Issues at a glance
This section is designed to highlight various issues where CSA, COHVCO and TPA and their partners and local clubs are defending public access to public lands. This glance at the issues is not an exhaustive list of the issues we are involved with, but rather is highlighting issues of statewide importance or interest. (Download the PDF to see this: We have identified the user groups most directly impacted by each issue with a logo next to each issue.)
This planning initiative addresses the management of millions of acres throughout the western United States and all areas above 10k feet in Colorado. The Organizations have been heavily involved in stakeholder discussions with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife regarding best available science for the management of the Wolverine. As a result of these stakeholder meetings, best available science was clearly reflected in the recent US FWS listing decision as the decision clearly stated there should be no management changes on public lands as a result of the Wolverine. This is a major win as modeled habitat for the Wolverine in Colorado was any areas over 10,000 ft. and at one point closures to motorized access were seen as necessary in all these areas. This determination was a major step forward in protecting motorized access from misguided wolverine management standards.
The Dillon Ranger District on the White River National Forest issued a FONSI permitting the construction of 21 miles of new single track motorcycle trail outside Silverthorne Colorado. This decision is the result of years of work and partnership between the local club and agency personnel. This trail network will provide a motorized single track opportunity in an area where these opportunities area very limited currently.
This will provide proof of ownership for vehicles that can exceed $15,000 to purchase new and allow for better financing rates from dealers. The issuance of a title will also allow better tracking of stolen OHVs in the state and better rates for those that choose to finance their new purchases. This legislation will become effective in 2014. Our next step is to obtain use of some county roads with the creation of a voluntary license plate on OHVs.
There was heavy pressure from those opposed to OHV use to increase minimum fines sometimes by hundreds of dollars for a variety of non-resource related issues. As a result of COHVCO efforts these fines maintained consistency with other violations.
7. COHVCO and its partners obtained dismissal of the Rico/West Delores lawsuit seeking closure of grandfathered routes on any MVUM.
Unfortunately, this decision has been appealed but we are optimistic that the trial court’s decision will be upheld.
Senate hearings were also held with similar input received from the public. COHVCO hopes that these hearings highlight the negative impacts to the forests from Wilderness designations and allow for management that protects forest health and public motorized access to the proposal areas.
The SJ/TR Planning area is 1.8 million acres and preferred alternative increases designated areas unsuitable for motorized usage by 83%. Trails in the unsuitable area are subject to a presumption of closure in the future.
This issue involves litigation in Idaho brought by the Winter Wildlands Alliance attempts to mandate winter travel management for all national forests, limit open riding areas and to invalidate the winter provisions of the travel management rule. Previous decisions from the Forest Service had ruled in favor of motorized users on this issue. WWA appealed the Forest Service decision to Federal Court in Idaho. The trial court ruled in favor of WWA and required winter travel management for all forests and invalidated the winter portions of the travel management rule. This decision is being appealed by the Idaho Snowmobile Association and its partners as the trial court decision is lacking factual and legal basis.
This lawsuit was served on the Forest Service and Colorado Springs utilities by the Center for Biological Diversity and others regarding exclusion of trails in the vicinity of cutthroat trout habitat. This suit sought a blanket exclusion of trails from areas adjacent to streams with cutthroat trout. COHVCO and TPA have intervened and making sure the best resolution for motorized recreation is obtained. Terms of settlement have been reached that would permit new trails to be created in the area and close the habitat area to all threats. TPA and COHVCO are working to insure the closures are applied per the terms of the agreement with the submission of a notice of intent to sue if the terms of the settlement agreement are not complied with.
The first suit was filed on January 31, 2011 by anti-access plaintiffs including The Wilderness Society, Quiet Use Coalition, Wildlands CPR, and Center for Native Ecosystems and Great Old Broads for Wilderness regarding the Pike and San Isabel Forests. COHVCO and TPA intervened with the Forest Service to defend this lawsuit, which could impact every MVUM that has grandfathered existing routes. These defense expenses are being born solely by Colorado OHV advocacy groups. This case seeks to remove any trails that predated NEPA and were grandfathered in the creation of PSI MVUMs. The exact impact of this suit is yet to be clarified but this suit could impact trails such as the Blanca Peak 4wd trail. This case is currently moving forward in the discovery phase of litigation.
A second suit involving grandfathered routes on an MVUM was filed regarding the Rico West Dolores/alpine triangle area of the San Juan Forest brought by Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers seeking closure of 14 trails which have a long history of motorized travel. COHVCO, TPA, Blue Ribbon Coalition, the San Juan Trail Riders and the Public Access Preservation Association have intervened to defend this matter with the Forest Service. The complaint was dismissed by the trial court and access was maintained. The trial court’s decision has been appealed.
RECREATIONAL USAGE AND CONCERNS
COHVCO is involved in numerous Grouse planning initiatives with Federal, State and local agencies. The Greater Sage grouse plan proposal is currently out for comment. There are several areas of concern that we have since the plan is based on an endangered species that no longer exists, models larger tracts of lands as habitat areas that have not been occupied for a long time, caps road construction and tries to manage under absolute limitation for soil disturbance that will not work in areas where there are large tracts of private lands. Extensive comments were submitted on the proposed Resource Management Plan changes that were proposed by the BLM.
The Grand Junction BLM office released a draft resource plan that proposed to close over 2,000 miles (60-70%) of routes in the office. The Organizations submitted extensive comments, participated in numerous meetings with BLM managers and federal, state and local government officials to highlight the numerous critical flaws that are present in the plan. These flaws included a complete failure to accurately address economic impacts of trail usage, which BLM placed at 10-15% of the total value, employment and daily spending amounts determined in research from Federal, State and user group analysis.
Proposal closes 272 miles (50%) of routes in the preferred alternative. The Organizations submitted extensive comments objecting to many phases of the plan. Again there is a complete failure of economic analysis as the plan asserts that the average recreational user spends $16 per day. the RMP fails to address that Sage Grouse planning addressing recreational usage of the same area estimates the average recreational spend to be in the high $40 range per day and USFS data indicates $63. Hard to balance uses when the review is that incorrect.
COHVCO was concerned that recreational usage and activity, and more specifically the trails program, was not sufficiently addressed in the next step of the merger of Colorado Parks and the Division of Wildlife required under Colorado Law. COHVCO is optimistic that these issues can be resolved as we have had positive responses to our initial concerns.
The Hidden Gems Campaign has now morphed to a new phase as Senator Udall is exploring Wilderness designations. The most recent version of Hidden Gems is seeking to designate 235,000 acres for prime recreational lands as Wilderness. Senator Udall is looking for public input regarding the proposal- especially the Pitkin county portions. His office is looking at a range of options and is seeking input from all users. Please contact his office to voice your concerns
While the recreational impacts of the San Juan Wilderness proposal are somewhat limited, COHVCO is very concerned about the forest health impacts of the proposal. People do not want to recreate in a forest that is dead, which will significantly impact the economic benefits from recreational usage of adjacent areas. We believe every possible step should be taken to avoid this situation and designation of these areas as Wilderness does not assist in resolving forest health concerns.
Refer to State Parks website for details at
9. OHV registration number size increase.
Various environmental groups have pushed a proposal to increase the size of all registration numbers on all OHVs to the size of a car license plate based on alleged law enforcement concerns. This proposal is being vigorously opposed by COHVCO as it will not work on the ground and is not supported by any research. This proposal is also opposed by the state and federal agencies due to concerns about costs and effectiveness.
The EPA is attempting to increase minimum ethanol levels in all motor fuels from the current 10% amount to a 15% maximum. While this seems like a minimal change, EPA testing indicates that small engines not designed for E15 fail almost immediately when it is used as a motor fuel. In addition to the failure of the motor, damage that results from E15 being used is not covered by manufacturers warranties. The motorized community is vigorously opposed to this change and we encourage you to contact your elected officials to voice your opposition as well.