Archive | May, 2014

CPW Rio Blanco County Trails Master Plan


 May 19, 2014


6060 Broadway • Denver, Colorado 80216
Phone (303) 297-1192

May 19,2014

Drew Stoll
Great Outdoors Consultant
2736 Spoke Ct
Fort Collins, CO. 80521

On behalf of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be involved with the planning process for the Rio Blanco County Trails Master Plan. This planning process is a bit different from most as it relates to participation and formal comment procedures, so I will try to sum up our concerns in this letter. The scope of this project is extremely large. Creating a Master Travel Plan for the entire county has the potential to impact a wide variety of wildlife species and it will be impossible to capture all of our concerns at this time.

Anytime there are plans to increase human activities in a specific area, there are likely to be negative impacts to various wildlife species. Recreation impacts to wildlife can occur at the individual, population or community level. Quantifying and qualifying these specific impacts within the project area will be difficult without knowing the exact time and extent of the increased activity. However, it is realistic to expect there will be impacts. CPW respectfully asks Rio Blanco County to balance the extent and intensity of trail development/promotion with the long-term, sustainable wildlife re ources that already exist in the County.

CPW’s concerns, given the information that we are aware of at this time, include economic impacts to hunting and fishing activities, wildlife and wildlife habitats, and ability to provide on-going assistance and input on planning and development plans and development activities.

Economic Impacts
Wildlife provides a significant economic benefit to the state of Colorado. According to The Economic Benefits to Hunting, Fishing and Wildlzfe Watching (BBC Research and Consulting 2008), hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing activities provided more than 33,000 jobs in Colorado and nearly $1.8 billion in direct spending by participants in those activities which generated a total economic impact of more than $3 billion toward Colorado’s economy in 2007.

Statewide Economic Impacts of Hunting and Fishing in 2007

Statewide Economic Impacts of Hunting and Fishing 2007

Note: Measured in 2007 dollars.

1. Trip and equipment expenditures and CPW expenditures in support of these activities.

2. Direct expenditures plus secondary spending by businesses and households (multiplier effects).

3. Includes job creation from direct and secondary expenditures. Source: BBC Research & Consulting, based on data from CPW and USFWS 2006 national survey.

Hunting and fishing recreational activities are a sustainable annual source of economic benefit for Rio Blanco County only if wildlife populations are maintained at or near CPW objective levels and quality hunting and fishing opportunities continue to exist. Extensive trail development and intensive use may reduce population levels of big game, diminish hunt quality, reduce hunting and fishing recreational opportunities in the affected area of the county, and decrease sustainable revenues from these activities.

Rio Blanco County (RBC) has some of the highest big game hunter participation in Western Colorado. Large mule deer and elk populations exist within RBC. Any impacts associated with increased Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) activities on public lands could reduce the hunter participation rate and thus reduce revenues within the County. Direct and indirect expenditures for Rio Blanco County are summarized in the following table.

Est Hunting & Fishing Economic Impacts by county 2007 and Employment related to

Economic Impacts by county, Activity and Residence 2007

Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat Impacts
CPW has focused its impact identification to wildlife species and habitats that lie within the county boundary. However, extensive trail development impacts extend directly and indirectly beyond a single point of disturbance or area of development activity. It is expected that development activity and its indirect impacts will reach beyond the County’s boundary.

CPW maintains an up-to-date set of data and spatial reference -Species Activity Maps (SAM). SAMs are updated every four years, for 32 game and non game species. The most recent update for Rio Blanco County was completed in 201012011. CPW used SAMs to identify species specific seasonal habitats that lie within the County. Using SAM CPW identified the following species and habitats in the County: mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, greater sage-grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, lynx, raptors, black bear, moose, cutthroat trout, native non-salmonid fish species, black footed ferret, boreal toads, and riparian habitats. Bat species and northern leopard frog were also identified in this review.

Impacts to Wildlife
Wildlife impacts from road development and increased recreational use may occur in two distinct forms: direct impacts and indirect impacts. Direct impacts include the effects of actual habitat conversion or loss from ground disturbance and are generally concentrated in close proximity to a road. Indirect impacts occur as densities of roads increase, habitats adjacent or nearby become progressively less effective until most animals no longer use these areas. Animals that remain within the affected zones are subjected to increased physiological stress. This avoidance and stress response impairs habitat function by reducing the capability of wildlife to use the habitat effectively. In addition, physical or psychological barriers lead to fragmentation of habitats, further limiting access to effective habitat. An area of intensive activity becomes a barrier when animals can’t or won’t move through it to use otherwise suitable habitat. These impacts are especially problematic when they occur within or adjacent to limiting habitats such as crucial winter ranges and reproductive habitats.

Big game species can become sensitive to human disturbance. Studies have demonstrated decreased reproductive success in female elk, increases in stress hormones, and decreased opportunities for animals to feed and rest (Naylor et aI. 2009, Phillips and Alldredge 2000, Taylor and Knight 2003). With the increased energy development, continued human development and loss of habitat within RBC, the available quality wildlife habitat is dwindling.

Habitat fragmentation
Species whose habitat requirements include large blocks of homogenous habitat (such as forest interiors or sagebrush steppe) are particularly vulnerable to new road development and habitat fragmentation (Foreman et al. 2003). The range at which animals avoided traffic was approximately the range at which they could detect traffic noise, suggesting that traffic noise was meaningful through association with human activity. Knight and Grtzwiller (1995).

Lyon (1983) developed a general model of habitat effectiveness for elk that modeled percent habitat effectiveness as a function of road density. Declines in habitat effectiveness were non-linear, indicating that much of the loss of habitat effectiveness occurred in the first 2.6 mile/miles2 of increasing road densities.

Edge and Marcum (1985) reported that elk leave a 500-1000 m buffer zone around logging roads when traffic is high (at at rate of a few transits per day), but not at other times. Similar observations have been made for deer (Dorance et al 1975; Singer and Beattie 1986), and coyotes (Gese et al. 1989).

Wisdom et al. 2004 reported that elk flight response to hikers had little effect when hikers were beyond 550 yards (500 m). By contrast, higher probabilities of elk flight continue beyond 820 yards (750 m) for horseback riders and 1650 yards (1,500 m) from mountain bide and A TV riders. In contrast, mule deer respond with fine-scale changes in habitat use, rather than substantial increases in movement rates and flight responses.

For example, it is possible that mule deer may respond to an off-road activity by seeking dense cover, rather than running from the activity. If mule deer are spending more time in dense cover, in reaction to any of the off-road activities, this could result in reduced foraging opportunities, and a subsequent reduction in opportunities to put on fat reserves during summer that are needed for winter survival (Wisdom et al. 2004).

Greater Sage-Grouse
Presently there is a great deal of interest and activIty to define sufficient protective measures for greater sage-grouse (GRSG) at the state and national levels and methods for incorporating those measures in Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plans (RMP’ s). To date the plans have not been finalized. For instance, CPW has developed revised priority habitat maps in association with the BLM Colorado State Office, these preliminary priority habitat (PPH) maps differ from maps previously outlined in the Colorado Greater Sage-grouse Conservation Plan (2008). CPW expects that Rio Blanco County will manage trail development and operations in GRSG habitats wherever they occur in a manner that avoids the need to list the species under the Endangered Species Act.

With the potential listing of these birds as threatened or endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) anything that could potentially impact these birds needs to be close scrutinized. The Piceance Basin has a long existing GrSG population. They are spread across several areas within the Piceance Basin and utilize various areas for leking, nesting, brood rearing, wintering and other life cycle activities. Proposing any additional public use in some of the critical areas at seasonal times could cause negative impact and listing implications. Careful consideration needs to be made to protect this species. CPW can provide maps and information for GrSG for consideration in this planning process.

The need to maintain extensive sagebrush habitat over large areas around leks for sage grouse breeding populations to persist has been clearly stated by all major reviews of sage-grouse habitat requirements (Schroeder et al. 1999; Connelly et al. 2000, 2004; Crawford et al. 2004; Rowland 2004). Because nest success and chick survival both contribute substantially to population growth in sage-grouse (CDOW 2008, Walker 2008), protecting breeding, nesting and brood-rearing females and breeding males is crucial for maintaining breeding populations.

Aquatic impacts
The overall health of an aquatic habitat derives from the condition of the entire watershed including the uplands, riparian corridor and the stream channel. Impacts to the upland plant community and environment can have a very immediate impact on an aquatic system, because the condition of vegetation throughout a watershed is the major factor determining the quantity and quality of the associated flow regime. In essence the runoff is naturally regulated by healthy, diverse vegetation. Vegetation in good condition provides greater ground cover, which reduces runoff and increases infiltration rates. Furthermore, diverse plant communities contain various micro sites that enable snow to melt at differing rates, thereby extending the runoff period. Collectively, these factors produce more stable base flows essential for healthy fish and riparian habitats. Reduced sedimentation is another major benefit to aquatic organisms. Healthy vegetation naturally produces a healthy water cycle. When developments alter physical conditions (Le., stabilize flow regimes, reduce sediment loads), the opportunity exists for native species to be replaced by detrimental, non-native species.

Providing riparian buffers of sufficient width protects and improves water quality by intercepting non-point source pollutants in surface and shallow subsurface water flow (e.g., Lowrance et aI., 1984; Castelle et aI., 1994). Healthy riparian buffer strips are widely recognized for their ability to perform a variety of functions other than water quality including stabilization of stream channels, providing erosion control by regulating sediment storage, transport, and distribution; providing organic matter (e.g., leaves and large woody debris) that is critical for aquatic organisms; serving as nutrient sinks for the surrounding watershed; providing water temperature control through shading; reducing flood peaks; and serving as key recharge points for renewing groundwater supplies (DeBano and Schmidt 1989; O’Laughlin and Belt 1995). Buffer strips also provide habitat for a large variety of plant and animal species and have become a popular tool in efforts to mitigate fragmentation by increasing connectivity of isolated habitat patches and conserving biodiversity (Rosenberg et aI., 1997).

Wildlife habitat and movement corridors in riparian zones are also an important consideration. Appropriate designs for species conservation depend on several factors, including type of stream and taxon of concern (Spackman and Hughes 1995). Recommended widths for ecological concerns in buffer strips typically are much wider than those recommended for water quality concerns (Fischer 1999; Fischer et aI., 1999), often exceeding 100 meters in width. These recommendations usually apply to either side of the channel in larger river systems and to total width along smaller streams where the canopy is continuous across the channel. Management for long, continuous buffer strips rather than fragments of greater width should also be an important consideration. Continuous buffers are more effective at moderating stream temperatures, reducing gaps in protection from non-point source pollution, and providing better habitat and movement corridors for wildlife.

There are many other important species (which CPW has not specifically brought up for discussion) that require avoidance and minimization actions as Rio Blanco County plans, designs, and implements this county-wide trail network.

CPW realizes that many of the proposed roads are currently open for public travel. CPW also recognizes that big game hunters also use Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) during the hunting seasons. Staff has observed big game species change distribution over the years due to this increase in motorized vehicle use. This change in distribution is of concern to staff and will require CPW staff to include the change in future management actions.

CPW staff is also concerned about the unintended issues that are likely to arise out of such an extensive project. CPW has concern about enforcement of additional motorized travel to help prevent pioneering or creating new roads and trails into more pristine and protected habitat. CPW, as an agency, does not have the personnel, finances, or commitment to be able to help regulate this increase in motorized activity.

CPW participation in on-going assistance and input on planning and development plans and development activities.

CPW staff; DWMs, Biologists, and Area Managers -have a well-developed knowledge of the County and specific areaslhabitats depicted on the preliminary plan map and are prepared to assist as needed or requested. CPW is very much concerned about the extensive nature of this project. CPW asks that Rio Blanco County incorporate as much avoidance, minimization and mitigation measures as possible in this trail planning, design, and implementation project. The wide-ranging nature of the project will take extensive efforts to balance the known, wildlife resources that the County currently depends on and the new (and unknown) recreation proposition. CPW recommends that the following concepts be include in the project.

  • Riparian buffers (setbacks from live water and wetlands)
  • Riparian trail crossing design features
  • Disinfect heavy equipment, hand tools, boots and any other equipment that was previously used in a river, stream, lake, pond, or wetland prior to moving the equipment to another water body.
  • Seasonal trail closures for sensitive species and key life stages (lekking, production, spawning, etc.)
  • Daily/nightly trail closures for sensitive species
  • Site design to minimize sound impacts
  • Constructing new roads/trails outside of sensitive time periods, life stages (lekking, production, spawning, etc.) in consultation with CPW.
  • Map the occurrence of existing weed infestations prior to development to effectively monitor and target areas that will likely become issues after development.
  • Monitor and manage off road user rates –the number of passes per unit time on a given linear route
  • Monitor and manage off road off-road recreational equivalents –off road equivalents are the ratio of ATV riders, mountain bikers, horseback riders, and hikers that results in approximately the same effect on a given resource.
  • Rio Blanco County should include a substantial increase in its budgets to partner with federal public land managers and state wildlife agencies for research, management, and monitoring of the increased trail networks and activities that will have negative impacts on natural resources.


Information provided in this comment letter indicates that terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and their habitats would be impacted from extensive trail development and increased use as the trail network and increased use takes place. How fast and to what degree the landscape would change is unknown; impacts to the landscape depend on a number of factors including intensity of use, location of routes, time of use, and type of recreational use. Additionally, other public land uses contribute to the overall impacts and create cumulative impacts that are extremely difficult to quantify. Regardless of the habitat rate of change across Rio Blanco County, sensitive species such as mule deer, raptors, cutthroat trout and native, non-game fish would likely be the first to be impacted.

CPW respectfully asks Rio Blanco County to balance the extent and intensity of trail development with the long-term, sustainable wildlife resources that currently exist in the County. CPW staff is available to support Rio Blanco County in their analysis of any of the individual routes with respect to wildlife and wildlife habitats.

CPW appreciates the opportunity to share our thoughts on this important project and we are available to answer any questions or assist with clarification of concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me at 970-878-6061.

Bill deVelargie, Area Wildlife Manager

cc. Ron Velarde, NW Regional Manager
Dean Riggs, NW Deputy Regional Manager
Brad Petch, Senior Terrestrial Wildlife Biologist
Sherm Hebein, Senior Aquatic Biologist
Taylor Elm, Land Use Specialist

Download PDF for references.




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Issues at a Glance


 May 5, 2014


This section is designed to highlight various issues where COHVCO,TPA, CSA 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.

1. EPA proposal to increase ethanol in gasoline on hold for at least a year. NEW!

The EPA recently decided to continue current ethanol production standards for usage in motor fuels meaning that current E10 limits will remain for another year.    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 Organizations and their national partners are now heavily involved in efforts to obtain legislation that would effectively limit ethanol production to only amounts necessary to support current E10 levels and make the recent EPA findings final as a matter of law.

2. 143 miles of routes reopened to  OHV usage on the Eagle/Holy Cross RD- NEW

The Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger district recently signed a FONSI determination that allowed OHV usage of 143 miles of roads and trails that had been previously closed in the Travel Management Plan.  This provided a lot of access for all recreational users and avoided restrictions that were tough to enforce and made little sense on the ground.

3. New Lynx management documents have been published that clearly state trail usage and snow compaction are not an issue in lynx habitat- NEW

COHVCO, CSA and many other groups have been very concerned about the failure of many federal land managers to address recreational activity in lynx habitat with  best available science,   which has specifically concluded  almost all recreational activity has no impact on lynx that might be in the area.  Many land managers continued to manage based on out of date management documents, where there was theoretical concerns about recreational usage.  Stakeholder concerns have resulted in the issuance of new management documents that avoids these types of issues in the future by clearly stating roads and trails in habitat are not a major factor for the lynx and that most snow compaction in the Southern Rockies is the result of natural processes rather than recreational usage. These documents clearly state that only major ski areas may impact lynx behavior and provide extensive analysis that weighs heavily against any claim of Wilderness areas being a benefit for the lynx.

CSA,COHVCO and TPA have partnered to provide a copy of these documents to every office that currently has a draft plan being developed or are areas where lynx management has been an issue previously.

4. The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently determined there should be no changes in forest management as the result of a wolverine in the planning area.

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 USFWS 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.

5.  The proposed expansion of parking facilities on Rabbit Ears Pass is moving forward

The Hahns Peak Bears Ears Ranger District has moved forward with scoping on several site specific proposals for the expansion of parking areas on the Rabbit Ears Pass area outside Steamboat Springs Colorado. Parking is very limited in the area for winter usage causing a wide range of management and safety issues for users.   This limited parking also limits access for motorized usage of the area that is consistently identified as one of the best snowmobile locations in the western United States. This project has been vigorously supported by the local clubs who have brought a wide range of information and resources to the table to allow for resolution of this issue.

6. Dillon Ranger District allows  construction of over 20 miles of new single track motorcycle trail outside Silverthorne

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.

7. COHVCO and partners succeeded in obtaining passage of legislation allowing the titling of off-highway and over the snow  vehicles in the state of Colorado.

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.

8. COHVCO and partners were able to insure that fines were not increased for a variety of OHV related issues with the reauthorization of house bill 1069.  

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.

9. COHVCO and its partners obtained dismissal of the Rico/West Delores lawsuit seeking closure of grandfathered routes on any MVUM.


1. BLM Kremmling Field Office RMP appealed. NEW

The Organizations appealed the KFO RMP which sought to close approximately 40% of routes in the planning area.   This plan tragically undervalued recreational usage, estimating that the average user only spends $16 per day, which directly conflicts with BLM conclusions made in Sage Grouse planning that the average recreational user spent $121.96 per day.  This is highly relevant as all the KFO has been identified as Sage Grouse habitat.  USFS conclusions for average spending, that were asserted to be relied on in the RMP development conclude average spending is between $50 and $61 per day. Hard to say that recreational usage was accurately balanced when recreational usage is so badly undervalued.

In addition to the economic analysis issues, economics were not integrated into the planning process as total spending and total visitation to the KFO doubled between the draft and final versions of the RMP but the jobs that result from this activity were cut in half, which simply defies logic.  KFO jobs estimates were completely irreconcilable with any other outside research.

On numerous other issues best available science was simply overlooked in favor of the most restrictive standards available, most of which have been completely discredited.

2. BLM Colorado River Valley RMP appealed- NEW.

The CRVO and KFO plans were originally developed as a single plan but the Colorado River Valley proposes to close approximately 50% of routes in the planning area. As a result the valuation of recreational usage issues noted in the KFO summary are also appealed in the CRVO appeal.

In addition to the economic issues, mandatory closures around all cultural sites identified now and in the future were required in violation of federal laws requiring protection of only significant sites.  Thousands of acres and 143 routes were lost as a direct result of these management standards. 

3. San Juan National Forest plan appealed- updated.

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 is the Forest Service component for the BLM Tres Rios Plan and as a result the TR appeal points are also applicable to this matter.  In addition to the economic analysis issues, the USFS fails to accurately apply the Colorado Roadless Rule managing under a single standard very similar to the upper tier standard, when most of the SJ/TR areas were specifically found to be unsuitable for upper tier designation in the Colorado Roadless Rule proceedings.  At no point is there any discussion of why closure of roadless areas is warranted  or that motorized access is a protected characteristic of a roadless area or why the two standards of roadless areas were not reflected in the RMP.

The RMP further applies a designation of suitable or unsuitable for motorized use to the entire forest.  It is has been our experience that such black and white type designations do not work in recreation management as this is not a black and white issue.  Rather most recreation occurs in the gray area between absolute standards, making application of such a standard arbitrary at best. 

Suitability boundaries are also based on the position that all wildlife habitat is unsuitable for motorized usage.  This black and white suitability standard conflicts with numerous US Fish and Wildlife decisions that find endangered species habitat areas are suitable for motorized usage with the implementation of minimal restrictions.  This decision also fails to address the recent Wolverine listing decision that found there should be no change in forest management in wolverine habitat and that Sage Grouse listing decisions have repeatedly determined that recreational usage of habitat areas is not an issue.

In yet another troubling lack of analysis, the RMP repeatedly asserts that no trails would be closed due the RMP and all review will be done later as part of site specific review.  At other points the plan states it will close 25 miles of trail.  This is a problem by itself, which is compounded by the fact that no information or analysis is provided regarding where these trails are or why they are being closed.

4.  Tres Rios BLM field office plan has been appealed.

The Organizations recently submitted an administrative appeal of the Tres Rios (“TR”) Field Plan Resource Plan and are optimistic about reversing this decision.  The appeal centered around the tragic undervaluation of recreation in the RMP.   Often TR conclusions on user group spending were 10-15% of the conclusions identified in the research that was asserted to be the sole basis of the conclusions. Developed campers are asserted to spend $46.11 while the research indicates developed campers spend ranges from $217 to $300 per day.

Winter motorized users were particularly hard hit in this erroneous analysis as cross country skiers and downhill skiers spend $208 per day while snowmobilers only $127 per day. These conclusions are asserted to be based on USFS work  that concludes downhill skiers and snowmobilers spend similar amounts and cross country skiers spend 40% less than those amounts. It is simply impossible to reconcile these types of conflicting conclusions.

In addition to undervaluing recreation, current management of numerous areas, including the Molas Pass Area were not accurately reflected in the RMP.  While the Molas Pass area has never been closed to motorized usage, the RMP asserts it is currently closed and all alternatives assert the area is to remain closed.  Hard to argue there is a hard look at a closure when the closure is not reflected.

5. Winter Wildlands Litigation

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. 

CSA has been actively involved in administrative appeals prior to the Federal Court proceedings. As this litigation was brought in Idaho, CSA has partnered with the ISA to facilitate the defense of this matter.  This partnership has resulted in several large donations being made by CSA to the Idaho legal defense fund and any resources necessary being available to our Idaho partners. 
CSA is also aware of similar litigation in California regarding winter travel management and notes the parallels between the WWA litigation and the litigation in Colorado regarding MVUM route designations.   These are not isolated issues.
6. Bear Creek Trail – Updated

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.

7. Pike /San Isabel MVUM challenge –

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.

8. Rico/West DeLores-

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 issues and concerns.

1. Hermosa Watershed Legislation – NEW

The Organizations have been heavily involved in the Hermosa Watershed Legislation with Rep. Tipton and Senator Bennett’s Office and are optimistic it will be passed this session. This Legislation would release a wilderness study area and mandate motorized usage of the area consistent with the historical usage of the area. BLM is currently seeking to close this area that has a long history of motorized recreation.  In addition the legislation designates a special management area of more than 70,000 acres where motorized usage and routes are to be protected and preserved.

2. Bear Creek trail watershed – NEW

As noted this area has been the basis for litigation.  The Organizations have submitted extensive scoping comments subject to the settlement of the litigation to insure that actual threats to the cutthroat trout are addressed in planning and that closures to do target motorized usage.  Research indicates that most routes are not a threat to the cutthroat, and as a result should not be closed.

3. Burn Canyon Trail development – NEW

The Organizations are vigorously opposed to the significant change in the direction of this project.   Originally the project would have built 34 miles of multiple use single track in the area.  For reasons that are unclear, the proposed alternative in the EA now seeks to only develop these trails for mechanized usage only.  There is no funding for the development of non-motorized trails and maintenance is problematic without significant monies being available for maintenance.

4. Basalt to Gypsum Trail development – NEW

The Organizations submitted extensive comments in favor of development of new single track trails that connect the Basalt areas to the Gypsum riding areas and parking areas for the use of these trails.  These trails have been funded with OHV grants that have been extensively discussed and reviewed and this analysis must be the starting point for any NEPA analysis of the project. The Organizations are hopeful these routes will be developed.

5. Expanded definitions of Navigable Waters – NEW

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have recently made proposals that significantly expand the scope of what must be regulated as navigable water under the Clean Water Act.  This decision could heavily impact the management of OHVs in areas around newly navigable waters.  This proposal is currently under review.

6. Sage Grouse Habitat/Planning- Updated

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.

Since the close of the comment period, an extension of time has been granted for CPW to submit a Colorado alternative.   COHVCO and its partners have been voicing our concerns and working with CPW to develop management that insures the Grouse is not listed and recreational opportunities are maintained.

7. Grand Junction BLM Resource Plan –

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. 

The plan also proposed a massive expansion of closures for cultural sites in violation of federal law and sought to automatically close any sites located in the future. Currently there are 50 sites on the National register of historic places in the planning area, the plan proposed to add almost 1,900 sites to the list.  The Organizations  do not believe these sites are suitable for inclusion on the national register, which is a defining criteria for closures of cultural areas.

The RMP also sought to close all Wilderness study areas to motorized access despite  a long history of usage of the areas and a complete lack of NEPA analysis of the proposed changes. The RMP also failed to explain how management standards of ACEC areas would relate to the management concerns in the area.  This resulted in closures of these areas to motorized access despite the management issue simply having no relationship to motorized usage. 

8. Domingez-Escalante National Conservation Area (“DENCA”) Plan –

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. 

The Organizations also opposed the fact that over 85% of the planning area would be seasonally closed for wildlife issues despite analysis that concludes the population is at or above targets for the area and current management is effective at mitigating impacts while maintaining access. Habitat areas many other species are proposed to be managed to prohibit motorized access despite best available science specifically concluding motorized usage is not a threat to the species.

9. Wilderness Proposals –

The Organizations remain heavily involved in the numerous Wilderness proposals that threaten continued recreational access to large portions of the state.  This would include Hidden Gems, and its variations, the San Juan Wilderness proposals and others.  Meaningful analysis of these issues and proposals finds that Wilderness creates more trouble than it resolves and negatively impacts most users.

10. OHV permits on plated vehicles.

Refer to State Parks website for details at

11. 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.





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First Annual Colorado Adventure Ride Announced


The Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) and Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders (RMAR) invite riders to join us in the first annual Colorado Adventure Ride. 

The ride is a five-day adventure, starting in Cripple Creek, Colorado on 27 July 2014.  It will truly be a phenomenal experience riding through some of the most fabulous areas our country has to offer. 

These riding areas are under attack and we risk losing access to them forever. With your help, we can continue the battle to defend your rights to these lands.  So, this isn’t just an awesome riding experience, it’s a chance for riders to make a real impact to maintain their rights to access public lands. 

Both the TPA and RMAR are 100 percent volunteer organizations.  The TPA works closely with the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management and advocates for fair and balance access to public lands.  RMAR’s positively impacts rider’s lives by running events, where riders can experience adventure riding, while contributing to state and local trail organizations that share the mission.  Join us and like-minded adventurers this year. 

Visit for more information and to register.




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GAO Report on Forest Service Trails Financial Sustainability


 May 5, 2014

Talking points on the  GAO Report on Forest Service Trails Financial Sustainability (GAO 13-618).

Complete report is available here:

Issued by the Government Accountability Office in June 2013 and found that only 25% of all forest service routes are financially sustainable.  The conclusions of this report have been the basis for several new discussions with USFS representatives on motorized route development. This report is not the basis for closures of motorized/multiple use routes.  Conclusions of the report supporting this position are:

1.  The GAO analysis is very large in scope and addresses  all types of trail usage including non-motorized routes in Wilderness areas.  Non-motorized routes in Wilderness areas  on Forest Service lands account for 20% of the total mileage of all Forest Service routes. 

2.  Maintenance of non-motorized Wilderness  routes is exceptionally expensive when compared to multiple use routes, due to management limitations on types of management, limited access to areas and many of these routes have been heavily impacted by intense wildfire and Forest health issues.

3.  OHV grant programs are specifically recognized as a significant contributor to maintenance of multiple use routes, even if these funding sources were not tracked by the Forest Service. The motorized program is the only significant funding source addressed in the report. Without this funding the overall funding picture would be far more grim as these programs very effectively leverage RTP monies.  No similar program exists for the maintenance of non-motorized routes.

4.  Winter motorized trails are not included in analysis and this usage is almost completely paid for by users on Forest Service lands.

5.  Volunteers are specifically identified as a major resource for maintaining routes.   The motorized community is the source of extensive volunteer efforts to maintain trails in addition to the direct funding that is provided.   The report identifies that having the right forest service  employee in place to work with volunteers is critical.  We would agree

6.  This report really provides no basis for the closure of multiple use routes.  The loss of multiple use routes erodes user support for registration programs that provide significant effective funding for maintenance of multiple use routes and negatively impacts users desire to volunteer for maintenance activities.




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Comments on Burn Canyon Comprehensive Travel Management


 May 3, 2014

  Uncompahgre Field Office – Burn Canyon Trail Project

Att:  Burn Canyon Travel Management
2465 South Townsend Ave
Montrose, CO 81401
RE:  Burn Canyon Comprehensive Travel Management
Dear Sirs:
Please accept this correspondence as the comments of the above noted Organizations vigorously supporting Alternative 2 of the Proposal and our vigorous objection to the complete lack of analysis of numerous issues directly involved in the creation of the preferred alternative.  The Organizations were shocked at the change in direction and intent of this proposal between scoping and development of the draft EA and are vigorously opposed to the preferred Alternative as the preferred alternative is doomed to failure.    The Organizations are vigorously opposed to the failures in critical analysis of issues that will result from this change in direction in the preferred alternative.  Concerns such as the lack of analysis of impacts to  short and long term funding for the proposal and the repeated failures to analyze many issues against current management and the significantly expanded scope of recreational opportunities in previously undeveloped areas  to be developed must be addressed in the planning process and simply have not been. 

Prior to addressing the specifics of these concerns, a brief summary of the Organizations is warranted. 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.

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.  For the purposes of these comments, COHVCO and TPA will be referred to as the Organizations.

1. Significant changes in the scope of proposal must be completely addressed and simply have not been. 

The Organizations have significant concerns regarding the lack of meaningful analysis of many impacts that result from the changed scope of the project. Per scoping the scoping letter, the project seeks to develop a new single track multiple use trail network described as follows:
“The area currently serves as an undeveloped multiple-use trail system with connectivity to roads leading to Norwood.  This trail system will fill the need for additional recreational activities, such as mountain biking, hiking, motorcycle riding and equestrian use….. BLM is preparing an environmental assessment to analyze construction of approximately 34 miles of multiple-use single track trail(maximum width of 36″), one small trailhead (approximately one acre in size), and two small parking areas (approximately 1/2 acre in size).  The purpose of this project is to analyze a system of new single track trails and support facilities.” 1

While the Organizations vigorously supported the scoping in the original proposal, the Organizations are not able to support the direction now reflected in the preferred Alternative. The preferred alternative would:  
“This TMP would identify and designate (see Table 1): 
• 9.4 miles of motorized routes consisting of 
o 2.9 miles in ATV 2-Track travel use category for ATVs, motorcycles, and non-motorized travel; 
o 6.5 miles in 4WD-2WD travel use categories for motorized and non-motorized travel. 
• 31 miles of non-motorized routes consisting of o 2.8 miles in the Non-Motorized & Non-Mechanized, Single Track travel use category for hiking and horseback riding (approximately 1.3 miles of proposed route construction would occur); 
o 2.6 miles in the Non-Motorized & Non-Mechanized, Single Track and Administrative Use category for hiking, horseback riding, and full-size administrative use; 
o 25.6 miles in the Non-Motorized Single Track travel use category for hiking, horseback riding, and mechanized use (approximately 24.6 miles of proposed route construction would occur). 
• 2.9 miles of routes in the Administrative Uses Only category; motorized or mechanized uses by the public would not be allowed. 
• 17.9 miles closed to all modes of travel except for authorized users.”2

The Organizations must highlight the scope of change in direction of this project, which was scoped to provide 34 miles of multiple use single track and has now changed to providing no miles of multiple use single track in the preferred alternative. After a brief review of the comments  provided in scoping and a complete review of the EA,  the Organizations are wholly unable to identify any basis or concern that could be relied on for the significant changes in the proposal that are now identified. 
The Organizations would like to be able to support all trails proposals from all user groups but this simply is not realistic given agency budgets and the unwillingness of many user groups to self tax in a manner similar to the programs that have been in place as a result of the motorize users self taxing a long time ago. This failure to provide a funding stream for site development has impaired these user groups ability to partner in development of projects such as the project now sought to be developed. 
2. The preferred alternative fails to address purpose and need of the proposal. 
The Organizations are deeply concerned that the change in scope and direction of the project has directly impaired the ability to achieve the goals and objectives of the proposal.  One of these goals is summarized in the EA as follows:
“The need is to reduce user conflicts and issues related to recreational routes, reduce impacts to sensitive resources (e.g. wildlife populations and cultural sites), and reduce other environmental impacts.”3

Given the prioritization of a single user group that is not able to fund any portion of the project over multiple use recreation in the planning area will increase user conflicts.   These concerns are compounded by the fact that the user group that is being excluded is the only one to pay to assist with management of their recreational usage.  These concerns are further compounded as the development of the proposal impairs assertions that agency money is being properly directed towards partnering to maintain and manage existing opportunities in the field office. 
The Organizations have consistently funded multiple use recreational management on the UFO through the CPW grant program, which the GAO has specifically identified as  a major funding source for recreational activity.  This grant program has directed several hundred thousand dollars onto the UFO for the management of multiple use recreation, despite the significant lack of specific opportunities for many of the user groups that fund the program.    Here the BLM has the opportunity to provide a significant value to these partners, and the expectation of these expanded opportunity was increased  by issuing the scoping letter previously. Rather than carry through with proposal in a manner that would benefit the users who have partnered with the agency to provide multiple use recreational funding, the proposal now seeks to benefit a user group that does not partner with the UFO to benefit all users.  
To say this situation will result in higher levels of conflict and distrust between managers and user groups well beyond the small area to be addressed in the EA,  is probably accurate and a direct result of the change in scope of the proposal. These types of concerns are highly relevant and must be addressed. 
3. The preferred alternative fails to address funding for development and maintenance of facilities. 
The Organizations believe basic funding is a significant question for the revised project scope.  Under Alternative 2 of the Proposal significant portions of any management of the area needed for new trails could easily be addressed with the Good Management crew that is currently provided by OHV grants from the CPW grant program.  By altering the scope and preferred alternative to only allow non-motorized usage of most of the routes, these resources are now unavailable as their maintenance of non-motorized trails is prohibited by both the scope of work in the grant and Colorado state laws specifying usage of these moneys that have been developed from OHV registrations. 
The Organizations have been heavily involved in the development of numerous trail networks throughout the state and developing funding of the projects is a major concern, both for the development and long term sustainability of the proposal. The projects would include the Tenderfoot trail proposal on the Dillon Ranger District of WRNF, the parking lot development  on Rabbit Ears Pass in the Hans Peak Bears Ears RD  and the Bangs Canyon trails proposal on the Grand Junction BLM Field Office. None are cheap and identifying funding has been a major issue in these proposals.
As a result of this experience, the Organizations are able to say with a high degree of confidence that the current scope of work will cost $100,000 to $200,000 to properly develop and manage. Development of a basic pit toilet facility, as identified in the EA frequently costs $10,000 to $15,000 to plan and develop for each location.  In the Burn Canyon EA 3 toilet facilities are proposed which would result in a total cost of 30-45k without addressing any of the other improvements and construction to be made. By comparison, estimates place the development of a single parking lot, without a toilet, and 26 miles of multiple use singe track trails on the Dillon Ranger district in exactly the range noted above.  The Tenderfoot proposal is on soils that are significantly more stable than those in the Burn Canyon area, and as a result have significantly lower maintenance costs anticipated in the Tenderfoot proposal and lower costs for initial development. 
The scope and direction of this proposal has significantly changed and expanded since the scoping of the proposal and this change in direction has significantly reduced the funding that would be available for the construction and ongoing maintenance of the new non-motorized trails. The Organizations consistently advocate for usage of OHV registration moneys coupled with limited federal resources for the management of federal lands for the benefit of all users.  The Organizations are aware that there is a small motorized component to the project but this component is simply not significant enough to rely on for an assertion that any grants made to the OHV program would be successful.   Under the current scope, the closures of routes and creation of a completely non-motorized trail network would weigh heavily against any successful grant applications being made to the OHV grant program. 
The lack of funding for trail systems is an issue that has been extensively addressed  in recent years.   The GAO recently conducted an extensive analysis of trails funding and maintenance needs and found that only 25% of the existing trail network is financially sustainable. 4 While this report specifically identified the major role that OHV grant programs play in mitigating  this issue, the report specifically found that a lack of funding for non-motorized trails is a major contributor to the issue.  While the GAO report  does involve analysis of issues not relevant to the current proposal,  like trail maintenance in Wilderness, the basic determination of the report must not be overlooked.  Non-motorized routes are entirely unsustainable financially and the OHV communities efforts in maintaining multiple use routes is an important tool in addressing this issue.   It is the Organizations position that the current proposal exacerbates a know and unresolved problem and fails to integrate a known and effective funding source. This simply makes no sense. 
The Organizations have also been heavily involved in the CPW Law Enforcement Pilot, numerous discussions regarding usage of the Alpine Triangle area on the Tres Rios/San Juan NF 
and an active participant in the grant review process, in addition to the on-going participation of numerous site specific proposals for multiple use trail development and maintenance.  It has been the Organizations uniform experience that BLM personnel simply never have any money for the management of recreation on BLM lands, regardless of the project.  Given the on-going funding issues that always face the federal land managers, the Organizations believe answering the funding question is a critical  component of any project.  Who is going to pick up trash and maintain bathrooms that are to be built? These are important questions that are critical to the long term success of the proposal.  These are costs that will increase demand on the already tragically limited agency budgets to address all recreational users. 
Throughout the EA, numerous statements are made that BLM is accepting sole liability for development and maintenance of the trail network.  While the Organizations are aware there may be agency funding for development of the Proposal, the Organizations are deeply concerned that if this funding has become available, why has the funding been targeted for development of a trail network that will benefit a  small user group rather than address the tragic funding issues that impact all recreational usage.  The Organizations vigorously assert that if federal or other funds have been obtained it should be used to maintain current levels of  recreational access rather than develop new opportunities that simply are not financially sustainable in the long run.   The Organizations are concerned that this decision making process is suspect at best. 
In the preferred Alternative, there are significant site specific issues that will warrant significant expenditures of resources for the maintenance of the non-motorized trail network to be developed, in addition to the maintenance of normal issues like trash pickup, signage and other periodic maintenance normally experienced with trail development.  The EA specifically identifies the large amount of this project that will result in additional maintenance costs as follows: 
“Compared to the No Action Alternative there would be a 51% reduction in routes, which includes a 74% reduction in motorized routes. Approximately, 30 miles of designated (proposed or existing) routes occur on soils with a severe hazard for water erosion (Table 6), a 31% increase from the No Action Alternative. These routes may require more intensive monitoring and maintenance compared to routes on other soil types.”5
The GAO report referenced previously provides some very stark photos of what unmaintained non-motorized trails utilizing highly erosive soils looks like: 

It is the Organizations position that these impacts are unacceptable result for any user groups recreational activity and must be avoided in any plans that expand trail networks.  If agency personnel are not able to fund maintenance of current opportunities, any assertion of sufficient funding being available in the future would be highly suspect. 
The impacts of the current partially implemented trail system are addressed in the EA, the long term  impacts  that would result from an expanded partially implemented trail system are not addressed.   The impacts  of current resource management issues that are identified as follows:
“Other actions that would increase erosion include; the lack of support facilities such as the designed trailhead, and parking facilities to the extent of the other alternatives, which would result in progressively more acres being disturbed from diffuse parking and route use.”6 
The Organizations are aware that once trails are opened, people will come and this will result in impacts regardless of funding for mitigation resources.  If there are no mitigation resources, such as parking lots, maps, kiosks and toilets impacts will be substantial.  Again funding for the costs and obligations is not available from state grants as there is no motorized components to the project.  Usage of such money would be in violation of the terms of the grants and Colorado statutes governing usage of such funding.  The lack of funding for the preferred alternative must be addressed and weighs heavily in favor of Alternative 2 simply due to the additional resources that can be brought to bear to effectively manage the proposal over the life of the project. 
4. Existing dispersed parking issues will not be improved.
As previously identified, the development of parking facilities and site specific resources is a significant expense, and the Organizations must seriously question the funding that is available for development of these resources on the ground.  The Organizations vigorously assert that resolution of issues similar to the ones identified in this section of the comments are critical to achieving the purpose and need for the trails proposal and to the long term success of the program. These are costs that must be addressed in providing management of basic issues such as can users camp in parking lots that are to be developed.  
Without development of the parking facilities, impacts from current parking issues will simply be expanded.  A lack of parking opportunities and implementation of the existing TMP decisions is repeatedly identified as a problem that is currently impacting resources in the planning area in the EA.  
“Currently, the area does not have proper maps or educational information on site to inform users of the recreation opportunities, user expectations, and/or travel management and other BLM regulations. Users are parking on the side of county roads, which are causing safety concerns, loss of vegetation, erosion, and unplanned site expansion.”7

The Organizations agree that these materials are critically important in mitigating impacts and educating users and developing a trail system that is successful in the long run.  The Organizations simply are not able to explain how these materials will be developed if there is no money to develop these resources for the area.   The Organizations have to believe that simply developing these resources without changing current usage would result in a significant benefit for all user and achieve the goals and objectives of the proposal and completely avoid any possible negative impacts that would result from more opportunities that fail to address these known management issues that are currently unresolved. 
The EA takes a very aggressive approach in the scope of management necessary for management of parking related issues, which is as follows:
“Travel Management Support Facilities 
Proposed facilities to support the travel management plan include staging areas, trailheads, gates, and portal signs. These facilities could consist of a maximum of one acre each of disturbed surface. Facilities could include restrooms, kiosks, hardened graveled parking areas, fencing, hitching rails, vehicular control devices, native landscape islands, erosion and drainage control devices, and hardened access routes.”8
The Organizations believe this is an ambitious proposal in terms of scope and would provide a quality recreational opportunity to users. Rather than work towards actually managing these issues, the EA simply asserts that developing new trails that are not funded and applying parking management that has been already identified as faulty will result in some type of benefit to the planning area:
“In order to limit resource impacts and help prevent new user-created routes, users would be allowed to park motorized and/or mechanized vehicles (depending on the designation of the route) immediately adjacent and parallel to the BLM designated routes. Parking would be limited to one vehicle-width from the edge of the route. Users would be encouraged to park motorized or mechanized modes of travel in developed parking areas, already disturbed areas, consider safety and keep routes passable for other users.”9
The Organizations vigorously assert that this position entirely lacks basis in law or fact.  Again parking lot development is something that could be funded with an OHV grant under the previous scope of the project but would be highly problematic under the new scope of the proposal.  True resolution of these issues weighs heavily in favor of alternative 2 of the proposal. 
5. The expansion of adjacent opportunities for non-motorized recreational activity must be addressed.
The Organizations believe there is a critical shortage of single track multiple use trails in the state of Colorado and  while all single track recreational opportunities are limited, motorized opportunities are the hardest hit usage.   The San Juan National Forest provides a stark example of this issue  as the San Juan National Forest contains approximately 1,250 miles of system trails. Roughly 1,000 miles are designated as closed to motorized recreation (including 400 miles in wilderness or special management areas); while 250 miles (20% of system trails) are designated as open to motorized recreation. 10  These opportunities are even further limited as single track trails represent only a small portion of the 20% of system trails that are available.

Additionally the UFO has recently provided a single track non-motorized trail network outside Ridgway and significant portions of the Domingez-Escalante NCA were designated for the benefit of non-motorized users.  These are opportunities that must be balanced and weigh heavily in favor of Alternative 2 of the proposal in order to address the critical lack of motorized single track in Colorado. 

6. Analysis of most resource specific issues is completely faulty.
Often benefits are asserted from moving to a designated trail system in the planning area are addressed in the EA without addressing the additional benefits that would result from a properly implemented existing  route system that is currently in place.   Currently these issues exist in the planning area as a result of the lack of signage, maps and other educational materials for the area that the public needs to effectively comply with restrictions.  Any assertion that the public can comply with restrictions that they are not aware of simply lacks merit.   Rather than address these issues, the EA simply asserts more restrictions for the motorized community and more opportunity for the non-motorized users is the answer.   This simply lacks logical or factual basis.
It is the Organizations position that significant  impacts that will result from development of 26 miles of new routes in areas that currently are not utilized, if the proposal is not funded and managed properly.  This is a significant change from current management that should be addressed. Rather than address the impacts of new trails construction,  the EA repeatedly and consistently addresses impacts from OHV usage, despite the fact that the preferred Alternative has significantly less miles of OHV routes than current management.  There is simply no factual basis to assert a negative impact from closing routes. 

Benefits of moving from an open to existing route designation simply are not relevant to this proposal,  as the area has been under existing roads and trails management standards since the adoption of the UFO TMP in 2010. If there are impacts resulting from off trail usage, these are now  enforcement issues and probably the result of the specifically identified lack of signage and maps for the planning area rather than benefits of the EA.  If these same management standards, such as no signage or maps for users area continued, off trail usage will continue regardless of the type of usage that is allowed.  The Organizations vigorously assert that rather than attempting to assert benefits from previous management decisions, the proper question should be how to fund implementation and education of users regarding the newly adopted TMP.  These concerns are more specifically addressed in previous portions of the comments.

The Organizations are deeply troubled that the analysis of many resource issues provided in the EA exhibits a similar confusion of management standards in an effort to create a position that the proposal will be a benefit and there will be no impacts.  The EA must be comparing the alternatives to current management of the area rather than to each other, which is commonly the case in the EA. The Organizations vigorously assert that much of the new trail network that is to be developed is in areas that simply have no trail network currently and are outside of possible impacts from existing opportunities.  Any position that building a trail in an area that currently has none probably lacks factual or scientific basis and credibility. The proper question to be addressed  is does the trail network negatively impact the area, which cannot be accurately addressed by merely comparing alternatives.  Funding and ongoing maintenance of the trail is a critical component of this analysis, and must address issues like the proposed alternative provides for a 31% increase in routes that are on highly erodible soils. Regardless of who is using the routes, they will need maintenance.
The Organizations must note that many of the landscape levels standards of impacts or benefits that are relied on in the EA directly conflict with USFS conclusions on this issue, which are 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.”11 
Throughout the EA numerous assertions of benefits to wildlife and resources are made that do not accurately reflect best available science on issues associated with trail construction into previously unoccupied areas. Given the numerous incorrect assertions, the Organizations have included chapter 8 of the  Wildlife Society  manual and position on many of these issues.   Research has consistently concluded that wildlife response to non-motorized recreation is consistently more extensive in terms of times and levels of response.  This research has been summarized as:

“Non-motorized winter recreational activities caused 89% of monitored moose to be displaced, while snowmobiles caused 50% displacement, and trucks caused 21% displacement. Furthermore, 100% of observed moose demonstrated disturbance behaviors when disturbed by skiers and snowshoers, moving an average of 80 yards away. In contrast, 94% of moose moved 50 yards when disturbed by snowmobiles.”12
Researchers have also noted that dogs frequently illicit large response from wildlife, 13 and Researchers have specifically concluded that elk move away from hunters without regard to the number of roads in the area, which has been summarized as:  
“After eliminating the effects of primary and secondary roads, elk were farther from primitive roads than random points within the study area for all 10-day intervals except 1-10 October (Table 2). Elk were farther from secondary roads through the period of 1-10 October after which elk dispersion patterns were indistinct relative to secondary roads. Elk locations relative to primary roads were similar to those for primitive roads in that elk were increasingly closer to primary roads during the 10-day intervals from 22 August to 10 October. After 11 October, the average distance of elk to primary roads increased through 30 November.” 14
These are issues and impacts  that would be significantly expanded with the expansion of routes into previously undeveloped areas, where wildlife is currently able to retreat into when usage of existing routes is encountered.  These retreat areas simply not available with the expanded routes, making the management question to be resolved one of identifiable impacts to the species from the loss of retreat areas rather than an improvement of habitat.
Another issue where analysis of impacts is simply faulty is with weeds and invasive species.  The EA asserts:
“Approximately 17 miles of routes pass through low stature sagebrush and other vegetation which would lead to greater levels of vegetation impact, as discussed above. However, this is less than the No Action Alternative. None of the routes in the Proposed Action pass through areas of riparian vegetation. Approximately 3 acres of vegetation would be disturbed by the construction of travel management support facilities.”15
This analysis simply lacks any factual basis and relationship to the scope of the proposal.  The Proposal provides for an extensive new trail system in areas that are currently undeveloped. 

Weeds and invasive species will be brought into areas and habitats that have been isolated previously. This will cause impacts that must be addressed.  Monitoring and management of any outbreaks of invasive species will be problematic due the failure to provide funding for long term management.  Again these are issues that the OHV Good Management crew  currently in place on the UFO could easily address if this was a multiple use trail network.   That maintenance and funding  is illegal under the preferred alternative. 

Another failure of analysis of impacts that result from management changes in the preferred alternatives involves the management of critical winter range for wildlife. These areas are consistently closed to usage.  Rather than apply these management standards the EA proposes to allow foot and horse traffic as follows: 

“Seasonal Closures – All designated routes in the Norwood-Burn Canyon Area would be closed to motorized and mechanized travel from December 1 to April 30 to prevent disturbance to wintering big game. …. Foot and horse travel would be allowed.”16

There is simply no scientific basis for allowing foot and horse usage of the area during winter range times.  These usages are repeatedly identified as usages that acheive the highest and longest levels of response from wildlife.  Allowing these usages while excluding others will generate a minimal benefit to the species that are relying on the area as winter range.   Again the Organizations assert meaningful analysis of this standard must be undertaken to develop a plan for the usage of the area. 


The Organizations vigorously support the development of additional multiple use single track trails in the planning area as reflected in Alternative 2 of the EA.  These trails would help address the void of motorized single track riding opportunities that currently exists in the State of Colorado and more specifically in the areas surrounding the proposal. The Organizations believe that this proposal would provide a significant resources for all users of trail network as multiple use trail opportunities are very limited in the proposal area.

The Organizations are vigorously opposed to the preferred alternative that is in the EA as this will directly limit the funding that is available and directly impact the ability to actually implement any of the rather extensive mitigation tools, such as parking, maps, kiosks and other resources that are identified as necessary under both current management and the preferred alternative.

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 email is 

Scott Jones, Esq.
COHVCO/TPA authorized representative
D.E. Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

CC: Colorado State Parks Trails Program

1 BLM, Uncompaghre Field Office Burn Canyon scoping letter dated April 3, 2012.

2 See, BLM Uncompaghre FO, draft EA on Norwood-Burn Canyon Comprehensive Travel Management Plan; April 2014 at pg 13.   This document is hereinafter referred to as the EA. 

4 See, Government Accountability Office report to Congressional Requestors GAO-13-618; Forest Service Trails- Long and Short term improvements could reduce maintenance backlog and enhance system sustainability; June 2013 at pg.

5 See, EA at pg 29.

6 EA at pg 31.

7 EA at pg 2.

8 EA at pg 9. 
9 See, EA at pg 8. 

10 San Juan Forest – Resource Management Plan

11 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. 

12 See, Rudd, L. T., and L. L. Irwin. 1985. Wintering moose vs. oil/gas activity in western Wyoming. Alces 21:279-298.

13 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..  

14 Rumble, Mark A; Benkobi, Lahkdar; Gamo, Scott R; 2005. Elk Responses to Humans in a Densely Roaded Area; Intermountain Journal of Sciences. 11(1-2); 10-24 @ pg 17-18.

15 EA at pg 34.

16  EA at pg 14. 





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