed the open and candid discussions with Columbine RD staff on a wide variety of issues that arose in the planning efforts and hope to continue those discussions moving forward.

2. Pasture Creek and Dutch/Pinkerton trail expansions would significantly improve recreational experiences in the area and provide unique learning experiences for managers.

The Organizations vigorously support the proposed 7 miles of new Side by Side trails adjacent to Pasture Creek Area that are badly needed from a recreational experience perspective as the 64 inch side by side market is a rapidly growing sector of the recreational motorized community.   The Organizations are aware that District staff are more than aware that a designed trail often provides the best recreational experience and is the most desired type of trail to the user group that the trail is designed for.  This position is simply restated in these comments to highlight the value of these trails to the 64 user groups.

The Organizations believe the dedicated 64 inch trails would also provide a rather unique learning opportunity for district staff and management throughout the region, as the Organizations are not aware of any 64 inch width trails currently on any Ranger District  inventory in the state of Colorado.  This small trail network could provide unique insights into the needs and challenges of these larger vehicles, which the Organizations expect are going to present different challenges than traditional full size vehicles.  This would allow managers to learn about issues similar to the fact that a 50 inch side by side cannot traverse some 50 inch trails due to the larger vertical size of the vehicle resulting in the cage of the vehicle contacting overhead obstacles in areas where the trail may be off camber or in turning situations. Additional understanding could be developed regarding vehicle length and the 64 inch class of side by sides contains a wide range of length vehicles. From a purely management perspective, the designed 64 inch trails would provide an on the ground laboratory for land managers to gather information on maintenance needs for this type of trail, as the 64 inch side by side are significantly smaller and lighter than a full size vehicle but larger and heavier than a traditional ATV.  While the consensus is that the level of maintenance needed for these routes is in between a full size and ATV (50 inch) trail, the knowledge of the exact comparison would be valuable information for managers throughout the region.

The Organizations are also aware that single track trail riding opportunities are some of the most sought after trail experiences in the state.  While the Columbine RD has a reasonable number of miles of single track motorized trails, these types of routes are almost non-existent in many other areas of the state.  Alternative 3 provides for a short but  significant new single track looped trail network around the Dutch/Pinkerton area based on existing logging roads in the area, which would be highly valuable to the motorized community and would expand the high quality recreational opportunities for those using the area.  This loop opportunity would again be highly valued by the motorized community and would also be a valuable resource for the mountain biking community.

Alternative 3 also provides several other opportunities that would be unique and highly valued by the entire recreational community.   Alternative 3 provides the most dispersed camping opportunities in the area, which area gain becoming difficult to obtain and allows the Coral Draw Trails to be added to motorized inventory and provides for the Proposed connector trail to Purgatory Ski area in the summer would allow the unique opportunity for recreational users to access the ski area for dining and other resources. Again the Organizations must stress that each of these components may seem a small change in terms of mileage but when taken as a whole, the Organizations vigorously submit that recreational opportunities will be vastly improved for all users. As outlined later in these comments, when “best available science” is applied to the Proposal, rather than the “most restrictive” theory, the risks from these significant recreational improves becomes very viable to implement.

3. Wilderness/RNA designations along Hermosa Creek should be released.

 The motorized community has been a major funding partner with the Columbine Ranger District to address basic maintenance issues and help mitigate possible impacts from all recreational activity through CPW OHV grants provided to the District in an attempt to off-set the effects of the ever reducing federal budgets.  In the formation of the Hermosa Legislation, there was serious concern about the long term financial sustainability of the Hermosa Creek Trail due to the steep and rugged terrain in the area increasing the costs of basic maintenance.  While the Legislation cannot offset the costs resulting from the geographic challenges in maintaining the Hermosa Creek trail, the Legislation was seen as a vehicle that could reduce the administrative barriers  that might result in an increased cost to maintain the trail.

As a result of these concerns,  the boundary of the Congressionally designated Wilderness was moved from the center of the creek to the current boundary generally west of the Hermosa Creek in the Legislation.  It was believed that the release of the recommended Wilderness in the Forest Plan in this manner would streamline the  maintenance of Hermosa Creek Trail and allow for any rerouting of the trail to address possible impacts to the creek or to create a safer easier to maintain trail.  This would allow federal recreation budgets supplemented by State OHV grant funds to be used for the maintenance of the Hermosa Creek trail and other routes in the most effective manner.  Additionally support for moving the boundary to the west side of Hermosa Creek would also streamline any creek management activity to improve habitat or for other reasons, which was again supported by a wide range of the interest groups involved in the Legislation’s development.  As a result the Organizations vigorously support the release of the recommended Wilderness/ Research Natural Area boundary in the corridor along Hermosa Creek as proposed in the Plan as the Organizations vigorous believe this boundary change will significantly improve recreation in the region due to the significantly reduced and streamlined maintenance costs and that the release was specifically reviewed and supported in the development of the Legislation.

4. No net gain standards for roads and trails directly conflict with Hermosa Legislation, are vigorously opposed and completely unnecessary.

The Organizations are vigorously opposed to the implementation of anything resembling a “no net gain” standard for roads and trails in the planning area, as such a planning standard is more restrictive than current management and would be a significant limitation on the area in the future.   Often site specific proposals are moved forward, such as Pasture Creek or Pinkerton trails expansions, even when they are not included in the preferred alternative when the need for these routes becomes more clear, and these developments would be precluded by implementation of a “no net gain” for roads and trails is applied.

The future management of the Hermosa SMA created by the Hermosa Legislation directly and specifically addresses the requirements for the development of roads and trails in the planning area, as again this was a major issue in the development of the Legislation and efforts of the working group.   The Hermosa Legislation specifically and clearly states:

“(I) New permanent or temporary road construction or the renovation of existing nonsystem roads, except as allowed under the final rule entitled “Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation; Applicability to the National Forests in Colorado” (77 Fed. Reg. 39576 (July 3, 2012)).” [1]

It is without contest that dispersed motorized recreational usage is a characteristic of a Colorado Roadless area and also that trails are outside the scope of Roadless Rule applicability by law and are also specifically recognized as something that is a permitted activity in a Colorado Roadless area.

“The final rule does not prohibit use of existing authorized motorized trails nor does it prohibit the future development of motorized trails in CRAs (see 36 CFR 294.46(f)). The final rule allows continued motorized trail use of CRAs if determined appropriate through local travel management planning.”[2]

The Organizations also note that standards similar to a no net gain for trails was explored in the development of the Colorado Roadless Rule and almost no support for such a standard was found. The Organizations vigorously assert that the imposition of a “no net gain” standard for trails in the SMA directly and materially conflicts with the Hermosa Legislation which clearly provides for the construction of trails in compliance with the Colorado Roadless Rule. As a result the imposition of such a standard must be removed from any version of the final plan to avoid conflict with several Federal laws.

In addition to conflicting with the governing federal law, the imposition of a “no net gain” in roads and trails conflicts with inventory of Proposal area performed relative to Colorodo Roadless Rule development.  During this planning process most of the SMA  was specifically reviewed for possible inclusion in Upper Tier Roadless designations and found to be unsuitable for this lower level of protection.  The following maps provide the boundaries for the areas inventoried under Alternative 4 and Alternative 2 for possible designation as an Upper Tier.

Map  map key

[3]

The Organizations must question why there is now found to be a basis for the application of a  “no net gain” standard, when the area has recently been inventoried for lower levels of protection and found to be unsuitable for the lower levels of protection. It is significant to note that a “no net gain” standard was sought after by several parties within  the Hermosa Working group and little support for such a standard was found.

The Organizations must also question the basic need for a “no net gain” standard as this standard simply is not addressed in the draft EA.  The failure to address this standard in the NEPA documentation is a violation of NEPA itself and as a result the standard should be stricken as the public does not have the ability to comment on the standard.  This simply must be avoided as it conflicts with the specific provisions of the Hermosa Legislation which specifically allow for trail construction pursuant to the Colorado Roadless Rule in the SMA and conflicts with numerous inventory in the SMA area and the clearly stated intent of the working group.

5. Snowfall is the best trigger for determining when to start winter travel management.

The Organizations also vigorously support the determination that the best trigger for determining when OSV regulations should take effect is snowfall as it more accurately reflects usage of the area now and in the future. Add scoping comments here

6. Motorized recreation is a significant economic driver to the Southwestern Colorado region.

OHV recreation is predominately a family sport  and multiple use access is a major factor involved in many other activities, such as hunting, fishing and private lands ownership. The Organizations are aware that funding of any recreational activity can be difficult as many traditional sources of revenue to local communities and land managers has reduced and as a result communities are now forced to rely on recreational activity to provide basic services to their citizens. As a result of this situation, the Organizations believe that understanding the ramifications of any decisions impacting recreational activity is of paramount importance.   The Colorado Off- Highway Vehicle Coalition in partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have recently released new research on the economic contribution of motorized recreation in Colorado.  The Southwestern Colorado region receives more than $195 million in annual sales and economic contribution which results in more than 2,800 jobs and almost $21 million in State and local tax revenue. A complete version of the study has been submitted for your reference. Given the significance of this activity to local economies, the Organizations submit that providing the most recreational opportunity is a major concern to local communities who are often struggling to provide basic services to their residents.

In addition to this landscape level spending review recently conducted by COHVCO, the USFS has conducted extensive research into comparative spending profiles of various recreational users as part of the US Forest Service’s National Visitor Use Monitoring process, and this research is highly valuable to planners in terms of comparing spending profiles of users and allowing planners to estimate changes in visitation and impacts that this has on local economies.   The works of Drs. Styne and White performed in conjunction with NVUM research provide the following conclusions in their research on comparative user group spending:

Table 3. Visitor spending

[4]

It should also be noted that the Stynes and White work provided an itemized breakdown of most spending categories identified above to allow for more meaningful analysis and application of this information on a project specific level.   This site specific review identifies the benefits from having higher spending profile users addressed and the significant benefits that follow to other user groups as a result.

7. General Wildlife Concerns are well balanced with recreational interests in Alternative 3 of the Proposal.

The Organizations are aware that often there is concern regarding the possible impacts to wildlife as a result of recreational activity in any area, and would note that a vibrant and healthy wildlife population in any area is a major component of providing a quality recreational experience. The Organizations are aware that numerous seasonal closures are put in place in the Proposal in order to protect wildlife during more sensitive times, such as calving or winter range and that great efforts have been made in the placement of any routes to be built to avoid any issues with wildlife or resource impacts.  The Organizations are aware that such efforts have been highly effective in addressing these issues on the Columbine Ranger District for decades and there is no reason to expect a change in these levels of protection from these management efforts and tools in the Proposal area.

The Organizations will note that possible motorized recreational impacts to wildlife are an issue that has been heavily researched in the Yellowstone National Park for an extended  period of time.  This research has uniformly concluded:

“Based on these population-level results, we suggest that the debate regarding effects of human winter recreation on wildlife in Yellowstone is largely a social issue as opposed to a wildlife management issue. Effects of winter disturbances on ungulates from motorized and non-motorized uses more likely accrue at the individual animal level (e.g., temporary displacements and acute increases in heart rate or energy expenditures) than at the population scale. A general tolerance of wildlife to human activities is suggested because of the association between locations of large wintering ungulate herds and winter recreation. Habituation to human activities likely reduces the chance for chronic stress or abandonment of critical wintering habitats that could have significant effects at the population level, especially when these activities are relatively predictable.”[5]

Given the clear statement of wildlife management experts on the minimal impacts of  recreation on wildlife, the Organizations submit that wildlife concerns should be minimal and significant documented planning standards can be relied on in the defense of Alternative 3 of the Proposal.  Many of these standards also show the lack of basis in many of the more protective standards proposed in the other Alternatives.

While the Organizations understand any managers desire to proceed with caution if a species may be listed on the Endangered Species List, this possible listing of a species should also not be over relied on as many species are found unwarranted for listing and there are literally thousands of species which have been reviewed for listing.   The US Fish and Wildlife Service has also been working hard to review the entire listing process under ESA to avoid the continued use of a possible listing decision to end around the NEPA process that a petitioner often did not become involved with and to avoid the listing process becoming a trump card in the collaborative process regarding management of public lands. These revisions have included allowing more time for research of challenges facing a species, heightened thresholds for the listing process, requiring more collaboration prior to accepting a petition to list a species and only allowing one species to be addressed per petition. By allowing management that is overly cautious with a possibly listed species, these efforts of the USFWS would simply become ineffective in streamlining the entire process and allowing what are very limited management dollars to be effectively used to benefit species on the ground.

8. Document reviews from anti access user groups addressing wildlife concerns with motorized recreation must be critically reviewed.

The Organizations submit that up to date science must be relied on in the analysis of the Project and possible impacts or management challenges and that survey documents created by user groups opposed to multiple use are not a substitute for best available science.  The Organizations submit that too often the Proposal analyzes the usages under the “most restrictive” or most cautious scientific theory.  Compounding concerns about “most restrictive” scientific theory being applied for planning is that often these standards have been specifically superseded by new management documents which were designed to address the reasons for previous caution in analysis.  As a result of the advancing nature of scientific analysis, many  impacts noted in the Proposal  are based on “most restrictive scientific theory on issues that best available science has subsequently determined are unrelated to challenges facing the species.

The Organizations would be remiss if the reliance on the works of Switalski[6], asserted to be “Best Management Practices for OSV management” was not specifically addressed as the Organizations are intimately familiar with this document as it is readily available on the Winter Wildlands website. [7] This is simply  a propaganda document created by those opposed to multiple use recreation, rather than a survey of best available science on the issue and the Organizations submit that this is exactly the type of document that must be strictly reviewed by planners. Representatives of the Organizations have attempted to discuss  our concerns about the basic validity of the document with WWA representatives and have not had any success.  We have included the American Council of Snowmobile Associations 2014 “Facts and Myths about Snowmobiling on Winter Trails” booklet in order to provide a complete background of all research on OSV travel in an timely and balanced manner.

The Organizations submit that Switalski/WWA  document best management practices standards were BADLY out of date at the time the document was published in 2015, and believe several examples of the out of date nature of the document.  The Organizations submit that the grim picture of multiple use recreation portrayed in  this document has inappropriately impacted both summer and winter travel decisions in the Proposal.  After a review of the booklet, the Organizations believe this document to be an attempt to move their Organizations mission of  “snow less traveled” than a true survey of best available science on many issues as many studies have been repeatedly superseded or completely inaccurately summarized in this work. The Organizations submit that while the scope of the Switalski document may be limited to OSV issues, clearly the document has a chilling effect on OHV travel related issues, and possibly explains the basis for summer travel standards such as the “no net gain” for roads and trails previously discussed.  As a result, the Organizations vigorously assert that this work must be addressed with extreme caution and not relied on as an accurate survey of best available science.

The Organizations have included the recently updated “Fact and Myths about snowmobiling and winter trails ” book from the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, which summarizes the most up to date information on a variety of OSV issues.  While some of the resources relied on in this publication are older, they remain valid findings on issues that really have been resolved for research purposes and have not been superseded by later works or decisions.  The Organizations submit the Facts and Myths book represents the most accurate and up to date review of OSV issues available today.

The Organizations believe a complete review of best available science and the position conveyed in the WWA brochure on each issue is not warranted but the Organizations believe several examples of the quality of low quality information or badly outdated nature of the information  provided in this document are sufficient to substantiate our inclusion of this issue in our comments.  The Organizations believe that the first step in developing truly effective management of any issue is establishing the landscape level standard, as many factors are heavily influenced by activities that are totally unrelated and beyond management by the USFS.

The Organizations believe the first relevant example of outdated and misleading information being provided in the WWA brochure involves OSV emissions.  The EPA has been specifically developed to address  vehicle emissions and air quality and the USFS should not be addressing these types of issues in travel planning as the USFS expertise is not in air quality and emissions standards.   The Organizations vigorously assert that landscape level standards are as follows that all units being produced and used in Colorado  are well below EPA requirements for these types of vehicles and often these agencies find that localized air quality issues are totally unrelated to  OSV travel. The WWA brochure provides the following information:

Emission ratio relative to ethene

[8]

The Organizations believe this information might have been helpful to land managers in the decision making process in 2002 but have to question the value of this information decades later as the overwhelming percentage of 2002 snowmobiles simply are no  longer in use.  Newer snowmobiles are more cost effective to ride, more reliable and operate in full compliance with EPA air quality requirements, which have reduced the number of emissions from this class of vehicle by more than 100%.  These EPA standards are reflected in the following air quality standards:

EPA Snowmobile Emission Standards

[9]

The Organizations would note that any snowmobile manufactured after 2012 may only produce ½ the emissions that a 2002 unit was allowed to produce.  The Organizations are aware that most new units are producing emissions far below even EPA standards for these types of vehicles. The Organizations have to question the relevance of any emissions information for vehicles that were produced more than a decade ago and are no longer used.  Again the Organizations must question if assertions regarding the relevance of 2002 emissions outputs decades after those emissions standards have been superseded is truly relying on best available science.

The Organizations submit that this is not the only time that severely limited or questionably relevant information is provided in the WWA brochure. The WWA brochure also provides summaries of Water/Air Quality studies that are inaccurate at best and are sometimes simply erroneous. An example of such a summary involves the Musselman study, which the WWA brochure attempts to summarize as follows:

“During the winter, snowmobiles release toxins such as ammonium, nitrate, sulfate, benzene, and toluene which accumulate in the snowpack (Ingersol 1999), and increase acidity (Musselman and Kormacher 2007).”[10]

The Organizations submit that any summary of the Musselman work which attempts to support such a position is misleading and frustrating to the snowmobile community, as the snowmobile community partnered in the development of this study in an effort meaningfully address issues and develop parking facilities at the study location.  The Musselman study clearly stated their conclusions as follows:

“Seasonal differences were evident in air chemistry, specifically for CO, NO2, and NOx, but not for NO or O3. NO2 and NOx were higher in summer than winter, while CO concentrations were higher in winter than summer. Nevertheless, air pollutant concentrations were generally low both winter and summer, and were considerably lower than exceedence levels of NAAQS.”[11]

“Nevertheless, an air pollution signal was detected that could be related to snowmobile activity; but the pollutant concentrations were low and not likely to cause significant air quality impacts even at this high snowmobile activity site.”[12]

The Organizations submit that many  summaries of issues in the WWA brochure  such as this are facially erroneous.  The Organizations have never asserted that motors used for OSV recreation do not produce certain levels of emissions, as that would simply be insulting to all parties involved.  Rather researchers  have asserted these issues are very minimal in nature when addressing any landscape level emissions  that might be in an area as these new units are both EPA and CARB compliant. Even  when OSV emissions are addressed locally, they are found to be insufficient to warrant any further monitoring.

The Organizations believe that lynx management standards again provide a shocking example of the systemic usage of out of date information in the WWA brochure.  The WWA brochure clearly asserts that “no net gain” remains the rule for OSV travel in lynx habitat, stating as follows:

“The Canada Lynx Assessment and Conservation Strategy set planning standards on Forest Service lands that include, “on federal lands in lynx habitat, allow no net increase in groomed or designated over-the-snow routes and snowmobile play areas by Lynx Analysis Unit… and map and monitor the location and intensity of snow compacting activities that coincide with lynx habitat, to facilitate future evaluation of effects on lynx as information becomes available” (USDA FS 2000, p.82).”[13]

The Organizations do not object that this was a relevant summary of research in 2000, as research on the lynx was exceptionally limited in 2000 and no net gain was temporarily relied on for management of these areas.   The Organizations believe that research in 2000 on this issue was more aptly summarized as identifying the numerous gaps in research rather than a scientifically based management plan.  As these gaps in research were resolved, new management guidelines were periodically released for management of lynx habitat and as a result the 2000 LCAS has been superseded by the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendments in 2008 and the 2013 release of the updated Lynx Conservation Assessment and Strategy, which was signed and developed in partnership with the USFS. These management documents have clearly moved away from the “no net gain” standard and towards a truly science based management structure.  The 2013 LCAS specifically addresses new research on many recreational issues as follows:

  • The 2013 LCAS specifically and clearly superseded all previous planning documents and clearly states that the 2013 LCAS is now the definitive planning document for lynx issues in federal land planning; [14]
  • Recreational usage of lynx habitat is a second level threat and not likely to have substantial effects on the lynx or its habitat. Previous theory and management analysis had placed a much higher level of concern on recreational usage of lynx habitat; [15]
  • Lynx have been known to incorporate smaller ski resorts within their home ranges, but may not utilize the large resorts. Dispersed motorized recreational usage certainly does not create impacts that can be equated to even a small ski area; [16]
  • Road and trail density does not impact the quality of an area as lynx habitat;[17]
  • There is no information to suggest that trails have a negative impact on lynx; [18]
  • Snow compaction from winter recreational activity is not likely to change the competitive advantage of the lynx and other predators;[19]
  • Snow compaction in the Southern Rocky Mountain region is frequently a result of natural process and not recreational usage; [20]
  • Winter recreational usage of lynx habitat should only be “considered” in planning and should not be precluded given the minimal threat this usage poses to the lynx; and [21]
  • Failing to manage habitat areas to mitigate impacts of poor forest health issues, such as the spruce and mtn pine beetle, is a major concern in lynx habitat for a long duration.[22]

The Organizations believe that the conflict between the 2000 LCAS relied on in the Winter Wildlands brochure and accurate up to date management standards clearly provided in the 2013 LCAS is immediately apparent, and the Organizations would be remiss in not addressing this conflict to prevent reliance on badly out of date information and research. Given that the WWA/Switalski document was not released until 2 years after the release of the 2013 LCAS, the Organizations submit there was more than enough time to provide accurate information in the WWA/Switalski survey. The Organizations submit that the failure to reflect best available science on the lynx casts a shadow over the reliability of the entire document.

Since the release of the 2013 LCAS, Colorado Parks and Wildlife  has also explicitly addressed Canadian Lynx issues in Colorado, which have resulted from the successful reintroduction efforts of the lynx in Colorado as follows:

“Lynx have successfully been re-established in Colorado and a self-sustaining population is believed to persist in the region. The management actions taken to re-establish the population to Colorado were done considering the landscape of the time – there is no intention of attempting to change, alter or remove historic and current land uses from the landscape. Many of these industries can and have developed practices that have the potential to allow the long term persistence of the lynx within the context of existing land use.”[23]

Given these clear statements from both Federal and State species management experts that OSV usage is not impacting the Canadian Lynx and that there should not be any changes in land use as a result of lynx activity and position that closing any  area to OSV would benefit the Canadian Lynx would be inaccurate and conflicting with best available science.

The Organizations believe that a comparison of the Wolverine management standards from the USFWS and the WWA brochure again provides evidence of the lack of scientific basis for much of the WWA brochure.  The WWA brochure summarizes Wolverine management standards as follows:

“Key management schemes for protecting wolverine include limiting disturbance and retaining and restoring habitat connectivity. Managers can reduce the potential conflict with snowmobiles and wolverine by identifying areas of overlap and managing accordingly.”[24]

This management position simply cannot be reconciled with recent USFWS  listing decisions regarding the Wolverine that convey a very different standard for the management of recreational activities in Wolverine habitat. USFWS management specifically states:

“there should be no changes to forest management as the result of an area being designated as habitat”.[25]

While there was concern regarding the climate change being identified as the primary threat to the Wolverine in the most recent listing decision that ended in determination that the Wolverine was not warranted for listing as threatened or endangered,  no concerns were registered regarding the accuracy of these management position that was taken with regard to general forest management standards.  Given the clarity of these USFWS statements, the Organizations again are concerned that best available science has not been relied on for the development of the WWA brochure.

The Organizations are very concerned that the WWA/Switalski document was heavily relied on for the development of other portions of the Proposal as well as often the Switaski document is cited as authoritative on issues, such as possible concerns about subnivean activity from OSV travel.[26]   The Organizations would note that the WWA/Switalski document is not research but rather is a summary of research and never mentions subnivean impacts.  Any actual planning should be relying on actual research rather than an interpretation of that study, as this is a significant difference.

The Organizations would note that subnivean activity might be a concern in areas with exceptionally minimal snowfall.  The ACSA facts and myths book provides a detailed review of research that repeatedly concludes there is no relationship between OSV travel and subnivean activity or impacts to small plants, in areas This is simply not the case in the Hermosa area where dozens of feet of snow are not uncommon and often snowfall holds in many areas throughout the year or at least well into the summer.  The Organizations would note that subnivean impacts might be an issue in certain parts of the country, but the Hermosa watershed simply is not one of these areas due to the exceptional snowfall commonly found in the area.

9. White Tailed Ptarmigan populations are stable in areas with OSV usage.

The Organizations are also aware that concerns were raised regarding potential negative impacts to White Tailed Ptarmigan possibly in the Hermosa  area as the Ptarmigan status is since 2012 is “Under Review” with  the US Fish and Wildlife Service for possible listing , which is a surprising concern for the species as the Ptarmigan remains an actively hunted species in Colorado.

The USFWS specifically concluded in their 2012 determination to review the status of the White Tailed/ Southern Ptarmigan for possible listing on the Endangered Species list that :

“This finding is based on information provided under factors A and E. The information provided in the petition and available in our files under factors B, C, and D is not substantial. During the status review, we will fully address the cumulative effects of threats discussed under each factor.”[27]

Given that recreational usage is specifically identified as factor B in the USFWS analysis, the Organizations fail to understand how a lack of information could be relied on as the best scientific information available for the basis of closing the area.

In the 2015 Colorado Parks and Wildlife State Wildlife Action Plan, CPW experts on the Ptarmigan also specifically concluded as follows:

“In response to the petition to list the WTPT under the ESA, CPW conducted statewide occupancy surveys to develop a baseline distribution of the WTPT. These surveys demonstrated that WTPT are widely dispersed across the state in suitable habitats, with little change from historic distributions.”[28]

Other recognized experts have made similar conclusions regarding the human/Ptarmigan relationship as follows:

“There is little evidence of population fluctuations in Washington due to human related activities, although overgrazing by domestic sheep may be a problem in some areas. ” [29]

Given these exceptionally clear statements that recreational and other human activities are not negatively impacting Ptarmigan populations, the Organizations must question how best available science could be relied on to create a management position that closures of an area to OSV/OHV  travel were necessary to protect Ptarmigan populations in the area. Such a proposal simply could not be reconciled with best available science regarding the threats to the Ptarmigan species.

10. Conclusion.

Please accept this correspondence as the vigorous support of the above Organizations for Alternative 3 of the Hermosa  Watershed Management Plan (“The Proposal”), which  would improve multiple use opportunities to a greatest extent in the Hermosa planning area.  While the additional single track (Dutch/Pinkerton) and side by side trails (Pasture Creek) may be short in terms of mileage, these routes would be highly valued by the OHV community and would add significant quality to the existing opportunities in the Hermosa Planning area. The loop opportunities provided by these new routes would dramatically improve recreational opportunities in the planning area.  The Organizations have major concerns regarding the preferred Alternative as a result of the new “No Net Gain” standard that would be applied to trails in the Proposal area.  The Organizations are vigorously opposed to Alternative 4 of the Proposal, due to the numerous conflicts with the intent of the Hermosa Watershed Legislation and numerous closures proposed.  The Organizations are also concerned that Alternative 4 provides for expanded quiet use opportunities in the SMA area, without addressing that the Legislation provided expanded quiet recreational opportunities in the new Wilderness areas designated, which was vigorously supported by the representatives of quiet users over the numerous years needed for development of the Legislation.

Please feel free to contact Scott Jones at 518-281-5810 or by mail at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504 for copies of any documentation that is relied on in this correspondence or if you should wish to discuss any of the concerns raised further.

Respectfully Submitted,

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

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

 

[1] See, Hermosa Legislation @ §3(B)(5)(iv)(I) identified on page A-3 of Proposal.

[2] See, US Dept. of Agriculture; 36 CFR Part 294;Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation; Applicability to the National Forests in Colorado; Final Rule; Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 128 / Tuesday, July 3, 2012 / Rules and Regulations 35976 at pg 39580VerDate

[3]  A complete copy of this map is available for download and further review at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5366311.pdf

[4] See; White and Stynes; Updated Spending Profiles for National Forest Recreation Visitors by Activity; Nov 2010 at pg 6.

[5]  US Park Service; White and Davis; Wildlife response to motorized recreation in the Yellowstone Park; 2005 annual report; at pg 15.

[6]  See, Proposal at p 184.

[7] See, Winter Wildlands Alliance website at http://winterwildlands.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/BMP-Final.pdf

[8] See, WWA booklet at pg 7.

[9] See, ACSA Fact and Myths book at pg 7&8.

[10] See, WWA brochure at pg 12.

[11] See,  Robert C. Musselman & John L. Korfmacher; USFS Air Quality at a snowmobile staging area and snow chemistry on and off trail in a rocky mountain subalpine forest, Snowy Range Wyoming. 2007 at 332

[12] See, Musselman at 333.

[13] See, WWA Booklet at pg 11.

[14] See, Interagency Lynx Biology Team. 2013. Canada lynx conservation assessment and strategy. 3rd edition. USDA Forest Service, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management, and USDI National Park Service. Forest Service Publication R1-13-19, Missoula, MT at pg 1. (Hereinafter referred to as the 2013 LCAS)

[15] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 94.

[16] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 83.

[17] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 95.

[18] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 84.

[19] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 83.

[20] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 26.

[21] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 94.

[22] See, 2013 LCAS at pg 91.

[23] See, 2015 CPW State Wildlife Action Plan at pg 173.

[24] See, WWA Booklet at pg 11.

[25]  USFWS summary fact sheet available here http://www.fws.gov/idaho/Wolverine/WolverineProposed4dRule031113.pdf

[26] See Proposal at pg 137.

[27] See, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List the Southern White- Tailed Ptarmigan and the Mt. Rainier White-Tailed Ptarmigan as Threatened With Critical Habitat Federal Register /Vol. 77, No. 108 /Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at pg 33155

[28]  See, CPW   COLORADO DIVISION OF PARKS AND WILDLIFE REPORT  WESTERN ASSOCIATION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE AGENCIES December 2012  – Full Report – at pg 3

[29] See, Schroeder; Birds of Washington: Status and Distribution (2015) at pg 68.

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ACTION ALERT! USFS proposal expands trails in the Hermosa Creek Area

The US Forest Service has released a draft management plan for the Hermosa Creek Special Management area on the Columbine Ranger District of the San Juan NF. This area was specifically designated in the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Legislation of 2014, which recognized the importance of continued motorized recreation in the planning area and removed various Wilderness review standards in the area. Right now the preferred Alternative is Alternative 2. Alternative 3 would improve multiple us opportunities to a greater extent. The specific talking points for your comments are below.

Public Meeting:

Where:
San Juan Public Lands Center
15 Burnett Court, Durango

When:
June 22, 2017
6pm to 8pm

Written Comments:

Columbine Ranger District
ATTN: Hermosa Comments
POB 439 / 367 South Pearl Street
Bayfield CO, 81122

Electronic Comments:

email: HermosaSMA@fs.fed.us or comments-rocky-mountain-san-juan-columbine@fs.fed.us

Comment Deadline

July 10, 2017

More Info:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=43010

Our Position:

  1. Alternative 3 should be VIGOROUSLY supported! Here is why:
    • It provides 7 miles of new Side by Side trails adjacent to Pasture Creek Area that are badly needed;
    • It provides for an significant new single track looped trail network around the   Dutch/Pinkerton area based on existing logging roads in the area, which would be highly valuable to the motorized community;
    • It avoids the no net gain trails standards provided for in all other alternatives;
    • Alt 3 provides the most dispersed camping opportunities in the area.
    • Allows the Coral Draw Trail s to be added to motorized inventory.
    • The Proposed connector trail to Purgatory Ski area in the summer would allow the unique opportunity for recreational users to access the ski area for dining and other resources.
  2. Up to date science should be relied on in the analysis of the Project- too often the draft plan analyzes the Project to most restrictive or most cautious scientific study and often these standards have been specifically superseded by new management documents which were designed to address the reasons for previous caution in analysis.  As a result of the advancing nature of scientific analysis, impacts are noted in the Plan on issues that best available science has determined are unrelated to challenges facing the species.
  3. Alternative 4 should be opposed due to unnecessarily restrictive motorized standards that only technically comply with the Legislation, which provided quiet recreational opportunities in the newly created Wilderness area.
  4. Snowfall instead of dates are relied on for triggering snowmobile travel in the planning area, and expanded OSV travel is supported as it more accurately reflects usage of the area now and in the future.
  5. While the motorized community is sensitive to the ever reducing USFS budgets, the motorized community has been a major funding partner with the Columbine Ranger District through CPW OHV grants provided to the District.
  6. The Financial benefits of multiple use recreation are not recognized and are clearly important to local communities as evidenced in public meetings around the Hermosa Creek Legislation. OHV recreation is a major economic driver for local Colorado communities as research indicates more than $2.3 billion in economic contribution results from OHV recreation which results in more than 16,000 jobs and more than $100 million in badly needed tax revenue to local communities.
  7. Multiple use access is a major factor involved in many other activities, such as hunting, fishing and private lands ownership. OHV recreation is predominately a family sport.
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HR 289 – Guide and Outfitters (GO) Act

 HR 289 – Guide and Outfitters (GO) Act

Congressman Doug LaMalfa
322 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman LaMalfa:

Please accept this correspondence as the support and input of the Organizations identified above with regard to the Guide and Outfitters Act (“GO Act”). It has been the Organizations experience that too often event related permits are inconsistently administered between planning areas, administered slowly or in a manner that simply does not reflect the small nature of the event or are only provided at a cost that exceeds reasonable costs for the permit issuance. While the GO Act is a major step in resolving these issues, the Organizations would suggest that the scope of the GO Act be expanded to include permits that may be issued jointly between USFS or BLM and the Army Corp of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Defense and other Federal land management agencies. Many times these additional land managers are tangentially related to permits for events or other activities and limiting the scope of the streamlined permitting process to just BLM and USFS permits would not fully resolve our concerns around the current permitting process.

Prior to addressing our experiences with the challenges of obtaining consistent and timely permits for a wide range of events, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed. 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. 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 insure 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.
While the primary mission of the Organizations most directly relates to motorized recreation, the overall scope of the Organizations often has a larger impact as motorized recreation and access can take many forms and involve many activities, including camping, hunting and fishing and other recreational activities where motorized access to public lands is critical but not the primary recreational activity sought. Under federal land management standards, when an area is open to motorized access it is rarely closed to any other activity. For purposes of this document, CSA, COHVCO and TPA are identified as “the Organizations”. The Organizations are providing the following examples of why we support the streamlining of the permit process as it has been our experience that often the “why” behind the position of support for Legislation is as important as the support itself.

1. The scope of permit streamlining efforts should be expanded to allow for full inclusion of federal land managers involved in event permitting.

The Organizations are aware that often time’s permits are issued involving a wide range of smaller federal lands managers beyond just the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Often these smaller land management agencies provide a crucial, albeit smaller role, in an event occurring. Such a case would be when a permit for a 100 event route is issued and 95 miles of the route is on USFS or BLM lands but a critical 5 miles is needed to connect the loop for the event occurs on lands managed by another federal agency. The Organizations are active participants in the annual “King of the Hammers” race event in Southern California and are aware that the event occurs primarily on BLM lands but a small portion of the event route crosses the 29 Palms Marine Base. As a result permits for the King of the Hammers event must be provided by the Department of Defense in conjunction with the BLM. The Organizations would note that only partially streamlining the permit process with respect to land management agencies for these types of cross border events on federal lands would hinder the benefits of the GO Act. The limited streamlining of permitting may lead to a large amount of frustrations from permit applicants as what is a small portion of the lands necessary for the event to occur being the more difficult to obtain permits for the event on. The Organizations submit that avoiding this type of frustration should be a high priority for the GO Act as such frustration would clearly be an unintended consequence of the Legislation.

The Organizations are not directly familiar with the specific permitting process of these other land management agencies, but would become concerned if the GO Act would need extensive revision to encompass these management agencies. Streamlining of the permit process is somewhat time sensitive as well. The Organizations believe that a complete revision of the GO Act may not be necessary to embrace these smaller land management agencies as we believe providing the voluntary “opt in” to the streamlined permitting process on a case by case basis. This voluntary “opt in” type streamlining may allow for a streamlined permitting process without opening the entire permitting process for these agencies if there was significant conflict in these other agencies permitting process.

2. Small events are often prohibited under current permit requirements.

The Organizations vigorously support the GO Act streamlining of the permit process as the GO Act will provide significant benefit to those hosting smaller socially based not for profit type events. It has been the Organizations experience that too often small events, such as trail rides of a limited number of OHV’s (sometimes groups as small as 5 vehicles) organized through a local club on designated routes or county roads crossing federal public lands are prohibited due to the fact that land managers believe a permit is required for the event. Often this position is taken based on the small fee collected in relation to the event in order to off-set direct costs of the event such as food provided on the event or facility rentals(such as town parks or similar facilities) where a social function such as a barbeque is provided after the event is concluded. Often these smaller types of events are great ways for new residents of a geographic area to connect with people that are familiar with the challenges and opportunities that the area provides and allow for these new residents to access these locally available and exceptional recreational opportunities in a safe and responsible manner.

The Organizations are aware that often far too much weight is placed on these small fees obtained to offset direct costs of the event. These fees were never intended to create a profit for the club that might be organizing the event but are merely put in place to supplement club dues that may not be of sufficient amount to cover the supplies that are being provided for the event. Often for events of this small size, the permit cost simply exceeds any costs that could reasonably be paid by an attendees and far exceeds any other costs incurred for such an event and as a result, the events simply don’t occur. When the permit costs and efforts to obtain the permit are broken down to a per user cost, the cost is simply horribly out of reach for those that would like to attend the event. This is often highly frustrating to members of the public, who simply don’t understand why a permit is even required for the event. The GO Act would be a significant step towards resolving these types of unnecessary challenges.

3. Timely permits for events often cannot be issued.

The Organizations are also aware of numerous situations where permits for events simply cannot be issued in a timely manner due to a wide range of issues surrounding the permit issuance. Frequently many small events are simply not thought of months or years in advance but are more of informal nature and may only be organized at a club meeting a month or two in advance and this type of event development is completely at odds with a permitting process that often requires at least an 18 month lead time for permit applications.

While these events may be less formal in nature, these events provide important recreational opportunities to those that are participating in the event. Often these small less formal events simply cannot be planned more than 18 months in advance and do not have the resources to undertake extensive review of possible impacts for what are existing routes and facilities. Often event coordinators simply don’t pursue the event due to the barriers that are presented by the permitting process, which is unfortunate at best and a major barrier to access to public lands at worst. The streamlining of the permit process would allow permits to be issued in a timely manner and we believe the GO Act is a significant step in the right direction on this issue.

4. Streamlining of the permit process will improve the overall efficiency of land managers.

Streamlining of the permit process for small events under the GO Act would also allow for the more efficient utilization of what are becoming more and more limited agency resources every year. The streamlining of event permits would reduce the administrative burdens placed on land managers to comply with permitting requirements that are overly broad or designed to address events that are much larger than the group that might be applying for a small event permit. The Organizations believe that allowing the land managers to properly address permitting in relation to the size of the event will allow agency time and other resources to be directed toward actively addressing significant issues or challenges in a planning area which would increase efficiency and provide for a better recreational experience to all users of public lands. Both of these are important benefits given the ever shrinking budgets for federal land managers.

4. Fees charged for permits are often unrelated to actual permitting costs.

The Organizations are also aware of numerous events where the permitting costs simply exceed any reasonable costs for the administration of the permit, which creates unnecessary conflict between users and land managers. In certain instances, these unduly large permit application costs preclude the event from ever happening and in other instances these large costs are simply passed through to event participants, and as a result events on public lands can cost more than if the event had occurred on adjacent private lands. Neither of these situations is acceptable to the Organizations and in certain circumstances these large fees have created the possible public perception that certain groups are charged certain fees and other groups with similar events are charged a lesser fee and that these decisions are made in a somewhat arbitrary manner but the deciding official. Avoiding these types of issues should be of paramount importance in the permitting process.

The Organizations submit that often the public perception of these large event permit costs are that the permit revenue is being used a profit center for that office or land management agency to offset overhead costs to the office for operations that are unrelated to the permitted event. While the Organizations often partner to assist in offsetting operational costs, the Organizations also firmly believe that permitting of activities should not be a profit center for land managers, as this is simply a violation of the trust placed in these managers by the public. Avoiding even a perception of such a situation should be a major priority in the streamlining of the permit process and we believe that the GO Act would be a major step forward in avoiding a possible appearance of impropriety in the permitting process.

5. Existing partnerships would be repaired with a streamlined permitting process.

The Organizations believe the streamlining of the permit process under the GO Act would help repair partnerships between federal land managers and local Organizations, as often the same local club that is not allowed to undertake an event due to permitting issues is a major source of both volunteer labor and partner funding for the land management agency. Forming these types of partnerships can be difficult and stressful for volunteers and the failure to obtain permits in a timely and cost effective manner can simply provide unnecessary stress on this relationship. The Organizations are aware of federal land managers requiring a permit for a club event involving less than 10 street legal motorcycles using a route entirely on county roads due to the fact that the riders might stop at a parking area adjacent to the county road to use a bathroom facility on BLM lands. This request created amazing stress on the partnership between the club and the land managers as the club was the Organization spearheaded efforts in obtained all funding for the construction of the parking lot and restroom facilities through a state OHV grant several years prior. Again the Organizations believe that the streamlined permitting process under the GO Act would be a significant step towards resolving these types of challenges.

6. Conclusion.

It has been the Organizations experience that too often event related permits are frequently inconsistently administered, administered slowly or in a manner that simply does not reflect the small nature of the event or are only provided at a cost that exceeds reasonable costs for the permit issuance. The Organizations submit that the GO Act would be a major step forward in resolving many of the challenges that have been encountered with the permitting of events with both the Organizations and our member partners While the GO Act is a major step in resolving these issues, the Organizations would suggest that the scope of the GO act be expanded to include permits that may be issued jointly between USFS or BLM and the Army Corp of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Defense and other Federal land management agencies. Many times these additional land managers are tangentially related to permits for events or other activities and limiting the scope of the streamlined permitting process to just BLM and USFS permits would not fully resolve our concerns around the current permitting process.

The Organizations look forward to participating in further meetings on this issue and welcome the discussion as it moves forward.

Respectfully Submitted,

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

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Fred Wiley
President/CEO

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Letter to Sec. Zinke – Re: Browns Canyon National Monument

Review of the Browns Canyon National Monument, Colorado

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Secretary of the Interior
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Monument Review, MS-1530
Submitted online to: DOI-2017-0002

RE:  Review of the Browns Canyon National Monument, Colorado

 

Dear Secretary Zinke;

Please accept this correspondence as a request and comments of the above Organizations with regard to a review of the National Monument designation of the Browns Canyon area in Central Colorado.  Browns Canyon was designated by former President Barack Obama as a National Monument on February 19, 2015 using the Antiquities Act of 1906.  The Browns Canyon National Monument, including the Browns Canyon Wilderness Study Area (WSA), covers approximately 22,000 acres of federally- and state-managed public lands located in Chaffee County, Colorado (includes 11,836 acres of the San Isabel National Forest and 9,750 acres of Bureau of Land Management land).

Prior to addressing our issues with the 2015 designation of Browns Canyon as a National Monument, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed.  The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization for the 170,000 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 volunteer based organization whose purpose 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 multiple-use trail riding.  The TPA acts as an advocate of the sport and takes the necessary action to insure that the USFS and BLM allocate for trail riding a fair and equitable percentage of access to public lands. For purposes of this document COHVCO and TPA are identified as “the Organizations”.

The Organizations are very familiar with the recreational opportunities and scenic qualities that are provided by Browns Canyon and do not question the unique merits and assets of the area and a need for some level of preservation and potential protection.  However, the Organizations contend that the designation of the Browns Canyon area as a National Monument has now relegated this area to a de facto Wilderness area and is now unavailable and closed to any citizen needing or desiring to visit the area or use any sort of motorized means to access and enjoy Browns Canyon and the surrounding landscape.  The Browns Canyon area and the lands immediately adjoining the Monument once saw extensive railroad activity in very close proximity to the river and was the main access terminal for the many mines in the Turret Mining Area (examples of historic sites include the Calumet Mine, Chloride Camp, Hematite, Camp Jeffery and Hecla Junction of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad’s former Calumet Branch line).  The entire area has been historically interlaced with railroad grades and access roads that have now been lost to use by the public under the current protections as a National Monument.

The Organizations are requesting that a review of the National Monument designation of the Browns Canyon area be included with the nationwide review of other National Monuments as directed by the President’s Executive Order 13792, issued on April 26, 2017.  Specifically the Organizations request that motorized access and multiple-use recreation be re-established in the Browns Canyon area especially from the eastern boundary.  The designation should be amended to recognize outdoor recreation, including motorized trail riding and historic permitted OHV events, as allowed uses and/or purposes of the Monument.  The Organization’s request is based in fact that during the original proposal by Colorado’s Senator Mark Udall to designate the area with the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act, that the substantial public input and comment to maintain motorized and multiple-use access to the Browns Canyon area was knowingly ignored and simply put aside.  And further, when Senator Udall’s Bill failed to pass, a unilateral decision was made by the Obama Administration to designate the area as a National Monument, which was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders and failed to conform with the policy set forth in section 1 of the recent Presidential order.  The Organizations also contend that the designation of the Browns Canyon area as a National Monument and the associated closure to motorized and multiple-use recreation failed to properly consider the multiple-use policy of section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument’s eastern boundaries (i.e., the Aspen Ridge area and other adjoining areas of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest).  Specific, established recreation corridors should be specifically identified and re-established for continuing use, including motorized recreation.

The Organizations have a lengthy history of cooperating and collaborating with groups and elected officials desiring to impart some level of protection to the Browns Canyon area.  We have consistently supported the concerns and comments of a truly diverse range of stakeholders, including affected counties, property owners, businesses, permit holders, residents and elected officials.  To this end, we were participants in numerous meetings with Senator Udall’s staff during the development of the originally proposed Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act.  The mission of the Organizations initial involvement was to ensure a fair and balanced spectrum of uses and sensible public access to the area.  With the subsequent failure of the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act to pass, and the unilateral designation by President Obama, the efforts of our Organizations to preserve fair use and shared public access has been “shut out”, resulting in an area that is now designated for the privileged use of a small and elite group of users.  The unilateral National Monument designation by the Obama Administration essentially sabotaged a precious opportunity to resolve public-land disputes more collaboratively. We stand by our principle that legislation is always preferable to unilateral Executive action.

The Organizations would also offer that the designation of the Browns Canyon area offers benefits only to a very small and limited group of the population while now excluding the mainstream public.  Since the monument designation was made in 2015, the users of this now restricted area are predominately river rafters on commercial (i.e., for profit) rafting trips, and select high-end commercially guided (i.e., for profit) fishing and seasonal hunting entourages.

Local special interest groups and local publications have lauded and praised the designation of the Browns Canyon area as promoting the solace and preserving the area solely for “quite uses”.  However, this is mere supposition as the primary use of the area is now exploited by very prolific and abundant chains of commercial and private rafting groups – a user group that is often anything but serene and quite in their use of the river and area.

If you have questions please feel free to contact Scott Jones, Esq. at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504.  His phone is (518) 281-5810 and his email is scott.jones46@yahoo.com.

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