Archive | January, 2015

COHVCO Letter to Dolores Ranger District


January 30, 2015

Derek Padilla
District Ranger 29211 Hwy 184
Dolores, CO 81323

RE: Dolores Ranger District Travel Management

Dear Mr. Padilla:

Please accept this correspondence as the comments of the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition with regard to the proposed action for Travel Management for Rico/West Delores Roads and Trails (“The Proposal”). The comments are submitted in conjunction with the comments from the San Juan Trail Riders, Public Access Preservation Association and Trail Preservation Alliance. The specific portions of those comments have not been reproduced here simply to avoid repetition but are fully supported by COHVCO. COHVCO vigorously support the route specific comments submitted by the San Juan Trail Riders and Public Access Preservation Association relative to the Proposal. COHVCO vigorously support any new trails that are to be opened in the Proposal, such as the loop adjacent to FR533. It is COHVCO’s position that the public lands within the Proposal area provide recreational opportunities that highly valued by the single track motorized community due to large scale closures of single track trails in areas outside the planning area.

COHVCO is concerned that after a review of the management history of the Proposal area that the area has been repeatedly analyzed for a variety of management changes, and these management analysis have repeatedly declined to expand quiet usage of the area. These recent management reviews include determinations that the area was not suitable for upper tier roadless area designation, was not eligible for management for Wilderness Characteristics and was suitable for motorized recreation. COHVCO is very concerned that even with the clarity of recent landscape management analysis that the Proposal provides for a significant decline in motorized recreational opportunities. While COHVCO appreciates new routes in the Proposal, these are simply not sufficient to offset lost routes.

COHVCO is vigorously opposed to the closure of any trails as part of the Proposal. It is COHVCO’s position that many of the closures are not based on best available science and would note that in our opinion the Proposal consistently places non-motorized interests ahead of multiple use interests based on a mere assertion of conflict regarding the particular route. It is COHVCO’s position that often conflicts between users are overstated in the planning area, and are the result of opposition to multiple use management requirements for the area rather than actual conflict between users. COHVCO and their partners have a long history of partnering with the USFS to address trail related concerns in the area and are aware that often many of the previous opposition to trails has been found to be completely without merit after further investigation. COHVCO vigorously asserts that any closures to be adopted under the Proposal must be vigorously reviewed to insure the closures are addressing actual conflicts and the management proposed will actually mitigate the management issue in a manner consistent with the extensive recent analysis of the Proposal area.

Prior to addressing our specific concerns on the Proposal, a brief summary of COHVCO will add context to our comments. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization of approximately 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.

1a. A complete assessment of landscape level changes to all recreational opportunities must be made in the Proposal to address recent SJNF Forest Plan determinations and other recent inventories.

COHVCO believes a brief review of broader landscape level planning changes in the San Juan NF Resource Management Plan(“RMP”) is necessary in order to establish context and structure for many of the site specific comments both in this document and related comments. It is COHVCO position that there are significant new areas for many uses that traditionally conflict with motorized usage, the RMP provides significant additional nonmotorized areas expanding the extensive opportunities for these activities that already exist. These nonmotorized opportunities simply are not being utilized for reasons that are not clear to the Organizations. Proper methods for the utilization of these new opportunity areas simply must be addressed prior to determinations of the necessity of closures in the analysis areas. It is also the Organization position that the Proposal area has been repeatedly recently analyzed for possible expansion of quiet usage, both in the RMP and Colorado Roadless Rule analysis, and the Proposal area has been repeatedly found to be an area where expanded quiet usage was an unsuitable usage of the area.

The USFS planning rule clearly establishes that these broader level opportunities must be included in any localized planning determinations. Section 219.6 of the new planning rule specifically states as follows:

“219.6 Assessments. Assessments may range from narrow in scope to comprehensive, depending on the issue or set of issues to be evaluated, and should consider relevant ecological, economic, and social conditions, trends, and sustainability within the context of the broader landscape.”

It is COHVCO’s position that quiet use recreational users already have exceptional recreational opportunities in the SJNF, such as the Weminuche Wilderness which is the single largest Wilderness area in the State of Colorado and is a reasonable distance from the planning area. Additionally, the Lizard Head Wilderness Area is almost immediately adjacent to the Proposal area. USFS research indicates that visitation to these areas is exceptionally low as only 4% of all SJNF visits are to a Wilderness area, while a significant portion of the SJNF is designated Wilderness. These are areas that must be looked at as primary opportunity areas for the expansion of quiet use recreation and solitude as these factors were the basis for the Congressional designations of these areas.

The historical opportunities for quiet use recreation within the broader landscape are significant and were significantly expanded in the recently adopted San Juan NF Forest Plan which provides for an 83% increase in areas that are unsuitable for motorized recreational usage. The RMP provided the following breakdown of these changes:


The RMP graphically reflects the suitability of the Proposal area for motorized usage as follows:


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The RMP also provides specific detail into the process for analysis and review of routes in areas that continued to be identified as suitable for motorized recreation. The RMP clearly states that the treatment of roads in trails in areas that are suitable as follows:

“The existing road and trail networks in suitable areas on NFS lands generally meet current and anticipated future transportation needs, so unmanaged routes in these areas generally would be prioritized for decommissioning.”3

It is COHVCO’s position that the RMP has created a presumption of continued usage of routes in suitable areas, in a manner similar to the presumption that any new routes would not be adopted. It is COHVCO’s position the presumption weighs heavily in favor of maintaining existing trails and heightens the burden that must be met in order to close any route.

COHVCO agrees with the Proposal that the relevant portions of the RMP provides the following localized management standards for usage of multiple use routes in the planning area:

“A variety of looped single- and two-track opportunities for motorized and mechanized recreation exist at a range of elevations, offering different levels of difficulty. Motorized and mechanized opportunities are balanced with opportunities for foot and horseback access to areas of relative quiet and solitude at a variety of elevations. Much of the primary access to these areas is shared, based on mutual courtesy and on a strong stewardship ethic that is primarily self-enforced and maintained by individuals and user groups.”4

COHVCO vigorously asserts that the RMP specifically recognizes that the trails in the Proposal area are to be multiple use and are only used to access areas of solitude. These routes simply are not designed or intended to provide solitude or a quiet recreational experience by themselves, but may provide primary access to other routes that provide these opportunities. It is COHVCO’s position that many of the routes that are to be closed are not just the primary access, but are the only access to these areas.

COHVCO vigorously asserts the Proposal seeks to expand a type of usage in the Proposal area that the RMP specifically analyzed and found was not a suitable usage of the area. Mainly, quiet recreational activity and expanded areas of solitude. Significant portion of the planning area was reviewed for Wilderness Characteristics under alternative C as part of the RMP development and found unsuitable for such activity in the final RMP. 5 If the Proposal area had been found suitable for Wilderness Characteristics, COHVCO believes closure of routes would have been more appropriate management in site specific analysis. It is COHVCO position that determinations of unsuitability of the area for expanded non-motorized opportunities weighs heavily against expanding quiet usage opportunities as the Proposal area has been found unsuitable for such activity. As previously noted trail access to the Proposal area was already identified for continued current levels of multiple usage in the RMP, making closure of these routes based on asserted user conflict concerns based on impaired quiet usage of these routes a violation of the RMP standards. It is COHVCO’s position that closing routes in a suitable area for motorized recreation should be as difficult as opening routes in a Wilderness Characteristics area. COHVCO again notes that Alternative C of the RMP specifically reviewed the planning area and possible expansion of quiet usages and determined that this was not proper usage of the area. These determinations must be honored.

After implementation of the RMP at the landscape level, almost 50% of the SJNF has been found unsuitable for motorized recreation and there is a presumption that any routes in areas that are unsuitable for motorized recreation will be removed. The RMP provides a similar presumption in favor of maintaining multiple use access in areas suitable for motorized usage. The Proposal area was one of few areas where there was not a significant expansion of areas found unsuitable for motorized recreation, making this an important area to the multiple use community. COHVCO respectfully asserts that any claim of conflict or other necessity of closing routes in an area that has been found suitable must be exceptionally well documented and address a valid management issue related to the particular route being analyzed pursuant to relevant management standards. COHVCO submits that generalized non-specific concerns, such as those referenced on several routes in the Proposal area are simply insufficient to close routes in areas recently found suitable for multiple use management.

1b. The Proposal area was recently inventoried and found unsuitable for upper tier roadless area designation as part of the Colorado Roadless Rule review.

In addition to the review of the Proposal area that was undertaken as part of the RMP for possible Wilderness Characteristics management and a review of the motorized suitability, significant portions of the Proposal area was also reviewed for possible designation as an upper tier roadless area under the Colorado Roadless Rule (“CRR”) proposal. Upper Tier Roadless management would have mandated management where quiet usage was the target. Again the analysis concluded that the Proposal area was not suitable for expanded quiet use recreation that is provided by an Upper Tier Roadless area and the Proposal area should be managed as a Roadless area where the existing roads are permitted to continue and multiple use trail development could be expanded. This determination is exceptionally relevant to the management of the Proposal area as motorized trails and routes are a characteristic of Colorado Roadless areas, but are not permitted in an Upper Tier Roadless area.

Colorado Roadless Rule specifically states usage of a CRR area is as follows:

Roadless Area Characteristics: Resources or features that are often present in and characterize Colorado Roadless Areas, including: (5) Primitive, semi-primitive nonmotorized, and semi-primitive motorized classes of dispersed recreation;6

While motorized usage of an upper tier area is not prohibited, there are more restrictions on motorized usage of these areas as recreational usage is directed towards quieter usage . Final version of Colorado Roadless area reflected upper tier and Colorado Roadless areas as follows:

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COHVCO submits the final boundary map above does an exceptional job of displaying the exceptional opportunities within the planning landscape for quiet usage. It is COHVCO’s position that this analysis again provides clear management guidance that must be governing the targeted usage of the area and route specific balancing of interests in the Proposal area.

The CRR again provides site specific analysis of the Proposal area and concludes that management for quiet usage of the area is not warranted due to existing levels of development. Given that the CRR concluded that the area is unsuitable for expanded solitude and the FRMP specifically found the area suitable for continued multiple use access in a manner similar to current levels, it is COHVCO’s position that these determinations provide no basis for the closure of routes based on conflicts with quiet usage expectations. COHVCO vigorously asserts that education of those going to the area as to the management history and significant opportunities for quiet usage at the landscape level are avenues that must be explored in mitigating conflict and that closure should only be pursued as the last avenue to address these issues.

2a. The entire proposal area is closed to multiple usage concerns conflicting with wildlife winter range but wildlife winter range only encompasses a small portion of the planning area.

COHVCO is opposed to the proposed blanket closure of all routes for wheeled travel in the Proposal area on the basis that this usage conflict with or degrades the quality of winter range for wildlife. COHVCO is aware the usage of a wheeled vehicle on a groomed snowmobile route can result in significant conflict between snowmobilers and wheeled OHV users, and do not oppose the closure of groomed routes to wheeled travel. However, COHVCO is vigorously opposed to seasonal closures of routes outside winter range in order to protect the quality of winter range when the quality of that winter range simply is not impacted by motorized usage. COHVCO is simply are unable to locate any viable relationship between multiple use routes outside winter range and improvement of the quality of winter range that might not be adjacent. COHVCO would also note that significant portions of the winter range are simply on private lands and beyond the scope of the planning proposal.

CPW data from relevant game management plans for Mule Deer indicates boundaries for the winter range and reproduction areas for wildlife that are used in the general planning area as follows:

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Elk Winter Range boundaries are now available from a wide range of sources to the general public. Third party contractors translate information from CPW regarding winter range areas into mapping for a wide range of applications and public usage. These boundaries of elk winter range are reflected as follows:


COHVCO is opposed to overly broad seasonal closures of routes in the Proposal area. as many wheeled users enjoy accessing trails that may be overall impassable in terms of travel from locations A to B, simply in order to use their vehicles in attempts to cross snowdrifts that might be blocking the routes at some point early or late in the riding seasons. These are unique early and late season riding experiences that are highly valued by multiple use recreational activities. COHVCO vigorously asserts that users opportunity to attempt to cross snowdrifts should only be lost based on best available science. COHVCO would also note that many hunters also use these routes to access hunting opportunities that CPW is now providing for late season hunting, such as youth hunts and private land tags.

2b. Populations of game animals and hunter success in the Proposal area appear stable and above average for the state of Colorado.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife provides significant information regarding the success of hunters for a wide range of methods of hunting. CPW research indicates that hunting success in the Proposal area is significantly above statewide averages.

For Archery Season 2013
Unit 70 Hunters 712 – Success rate 21% – 5yr average 18%
Unit 71 Hunters 839 – Success rate 18% – 5yr average 13%

For Archery Season 2012
Unit 70 Hunters 597 – Success rate 20% – 5yr average 18%
Unit 71 Hunters 844 – Success rate 13% – 5yr average 13%

For Muzzle Loader Season 2013
Unit 70 Hunters 220 – Success rate 36% – 5 year average 20%
Unit 71 Hunters 304 – Success rate 16% – 5 year average 19%

For Muzzle Loader Season 2012
Unit 70 Hunters 240 – Success rate 29% – 5 year average 20%
Unit 71 Hunters 355 – Success rate 25% – 5 year average 19%

For all rifle seasons 2013
Unit 70 – Success average 31.25% – 5yr average 38.5% Unit 71 – Success average 18% – 5yr average 23.25%

For all rifle seasons 2012
Unit 70 – Success average 34.25% – 5yr average 38.5% Unit 71 – Success average 14% – 5 year average 23.25%

COHVCO vigorously asserts that failures of hunters to fill tags is simply does not support management changes as hunter success in the Proposal area has been and remains above statewide averages. COHVCO submit that this information provides no basis for management change but rather clearly shows that current levels of motorized recreation are not impacting wildlife population levels and there is no need to further restrict acces

3. Economic impacts to local communities of proposed changes in access must be addressed.

Pursuant to Forest Service regulations and NEPA, the economic impacts of any Proposal must be analyzed into the planning and decision making process. The negative impacts of the Proposal to surrounding communities must be addressed in the EA as the Proposal seeks to alter many existing heavily used multiple use routes for the benefit of smaller user groups. Risks to local economies from closures of these routes to multiple use recreational interests expands as non-motorized users spend approximately 25% of the average amounts spent by multiple use recreational users. It is COHVCO’s position that any small negative economic impacts to local communities will have a disproportionate impact on local communities that are overly reliant on recreational spending for support of the community.

COHVCO believes a brief summary of the standards that are applied by Courts reviewing agency NEPA analysis is relevant to this discussion as the courts have consistently directly applied the NEPA regulations to EA type review. Relevant court rulings have concluded:

“an EIS serves two functions. First, it ensures that agencies take a hard look at the environmental effects of proposed projects. Second, it ensures that relevant information regarding proposed projects is available to members of the public so that they may play a role in the decision making process. Robertson, 490 U.S. at 349, 109 S.Ct. at 1845. For an EIS to serve these functions, it is essential that the EIS not be based on misleading economic assumptions.”9

Prior to addressing more specific NEPA related concerns involved in the Proposal, COHVCO believes a brief summary of the inherent complexity of any economic analysis is warranted. The basic complexity of any economic determinations and the size of the calculations to be made are summarized by the Western Governors Associations’ recreational economic contributions study as follows:

“How is “economic impact” calculated? Many people might think of a consumer buying equipment – a tent, fishing pole, ATV, bicycle, boat, snowboard or rifle. However, the impact is much more complex than the manufacture and sale of gear and vehicles. Gas stations, restaurants, hotels, river guides and ski resorts benefit from outdoor recreation. In total, equipment and travel expenditures represent billions in direct sales that create jobs, income, tax revenues and other economic benefits.”10

The Western Governors’ Association released its Get Out West report in conjunction with its economic impact study of recreation on public lands in the Western United States which specifically identified that proper valuation is a significant management concern as follows:

“Several managers stated that one of the biggest challenges they face is “the undervaluation of outdoor recreation” relative to other land uses.”11

COHVCO and TPA have developed a high quality analysis of recreational spending from the motorized community. This research has concluded that OHV recreational usage provides $129 in annual revenue to southwestern Colorado and accounts for 1,564 jobs. A complete copy of the 2013 report is submitted with these comments. These are significant contributions that are the result of the high quality riding opportunities that the area has been providing for a long period of time. Any impacts to these significant contributions simply must be addressed in the Proposal.

The USFS has conducted extensive research into comparative spending profiles of various recreational users as part of the NVUM 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:

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It should also be noted that the Stynes and White work provided a itemized breakdown of most spending categories identified above to allow for more meaningful analysis and application of this information. These itemized breakdowns add further credibility to the Stynes and White works and provide a clear basis for a negative impact from closing motorized trails. These works also specifically provide examples of how these varying spending profiles are to be integrated into site specific plans.

4. The USFS has already determined that Travel Management closures are ineffective for addressing many of the issues sought to be managed in the Proposal

COHVCO believes that a complete analysis of the basis of user conflicts must be undertaken in order to insure that the problems sought to be mitigated by the Proposal are actually improved. COHVCO would note that previous attempts to mitigate impacts to resources and user conflicts undertaken in June of 2010 resulted in the USFS being sued by those that believed these determinations did not go far enough in protecting the type of recreation those user groups were seeking. This should be avoided and a primary tool in avoiding ineffective closures being applied, mainly educating users as to recreational opportunities in the landscape area, which have significantly increased, is not explored.

The US Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station has recently released extensive analysis of the effectiveness of travel management restrictions on addressing sensitive species related issues. These conclusions specifically found that travel management was not effective in addressing these issues and the species related concerns were often beyond the scope of travel management to address. 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.”13

COHVCO would be remiss in not noting the relationship that the Research Stations conclusion has with the management within this Proposal. Numerous references in the Proposal are made regarding possible user conflicts on trails and this being the basis for the removal of motorized usage of these routes. COHVCO vigorously asserts the scope and scale of these conflicts has been greatly over stated by those opposing motorized usage of the area.

COHVCO is concerned that closures of routes have been proposed without undertaking a second step in the analysis that is critically necessary to insure effectiveness of management decisions. This second level of analysis is needed to determine the basis of the conflict, as only a small portion of user conflict can be resolved with closure of the route and improperly based closures of routes can significantly increase conflicts.

COHVCO believes that after a brief summary of best available science into user conflict, the difference in the Proposal management and best available science on the issue will be clear. 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.” 14

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.”15

It is significant to note that Mr. Norling’s study, cited above, was specifically created to determine why 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 areas surrounding the yurts failed to distinguish why the conflict was occurring and this failure prevented the land managers from effectively resolving the conflict. It is COHVCO’s position that previous travel management decisions, such as the Forest Order from in 2007 did not reduce user conflicts, but rather resulted in the USFS being drawn into a court battle when the anti-access Organizations believed the closure Order did not go far enough. These issues can only be resolved with a high quality decisions and effective education of all users, which can be easily defended in the court action that will surely follow any decision relative to the management of the Proposal area.

COHVCO believes 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 Proposal 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. COHVCO believes that the RWD managers must learn from this failure and move forward with effective management rather than fall victim to the same mistakes again.

Similar sentiments to the studies cited above were recently again clearly identified as best available science in the Get Out West Report from the Western Governors Association. The Get Out West report specifically found:

“Good planning not only results in better recreation opportunities, it also helps address and avoid major management challenges – such as limited funding, changing recreation types, user conflicts, and degradation of the assets. Managers with the most successfully managed recreation assets emphasized that they planned early and often. They assessed their opportunities and constraints, prioritized their assets, and defined visions.”16

COHVCO believes our concerns regarding the Proposal and those expressed in the Western Governor’s Get Out West report virtually mirror each other. This concern must be addressed prior to finalization of the Proposal in order to avoid increases to many other management issues that were sought to be minimized with the creation of the Proposal.

At no point in the Proposal is there any mention of programs or resources to be developed that might be available to address socially based user conflicts. While COHVCO is aware that such a discussion is technically outside the scope of the Proposal, COHVCO believes that if a distinction between the different bases for user conflicts had been made in the planning process, this distinction would have warranted a brief discussion of methods for resolution of socially based conflicts through educational programs. The lack of an educational component in planning as a tool to be utilized in conjunction with travel management issues and trail closures, leads COHVCO to conclude that there was a finding at some point in the planning process to the effect that all user conflicts are personal in nature. This type of finding would be highly inconsistent with both COHVCO experiences with this issue and the related science.

COHVCO believes the proposed management, and associated levels of multiple use route closures, will result in increased user conflicts as recreational opportunities in the Proposal area will be lost and not replaced to address an issue that the closure simply cannot remedy. Contrary to the intent of the Proposal, mainly to minimize user conflicts, COHVCO believes the Proposal will result in greater conflict not less. As noted above, personal user conflicts only account for a small portion of total user conflicts. While these personal conflicts would be resolved, the overwhelming portion of user conflict results from a lack of social acceptance by certain users and these conflicts would only be resolved with education. COHVCO believes the distinct between personal and social user conflict must be addressed in the Proposal and the levels of closures reviewed to insure that the levels of closures are not going to result in increased user conflicts.

5. Motorized access has been specifically identified as a critical component of the hunting experience.

COHVCO has many members who are actively licensed hunters or fisherman and utilize a wide range of areas in these pursuits and fully utilize OHVs as part of their hunting experience, and often these visitors to the planning area are overlooked by groups allegedly advocating for hunting interests. COHVCO is also aware that many hunters are difficult to engage in the travel management process for a variety of reasons and often to not become aware of travel management proposals until access to areas is lost. This often results in high degrees of frustration to these users when they are informed that additional NEPA must be undertaken to alter any decisions that were recently implemented in compliance with NEPA. Throughout the

Proposal there are general allegations made that closures of motorized routes is being undertaken to improve hunting opportunities in the Proposal areas. The basis for these closures often is non-specific concerns from hunters, which is an insufficient basis for closure of multiple use routes, as this is a violation of relevant NEPA requirements and requirements that best available science be relied on in the planning process.

Recently, the National Shooting Sports Foundation in partnership with the USFWS and 20 different state wildlife agencies performed a national review of the issues that are impacting the hunting community and declining hunter participation rates in the US and what agencies can do to maintain hunter involvement in the wildlife management process. The NSSF research specifically concluded:

“Difficulty with access to lands for hunting has become not just a point of frustration, but a very real barrier to recruiting and retaining sportsmen. Indeed, access is the most important factor associated with hunting participation that is not a time-related or demographic factors in other words, the most important factor over which agencies and organizations can have an important influence….”17

The importance of hunting usage and access for funding of wildlife management activities, a significant issue that is directly related to hunting usage is overwhelming. This funding impact is summarized as follows:

“Hunters are avid conservationists who donate more money to wildlife conservation, per capita, than do non-hunters or the general population as a whole in the United States (Responsive Management/NSSF, 2008a). Hunting license fees and the excise taxes paid on sporting goods and ammunition fund state fish and wildlife agency activities and provide Federal Aid monies…. In fact, sportsmen, as a collective group, remain the single most important funding source for wildlife conservation efforts. Consequently, decreased interest and participation in hunting activities may have the unintended effect of reduced funding for important wildlife and habitat conservation efforts.”18

The importance of motorized access to the retention of hunters is immediately evident when the means of access for hunting activity are identified. Hunters overwhelmingly use motorized tools for accessing hunting areas as cars and trucks are used by 70% of hunters, and ATVs are used by 16% of hunters. By comparison, only 50% of hunters identified walking as their access method of choice. 19 The significance of closures on public lands is also specifically identified in this research, which identified that 56% of hunters specifically cited restrictions on motorized access and 54% identified closures of public lands by government agencies as significant issues for hunters. 20

The funding streams secondarily impacted by hunters and suitability decisions are specifically of concern as hunting participation has been declining significantly over the recent few years and removing factors that were contributing to the declining participation was the basis of the entire NSSF report. This report specifically concluded that a lack of access to hunting opportunity was the largest addressable issue for land managers to address and improve hunter retention. Significant closures to multiple use routes in the Proposal area in the manner proposed will not improve access for hunters, and will over the long term reduce funding available for wildlife management. Reducing access to areas which are suitable for multiple use will only compound the changes and impacts to these secondary management issues.

6. There is a long history of user conflicts in planning area, and the specific assertions of these concerns have consistently been found unwarranted upon further review.

COHVCO feels compelled to address the long history of alleged user conflicts that appear to be a major factor in the development of the Proposal. COHVCO believes this history is highly relevant to the underlying merit of any valid claims of conflict made and the possibility that any closures could resolve these concerns or avoid the Proposal being legally challenged by those opposed to multiple use access. It is COHVCOs position that site specific closures will never resolve many of these asserted conflicts and that any management efforts in the Proposal area have always found the USFS in court defending challenges to decisions. COHVCO vigorously assert this litigation is not the basis for additional closures, as such efforts will never be found sufficient to those opposed to multiple use. To effectively defend this litigation will require a well reasoned and defendable decision for the management of this area that both is legally defendable and works toward long term resolution of conflicts. It is COHVCOs position that much of this opposition is from a small, well financed group who is simply opposed to all motorized activity on public lands and does not reflect the true cross section of users of public lands in the planning area. COHVCO has consistently sought to partner with the USFS to develop reasonable decisions that reflect all users interests in the climate that has resulted from on going legal challenges.

COHVCO respectfully submits that the USFS must conduct basic review and confirmation of input from asserted groups to insure the basis and viability of the input as there appears to be basic flaws in the legal basis for this input. Many of our members attended the public meeting in Rico in January to address this proposal and were surprised to see a small vocal group from the Rico Alpine Society present at the meeting. The presence of the Rico Alpine Society (“RAS”) was surprising as RAS was disbanded by the Colorado Secretary of State in 2012 and then voluntarily disbanded in 2014.21 COHVCO believes the disbanding of RAS indicates several factors relevant to the Proposal, such as there not being a significant degree of user conflict in the area. COHVCO respectfully submits that if there was anything near the user conflict asserted by those opposed to multiple use access, this user conflict would be sufficient to support the continued existence of a volunteer non-profit organization to address these issues and would have weighed heavily against disbanding the RAS. COHVCO submits that if there were conflicts at the level asserted by those opposing multiple use recreation, disbanding an organization would have been completely unacceptable to its members. It is COHVCO position that any comments from RAS must be viewed with this Organizational history in mind.

COHVCO is also aware of questions from our members regarding possible input from the Town of Rico seeking a non-motorized buffer around the Town of Rico. Several local businesses and members in the Town of Rico are concerned regarding the lack of public input in such a position. COHVCO is aware that the town maintains a non-binding consulting agreement/MOU with the USFS. COHVCO is concerned that a non-motorized buffer on USFS lands directly conflicts with the newly adopted RMP for the area. COHVCO would note that such a non- motorized buffer area would conflict with the Rico Regional management plan which was developed with significant public input, which provides as follows:

“Trails Goal C: Establish and Maintain a Regional Trail system for a broad range of outdoor recreational activities…. The Rico Regional Master Plan depicts four separate general trail designations, including: (1) motorized recreation on existing mining roads and Forest Service jeep roads, (2) non-motorized wide trails on existing historic mining roads, (3) narrow single track trails that exist and/or are recognized by the U.S. Forest Service as part of their trail system, and (4) future planned narrow single track trails.”22

The Rico regional development plan specifically states that Town lands should be relied on for the development of any buffer areas from usages on USFS lands that might be necessary on a site specific basis.

COHVCO is aware that there has been years of opposition to any USFS actions that might maintain or improve multiple use access of all types or mitigate site specific issues that may exist in the Proposal area. The Organizations do not believe the Proposal can effectively mitigate these issues, as all previous USFS efforts have been found insufficient and the basis of further opposition. This longstanding opposition has resulted in a significant number of onsite reviews, analysis and alteration of funding proposals and management plans. This onsite analysis has almost unanimously concluded that the input from those philosophically opposed to multiple use was without any merit. While there is a long history of this occurring, we do not believe a complete review of each issue is warranted. Rather a brief summary of the most recent review of the Calico Trail reconstruction grant exemplifies our concerns. The Calico trail reconstruction grant that was submitted to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife OHV grant committee in 2013. Opposition submitted to the Commission made many strong accusations of impacts from reconstruction of the Calico Trail and resulted in an onsite inspection of the area. Much of the opposition was based on the term of turnpike in relation to trail reconstruction, which was incorrectly asserted to be an attempt by the USFS to develop a freeway through public lands. Turnpiking of routes has a long history of effectively mitigating resource issues such as water runoff by hardening of trails and strengthening of trail shoulders. This onsite review found that these allegations were completely without merit and opposition to this project continued despite attempts to mitigate concerns raised in comments through the education of the non-motorized community.

COHVCO must also address the Rico Delores lawsuit brought by the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers even though this lawsuit is more extensively discussed in the TPA comments that are being submitted in conjunction with these comments. This lawsuit again uses broad and non- specific assertions of impacts to challenge most multiple use routes in any area possibly classified as a wildlife habitat areas, in a manner that is strikingly similar to the input received on many other proposals. This lawsuit was dismissed by the court on the merits when BCHA moved for an injunction as part of preliminary motions. COHVCO is aware that any court dismissing a lawsuit on the merits when a party is seeking an injunction is somewhat unusual, and always speaks volumes to the merit of the underlying claims in the action. In a somewhat frustrating turn of events many of the same routes that were unsuccessfully challenged in that lawsuit are now proposed to be closed in this travel plan. COHVCO doubt any efforts in the Proposal to mitigate user conflicts will speed any final resolution of opposition to multiple use access, however such a course of action fails to properly weigh the actions of COHVCO and TPA in intervening in the action in support and defense of the previous decisions made by the USFS.

7a. Winter/Fall Creek Trail

COHVCO is submitting this portion of the comments as a supplement to the site specific comments that are being submitted by the San Juan Trail Riders and PAPA. These comments are not submitted in a manner to provide an exhaustive catalog of all concerns regarding closures. The closure of the Winter/Fall Creek trail is based on it being difficult to maintain and possible conflicts of multiple use with an easement crossing an old mining claim that was allegedly provided for quiet use. This route provides a long and high quality single track riding experience in the planning area that is significantly valued by multiple use users. COHVCO completely understands that some routes are difficult and expensive to maintain. Often rerouting these trails can effectively reduce long term maintenance costs and funding for such actions can be obtained through grants provided by the CPW OHV grant program.

A review of Proposal also notes concerns regarding possible violation of an easement across a mining claim by the Winter Trail The Organizations have significant experience with easements granted to or purchased by the USFS, as often these rights are questioned by subsequent purchasers of lands the easements are crossing. It has been COHVCO’s experience that the USFS simply will not purchase or accept easements that require significant limitations on possible USFS usage of easements for the benefit of the public. Most easements obtained by the USFS are exceptionally deferential to USFS management and often the USFS pays a premium to the landowner for the broad scope of the easement provided. Given this general policy of the USFS, COHVCO must question any asserted limitations on the scope of the easement relied on for the Winter Trail as this interpretation directly conflicts with all other USFS actions regarding easements. COHVCO believes this easement must be specifically provided in the proposed EA to allow for public review of this document. COHVCO is opposed to any self-serving assertions from landowners regarding an implied limitation on access in an easement after the USFS has paid a premium for the broad management scope and public access that is normally obtained.

7b. Wildcat Canyon Trail

COHVCO is very concerned that the asserted basis for the closure of the Wildcat Canyon trail is a perceived conflict between motorized trail use and a grazing permitee. The Proposal reflects this issue as follows:

“Wildcat Trail currently allows motorcycle use on the upper half of the trail. This situation is confusing to riders and trail conditions along portions of this trail are not conducive to safe riding. In addition, successful distribution of cattle across the Tenderfoot Allotment depends on the grazing permittee’s ability to herd cattle to desired locations and hold them until ready to move to the next pasture. Motorcycle noise can affect the herds movements. Thus, the trails are a key part of the herding requirement in this allotment.”23

While there is limited research available specifically addressing the comparative impacts of a motorized trail vs a nonmotorized trail on grazing animals existing research on wildlife provides:

“The most common interactions reported in the literature that we reviewed between nonmotorized trails and focal wildlife species were displacement and avoidance, which altered habitat use, and disturbance at a specific site during a critical period. The interactions of the focal species and motorized or nonmotorized trails were quite similar.”24

COHVCO will note that 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.”25

Given that grazing animals are FAR more acclimated to human activity than wildlife, COHVCO submits that closures to minimize grazing animal activity would simply be ineffective and not based on best available science. COHVCO vigorously asserts that any other issues surrounding the Wildcat Canyon Trail can be resolved with educational materials.

7c. Ryman Creek

COHVCO respectfully asserts that alternatives for reroute of this important trail must be explored.

7d. Burnett Creek Trailhead

COHVCO would like the preferred alternative for the Proposal area to include possible development of the Burnett Creek Trailhead In the preferred Alternative of 2009 EA should be included in new proposal as intent was to avoid user conflicts.

8. Trail widths should permit all users to have high quality recreational experience.

COHVCO is concerned that the Proposal seeks to expand all OHV routes in the Proposal area to a width of 62 inches. The Proposal summarizes this change as follows:

“In the Rico-West Dolores area, all OHV trails are being proposed to be 62 inches wide to allow for use by side-by-side UTVs. This will apply to all OHV trails in this analysis area, including the Willow Divide OHV Trail.”26

COHVCO believes there is sufficient ATV usage in the Proposal areas to warrant a dedicated trail for ATV usage to be maintained. An ATV width trail provides a different and often better recreational experience to ATV users, which is often highly valued by ATV users as any ATV width routes are somewhat difficult to locate. While this standard does accommodate ATV usage, COHVCO believes there are sufficient routes in the Proposal area to provide quality recreational experiences to both ATV and UTV users.



COHVCO vigorously support any new trails that are to be opened in the Proposal, such as the loop adjacent to FR533. It is COHVCO’s position that the public lands within the Proposal area provide recreational opportunities that highly valued by the single track motorized community due to large scale closures of single track trails in areas outside the planning area.

COHVCO is concerned that after a review of the management history of the Proposal area that the area has been repeatedly analyzed for a variety of management changes, and these management analysis have repeatedly declined to expand quiet usage of the area. These recent management reviews include determinations that the area was not suitable for upper tier roadless area designation, was not eligible for management for Wilderness Characteristics and was suitable for motorized recreation. COHVCO is very concerned that even with the clarity of recent landscape management analysis that the Proposal provides for a significant decline in motorized recreational opportunities. While COHVCO appreciates new routes in the Proposal, these are simply not sufficient to offset lost routes. COHVCO is vigorously opposed to the closure of any trails as part of the Proposal. It is COHVCO’s position that many of the closures are not based on best available science.

Please feel free to contact Scott Jones, Esq. at 518-281-5810 if you should wish to discuss these matters further or if you should wish to have further information regarding these concerns.


Scott Jones, Esq.
Authorized Representative of COHVCO

1 See, USFS National Visitor Use Monitoring data; Round 3 at pg 9.

2 See, San Juan NF RMP (September 2013) Appendix V at map 21.

3 See, SJNF RMP FEIS (September 2013) at pg 382.

4 Proposal at

5 See, 2013 SJNF RMP FEIS Appendix V maps 65 & 66

6 See, Colorado Roadless Rule §294.41 – Federal Register Vol. 76, No. 73 / Friday, April 15, 2011

7 A complete version of the Colorado Roadless Rule Alternative 2/final map is available here. A comparison of Alternative 2 and Alternative 4 for possible upper tier designations is available here.

8 See, CPW Groundhog Mule Deer Herd Management plan D-24; March 2014 pg 10.

9 See, Hughes River Watershed Conservancy v. Glickman; (4th Circ 1996) 81 f3d 437 at pg 442; 42 ERC 1594, 26 Envtl. L. Rep 21276

10 See Western Governors Association report; A snapshot of the Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation; prepared

by Southwick and Associates; July 2012 at pg 1.

11 See, Western Governors Association; Get out West Report; Managing the Regions Recreational Assets; June 2012 at pg 3.

12 See; White and Stynes; Updated Spending Profiles for National Forest Recreation Visitors by Activity; Nov 2010 at pg 6. A complete copy of this document has also been provided for your reference with these comments.

13 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.

14 See, 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.

15 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.

16 See, Western Governor’s Association Get Out West Report 2012 at pg 5.

17 See, National Shooting Sports Foundation; 2011; Issues relate to hunting access in the United States: Final Report; Accessed December 4, 2013; at pg 7. (hereinafter referred to as “NSSF report”)

18 See, NSSF Report at pg 3-4.

19 See, NSSF report at pg 56.

20 See, NSSF report at pg 113.

21 COHVCO has attached a copy of the Colorado Secretary of State’s website report regarding the history of the RAS.

22 See, Town of Rico Regional Master Plan adopted August 18, 2004 at pg 28.

23 See, Proposed action at pg 19.

24 See, Gaines, Singleton, and Ross; Assessing the Cumulative Effects of Linear Recreation Routes on Wildlife Habitats on the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests ; pg iv.

25 See, US Park Service; White and Davis; Wildlife response to motorized recreation in the Yellowstone Park; 2005 Annual report; at pg 15.

26 See, Proposal at pg 6.

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Letter to Dolores Ranger District


January 1, 2015

Derek Padilla, District Ranger Dolores Ranger District
29211 Highway 184
Dolores, CO 81323
January 30, 2015

RE: Rico-West Dolores Roads and Trails Travel Management; Comments to Proposed Action

Dear Ranger Padilla and ID Team:

We submit the following comments regarding the Proposed Action, Travel Management for the Rico-West Dolores Roads and Trails, December, 2014 (the “PA”). We submit these comments on behalf of our clients the Trails Preservation Alliance (“TPA”), Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”), Public Access Preservation Association (“PAPA”), San Juan Trail Riders (“SJTR”), and the Blue Ribbon Coalition (“BRC”). We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments and to work wih the Forest Service to ensure that the public is afforded appropriate continuing motorized recreation and access opportunities in the Rico-West Dolores Area (“RWD”).

These comments are supplemental to, and independent of, any submitted separately by the above-named organizations, or any of their members. The agency shall independently evaluate and respond to all such comments. An effective response to such comments will be essential to the long-term success of travel management in the RWD. Please direct any correspondence regarding these comments to Paul Turcke via the above-listed contact information or pat@


We are disappointed by the PA. We have expended meaningful resources alongside the Forest Service defending against the unjustified and unnecessarily elaborate claims in Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Colorado Chapter v. U.S. Forest Service, Case No. 1l-CV- 3139 (D.Colo.) and Nos. 13-1216 & 14-1137 (10th Cir.) (the “CBHA litigation”). The singular plaintiff in that litigation does not represent a significant constituency of users in the RWD or beyond . Notably absent from that litigation has been an array of “first tier” environmental groups or legal counsel, as is frequently seen in cases of this nature that are a high priority to the “nonmotorized” user community. Rather, this is an aberrational lawsuit that has been aggressively, yet to this point unsuccessfully, advanced by an outlier group. We applaud the efforts of the Forest Service, and its legal counsel, in all aspects of the response to the CBHA litigation.

Despite the foregoing, the PA contains significant and unjustified concessions that cannot be viewed as anything other than capitulation to the plaintiffs in the CBHA litigation, or their closely-aligned special interests such as the for-profit, and world renown, operations of the Dunton Hot Springs LLC. The restrictions in the PA, such as seasonal closures for aggressively hunted ungulate populations, or nonmotorized buffers around the Town of Rico, stand as glaring reversals of prior agency determinations and/or closely parallel specific requests from anti­ motorized advocates. Whether intentional or not, the Forest Service sends the message through this PA that the agency will capitulate to litigation, and more aggressive litigation will prompt greater capitulation by the agency. We ask the agency to carefully reconsider this message.

There are lawsuits and then there are lawsuits. We are not so naYve as to ignore the fact that some lawsuits are well-conceived and well-executed, and raise substantial procedural/resource concerns while representing meaningful risk to orderly agency operations. Without downplaying the importance of its opportunities or resources, the RWD does not present such delicate challenges. The alleged bases for change, such as elk populations or claims of user conflict, are among “bottom of the barrel” tools in the bucket of anti-access advocates. The RWD effort is not driven by listed, or even sensitive, species concerns. Elk in the RWD are thriving, and if anything are hunted too successfully by too many humans. The RWD, San Juan Forest, and State of Colorado offer world-class opportunities for nonmotorized recreation and adventure. The RWD project is largely an exercise in social engineering, not management of resources facing meaningful risk.

Closely associated with the litigation is the fact that this effort follows from the agency’s self-imposed remand of the 2009 TMP. We interpret this remand, based on our own experience but more importantly on the agency’s representations in the CBHA litigation, as being driven by procedural concerns. Inother words, there is nothing that was substantially wrong with the on­ the-ground components of the 2009 decision, so much as the manner in which they were packaged.

Fortunately, this process is at its earliest stages. There is ample time to steer it back on course. It may provide procedural cover to include components of the PA within the range of alternatives, but it is essential that the Forest Service create an alternative that will modify or eliminate certain elements of the PA, and reinstate some of the well-conceived elements of the 2009 TMP. A well-designed process can maintain the few remaining, highly desirable motorized recreation opportunities in the RWD while highlighting, and enhancing, the RWD’s similarly desirable nonmotorized recreation opportunities. There is ample room for diverse recreation in the RWD.


This project addresses the multiple purposes of revisiting travel planning for the RWD following remand of the 2009 TMP and adoption of the 2013 Forest Plan, consistent with national policy articulated in the 2005 Travel Management Rule (“TMR”) (70 Fed. Reg. 68264 et seq., Nov. 9, 2005; 36 CFR Parts 212, 251, 261 and 295). It is important to note at the outset that the TMR is not a “closure” directive as portrayed by some preservationist special interests.

Then-Chief Dale Bosworth stated upon release of the TMR that “[1]and Managers will use the new rule to continue to work with motorized sports enthusiasts, conservations, state and local officials and others to provide responsible motorized recreational experiences in national forests and grasslands for the long run.” USDA Forest Service, News Releases, “USDA Releases Final Rule for Motorized Recreation in National Forests & Grasslands,” dated November 2, 2005. “A managed system of roads, trails and area designated for motor vehicle use will better protect natural and cultural resources, address use conflicts, and secure sustainable opportunities for public enjoyment of national forests and grasslands.” Travel Management Rule Final Communication Plan, November 2, 2005, p.5. In fact, “it is Forest Service Policy to provide to diversity of road and trail opportunities for experiencing a variety of environments and modes of travel consistent with the National Forest recreation role and land capability.” Forest Service Manual 2353.03(2); see also, 70 Fed. Reg. 68264 (“motor vehicles are a legitimate and appropriate way for people to enjoy their National Forests in the right places and with the proper management.”). The Forest Service should be planning for a managed system, and working with all groups, including OHV enthusiasts, in order to comply with not only the agency’s own directives and the Travel Management Rule, but the policies behind the Rule.

In summary, the TMR is designed to address the threat of “unmanaged recreation” and to put the agency in a position to be pro-active in addressing what is now a dominant use of the National Forest System. Properly understood, the TMR is not intended to reflect some broad agency policy against motorized travel, or to wipe the slate clean of appropriate access that has existed for decades within Forest System units. The TMR is not a closure direction, but a means for the agency to make improvements to better ensure sustainable travel networks on Forest Service lands.


There are several key elements within the PA, or issues implicated by it, that we wish to stress at the scoping phase. Again, the time to address and properly plan for these issues is now.

(1) The Seasonal Motorized Travel Closure is Excessive and Unjustified.

The Forest Service is proposing to restrict access on single-track motorcycle trails from September 9 through June 30, allowing motorcycle access only from July 1 to September 8. PA at 5. The alleged justifications for this closure are concerns expressed by “some hunters …that motor noise on the single track trails disturbs their hunting experience.” Id. Second, the agency claims the Forest Plan “emphasizes providing for elk production habitat during the time of year when elk are calving.” Id. There is not even a rational basis to defend these purported bases for the dramatic seasonal restrictions proposed.

Starting with the second justification, there is no rational basis to suggest that elk calving or other habitat needs are not amply met in the RWD. To now assert differently would have the Forest Service dramatically contradicting its sworn testimony in the CBHA litigation:

It is generally accepted big game require a minimum functional security area size of 250 acres. The spaces between the current designated road and trail system provide a total of 157,568 acres of security areas spread across the Rico-West area (the smallest is around 450 acres and the average size is around 5.000 acres). In my professional option the movement of big game populations for seasonal migration and the use of production and foraging areas is not restrained by the 14 [motorcycle] trails, based on the size of the land spaces in between that provide for security.

Declaration oflvan Messinger at 6, Docket No. 34-7, CBHA v. USFS, Case No. 11-CV-3139 (D.Colo.) (attached as Exhibit “A” hereto). Further, the PA fails to recognize or discuss the fact that concerns about elk habitat security focus on human disturbance, not solely motorized disturbance. Again, as Mr. Messinger testified, “[i]f motorcycle use was removed, the trails would continue to be used by hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers so there would still be a disturbance to wildlife from humans.” Id. at 7.

Our clients have carefully scrutinized the wildlife-based rationale for seasonal restrictions, including working with our wildlife biologist consultant, John Monarch. We incorporate Mr. Monarch’s comments by reference herein. In short, Mr. Monarch breaks the elk equation into several key elements. The first important element is that there is essentially no “problem” that needs fixing with RWD (or larger DAU 24) elk herds. Even if there was some issue, the USPS has not, and cannot, demonstrate that long-existing single-track motorcycle riding is a causative factor that can be rationally singled out for restrictions. We ask the Forest Service to carefully review the points made by Mr. Monarch and consider whether it will serve the resource, the user community, or the agencies well to continue on the rationale outlined in the PA.

The concerns about ill-defined concerns from “some hunters” are an even flimsier justification for closing these trails for nearly ten months of the year. CPW manages elk hunting with a decided emphasis on maximizing hunter opportunity, and perhaps not coincidentally, hunting-derived revenue. The RWD game management units are not controlled hunting units and are not managed for low tag numbers and the related relative solitude and “high quality” hunting experience. Elk hunters in the RWD, like much of Colorado, should expect to encounter numerous other hunters, many of whom will be employing a motorized means of conveyance, which may often display registration from outside the State of Colorado. For the Forest Service to claim it is responding to a need to create “higher quality” elk hunting experiences in the RWD by instituting motorized closures is well outside the range of credible agency behavior that we see in travel planning.

It is essential that the Forest Service immediately rethink the PA’s emphasis and configuration of seasonal restrictions. There is no defensible justification for these restrictions, and our clients will oppose them through any all available procedures.

(2) It is Inappropriate to Create a non-motorized Buffer around the Town of Rico.

The PA reflects an apparent Forest Service determination that the Town of Rico has requested a 3 mile “motor free” zone around its borders. We question whether the Town has properly formalized this request, and if so it is at the urging of special interests like the Rico Alpine Society or business owners hoping to expand or create their own markets catering to non-motorized devotees.

Our clients have attempted to create and maintain a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship with both residents and “officials” in the Town of Rico. We are not aware that the Town has conducted a meaningful public process to formulate a position on the PA or RWD planning. To the extent there is some suggestion of such an effort, it predates the 2009 TMP and is of questionable present validity.

We can appreciate that backcountry communities in Colorado desire a diversity of recreational experiences, and that this includes meaningful opportunities for non-motorized recreation, including both short loops or “day trips” as well as “staging” or access corridors for more extended backcountry experiences. However, these opportunities do not necessitate elimination of motorized access. The Forest Service should carefully determine the array of Rico routes that can support a robust and diverse transportation network and recreation experience, including motorized access/recreation.

(3) Subjective User Conflict is Not a Defensible Basis for Motorized Closures.

There is some indication the Forest Service is relying on subjective “user conflict” to justify certain trail closures. There is no basis in logic or the law to do this. Our organizations have spent decades fighting this issue, and we will do so here. “User conflict” is intentionally manufactured by anti-access advocates. The RWD generally contains well designed and long traveled trails that do not have public safety or other true conflicts between uses. The entire RWD is “open” to non-motorized travel, there is a simple answer for those who wish to avoid motorized traffic – stay away from the handful of motorized trails.

While anti-access forces still attempt to recirculate a handful of long-ago rulings on this topic, the fact is that “user conflict” claims have been recently and forcefully rejected by the courts. In Wild Wilderness v. Allen, 12 F.Supp .3d 1309, 1330 (D.Or. 2014), the court found that “tradeoffs between motorized and non-motorized users have already occurred and will continue in the future. The record demonstrates that the Forest Service is continuing a long, inclusive process to manage winter recreation use on the Cascade Lakes Highway.” The court’s decision may be viewed at:

A more recent decision in the 10th Circuit upheld the Forest Service designation of long­ existing motorized access along the Albany Trail against preservationist claims of user conflict. Biodiversity Conservation Alliance v. U.S. Forest Service, 765 F.3d 1264, 1275 (10th Cir. 2014). This motorized designation was upheld, even where the Albany Trail traverses an Inventoried Roadless Area which anti-access advocates regularly seek to imbue with quasi-Wilderness status.

We urge the Forest Service to understand the full extent of its discretionary authority, and exercise that authority in focusing on a management approach in the same spirit as the Kapka Butte and Albany Trail projects.

(4) The Remaining RWD Motorized Trails Have Received Sustainable Motorized Travel for Decades, and Ample non-motorized Recreation Opportunities Abound.

The routes that remain for motorized access in the RWD have receive motorized access since the first motorized vehicles could first access them. Many others have been closed. The Forest Service featured this fact in defending the lawsuit, acknowledging that the currently designated motorized routes in the RWD “are generally 18 inches or less in width and have historically been open to shared uses of hiking, horse-back riding, mountain biking, and motorcycle use for decades.” Declaration of Mark W. Stiles at 10, Docket No. 34-2, CBHA v. USFS, Case No. 11-CV-3139 (D.Colo .)(attached as Exhibit “B” hereto).

The RWD and Colorado are a mecca for Wilderness and non-motorized recreation opportunity. If users are frustrated by the existence of continuing motorized use on currently designated routes in the RWD, it is because they have not become properly informed about the management prescriptions in the area and/or have formed unrealistic expectations centered on their own individual desires. The agency has taken numerous measures “to inform and educate trail users of what to expect on a shared-use trail” and agency staff “have heard from the public of many examples of courteous recreation behavior across all types of use…[and] have also heard of examples of poor share the trail behavior across all types of uses.” Declaration of Penelope K. Wu at 7, Docket No. 34-5, CBHA v. USFS, Case No. 11-CV-3139 (D.Colo.)(attached as Exhibit “C” hereto). Ms. Wu insightfully opined that negative impacts attributed to motorcycle noise are “in the ‘ear of the listener’ in terms of tolerance or acceptance of vehicle noise” and that “[n]oise is acceptable in an area managed for multiple uses including motorcycles and is typical of other motorized trails on the San Juan National Forest.” Id. at 8. On the National Forest System and our broader culture, we cannot and should not capitulate to the uninformed, subjective desires of a small minority of chronically dissatisfied individuals. If the Forest Service wishes to breed a culture of discontent, conflict and litigation, then the PA represents the perfect next step.

(5) The Agency Duty to “Minimize” Need Not Unduly Restrict Remaining Access.

It is both legally and pragmatically essential that the agency use its discretionary authority to formally establish a sustainable, yet functional, network of designated routes. It is likely that various preservationist and anti-access special interests will incant a litany of alleged legal violations designed to stymie adoption of or any meaningful network of vehicle routes in the project area. They are certainly entitled to voice their opinions, but the agency should carefully evaluate any such claims and realize they are often thinly veiled efforts to advance an agenda that includes significantly reducing, if not eliminating, recreational use of vehicles in the National Forest System. The agency is empowered to reject these anti-access positions through correct interpretation of the law, as reflected in various recent court decisions.

A favored line of recent attack has been through the “minimization criteria.” The minimization criteria have been around since 1972 and long received only passing interest, but have acquired teeth largely through recent litigation involving similar regulatory language addressing management of the National Forest System. See, 36 CFR § 212.55(b) (requiring agency to “consider effects…with the objective of minimizing” a variety of factors including damage to soil, watershed, vegetation and other forest resources; harassment of wildlife and significant disruption of wildlife habitats; conflicts between motor vehicle and other uses; and conflicts among different classes of motor vehicle uses). In particular, this renewed interest springs in large part from the decision by a U.S. Magistrate declaring invalid the Salmon Challis NF travel decision. This decision was issued in 2011, and is published as Idaho Conservation League v. Guzman, 766 F.Supp.2d 1056 (D.Idaho 2011). In short, that decision rejected the Forest Service effort to characterize the minimization criteria as providing broad guidance (“consider with objective of minimizing”) and interpreted the language as requiring the agency to show, in its NEPA analysis, how it applied the minimization factors in selecting from decision options for specific routes. There have been several more decisions that have followed similar reasoning, which have only come from federal district courts. The 9th Circuit has on three (3) occasions heard cases involving the OHV “minimization criteria” and has declined to follow the Guzman court’s reasoning in two of those cases, with the third still under advisement following argument on November 7, 2013.

The agency has broad discretion applying the minimization criteria and is certainly not obligated to restrict motorized access, particularly in response to the subjective complaints or other “evidence” provided by self-interested non-motorized use advocates. Several decisions reflect this important truth, most notably the two (2) 9th Circuit decisions on the topic, both issued in unpublished memorandum dispositions. See, The Pryors Coalition v. Weldon, 803 F.Supp.2d 1184 CD.Mont. 2011), aff’d , 551 Fed.Appx. 426 (9th Cir. 2014); The Wilderness Soc’y v. BLM , 822 F.Supp.2d 933, aff’d , 526 Fed.Appx. 790 (9th Cir. 2013). Relatedly, non-motorized recreationists have no inherent “right” to exclusive use, or any use, that exceeds or trumps those of other recreationists. See, Bicycle Trails Council of Marin v. Babbitt, 82 F.3d 1445 (9th Cir. 1994) (rejecting challenge to NPS management plan restrictions on bike access). The agency cannot be strong-armed into motorized use closures or restrictions , and a well-reasoned and documented balance affording reasonable opportunities to a spectrum of recreational uses will be upheld by the courts. Our clients were among the parties to the Pryors case, and a copy of the Circuit’s decision can be viewed at:

The fact is that “minimization” has not recently been a productive line of argument for anti-access advocates, and for several years the courts have been ruling in favor of the Forest Service and other agencies on these issues. There are no recent litigation developments that should cause a different outcome in the RWD. Decades of Wilderness designation and closures have already “minimized” the impacts of motorized recreation in the RWD. The Forest Service should avoid capitulating to false cries for new closures based on a myopic interpretation of the minimization duty.


There are many route-specific elements of the PA that should be modified. This process is an excellent opportunity for the Forest Service to establish a well-designed, diverse road and trail system that can meet user needs while properly shaping their behavior long into the future. Our clients and their members will provide extensive and detailed input on these issues, and we will simply summarize some of their key observations.

(A) Specific Route Proposals in the PA Should be Modified.

The project area is subdivided into 9 different areas. The proposals are acceptable for some areas. The areas/routes that need changes are briefly described below:

Area 2 – Winter Trail 202, West Fall 640 and East Fall 646 should remain open in their current motorized designation. The Winter Trail reroute should be non-motorized, and an additional non-motorized trail should be constructed between this reroute and the Burro Ridge Trailhead. This offers a “motor free” experience and access to the Lizard Head Wilderness.

Area 3 – Spring Creek 627, Morrison 610, and Loading Pen 738 should be designated as motorized single-track.

Area 4 – Wildcat 207 should not be eliminated but rather extended southward to the railroad right of way. One or both sections of the Ryman Trail should be single-track motorized and connect Calico South 211 and Priest Gulch 645. Burnett Creek 641 should be designated as motorized single-track.

Area 5 – Sackrider 6 should remain a motorized section of the Calico 208 trail. Any non-motorized redesignation of Horse Creek 626 should be offset by addition of replacement motorized trail miles somewhere in the system.

Area 9 – The lower Bear Creek Trail 145 should not be non-motorized, but we would accept this redesignation if a bypass or suitable replacement motorized trail miles could be added.

(B) Certain Components of the 2009 TMP Should be Reinstated.

In addition to the specific routes described above, there are elements of the 2009 TMP that appear to have been unnecessarily or unwisely removed from the PA. Some of these are discussed in (A) above, but at the risk of redundancy we wish to identify the list of these 2009 TMP routes that appear to have been omitted from the PA.

Specifically, we are concerned about the following elements:

Priest Gulch Cut-Off
West Fall Creek
East Fall Creek
Sockrider section of Callico Trail
Spring Creek Extension to FS 692
Grindstone Loop
Ryman Creek
Burnett Creek and Trailhead


We sincerely hope the Forest Service does not carry forth the primary themes of the PA. Doing so will insure continuing dispute and litigation over the RWD trails. Instead, the Forest Service has the opportunity to await the final resolution of the CBHA litigation, to make modifications along the lines proposed by our clients, and to bring consistency and closure to RWD travel planning.


Download the PDF (above) to see the letter in it’s entirety including the Exhibits.

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OHV Tourism – A New Initiative of the TPA

Can OHV tourism save our trails from closure?…


TPA funded OHV Tourism education as an experiment in 2010. As we approach the end of 2014, it is now a critical strategic weapon used by the TPA in the ongoing battle to save OHV trails from closure.

OHV Tourism has a simple 3 part strategy:

  • OHV tourism is a proven money maker. (A minimum of $100 spent per day per OHV.)
  • Rural Colorado communities are in a recession but there are excellent OHV trails nearby.
  • TPA encourages rural Colorado to embrace OHV tourism to save their towns and our trails.

Rio Blanco was the first county to fully embrace the notion of OHV tourism and has been the role model for other communities across the state.

TPA consulted directly with Rio Blanco County and together developed this three part strategy:

  • Passed an ordinance allowing OHVs to use county roads for access to towns and trails.
  • Developed partnerships with city, county and federal agencies to endorse OHV tourism.
  • Attained funding to design, develop and market an extensive OHV trail system.

The Wagon Wheel Trail System is now fully operational in Rio Blanco County.  OHV enthusiasts can unload their off road vehicles anywhere in the county, ride the extensive trail network, ride into towns for gas,  groceries and lodging and never load their vehicle back on a trailer.  Rio Blanco has felt the positive economic impact and is now a strong advocate to keep OHV trails open in order to keep those OHV driven $100 bills flowing into their county.

As of 2014, TPA has consulted with multiple communities across Colorado who have “seen the light” and are developing OHV tourism strategies to help save their communities from economic collapse.  This is a list of other communities working with TPA to build their own OHV tourism strategies.

Clear Creek County – TPA is consulting with the county regarding development of a master plan including an OHV park and connector trails in the I70 corridor between Idaho Springs and Georgetown.
Teller County – Cripple Creek is engaged with TPA to determine how to best develop an OHV park and connect nearby communities to leverage OHV tourism.

Lake County – Passed an ordinance allowing OHV usage of county roads.  Designed developed and implemented an OHV park near Leadville.

San Juan County – Silverton has passed an ordinance allowing OHVs to travel county roads to the adjacent USFS trail system. TPA continues to consult with town officials on OHV tourism.

Hinsdale County – Lake City attained a temporary permit allowing unlicensed OHVs to access county roads.  Results were very successful and they are now working with TPA to develop an official OHV tourism strategy.

Mesa County – Passed an ordinace allowing OHV usage on county roads.  Collbran is now working with TPA  to develop an OHV tourism strategy.

Rio Grande County – Passed an ordinance allowing OHV usage on county roads in the town of South Fork.  Discussions continue with TPA to determine how to best deploy an OHV tourism strategy throughout the county.

All of these counties now clearly understand the positive economic impact of OHV tourism and they have become strong advocates to keep public lands open to save our trails…and their communities.

Rather than depend solely on OHV enthusiasts to fight to keep trails open, TPA is rallying rural Colorado as a “force multiplier” in the battle to keep public lands open for OHV travel.

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Ride with Respect 2014 Year in Review


Thanks to the many other organizations and individuals who donated their time and money, 2014 was a very productive year for Ride with Respect.

While most of our resources went to trail work, we also focused on a few education and advocacy projects to promote responsible recreation. This scope of work was made possible by the generosity of OHV riders as well as continued support from Grand County, Utah State Parks, the Colorado Trails Preservation Alliance, and the Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative. (I know, the attached picture has an orange bike, but the rider has since traded it in for one of those new, blue 250F’s.) If you have yet to contribute, there’s still time to send a tax-deductible check to Ride with Respect at 395 McGill Avenue in Moab, Utah 84532.

WHITE WASH – In the “Dubinky” riding area, RwR’s trail crew began with some finishing touches on last year’s projects. First, although vandals knocked down many fences that had kept riders on the designated route through Dead Cow and The Tubes, we were quick to build stronger fences with better explanations for restoring riparian areas. Second we opened the reroutes of three steep hills along Enduro Loop, and followed up to ensure that the new routes properly settle in. These projects were featured in a recent edition of Discover Moab.

Then we moved on to three more reroutes of Enduro Loop (see bottom picture in PDF), including one section that’s shared with ATV riders south of White Wash. In each case, the new routes are loose, but will develop into flowing trails that riders are likely to prefer. More so, they’ll make it a lot easier to defend access in future. In planning the reroutes, BLM did all the environmental clearances, and provided all the necessary supplies. This partnership creates a joint buy-in that ought to support Enduro Loop for generations.

LA SAL’S – In the mountains above Moab, we maintained the trail system at Upper Twomile, and installed a couple more cattle guards that were provided by SITLA. On USFS land, we installed several rolling dips to properly drain an ATV trail near Black Ridge (see top picture in PDF). This is one of three areas where RwR was able to borrow a mini dozer from Utah State Parks. The agency’s OHV program loaned the machine, transported it, and trained Dale Parriott and me to operate it. This is a good example of where your money goes when registering an OHV in Utah.

SOVEREIGN TRAIL – Our work on Sovereign Trail consisted mostly of maintenance (see middle picture in PDF) and planning for trail use and nearby camping with the Utah division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands. In December, a large boulder blocked the north end of Sovereign Singletrack. It could’ve been broken up and cleared out of the way, but above it are more boulders that could roll into the same spot. Fortunately several more contributors stepped up to route the trail away from the unstable area for good.

EDUCATION – One cost of Moab’s strong tourism industry is more traffic on the trails. On top of that, some machines have gotten larger, faster, and more user-friendly for people who are new to the backcountry. To foster safe and courteous use of trails, Tread Lightly produced customized posters of its Ride On Utah campaign. So far RwR has distributed a dozen of these posters to OHV-related businesses in Moab. In addition to riding on designated routes, they encourage reducing your speed, sound, and dust when passing fellow trail users to leave a good impression.

To guide the land managers in providing diverse recreation opportunities while conserving natural resources, a new book is being produced by the National OHV Conservation Council (NOHVCC). As one of several reviewers, I volunteered forty hours to provide feedback for the author. The final draft should establish a practical framework for land managers all over the world. In the meantime, NOHVCC helped produce a great educational video for OHV riders. Contact the Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association if you’d like to utilize this video in your state.

ADVOCACY – From 2012 you may recall that U.S. Congressman Rob Bishop turned to county governments for his Eastern Utah Public Lands Initiative (EUPLI). The local input would help craft a bill that could benefit all stakeholders. It has the potential to provide stability for various industries and conservation interests. Since RwR has invested over ten-thousand hours toward trail infrastructure on public lands, we have participated through Grand County in EUPLI. We began the year with trips including one to the state capital at the invitation of BlueRibbon Coalition.

Soon our attention returned to Grand County, where public meetings allowed residents to vent their frustrations about the current state of public lands: Moab Times article.

Fortunately the county followed up with more constructive meetings, and RwR participated in a working group on the Big Flat and Labyrinth Rims area, which includes White Wash. Ultimately the county council incorporated many interests into a win-win proposal. We hope that the new county council will honor this work when making recommendations to Rep. Bishop.

MOAB RENDEZVOUS – Next year there will be a new way to support RwR. From April 16th through the 19th, the Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders will host its first Moab Rendezvous event for any kind of motorcyclist who likes to get dirty:
The group is permitted to lead rides on trails from the wide-open Lockhart Basin to the tight and twisty Sovereign Singletrack. I will be there to assist the event hosts, as most of the proceeds will go directly to RwR. Fifty riders have already signed up, but there’s room for more. The Moab Rendezvous will surely be the most fun way to support trails and their surroundings.

Although there’s a lot to prepare for, winter forces us to slow down and reflect. I am grateful for the widespread support of RwR, which is a tremendous team effort. Here’s to health and happiness this holiday season.

Clif Koontz
Executive Director

Ride with Respect
395 McGill Avenue
Moab, UT 84532

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