Archive | February, 2018

Guidelines for Working with Land Managers – Power Tools

 Guidelines for Working with Land Managers – Power Tools

The Trails Preservation Alliance, using materials and references from the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) and the Blue Ribbon Coalition (BRC) has adopted the following 11 basic rules for dealing with land management agencies:

1: Utilize the Chain of Command

Recognize that there is a chain of command and respect it.
We will discuss politics later, but we can quickly make an enemy by needlessly bypassing one or more links in the chain of command. When dealing with an issue, always start at the lowest appropriate level. Don’t go to the District Ranger if you don’t like the way the Recreation Technician put up a trail sign before you have talked to the Recreation Technician. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to move up one link in the chain if you don’t get the response or answers you want at the lower level.

2: Be Willing to Compromise

Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
In many respects, the game of land use is a game of compromise. The very nature of compromise means that you will give up something to get something. In addition, the OHV community is not always politically active, which means that we often end up with less than you started with.

Tool Tip:
All too often, recreationists are put in the position of responding to travel plans developed by the land managers, or worse, plans submitted by an anti-OHV group. Think outside the parameters presented. Look for opportunities for adding routes, or respond by formulating your own travel plan. Never be afraid to ask for adequate quantity of trail-based motorized recreational experiences that will meet the present and future needs. Land managers rarely suggest the “maximum recreation” alternative, so if we want to ensure adequate opportunity you will need to suggest it on behalf of OHV interests.

3: Get Involved

Land Use Planning is a public involvement process, so you must be involved.
We need to be honest here. No national OHV advocacy group can save your roads and trails for you. The TPA, COHVCO, BRC and other state and national groups can offer much in the way of assistance, but if the local recreation community doesn’t get involved, nobody will. It takes time, it takes effort and it can be extremely frustrating at times. However, we are continually amazed at what a few dedicated people can accomplish.

Tool Tip:
One of the easiest ways to get involved is to simply get on the land manager’s mailing list. The Forest Service and most BLM offices issue a quarterly update of all their planning projects. This is often called the “Schedule of Proposed Actions” (or SOPA). This document lists all projects either ongoing or proposed in your area.

Tool Tip:
The president of your club can’t be responsible for everything and land use can take a lot of time. Find someone in your club who is interested in land use and make that person your Land Use Director. The Director reads the SOPA and reports to the club on what issues are going on and what actions are needed.

4: Knowledge is Power

The more you know about the process, the more you can make it work for you.
Anti-access groups know the process and have energetic, paid staff to ensure the process works for them. We are relatively new to the game and don’t have paid staff, so we need to work smarter and harder to turn our past losses into future wins.

Tool Tip:
Knowledge is power; therefore, learn everything you can about NEPA and the planning process. Granted, reading about NEPA isn’t exactly our preference for bedtime reading, but you need to learn it. Nearly every BLM field office and Forest Service district office has a NEPA Specialist. These folks know NEPA and are passionate when talking about it. Find out who your local NEPA staff person is and talk to him/her. They are often the person listed on the scoping letter as “send comments to:” They will help you understand the process. More importantly, they will learn who their “interested public” is and you will have the opportunity to explain your position and help them understand your activity. That’s right, they probably don’t pursue your form of recreation and don’t understand why you do. Knowledge is power. Educate them.

Tool Tip:
Stay up on current affairs at all levels – state, federal and local. Assign someone in your group to read the local newspaper and monitor the local TV and radio stations about issues related to OHV activity in your area. Disseminate this info to your members. Again, knowledge is power.

5: Put it in Writing

If it isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen.
This is one of the most important things for OHV access advocates, and it’s also one that folks too often forget to do. We must face the reality that the good old days of a handshake and a smile are gone.

Tool Tip:
Agency staffers transfer or retire. Verbal agreements can be forgotten. Agency goals and priorities change. Your input must be reduced to writing no matter how well you know agency personnel or how many meetings you attend. Likewise, any agency agreements, MOUs or commitments must be in writing.

Tool Tip:
Whenever a project comes up that you are interested in, start a project file and keep a record of everything related to this project: scoping letter, SOPA, all correspondence, notes from telephone conversations, newspaper articles, notes from public meetings, etc. Do this at the beginning of a project, not when things start going wrong.

6: Don’t Assume

Don’t assume that someone else will look out for your best interests.
Again, the days of the “good old boy” are gone. You may have a good friend in the local agency office, but that person is still an agency employee who must act and respond to agency policies and priorities. If you don’t have a friend in the local office, read and heed this tool tip.

Tool Tip:
Does your local district ranger, field manager, or recreation specialist know who you are and what your interests are? They won’t know what’s important to you unless you tell them. It’s not that hard – they’re real people. Pick up the phone and make an appointment to talk to them. Again, knowledge is power, so educate them.

7: Ask for Help

There is often a lack of knowledge and understanding about motorized recreation within the agencies.
There are a lot of resources available to land managers who lack specific motorized trail based management expertise. Have your local BLM staff person or Forest Service recreation staff contact the TPA, COHVCO or BRC and learn about the resources available to help them manage OHV use.

Tool Tip:
Take your local agency personnel out on a field trip so they can learn about you and our sport. It is of the utmost importance that they have fun and have a positive experience. We don’t want tired people and we don’t want to injure people, so keep it short and keep it easy. A good forum to consider is a mock poker run with a BBQ in the middle for a lunch break. This is easy to set up, it’s fun, and most agency personnel have no idea what a poker run is. Knowledge is power.

8: Speak Up

Attending a meeting is not the same as speaking at a meeting.
No one will know who you are or what your interests are if you just sit with your arms folded across your chest and listen to everyone else. We often hear, “I can wrench my bike, but I can’t get up and talk in front of other people. Let someone else do it.” Number one, there is no one else. Number two, we are mom and pop representing the grass roots of America. We don’t have to be smooth, we don’t have to be polished, and we don’t have to be eloquent. But we do have to remain calm and be polite and courteous. Most of us can do that, so let’s do it. Remember, if we’re not at the table, we’ll be on the menu.

9: Don’t Count on Historical Use

Historical use does not guarantee future use.
You can never assume that just because you’ve always done an activity that you’ll always be able to do that activity. We hear it all the time, “That road has been open for 50 years!” It’s sad to say, but it doesn’t matter. The land managers do not factor that into the equation. Today, each road or trail must “add something” to the transportation system. We can no longer rely on historical use as a reason to keep roads and trails open. Rather, we must tell the land manager “why” it should be open, and what features the road or trail has that makes it an enjoyable recreation experience.

10: External 3 P’s: Politics, Politics, Politics

District Rangers, Forest Supervisors, Field Managers, and District Managers are the decision makers and they operate in the political arena. Their job is to “serve” the public and to try to make “balanced” decisions, but politics go a long way in determining who is served and what is balanced. Clark Collins, Blue Ribbon Coalition Founder, has a famous story about this when he was told that he wasn’t going to win an issue because he was “politically insignificant.” At the time, that was true, but that statement drove Clark into action and through the exercise of the 3 P’s became politically significant and won. It boils down to our choice: we can whine and snivel, remain insignificant, and lose. Or, we can keep our eyes on the prize, take charge, become significant, and win.

Tool Tip:
WE MUST ENTER THE POLITICAL ARENA. When the staff at BRC was preparing our Member Handbook, Clark Collins, BRC’s Founder came into our office and closed the door behind him. (Whenever Clark Collins closes the door behind him, you know something important is about to be said.)
Collins told us:
“The single most important thing to do during a planning process is to establish a close working relationship with the local staff of your elected representatives. Those relationships can influence the process and will help you keep roads and trails open.”

Tool Tip:
There’s an old saying that politics makes strange bedfellows and it’s true. This is a game of politics. We may have philosophical differences that will never be resolved, but NEVER alienate anybody- even the wilderness advocate. You and the equestrian or you and the mountain biker may be working shoulder to shoulder on the next issue. Elected officials at all levels like to see compromise and consensus among competing interests. It makes their job easier and produces more favorable outcomes.

11: Internal 3 P’s: Patience, Persistence, Pressure

We don’t become politically significant overnight. We don’t always win. The land use battles never stop. There can be a high level of frustration, and these planning processes can take years to complete. But again, if we don’t have these 3 P’s, we’re not committed and we’re not in the game.

Tool Tip:
We all have a comfort zone where we feel warm, fuzzy, and safe, but at some point, we have to force ourselves out of that comfort zone and take action. How much are we willing to lose? Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Who else is going to do it? We must start now!


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Press Release: Outdoor Recreational Spending Dominated by Motorized Usage

Outdoor Recreational Spending Dominated by Motorized Usage – Conclusions of Dept. of Commerce Research

Contact: Scott Jones, Esq.
Telephone: 518-281-5810
Website &

Department of Commerce research commissioned by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel to determine the value of outdoor recreation as part of the Gross Domestic Product was released today.  The research identified that outdoor recreation accounted for 2% of the GDP or more than $371 Billion in spending annually and that this value was steadily increasing from 2012 to 2016.

This research further concluded that motorized spending was the dominant portion of spending for recreational activity, and almost exceeded all other spending sources combined. This research provides the following breakdown of the total recreational spending:Chart showing Gross Output for Selected Conventional Outdoor Recreation Activities - 2016

“COHVCO/TPA representatives were always aware of the strong relationship motorized recreation played in outdoor recreation but even we were surprised at the values established in the Department of Commerce Research.  This is welcome information and will be very helpful in undertaking land management decisions on public lands moving forward and confirmed what many in the industry had believed for many years” said Don Riggle, TPA President.   “Additionally, this information will be very helpful for communities that are targeting recreational activity to replace tax revenue that has been lost when other industries have moved out of the communities”

“COHVCO/TPA believes this is valuable information for the OHV community, members, and industry and expands on the conclusions of the 2014 COHVCO OHV Economic Contribution study for Colorado.   A formal study conducted by the Department of Commerce solidifies the economic significance of motorized recreation and the importance of keeping public and private lands open for access.” Said COHVCO Executive Director Gerald Abboud.

A complete version of the Department of Commerce research is available here:

# # #

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Scott Jones, Esq. at 518-281-5810 or email at


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Statewide Stewardship Initiative Letter of Concern

Statewide Stewardship Initiative Letter of Concern

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado
Att: Dean Winstanley & Jason Bertolacci
600 South Marion Parkway
Denver, CO 80209

Dear Dean and Jason;

We wanted to follow up with you after our phone call last month regarding the scope of the Statewide Stewardship initiative that VOC is currently conducting. The Organizations welcome the discussion on how to expand the effectiveness of Stewardship efforts in Colorado and believe this project is well timed in relation to the passage of the National Trails Stewardship Act and Sustainable Trails guidance by the USFS. We feel compelled to further address an issue that was only briefly addressed in the call and has been excluded from the scope of the questionnaire despite being well within the scope of the project. Mainly this issue is the importance of the voluntary self-tax that both the summer and winter motorized community of Colorado placed on itself more than 40 years ago. This program transformed the volunteer efforts of the motorized community and changed the traditional paradigm of 10% of volunteers doing 90% of the work to 100% of the users being able to support the 10% of volunteers doing the work. That is a fundamental change to how volunteer stewardship is performed.

The CPW grant program and dedicated funding that resulted from this voluntary self-tax have proven to be a cornerstone to upscaling the effectiveness of volunteers in the motorized community throughout the State and this program has become a national model for maintenance and support of public lands throughout the country. In Colorado, approximately 85% of trail mileage is located on federal public lands and this volunteer tax program has been integral to maintaining these opportunities in partnership with what has been consistently identified as one of the largest sources of volunteer labor in the state.

As a result of the voluntary motorized funding sources brought to bear decades ago, a hybrid program for volunteers has developed that matches the efforts of volunteers with trained and certified staff that are funded through the OHV program and related grants. This volunteer funding has resulted in the State of Colorado having stewardship resources that are unheard of nationally. The USFS Sustainable trails initiative highlighted the precedent-setting impacts that have resulted from the voluntary tax imposed by the motorized community as follows:

“A generation ago, nearly every ranger district had its own trail crew, but that is no longer the case. The Forest Service will overcome a significant reduction in field staff by moving from a model of “doing it all” to a model of shared stewardship in order to achieve mutual goals and receive shared benefits.”

As a result of these self-taxes that were voluntarily imposed by the motorized users more than 40 years ago, most Ranger Districts in Colorado have a well-equipped trail crew and many districts have two trail crews, one to address summer routes and one to address winter maintenance issues. These benefits are not merely government programs but the direct result of stewardship in the motorized community moving beyond merely relying on volunteer labor for projects. While these voluntary self-tax programs of the motorized community are game changers, they also fall well short of maintaining at levels necessary

When your website was investigated for more information on the Stewardship Initiative, the following goals and objectives were stated:

“Outdoor volunteerism and volunteer stewardship organizations provide an important source of support in maintaining recreational land use, rehabilitating areas damaged by floods and fire, educating the public about natural resources, and cultivating leaders who care for public lands, but barriers exist. The quality, scalability, and impact are hampered by lack of coordination, inconsistent work practices and trust gaps between organizations and land managers.

• Land managers lack the capacity to train and deploy volunteers for vital land stewardship projects. Ibid.

• Outdoor stewardship organizations lack resources and guidance to improve volunteer training and participation at the scale needed. Ibid.

Our Goals

1. Increase the quality and quantity of statewide stewardship projects;

2. Increase the collective impact of stewardship organizations by advancing collaborative projects at scale;

3. Increase the diversity of stewardship volunteers; and,

4. Engender a stewardship ethic in Colorado’s citizens.”

The Organizations would be remiss if the similarity of these goals and objectives and the reasons that the voluntary registration program was put in place more than 40 years ago were not highlighted. These programs are not merely “agency maintenance” but the result of more than 40 years of effort and resources addressing the most effective way to upscale the volunteer efforts on the ground. This grant program has also highlighted critical pinch points within CPW for stewardship projects and was the driving force behind passage of the Stewardship Organizational immunity legislation passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2014. (SB 17-100). This program has resulted in volunteers and grant funding now being inseparably intertwined for the benefit of on the ground projects.

The Organizations believe that a few examples of how the voluntary taxes have changed the nature of volunteer stewardship on the ground will be highly enlightening and understand how the voluntary winter registration program has increased the quantity and quality of stewardship projects for winter recreation. The winter grooming program that has resulted from voluntary tax funding to the CPW program provides a compelling example of how the registration program has exponentially upscaled the effects of volunteer labor and efforts. This program has resulted in 28 pieces of professional grooming equipment maintaining more than 3,300 miles of trail throughout the state annually. While this program is the sole source of winter maintenance, often the program reduces or stops operations far too early in a heavy snow season due to a lack of funding, despite programmatic funding, volunteer support and significant donations from local communities.

In addition to the assistance provided for the purchase and operation of grooming equipment, the coordination that resulted from the grant program also assisted in the pooling of insurance costs for the local clubs through the State Snowmobile Association. The trails that result from this program every year are the pinnacle of outdoor stewardship as every year there is nothing to start with, the trails are then groomed out of the snowfall and melt away again in the spring. This level of maintenance is simply beyond the scope of possibility for most Ranger Districts in the country that don’t have a basic trail crew. The following photograph directly illustrates the force multiplication of the efforts of a single volunteer as a result of the winter grooming program.

Snow plow

Clearly, any volunteer effort is more effective in creating and maintaining trails with the professional grooming equipment the program now makes available vs. dragging a bed spring behind a double track snowmobile, which was the level of sophistication achieved by volunteers without the voluntary registration program. Attempting to groom the amount of snow pictured above without equipment would be functionally impossible. If the grooming program lost volunteer support or grant program funding from the state, the program would have to be massively scaled back. There is simply no credible argument to be made that this level of winter maintenance could be supported by volunteer labor alone.

The significant headway in creating a stewardship ethic for the state of Colorado that has resulted from the voluntary registration program is directly evidenced by the “Stay the Trail” program. A typical trailside “Stay the Trail” display is below:

Stay the trail bike

The “Stay the Trail” program continues to receive national recognition for its education and ethics programs targeting the motorized trail users with efforts ranging from online databases of maps for riding areas throughout the state, development of ethics materials and directly supporting stewardship projects on the ground. As a result of the partnership of volunteers and funding each year STT staffs an average of 65 to 95 individual education/ outreach events. These events yield direct trail user contacts and are often conducted at popular trailheads on public lands. In 2017 over 11,000 direct user contacts were made at education and outreach events. Over 490 volunteer hours were accumulated in staffing these events. In addition to these educational opportunities, STT completes 10 to 15 individual stewardship projects on public lands. These projects range from clean-ups, maintenance, signage, infrastructure, and new construction benefiting public land users as well as agency land managers. In 2017 over 1,150 volunteer hours were accumulated in the completion of stewardship projects.

This program is another example of a hybrid program where volunteer support is leveraged with OHV grant funding resulting from the volunteer tax imposed more than 40 years ago. The OHV grant program provide funding for two full-time staff persons that develop and coordinate materials, identify locations and mobilize equipment for education of users around where to ride, when to ride and the general ethics of trail usage. Volunteers are then heavily relied on to support or advance the efforts of staff at locations and as a result far more locations can be staffed throughout the year.

Many of the motorized clubs have utilized the grant program to purchase small equipment, like chainsaw, trailers and rental of equipment. The effectiveness of volunteer labor is again leveraged by the fact that many summer orientated clubs own mechanized maintenance equipment, purchased from the competitive portion of the voluntary summer program, which often works in tandem with volunteer trail maintenance days. This mechanized equipment is simply far more effective at addressing heavier maintenance issues and can resolve larger maintenance issues in hours rather than the days it would take to address these situations with resources available to most volunteers.

Moving downed trees, clearing paths

As previously references the voluntary tax program has provided good management crews on most ranger districts throughout the state. These full-time seasonal crews are better trained to deal with ongoing maintenance issues or maintenance needs that are more programmatic in nature. Often these maintenance crews function at reduced costs when compared to volunteers due to the streamlined training and insurance requirements. These good management crews further leverage the value of equipment that has been purchased, either directly by the district or obtained at exceptionally low costs through partnerships with local clubs. In many locations the programmatic equipment will be used predominately by a good management crew. These maintenance crew’s benefits are further expanded by the fact they expand agency law enforcement capabilities as most crews have an Forest Protection Officer as part of the crew.

The voluntary tax program has also resulted in further benefits to all volunteers, as exemplified with the passage of SB17-100 by the Colorado Legislature last year. This piece of legislation significantly limited the possible liability to volunteers and organizations performing stewardship projects on public lands, after many clubs were no longer able to obtain cost-effective insurance for their maintenance operations. This legislation is the pinnacle of leveraging stewardship actions as with its passage every volunteer steward in the state became more effective simply due to lower insurance costs associated with their actions.

The Organizations would like to urge your consideration of the very different model of volunteer stewardship that has resulted from the voluntary passage of the OHV and snowmobile registration programs numerous decades ago as part of the VOC Stewardship efforts. Much of the experiences and transformation of motorized volunteer efforts have directly impacted many of the factors that are sought to be addressed in the study. Failing to learn from the 40 or more years of on the ground experiences in leveraging volunteer stewardship under a very different model than a purely providing labor for projects would be a tragically missed opportunity to leverage volunteers and address stewardship projects in the most effective manner moving forward.

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


Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

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

Matt Balazs
Stay the Trail
Chairman of Board



1 See, USDA Forest Service, National Strategy for a sustainable trail system; December 30, 2016 at pg. 3.

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Mad Rabbit Comments – Timberline Trailriders

Mad Rabbit Comments – Timberline Trailriders

Hahns Peak-Bears Ears Ranger District
Attn: Mad Rabbit Trails Project
925 Weiss Drive
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487

Sent via email to:

Dear Sir or Madam:

Timberline Trailriders, Inc. (“Timberline”) is a local not-for-profit corporation comprised over 100 individuals and families who enjoy motorcycle trail riding, especially on federal lands. We have supported and partnered with the Hahn’s Peak District (the “District”) for over 40 years. We were one of the first clubs to receive grants from the State Trails Committee motorized trail fund and were the only club to receive Good Manager status for the OHV Trail Crew grants. To date, over $1,500,000 has been provided to the District for use on motorized multiple use trails for maintenance and trail improvement projects.

Timberline elected to not formally object to the Buffalo Pass bicycle projects as District personnel indicated that was the end of specialized planning projects primarily for bicycle users. Seeing the Mad Rabbit proposal proved that representation to be false. We strongly oppose the Mad Rabbit proposal and request that it be withdrawn immediately.

On many occasions over the last 10-15 years Timberline has requested the District engage in a travel management review of the Rabbit Ears Pass area with the goal of providing diverse recreational opportunities to the public that could be easily accessed from US Highway 40. Timberline requested that the District consider utilizing the many miles of existing logging roads to provide four and two wheeled motorized trail opportunities. The hope was to reasonably use the forest along the highway corridor to take pressure off the primary motorized recreation area north of Hahn’s Peak. It also makes sense to utilize the several large parking areas initially provided for winter snowmobiling users.

While the District purview is generally west of the Continental Divide and north of U.S.Highway 40 it was requested that the travel management review include the portions of the Parks and Yampa District in the Rabbit Ears Pass area so a complete and thorough travel management plan could be reviewed and adopted. This is the course the District should pursue instead of pursuing the wish list of a single user group.

Among our concerns about this proposal are the following:

  1. The District must fully disclose the extent the City has purchased its way to the top of the District’s planning agenda. Rumor has it that the 2A funds are fully funding the lead District employee responsible for this proposal, Kent Foster. Shouldn’t the public be made aware of exactly what are the financial entanglements between the City and the District so we can judge whether the current District staff can fairly and reasonably consider planning proposals. Please shine the light of disclosure on all of the financial deals between the City and District and consider whether certain biased employees should cease involvement in planning projects due to this bias.
  2. The default starting point for any review of recreational trails must be true multiple use single track which is open to hikers, horses, bicycles, e-bicycles and motorcycles. When the District starts off with a proposal that restricts trail access to one user group it fails in its purpose to be a fair and equitable land manager.
  3. Lands along the highway 40 corridor are not remotely lands with wilderness characteristics or can argued to be eligible for the quiet use crowd. Truck traffic noises travel thousands of yards from the highway and should make motorized trails more than appropriate.
  4. For many years the old highway was open to jeeps and motorized uses. It was closed for unknown reasons. It would seem that this old right of way would make an appropriate trail for motorized users, keeping trail traffic off the highway. Again, the default starting point on any new trail discussions should be true multiple use, including motorized users.
  5. To propose a highly dense bicycle trail system goes against the preferred trail layout for our forest lands. Trails should be disbursed and consistent with the remoteness of the lands. The proposed trail system is reminiscent of the density of trails on Emerald Mountain where remoteness certainly never comes to mind.
  6. It seems that once again the bicycle crowd is pushing for a majority of trails to be “gravity” or coasting trails. This user group has proven to be very poor at sharing multiple use trails. They silently blast down trails surprising other users and wildlife with no warning. They generally show no courtesy to other users creating conflict where none should exist. The most logical management decision should make bicycle traffic uphill only on these trails.
  7. The trail density and predominance of gravity trails seems to resemble the Buffalo Pass planning. What the District completely ignores is the dramatic increase in car traffic to serve the bicycle users. Like river runners, gravity bikes shuttle cars to one end and when done, run cars up and down the access roads. Thus for each user, there will be many car trips up and down the access roads. And this requires large parking lots, something missing here.
  8. The trail density proposed necessitates complex and expensive trailhead facilities at the top and bottom of the trail system. This includes restrooms for visitors. And an income stream to pay for maintenance and restroom servicing. The City funds will soon expire and there is no fund that can reasonably be expected to cover these costs.
  9. Proposing a dense trail system in roadless areas and in areas where motorized use in prohibited under the Forest Plan where the District knows that a growing percentage of bicycle users are using some sort of electric assist is a fraud on the planning process. Any electric motor moves a bicycle to a motorized vehicle making their use limited to trails open to motorized vehicles. The District must show that it is enforcing the applicable rules. This should include appropriate signage and in the case of high density bicycle areas, such as proposed or as Buffalo Pass, the plans should include a daily patrol to enforce rules. This could easily cost over $100,000 per year, funds which are not available or proposed.
  10. Gravity users also tend to bring materials onto the Forest to create jumps and other amusement park like features. Clearing of these trespassers by a regular maintenance crew should be required and a funding stream provided
  11. Creating another bicycle “amusement park” should also address the ability of ambulanceor search and rescue to reasonable access the trail system for prompt extrication of injured riders. This does not seem to be addressed.
  12. Our sick and dying forest results in trees regularly falling all year long. To maintain a safe and reasonable trail system, the proponents should provide adequate funding for maintenance. Motorized users have a proven track record of funding maintenance on motorized trails, while the bicycle and other non- motorized users have not. The answer is to limit new trails to those open to motorized use and thereby the motorized trail crews.
  13. A high density gravity oriented trail system requires large parking areas, restrooms, patrols and the prohibition of other users traditionally allowed on bicycle trails. It seems that the gravity already have such an area and it’s in place and operating – The Steamboat Ski Area. Gravity use should be limited there and not encroach on other portions of the Forest.
  14. Again, a highly dense trail system for primarily bicycles will result in the clearing out of wildlife in the area. Bicycles are one of the most frightening things to wildlife based primarily on their stealthy and rapid approach. A dense system will result in regular disruptions to wildlife as against a disbursed trail system which would only intermittently disturb wildlife.
  15. The proposal should also include seasonal closures to protect wildlife and provide hunters the historical access and success they traditionally have enjoyed.
  16. Given the growing popularity of winter mountain bike use, the proposal should also consider winter travel and as stated above consideration of ebikes on nonmotorized trails.
  17. Given that the District does not control planning in the Yampa and Parks Districts, the proposal is also fraudulent in implying trails south of US 40 or east of the continental divide will ever be approved.
  18. You claim your proposal incorporates suggestions submitted by users at the Charrette and otherwise. We attach what we submitted shortly after the Charrette held in 2014 and would ask why the bulk of our suggestions for the Rabbit Ears Pass area were ignored?
  19. We incorporate by reference the comments jointly submitted by the Trails Preservation Alliance, Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Association and the Colorado Snowmobile Association.

Please withdraw this poorly thought out and biased proposal and after reasonable diligence proceed with a travel management study along both sides of the U.S. Highway 40 corridor on Rabbit Ears Pass. All Forest users deserve to have their chosen uses considered and incorporated in any District plan proposals. A paid for single user proposal is an affront to non-biased land use planning.


Timberline Trailriders, Inc.
Robert H. Stickler, President

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Future Generations Act

 Future Generations Act

Senate Finance Committee
200 East Colfax
Denver, CO 80203
Re: Future Generations Act  SB18-143

Dear Committee Members:

The above Organizations are contacting your Offices’ to voice our Organizations vigorous support for the Future Generations Act (SB18-143). Prior to addressing the specific reasons for our vigorous support, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization of approximately 2,500 members seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

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

Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion. CSA currently has 2,500 members. CSA has also become the voice of organized snowmobiling seeking to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling through work with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators telling the truth about our sport.

Our Organizations vigorously support the Future Generations Act , as SB18-143 would:

  1. CPW is a recognized national leader in providing sustainable recreational opportunities both through the State Parks and grants to partners like the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management;
  2. CPW has a long partnership of working with our Organizations on a wide variety of issues and we value this collaborative spirit and believe it is a highly effective model for management moving forward;
  3. CPW is a recognized leader in wildlife management and research, which has proven invaluable in addressing recreational related issues such as the recent potential listing of the Greater Sage Grouse, and management of species such as the Canadian Lynx and Wolverine; and
  4. The success of these efforts has always rested on a strong financial foundation for CPW and the Future Generations Act would provide such a foundation moving forward as current funding is badly in need of expansion.

If you have questions please feel free to contact either Scott Jones, Esq. at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504. His phone is (518)281-5810 and his email is or Gerald Abboud at 13670 Cherry Way, Thornton CO 80602 and his email is

Respectfully Submitted,

Scott Jones, Esq.
TPA Representative; CSA President

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Gerald Abboud
COHVCO Executive Director and President

Continue Reading

Mad Rabbit Proposal

USFS Hahns Peak Bears Ears Ranger District
Att: Mad Rabbit Trails Project
925 Weiss Road
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487

Re: Mad Rabbit Proposal


Dear Mr. Foster;

Please accept this correspondence as the comments of the above referenced Organizations opposing the Mad Rabbit Trails Project, hereinafter referred to as “the Proposal”. The Organizations voicing support for Other Alternatives, mainly moving forward under the direction that was created after the trails charrette and working towards a master plan for the Steamboat Basin. The Organizations are frustrated to have to oppose both Alternative A and Alternative B for the project but our efforts to engage interested parties regarding our concerns around the projects throughout the Steamboat Springs basin since the passage of the lodging tax have simply never moved. We have provided extensive comments around City efforts, around the trails charrette and around the Buffalo Pass Trails project, which really have never significantly changed the direction of the Wishlist of trails that is currently driving discussions on the HPBE. The Organizations vigorously request that the consensus position arrived at in the charrette, mainly that the next step would be a masterplan for the Steamboat Area, be moved forward. The motorized community has stepped up with $100,000 in grant funding to facilitate this project and do date there has been no action on this Proposal.

The Organizations are aware that this trail proposal is part of a much larger proposal from the mountain bike community in Steamboat Springs, which has already been the basis of several public meetings and what has become an exploding conflict of users in the steamboat basin. The Organizations submitted extensive comments on this proposal in response to public meetings held by the USFS last August, which were heavily attended by a wide range of multiple users expressing concerns very similar to those in these comments and previous ones submitted in response to that meeting. These comments and concerns remain highly relevant to the Mad Rabbit Project, as there were many foundational flaws in the analysis of the landscape level analysis, which weigh heavily against single use trails in the Mad Rabbit project, such as the complete failure to address the ongoing need for basic maintenance of existing facilities. The Organizations are not aware of any timing limitations, other than with the motorized funding that is not moving, and as a result must assert that meaningfully planning these projects will not have anyone other than those seeking to move under an accelerated schedule. Creating new trails that simply cannot be maintained in the long run simply makes no sense to the Organizations and may put decades of effort and partnership at risk in the Steamboat basin.

Prior to addressing our specific concerns, a brief summary of each Organization is needed. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization advocating for the approximately 200,000 registered OSV and OHV vehicle users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

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

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

1. The Organizations collaborate with diverse interests throughout the state on trails projects.

 Prior to addressing the specifics of our concerns around the Proposal, the Organizations believe it is important to explain our history and background on working on tough issues with a diverse range of interests with public land managers throughout the state. Even in situations where other user groups have not become involved in discussions for reasons that remain unclear, the Organizations have strived to achieve benefits for all interests and users. A list of a few of the examples of our recent collaborative efforts include:

  1. SB 17-100- The Organizations spearheaded passage of this Legislation in 2017 that significantly reduced the liability for clubs performing stewardship actions on public lands in Colorado, while the legislation protected all users the only group that showed up and supported these efforts was the Nature Conservancy;
  2. CPW LEAN Event – This was almost a years’ worth of collaborative efforts from the Organizations with CPW, State Treasurers Office and numerous others regarding how to achieve more timely implementation of grants from the trails program and as a result of these efforts all grants are now available to the applicants almost 1 year earlier than before the LEAN event, while these efforts again benefitted all grant applicants there was no support from any other user groups;
  3. Tenderfoot Mountain Project on Dillon Ranger District– trail was constructed to benefit a wide range of interests including motorized and mechanized users with improved wildlife habitat in the area after years of collaborative meetings, this project remains ongoing but has extended more than 5 years;
  4. Bear Creek Trails Project on the Pikes Peak Ranger District – where an entire trail network was moved and rebuilt from scratch to address generically pure cutthroat trout habitat being impacted by the existing trail next work- this took more than 4 years;
  5. Hermosa Watershed Legislation outside Durango here first of its kind federal legislation resulted from years of collaboration of interests ranging from water, ranching, local government, snowmobile, summer motorized and mechanized and the Wilderness Society and this effort took almost a decade;
  6. Badger Flats Campground project on South Park Ranger District – the Organizations collaborated with the Wilderness Society, campers, local property owners and other interests to renovate a poor managed area into a regional trails hub and camping facility with an extensive multiple use trails network efforts here remain ongoing but have already covered more than 5 years;
  7. Bangs Canyon SMA outside Grand Junction – a collaborative effort spanning more than a decade on GJFO where again a diverse range of interests collaborated to develop a multiple use area that also improved wildlife habitat and protected cultural resources and this project has taken more than a decade;
  8. 667 Trails Projection Pikes Peak Ranger District– restoration of a heavily used trail network lost in Hayman Fire and then heavily impacted by flooding which took almost 20 years to complete;
  9. Hartman Rocks area on the Gunnison BLM Field Office – a multiple use were ongoing efforts longer than a decade have leveraged resources to develop a unique trails based recreation area that has been highly successful;
  10. Canadian Lynx research with USFWS- in this project CSA partnered with the USFWS to facilitate targeted lynx research by providing resources and expertise to researchers working to understand the relationship between lynx habitat and recreation. This support ranged from removing snowmobiles broken or stuck in the backcountry during blizzards with CSA grooming equipment to oil and gas for basic operation to educating researchers how to ride and operate equipment in the backcountry.

The Organizations are proud of the history of collaborative projects that has been developed across often wide interests groups with benefits for all parties involved. In these efforts, often laying the groundwork has been very slow and often verging on shaky but throughout these efforts the strong foundation has been important in uniting the groups and interests as the projects moved forward and resulted in quality projects being developed and being successful in the long run.

The Organizations would also note that even in situations where other groups could be excluded from benefits of collaborative efforts because of their failure to become in any manner in the discussions or efforts (such as SB17-100, CPW Lean, Lynx research) these groups have not been excluded. It is unfortunate that similar collaborative efforts have not been displayed in more projects throughout the State, such as the passage of the lodging tax and related implementation that has been a driving force in this discussion. The Organizations submit that if such an open and collaborative effort had been pursued much earlier in this process, USFS staff would not been in the situation we are now facing. Even after the groups came together in the charrette efforts, certain uses still simply refuse to move forward in the collaborative efforts everyone agreed to in the charrette.

The Organizations expected the Steamboat efforts to develop into another successful collaboration, but that expectation appears to be at risk for reasons that remain unclear. Rather than pursuing true collaboration, the interests of a single group have been placed above all others and pushed forward at breakneck speeds. Rather than a strong foundation resulting from the shaky slow start, this collaborative effort appears to be put at risk for reasons that simply make no sense to the Organizations.

1b. The Colorado Trails Program benefits to all users.

In addition to the above collaborative projects, the Organizations have supported the development and implementation of the voluntary registration programs for both summer and winter recreation that is coupled with the funding from the Federal Recreational Trails Program. This program provides almost $8 million (or $1.25 for every resident of the State) per year for trails of all kinds which is almost entirely funded by the motorized community for more than 20 years. This program maintains routes for the benefit of all users, as all motorized roads and trails are open to all other forms of recreation and this funding is now critical in providing basic access due to among other things, the HPBE being some of the hardest hit areas in the country in terms of mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle infestations.

The lion’s share of the projects are now directed towards basic maintenance of existing facilities for a variety of reasons including decades of communication with USFS and BLM staff which have consistently identified that proving basic maintenance is the most effective manner to keep routes open. The importance of the $4.3 million to USFS recreational budget is reflected in the tile below from the 2015 OHV workshop presentation from the USFS:

Rocky Mountain Region Trails Budget

In addition to the $4.3 million in OHV funding the funding is leveraged with an additional $1.1 million dollars for winter recreational route maintenance and almost $2.4 million in funding for maintenance for non-motorized recreation. In addition to providing a massive portion of the funding for basic recreational activity on USFS and BLM lands in the State of Colorado, the motorized community has also been repeatedly identified in Volunteer Stewardship reports prepared by the State of Colorado as the single largest source of volunteer support for trails in the State.

While the State Trails Program is the largest funding source in the state, the Organizations can say with absolute certainty, that this Program simply does not go far enough in terms of maintenance even with the motorized community funding. The Organizations are also intimately familiar with the limited benefit that change be achieved with the revenue from the Steamboat lodging tax. It can be game changing if applied in an exclusionary manner providing benefits for a small community but will make a very small impact if seeking to benefit a larger community or seek to offset the ever declining budget situation of the USFS managers in the Steamboat area.

Because the State Program is the primary source of funding for trails projects, the Trails Committee is also uniquely situated to identify the failures of trail construction expectations as often the first place that is asked to address these funding shortfalls and failures in projections for long term sustainability is the State Trails Committee and Program. A cornerstone of this whole project is that when additional funding was provided from new sources that those funding sources would be guided towards assisting in maintenance efforts rather than directed towards building new trail that simply cannot be maintained in the long run. This is a major concern for the Organizations as when these maintenance shortfalls become apparent the limited resources of the agency are redirected to address these maintenance shortfalls, and in the end stretches the limited funds even further. As noted elsewhere in these comments, these types of maintenance and long term sustainability failures are becoming systemic with mountain bike trails that have been expanded in the last decade.

1c. What we do on Colorado portions of MBRNF.

The Organizations believe it is highly valuable to clearly identify the significant benefits that accrue to all trails users on the Medicine Bow Routt National Forest as a result of the collaborative efforts of the motorized community with USFS management. The partnership results in almost $1 million a year throughout the year for the benefit of all recreational users on the MBRNF. These efforts are highlighted by:

  1. 3 good management crews are currently in place on the MBRNF, each of which are funded at levels comparable to the total revenue of the Steamboat lodging tax revenue:
    1. HPBE GM crew has been in place for more than a decade and directly resulted in more than $1.5 million in funding alone;
    2. Parks District GM Crew;
    3. Statewide Heavy Crew out of Grand Lake funded at twice the levels of Ranger District based crews;
  2. 3 winter grooming operations – Rout, North Park and Steamboat Lake programs which support hundreds of miles of groomed routes on the District that are open to everyone free of charge;
  3. Extensive direct funding for projects- such as strategic planning grant on HPBE of more than $100,000 to supplement local funding identified at the charrette, purchase of mini- excavators, rock-breakers, motorcycles and trailers to make other grant funding needs of crews and volunteers.

The Organizations have embraced the maintenance needs of the land managers, and been consistently informed that this was the most effective way to keep trails open on any planning USFS unit. The Organizations are also aware that the CPW funding is leveraged by USFS funding that is available to allow for the support of trails crews that are simply not even a topic of discussion in most other locations in the country. When other trails projects fail, the USFS portion of funding for trails crews is put at risk of loss or reallocation to address these types of project specific failures and that is not acceptable to the Organizations as it reduces the leverage available for the proven programs on the ground. The Organizations would also note that the vigor and zealous levels of interest around projects like Buff Pass and Mad Rabbit Mtn. bike trails has placed a large amount of stress on the partners in the CPW program. Since this new interest, good management crew grant funding is not being accounted for in a timely manner, planning efforts have stalled and equipment purchases have not been completed or utilized. While we are not sure of the exact basis of this changes, the organizations would note putting almost $1 million in funding at risk to obtain $100,000 is simply not rational or good management.

It should be noted that if all revenue from the Steamboat Lodging tax was applied for the benefit of all users, it might be able to cover the funding for only one additional maintenance crew on the MBRNF. While the Organizations have embraced the basic need for maintenance funding assistance with the USFS, this effort is not unlimited and has always focused on the concept of the “rising tide floating all boats”. USFS managers can play a critical role in the success of this concept by informing the public of the partnership and asking all groups to perform under the same expectations.

The Organizations must vigorously assert that any planning foundation that expects current maintenance efforts to continue without new construction of routes for motorized is opposed by the motorized community. ANY new funding must address the basic lack of maintenance funding for maintaining access before addressing an expansion of a trail network for the benefit of a single small user group and this continues to be a significant point of contention with the current discussions. The situation where the motorized community would not be able to build trails, despite maintaining roads and trails used to access the area, while other users are allowed to build trails without addressing the basic maintenance of routes and trailheads used to access those trails is simply and foundationally unacceptable to the motorized community.

2a. Basic direction of the Proposal directly conflicts with National Forest Service Strategy for Sustainable Trails.

As the Organizations have noted above, significant volunteer efforts and direct funding of USFS funding have been directed towards the basic sustainability of the motorized portions of the trail network throughout the state of Colorado. Again, the Organizations must stress that every mile of route maintained is available to ALL types of usages. The need for expansion of this model of management and sustainability was highlighted in 2016 when the USFS issued the US Forest Service National Strategy for sustainable trails system, which expanded the model that has been so successful in Colorado as national programmatic goals and objects for trails management moving forward.

This strategy highlights the basic need to form maintenance and sustainability partnerships with the following reasoning as follows:

“Achieving a sustainable trail system presents several challenges. With limited funding, compounded by the rising cost of wildfire operations and the associated decrease of nearly 40 percent in nonfire personnel, the Forest Service faces a lack of capacity for managing trails on the ground and for building partnership synergies within the trails community.”1

The Sustainable Trail initiative continues on how the challenges faced by the Agency as a result of the declines in budgets as follows:

“A generation ago, nearly every ranger district had its own trail crew, but that is no longer the case. The Forest Service will overcome a significant reduction in field staff by moving from a model of “doing it all” to a model of shared stewardship in order to achieve mutual goals and receive shared benefits.”2

Colorado can vigorously stand as a complete variation from this norm, as almost every ranger district has a motorized trails crew as a result of the OHV program. While not every Ranger District has a trails crew funded by the CPW Grant program, there are three of these crews on the MBRNF. The Organizations must ask why other groups are not seeking to level these relationships and experiences?

The critical need to lead partners on the need for sustainable trails and recreational opportunities is also highlighted in the USFS Sustainable Trails efforts as follows:

“Sustainable Change: Leader-led change is often initiated with a high level of impact that may wane over time. Grassroots-led change often grows slowly, yet must be adopted by leadership to achieve lasting results. Sustainable change is cultivated where leader intent meets grassroots initiative and both are infused with regular feedback and support.”3

It is interesting to note that the high levels of impacts may result from USFS efforts to instill this type of grassroots model for recreation trails is specifically identified in the 2016 but for reasons these impacts have often been simply avoided, sparing applied and then avoided again after perceived impacts were expressed. While the Organizations were not included in development of the original Steamboat Trails Alliance Wishlist for trails, it is clear from reviewing this Proposal that either this issue was not raised at all or was completely ignored by the creators of the Proposal. There was some discussion of these types of goals and objectives around the charrette and need for a landscape level plan for the Steamboat Basin, these goals have waned and again we are forced to deal with the Wishlist without a landscape level plan and without realistic discussion of the need for these goals and objectives.

The Sustainable trails initiative further highlights the seven core values of the partnerships

“Core Values
At the Forest Service, we are embracing seven core values and invite our partners, volunteers, and friends to join us in adopting these values to guide our collective efforts. By adopting the following core values, we lay the foundation together for making sustainable trail systems a priority and ensuring pathways to public lands remain—for all people, for many generations to come.

Safety—We value the safety of trail users, volunteers, partners, and employees and are dedicated to performing our work safely and providing safe trail opportunities for all.

Sustainability—We value the land and will steward a trail system that is relevant to a changing society, is ecologically viable, and that can be sustained by current and potential partner, volunteer, and agency resources.

Commitment—We value the strong traditions, skills, and dedication of our partner, volunteer, and employee workforce and will foster continued growth through training and leadership opportunities.

Access—We value the ability of everyone to connect to the outdoors and are committed to providing quality access through a variety of trail settings and opportunities.

Inclusion—We value everyonetrail users, partners, volunteers, employees, and friends, regardless of age, ability, or cultural background.

Communication—We value the exchange of information that is up-to-date, accurate, widely available in multiple formats, and relevant to both trail users and those involved in sustainable trail planning, design, and maintenance.

Relationships—We value collaborative relationships and are committed to working across jurisdictional and cultural boundaries to maximize diverse skillsets and generate innovative approaches.”

With the passage of the National Trail System Stewardship Act in 2016, Congress memorialized many of the goals and objectives of the USFS Sustainable Trails Strategy into law. As a result not only is some of the foundational decision making troubling the Organizations around the Proposal a violation of the USFS Strategy it is also a violation of federal law.

While the Organizations have strived to achieve these common values and goals of the National Policy well before the National Policy was formalized, many other groups have not been as proactive. The Organizations would note that these issues were raised several years ago with the Buffalo Pass portions of the Proposal, these basic foundational conflicts have become more apparent with the Mad Rabbit portions of the Proposal. The Organizations must question why the National Policy has not been raised in these planning efforts by the district. That has highly frustrated the Organizations as we are now being forced to address these National Goals and Objectives of the Agency alone.

2c. Why we are concerned about this Proposal.

As the Organizations have noted above, the motorized community due to the institutionalization of maintenance funding is uniquely situated to identify the rock star trail builders/maintainers in the state and those that are falling well behind any maintenance obligations for trail networks. From this location, a systemic failure to understand the basic needs of the trails community regarding the ongoing maintenance needs from certain user groups has resulted in the collapse of some trail networks in the state already. Mainly this has resulted from situations were users have pledged to support trail expansions, managers are then subjected to intense public pressure to build the trail network and then users are unable to provide basic maintenance, seasonal closure resources and educational materials as pledged. A few examples of these collapses are exemplified by the following projects:

  1. Shavano to Gateway Project – City of Montrose is now being brought in to manage an area previously expanded and maintained by users after there was a complete failure of seasonal closures and basic maintenance;
  2. Several trail expansion projects in the Grand Valley area where a failure of maintenance in the area was identified in the recently released RMP but users continue to push for expansions of routes after local communities have pledged maintenance resources;
  3. Steamboat City Park System maintenance – Another situation where an expanded trail network has been developed and then users are failing to maintain that system.

In addition to the direct request for funding to the State Trails Program, other indications are often noted and concerning around the long term sustainability of any trail program.

  1. City of Steamboat Fish Creek Underpass grant – the City of Steamboat sought funding for a safe connector of their greenway trail in the center of town to connect routes that have been targeted for an extended period of time
  2. Maintenance grant from HPBE RD – identifies the critical shortfall that already exists on routes outside those maintained by the motorized crews

With the scale of projects competing for funding, the Organizations must question the basic foundation of the lodging tax program in terms of direction. This concern would be manifested by an erosion of public support for trails on USFS lands and seeking to apply the limited funding available to other priorities.

Whatever the Rabbit Ears Pass portion of the project looks like when completed, it will need basic maintenance for the foreseeable future and insuring that is funded by the users supporting that project is critical to insuring that limited Forest Service funds are not directed away from the current maintenance backlog to address new trails used by a small portion of the trails community. There will need to be trees cut off trails, users educated about route locations and the need to stay on the trail, seasonal gates installed and used that will remain ongoing.

The Organizations believe a brief discussion regarding the hazard tree situation on the district highlights the need for an expansion of basic maintenance efforts with partners. The following pictures represent daily situations where trees have fallen across designated routes and have fallen in a location that creates a basic safety concern for the public. Situations like this must be resolved in a timely manner to avoid safety concerns for trails users and insure that the public does not reroute the trail footprint to continue use of these routes.

Fallen tree over trail  Fallen tree over trail

It has been the Organizations experience that this is the type of basic maintenance that can only be effectively done with a dedicated crew in a timely manner, despite a large number of these issues being simply addressed by the public when encountered. Often these issues are simply removed by a maintenance crew that is using the trail to get to a larger worksite. While probably entirely unnecessary to state, these maintenance issues are entirely unrelated to the trail design and layout as trees are going to fall for decades no matter how the trails are laid out.

While informal partner groups might be able to address smaller hazard tree related issues, as a result of the poor forest health on the district trails and routes are now being subjected to major blowdown events that involve hundreds of trees over an extended length of trail. In the picture below, the designated route runs directly through the center of the blowdown.

Trees blown down through trail area

The Organizations are intimately aware that resolving blowdown situations such as those above can take a professional crew utilizing modern equipment weeks to resolve. Any assertion that an informal maintenance program can deal with challenges of this scale simply lacks factual basis and should not be overlooked in a rush of public interest to build trails. The Organizations submit that failure to address the growing scale of maintenance needs will result in limited USFS resources being drawn away from existing maintenance crew efforts that we know are still not going far enough on existing trails.

3a. Expanded usage of landscape level planning is required under the 2012 USFS planning rule.

 The Organizations again believe there is a large amount of value in comparing the basic direction of the current planning efforts to the USFS national planning rules that were updated in 2012, as these new planning rules directly and clearly identify the benefits of landscape planning and that such landscape planning efforts should be relied on to streamline issues on a broader level. The USFS planning rule clearly establishes that these broader level opportunities must be included in and balanced 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.”

The Organizations submit that a broader landscape level review of the Proposal and high levels of opportunities provided for the mountain bike community in the region must be reviewed to insure a balance of usage both now and in the future, protection of resources and basic sustainability. The Organizations are very concerned that much of the Proposal is completely unsustainable and is exceeding much of the guidance and planning standards, such as route density, endangered plant habitats and other issues that are in the planning area. The Organizations simply are uncomfortable in moving forward with any proposal without addressing the myriad of issues that impact trail construction at the landscape level.

3b. The Organizations are puzzled and frustrated by the sudden change in direction of the project away from the master planning efforts that resulted from the charrette.

 The Organizations have been actively involved in all phases of public participation around the entire Steamboat Trails Discussion with the USFS and were actively involved in the Trails Charette in 2014, Buffalo Pass Trail expansion and now the Mad Rabbit Proposal. Our concerns have been very reasonable around these projects, such as the need for a master plan around the Steamboat basin and how are maintenance issues being address but these types of issues appear not to be a priority in discussions. This is highly frustrating as many issues and concerns appear to have been removed from discussion for reasons that are unclear rather than a reasoned approach to expanding public access on the Steamboat Basin area, and right now planning appears to be more of a wish list for a single user group with a high level of artificial urgency added to the discussion than a reasoned planning effort.

The Organizations would note there were high levels of interests from a wide range of users and interests at the meeting and participation included local wildlife staff with CPW, summer motorized users, winter motorized users, local businesses, mechanized users, hikers, skiers and many members of the steamboat community that were merely interested in the discussion. After the charrette, it was clear there was more work and analysis on the entire area to be performed than could ever be achieved in a single night meeting. As a result the Organizations submitted extensive comments in relation to the charrette and also around the Buffalo Pass Trail expansion that was undertaken subsequently. At the charrette, it was clear this portion of the Proposal was further ahead than any other portions of the Proposal and it would be moving forward before the master plan was developed.

Our take away from the charrette after extensive discussions with the USFS staff was wide- ranging planning was needed to address all concerns that were raised at the charrette and immediately our Organizations moved forward with assisting in that effort and have secured $50,000 in funding from the CPW OHV grant program in 2015 to facilitate these meetings and planning efforts. This grant was funded and enjoyed a wide range of support from many of the communities and interests that participated in the Charette, as represented by the letters of support from the City of Steamboat Springs; the Trail Preservation Alliance; the Rout County Riders; Biketown USA and the USFS staff. In addition to the original $50,00 planning grant the motorized community has again moved forward with obtaining another $50,000 to complete the process for completion of the wide ranging planning efforts that were needed.

During the time for the development of this grant and master plan, the project roadmap for the Master Plan was targeted for completion by the HPBE staff during 2018 on the SOPA under project # 51564. Additionally, the Mad Rabbit Project was added to the SOPA for the HPBE with a targeted completion date in later 2019 under project # 50917. Clearly, the vision of the charrette had been carried forward with this basic schedule as reflected on the SOPA and the Organizations are intimately aware that projects often move slowly within the USFS and with these timeframes in the SOPA, this was a fast-tracked project within the agency. As the Organizations had collaborated on numerous projects throughout the Region 2 planning area, and had been told that trails development was going to be a collaborative process to address the wide range of concerns raised at the charrette, the Organizations periodically checked in with USFS staff and often the response was the resources were not available to move forward with planning despite funding for the project.

There was no indication that other projects were moving outside the trails master plan process that had been outlined in the charrette and subsequent discussions until the Mad Rabbit Proposal was released for public comment more than 2 years before the end date for the project. We are aware that this decision by a single user group to move outside the consensus process from the charrette as resulted in a huge amount of frustration of other partners and unnecessary conflict between the parties.

3c. Why a master plan is badly needed.

 The Organizations must question why the decision has been made to move away from the consensus position that resulted from the charrette, mainly that a master plan for all usage was needed for the Steamboat basin. In this portion of the comments, the Organizations would like to highlight some of the concerns we have around the process to date, and clarify that this list is by no means exhaustive. The Organizations submit this type of an exhaustive list does not exist currently with anyone and this should be a basis for significant concern for USFS staff moving forward. If you don’t know what the concerns are in an area how can they ever be avoided or effectively addressed in any planning efforts.

The Organizations believe a master plan could address local issues that have appeared since the expansion of the buffalo pass area, such as the “toilet paper flowers” that are becoming somewhat common in the area and other areas where usage has increased. The Organizations believe turning a blind eye to these types of issues simply does not make sense. The Organizations believe that addressing this lack of restrooms and how to maintain them on Buffalo Pass is a valid question and evidences an issue that will immediately become more apparent if access off Highway is expanded. The toilet paper flowers will immediately become a large problem if basic issues like this are not meaningfully addressed.

The Organizations would also note that a master plan for the Steamboat area would be a MAJOR step forward in the legal defensibility of the decision-making process should there be a legal challenge to any site-specific proposal. Again, our concerns are not abstract on this issue as the Pike /San Isabel National Forest is in exactly this type of situation currently, where the lack of a master plan has resulted in a large number of localized plans being developed to address site specific issues. While these localized plans, many have nothing to do with motorized access, were very effective in dealing with the local issue, the cumulative impacts of these plans were never reviewed and as a result the PSI was sued by the Wilderness Society and others. In order to preserve motorized access, the Organizations were forced to intervene, which cost thousands of dollars from the Organizations and also after settlement has resulted in almost every site-specific project being stopped for a period of time that remains unclear. This is a fact pattern that the Organizations would very much like to avoid in the future.

3(c)(1). Someone needs to explain why maintenance is not a priority.

As more specifically addressed previously, there needs to be a master plan created to needs to meaningfully address why certain user groups are expected to provide maintenance with at most minimal expansions of opportunities and other groups with significantly less funding are moving forward with major expansions without addressing basic maintenance of all routes. In addition to addressing this type of basic equity type concern in the Steamboat Basin, there are numerous formal planning requirements that must be addressed as well.

3(c)(2). Winter Conflicts on Rabbit Ears before expansion

 Our first concern substantiating the critical need for a master plan involves the veritable explosion of user conflicts that have resulted from the passage of the Steamboat Springs lodging tax and the rapid expansion of these conflicts moving forward. Rather than the tax being a welcome funding source that benefitted all users of recreational opportunities, the additional funding has become exceptionally divisive tool used without regard to existing partnerships to advance the concerns of a small user group. New partnerships should not be this divisive. This is exemplified by conflicts between non-motorized users on Emerald Mountain area west of Steamboat, significant increases in winter conflicts on Rabbit Ears involving mountain bike usage on groomed cross-country ski trails, conflicts around high intensity expansion of usage in other areas of the HPBE. It is unfortunate that development of this new funding source has resulted in an explosion of user conflicts in an area that prior to this new funding source was an area where users basically all worked together. From the motorized perspective we are concerned that this conflict has resulted in the motorized community getting sucked into conflicts that really have little to do with motorized access or when concerns are raised other interests immediately jump in ideological trenches and commence warfare.

Already winter issues with expanded mountain bike usage on Rabbit Ears have raised concerns about the need for effective closures of any new routes on Rabbit Ears during the winter in order to avoid conflicts between the snowmobile community and cross country ski community reigniting. Fat tire bicycles have been attempted to be used on groomed cross country ski routes prior to expansion of the summer route network in this area, which we are aware resulted in an immediate response from the ski community due to the damage that resulted to the cross country ski routes. If our concerns regarding pressure from fat tire bicycles can be resolved the snowmobile community as no concerns with usage of existing groomed winter routes in the area is funding for this expanded activity can be obtained. It is completely unacceptable to the snowmobile community that Rabbit Ears pass might be reopened for further division of the pass to provide a separate winter recreational opportunity for a third user group. This is the exact type of management issue that those seeking to expand access on Rabbit Ears have continued to avoid addressing.

3(c)(3). Conflicts with existing site specific planning are extensive and must be resolved prior to implementation of any new construction.

The Organizations must note the direct conflict of many portions of the Proposal with recently completed planning efforts in the HPBE Ranger District, such as the Rabbit Ears Parking facilities revisions. The Organizations believe the Rabbit Ears Parking revisions evidence the scope of partnerships that are currently on the ground in the HPBE, as three counties, snowmobilers, skiers, local businesses and many others came together to collaboratively address parking issues that have plagued the pass for decades. The Environmental Assessment for the project identifies more than 4 pages of interest groups that were involved in discussions around the parking project. 4 While this parking effort was seen as a predominately winter related issue but provides significant benefits to summer recreational access as well. The basis for closure of many of the roadside informal parking lots was clearly stated by Colorado Department of Transportation as follows:

“While developing the proposed action, external scoping with the Colorado Department of Transportation identified a need to relocate other parking areas away from the highway for public safety, separating recreation traffic from highway traffic. They also made recommendations for closing/relocating several parking areas.”5

Issues such as this are deeply perplexing to the Organizations as the public comment process on the revision of parking facilities on Rabbit Ears Pass has been the subject of ongoing public comment process since 2012 and has been addressed as an issue to be resolved under the existing Resource Management Plan. After a cursory review of these documents, the Organizations are not able to identify any comments that are raising the possible usage of facilities to be closed as the base of new trails for the mountain biking community.

The Organizations are concerned about possible future negative impacts to existing partnerships that resulted from the Rabbit Ears Parking project that could result from this Project, such as CDOT support and partnership in the maintenance of the new parking lots on Rabbit Ears. This is a critical component of the basic operation of this area, as the USFS does not have the resources to maintain these lots in the winter and the motorized community would like to direct as much funding as possible to grooming and avoid purchasing more equipment to maintain these lots as our grooming never seems to go far enough now. The Organizations must question any assertion of continued partnership strength with CDOT after the 2012 Rabbit Ears Parking is reversed as the end result that CDOT concerns are now in a worse position in terms of being addressed than before planning was undertaken. The Organizations are also very concerned regarding the validity of any position that could be taken asserting that these parking lots, which had basic safety concerns with 2010 levels of usage, could ever provide basic safety after significant expansions of opportunities at these locations. These are the types of issues that can only be addressed in landscape level planning and meaningfully addressing all concerns.

The Organizations would also note that many of the loop trails in the Proposal on the Rabbit Ears Pass are based on parking areas that are to be closed and or consolidated, such as the West Summit Parking lot. The conflict between these recently completed NEPA planning documents and the current version of the Proposal are reflected the future of the West Summit Parking lot as follows:

West Summit Proposed map overview

The Organizations would note that several trails in the Proposal rely on this parking lot and several others to be closed under the Rabbit Ears Parking EA as the access point for expansive new trail systems. The Organizations would note that the West Summit lot would be poorly suited to sustain any significant visitation to the trail network proposed, even if it was not being closed. Under that parking proposal, the West Summit is to be replaced by parking at NSF 296 due to the inability of the facilities to safely support existing recreational usage.

The basic safety of these lots will become a more problematic concern with the development of what appears to be “gravity biking”(riding down the hill and meeting a motor vehicle to return you to the top of the hill several times a day) loops on Rabbit Ears. The facilitation of these gravity biking loops will result in huge increases in the visitation to these lots and that will result in major safety concerns due to limited visibility for many of these lots, which was already addressed in the Rabbit Ears Parking project that was only recently completed. The Organizations must question why after the success of the Rabbit Ears project in increasing safety for those using opportunities on the pass for recreation and motorists merely using Highway 40 for transportation would projects be moving forward that would degrade the safety increases on the pass that have only been so recently achieved.

This is an issue that has been raised by the motorized community since discussions started on the expansion of usage on Buff/Rabbit Ears and we have never heard a response from the bicycle community. This has been highly frustrating to all in the motorized community and in discussions with other partners in this project, similar frustrations appear to be VERY common. Everyone involved directed significant time and resources into a collaborative process we thought came to a great resolution of these concerns and are now being asked to reopen these discussions to benefit a user group that failed to participate in the original discussions. Simply not acceptable.

3(c)(4) Colorado Roadless area issues must be addressed at the landscape level.

Another area of concern involves the high levels of trail development proposed in the Mad Creek Colorado Roadless area on the north side of the Route 40 area. While these comments are directed towards the site-specific portions of the discussion, these types of concerns are also highly relevant to our concerns around the need for landscape level planning.

The Organizations were heavily involved in the development of the Colorado Roadless Rule and the related clarity that trails could be built in a Colorado Roadless area in a low intensity dispersed manner. Never in the Organizations wildest did the Organizations envision tail construction at the density and intensity proposed. This is concerning as the Colorado Roadless Rule was intended to provide a dispersed trail experience and not a high intensity development opportunity like that sought in the Proposal and the Organizations question if the two proposals can ever be reconciled. The Organizations are intimately aware that the Colorado Roadless Rule was designed to avoid development of proposals similar to the Mad Rabbit in order to continue to provide a dispersed backcountry type experience. The conflict between the dispersed recreational opportunities provided in a CRA and the fact that almost 70 miles of new routes is proposed for a single CRA poses an interesting management issue and allowing the proposal to move forward without meaningfully addressing this issue would leave any project that might result open for a successful legal challenge by those that believe all roadless areas are only one step from Wilderness.

The issues around Mad Creek CRA also highlight the need to plan at the landscape level. With the high levels of trails proposed in the southern portion of the CRA, the Organizations must believe that trail expansion would be exceptionally difficult on any portion of the CRA if the Proposal was even partially implemented. This density of routes makes it VERY critical to engage everyone in the discussion around the area as telling one group, who has proceeded in a more cautious manner and is addressing basic issues like maintenance, that a connector route or other trail on the north end of the CRA cannot be built due to capacity or density requirements already being exceeded in the southern portion of the CRA would be very difficult. These types of cumulative concerns would be somewhat mitigated if there was a landscape level plan that attempted to identify expansion areas, density capacities and other basic planning requirements. The Organizations believe crafting a legally defensible proposal that addresses the impacts to the Mad creek CRA is a requirement for a successful plan moving forward, as the Organizations do not want to be forced into further defense of legal actions as a result of another user’s trail network, as any challenge would probably include a cumulative impacts type discussion and directly impact motorized and mechanized opportunities on the HPBE.

The Organizations would be remiss if the conflict that is directly apparent between landscape level comments consistently made by the mountain bike community during Roadless Rule development and positions actually taken in this Proposal were not addressed. A review of the summary of public comment on the Colorado Roadless Rule reveals that such comments are throughout the summary. The Organizations would like to highlight several of these comments, which are as follows:

“Further, they suggest that mountain bikers “build and protect sustainable trails for multi-use purposes.”7

BECAUSE THEY BUILD AND PROTECT SUSTAINABLE TRAILS FOR MULTI-PURPOSE USES One of the best ways to protect these areas is to open trails up to mountain bikers who build and protect sustainable trails for multi-use purposes.”8

The Organizations submit that these comments are directly relevant to analysis in both the areas inventoried under the Colorado Roadless Rule and the entire proposal, as the mountain bike community should not be allowed to assert that all trails are subject to multiple usage management and ongoing maintenance at the landscape level and then be allowed to exclude all usages other than mountain bikes in the development of site specific proposals which have no provisions for maintenance of the routes once built. This type of selective involvement is offensive to the Organizations.

3(c)(5). ESA/Wildlife issues must be addressed at the landscape levels.

The Organizations are also aware that there are extensive wildlife concerns around the Mad Rabbit Proposal, which have been compounded by the recent significant expansions of trails in the Buffalo Pass for the benefit of the mountain bike community. This is another issue that the Organizations are very concerned about as once an area is at capacity in terms of wildlife habitat, it has been our experience that no new trails or other facilities are allowed. Developing an understanding of what that capacity across this area really looks like will be a significant issue moving forward for species such as elk and deer.

Again, this is another area where meaningfully addressing maintenance and education of users regarding seasonal closures and other management tools will be critical to the success of any trail expansions. The motorized community is concerned about the success of any trail expansion, as has been shown on the PSI, litigation will pull all trails users into the matter, regardless of if the specific trails are involving that group or not.

In what has become an interesting issue, the basic need for a stay the trail or tread lightly type ethic program for all users of public lands has become very apparent as research indicates that:

“Outdoor recreation has the potential to disturb wildlife, resulting in energetic costs, impacts to animals’ behavior and fitness, and avoidance of otherwise suitable habitat. Mountain biking is emerging as a popular form of outdoor recreation, yet virtually nothing is known about whether wildlife responds differently to mountain biking vs. more traditional forms of recreation, such as hiking….Few studies have examined how recreationists perceive their effects on wildlife, although this has implications for their behavior on public lands…..Approximately 50% of recreationists felt that recreation was not having a negative effect on wildlife. In general, survey respondents perceived that it was acceptable to approach wildlife more closely than our empirical data indicated wildlife would allow. Recreationists also tended to blame other user groups for stress to wildlife rather than holding themselves responsible.”9

This situation was very interesting to the motorized community as everyone has blamed motorized usage for decades for every issue on public lands. Here we have a situation where motorized impacts are irrelevant but the need for many of the same guidance and educational materials is equally as important to the success of the project as they have been for motorized usage and there are no provisions made for these types of materials.

Compounding our concerns to identify habitat areas both within the Proposal and at the landscape level are the fact that the Mad Creek CRA is also home to Boreal Toad habitat, which is a sensitive species in Colorado that has been petitioned for listing on the Endangered Species list and the Globe Mallow and Rabbit Ears Gilia both of which are plants that are sensitive species in Colorado and present on the Rabbit Ears Pass area. Again, with species of elevated concerns such as these, identifying habitat areas is an important component of minimizing impacts and the need for landscape level planning is clear to allow any activity in possible habitat areas to be fully reviewed and managed. Allowing anyone access merely because they asked first is unacceptable especially when other users may be interested in the areas or opportunities and are waiting for a collaborative landscape level plan that may never come.

4.   Seasonal closures of all routes must be made for winter travel.

The Organizations submit that as part of the Proposal all mechanized travel must be limited to designated routes. The Organizations vigorously assert that these routes on Rabbit Ears Pass must be closed for winter travel as bicycles are wheeled vehicles and inappropriate for over the snow travel. The pressure applied by these vehicles is some of the highest in the recreational community causing significant concern for possible resource impacts that result from high pressure tires coming into contact with a wide range of resources buried in the snow. The trails that are being proposed are dirt trails and are not a surface, such as pavement or hardened road base, where pressure issues can be clearly found to be irrelevant to OSV usage. Our concerns on this issue are not abstract as many forests in California, such as the Sequoia, recently had to cease grooming activities due to possible contact of higher pressure vehicles with ESA listed species in the area. The Organizations are again opposed to any loss of motorized opportunities that could result from failures to properly review and manage non-motorized access in the Mad Rabbit Proposal.

While an OSV frequently averages less than .5 psi, a bicycle applies between 30-50 psi on the ground.10 Most research indicates that impacts from bicycle usage are very similar to wheeled vehicles. 11 This is not acceptable to the snowmobile community who has invested hundreds of millions of dollars developing, defending and implementing the buffer effects of snow and low- pressure vehicles with the USFS. The snowmobile community is deeply concerned about the possible erosion of such a standard in localized planning, especially in areas where there is not a hardened base for protection of resources from high pressure usages. The Organizations are not opposed to the use of conversions on these trails that rely on a combination of tracks and skis for travel but they are vigorously opposed to the usage of any of these routes by wheeled vehicles. Until best available science has determined that compaction is not an issue with bicycles on winter trails, this position must be adopted regarding bicycles on winter trails at the landscape level.

5. Conclusion

The Organizations are opposing the Mad Rabbit Trails Project alternatives A&B and the Organizations voicing support for Other Alternatives, mainly moving forward under the direction that was created after the trails charrette and working towards a master plan for the Steamboat Basin. The Organizations are frustrated to have to oppose both Alternative A and Alternative B for the project but the Organizations must oppose the Mad Rabbit Proposal until such time as the landscape level planning effort that was identified as a goal and objective in the trails charrette has moved forward and clearly outlined impacts and concerns with a much higher level of clarity than is provided in the Wishlist driving planning at this point. $100,000 in direct funding for this planning has been obtained and is simply not being used. The Organizations are frustrated to have to oppose the project but our efforts to engage interested parties regarding our concerns around the projects throughout the Steamboat Springs basin since the passage of the lodging tax have simply never moved. We have provided extensive comments around City efforts, around the trails charrette and around the Buffalo Pass Trails project, which really have never significantly changed the direction of the Wishlist of trails that is currently driving discussions on the HPBE. The Organizations vigorously request that the consensus position arrived at in the charrette, mainly that the next step would be a masterplan for the Steamboat Area, be moved forward. The motorized community has stepped up with $100,000 in grant funding to facilitate this project and do date there has been no action on this Proposal.

The Organizations are aware that this trail proposal is part of a much larger proposal from the mountain bike community in Steamboat Springs, which has already been the basis of several public meetings and what has become an exploding conflict of users in the steamboat basin. The Organizations submitted extensive comments on this proposal in response to public meetings held by the USFS last August, which were heavily attended by a wide range of multiple users expressing concerns very similar to those in these comments and previous ones submitted in response to that meeting. These comments and concerns remain highly relevant to the Mad Rabbit Project, as there were many foundational flaws in the analysis of the landscape level analysis, which weigh heavily against single use trails in the Mad Rabbit project, such as the complete failure to address the ongoing need for basic maintenance of existing facilities. The Organizations are not aware of any timing limitations, other than with the motorized funding that is not moving, and as a result must assert that meaningfully planning these projects will not have anyone other than those seeking to move under an accelerated schedule. Creating new trails that simply cannot be maintained in the long run simply makes no sense to the Organizations and may put decades of effort and partnership at risk in the Steamboat basin.

Please feel free to contact Scott Jones, Esq. if you should wish to discuss any of the issues that have been raised in these comments further. His contact information is Scott Jones, Esq., 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont Colorado 80504; phone 518-281-5810; email

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

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance


1 See USDA – USFS National Strategy for a Sustainable Trails System; December 30, 2016 at pg. 4. Hereinafter referred to as the National Trails Strategy.

2 See, National Trails Strategy at Pg. 4.

3 See, National Trails Strategy at Pg. 4.

4 See, USDA Forest Service, Hahns Peak Bears Ears Ranger District; Environmental Assessment, Rabbit Ears Winter Parking; June 2014 at pgs. 56-61.

5 See, USDA Forest Service Rabbit Ears winter parking EA at Page 3

6 See, USDA Forest Service, Hahns Peak Bears Ears Ranger District; Environmental Assessment, Rabbit Ears Winter Parking; June 2014 at pg. 3.

7 See, USDA Forest Service; Colorado Roadless Area Conservation National Forest System Lands Proposed Rule and Revised Draft EIS Summary of Public Comment; September 2011 at pg. 1-22. Hereinafter referred to as “Colorado Roadless Rule Comments”.

8 See, Colorado Roadless Rule Comments at pg. 3-14

9 See, Taylor et al; Wildlife Responses to Recreation and Associated Visitor Perceptions; Ecological applications; 13(4) 2003; pgs. 951-963 at pg. 951.

10 See, Weir, Impacts of non-motorized trail usage, at pg. 4.

11 See, Pickering et al; Comparing hiking, mountain biking and horse riding impacts on vegetation and soils in Australia and the United States of America; Journal of Environmental Management 2010 at pg. 551.




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Input regarding NEPA Streamlining process

USDA Forest Service
NEPA Services Group C/O Amy Barker
Geospacial Technology & Applications Center
222 West 2300 South
Salt Lake City, 84119

RE: Input regarding NEPA Streamlining process

Dear Ms. Barker:

The above Organizations welcome the opportunity provided in this comment period on how to refine and streamline the NEPA planning process and to provide more detailed information and input on our experiences with the NEPA process on a wide range of public lands in the hope that previous mistakes will not be repeated.  The Organizations are providing these more extensive comments as we are aware that often the “why” behind a position that is taken is as important as the position itself. In these comments, the Organizations are targeting changes that can be undertaken in the planning process under the current legislative systems. While the Organizations support changes to the Legislative structure that governs planning, such as revising and updating the Endangered Species Act, the Organizations are also aware that such changes are outside the scope of the request from your Offices’.

Prior to addressing the specific concerns, our Organizations have regarding the NEPA  process to date and streamlining of the process moving forward, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed.  The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization of approximately 2,500 members seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

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

Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion. CSA currently has 2,500 members.  CSA has also become the voice of organized snowmobiling seeking to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling through work with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators telling the truth about our sport.

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

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

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

The Organizations are aware that the scope of NEPA review is heavily driven by federal legislation and as a result much of the statutorily required process is probably outside the range of discussion for the current request.  As a result, the Organizations are focusing on guidance documents and principals related to the implementation of NEPA requirements for various projects and efforts. The Organizations submit that significant opportunities for a leaner and more efficient NEPA process  are present as a result of the ambiguity in many of these guidance documents and related poor understanding of land managers in addressing many of the technical aspects of the NEPA process.  These benefits are limited and any benefit of the streamlining process could easily be lost with implementation of processes that increase the administrative overhead of site specific projects or to the NEPA process as a whole.   On the ground benefits of streamlining must be the goal of the proposal implementation.

1a. Public access must be the goal of any revisions to planning for recreational activity.

The Organizations are aware of several proposals in circulation that provide for certain NEPA streamlining benefits to accrue to only certain user groups or interests, such as outfitters or guides; or those that may be volunteering through a program similar to the Conservation Corps; or users of ski areas in off-season times of the year for the ski area. The Organizations are also aware of numerous proposals addressing veterans, holders of senior citizen pass or America the beautiful type passes.  Often this type of reform is seeking to address only “facilitated access to public lands” and the Organizations must vigorously oppose this type of a revision.

While these are commendable efforts and programs, any NEPA streamlining should apply to all groups and efforts on public lands equally.   Public lands should be available to all members of the public on an even playing field and when any group is elevated above the general public, this even playing field is lost.  The Organizations are also aware that any efforts to prioritize a single group or category of users above the general public will result in a significantly more complicated planning process for land managers, as managers will now have to confirm the membership of the applicant in the prioritized group before moving forward. Simply keeping an up to date list of members in the group to be prioritized can prove to be a daunting task, regardless of if that membership is proved through a database held within the USFS or a membership card that is presented.   The Organizations vigorously submit these are the types of streamlining efforts that must be avoided as resources will be directed towards tracking and managing the group rather than more efficient operations on the ground.

The Organizations concerns on this issue are two-fold:

  1. No user of public lands should have priority over other users in planning or permitting; and
  2. Tracking these groups will complicate any effort undertaken by land managers and run counter productive to the intent of the streamlining efforts.

1b.  No new reports.

The Organizations vigorously believe that any efforts to streamline NEPA must avoid the creation of new reports, such as priority trails reports or landscape level reviews of possible national recreation areas.  Too often efforts to streamline NEPA and other processes become bogged down with a desire to update or form reports on issues or challenges where the information needed for the  decision making process is already available. The Organizations submit that examples of these concerns would be helpful.  Any NEPA streamlining efforts must avoid reinstituting planning for areas that have recently completed a landscape level plan such as a Field Office or Forest Level plan.

The Organizations are aware of landscape level efforts within the BLM seeking to make planning more efficient, which has resulted in the formation of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives(“LCC”).  These efforts highlighted the Organizations concerns regarding existing information being presented in a different report with different pictures or manner of presentation. The national LCC guidance brochure further provides quality examples regional standards that will not streamline local planning, as often the national LCC brochure provides information is in the form of somewhat random comments of DOI agencies that often do not relate to the goals and objectives of the LCC process.  Examples of these comments include:

“Glorious fall foliage provides a backdrop for foraging Sandhill cranes.” [1] Or

“A majestic bull elk pauses for a drink in the southern Rockies.” [2]

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

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

“Preserving cultural artifacts and traditions creates vibrant, healthy communities.”[3]

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

The Organization would question any value in a report addressing the maintenance backlog on public lands.  This is a known quantity already and any further reports on this issue must be avoided as it would be drawing resources away from on the ground efforts to address maintenance backlogs. Any efforts on streamlining NEPA must focus on “on the ground” benefits that can be achieved, such as streamlining NEPA for existing facilities or routes rather than developing additional planning or analysis efforts.

1c. Identification of priority trails must also be avoided.

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

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

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

3a. Recreation permitting process must be reviewed.

Over the past three decades, the permit application process seeking approval for smaller events on public lands has become unpredictable and so costly that the average American has to either break the law or do something else.  The Organizations are interested in a simple, consistent and cost-effective application that is realistic in its approach to the permitting process. The process should provide for equal opportunity on all federal land, whether the applicant is a large for-profit corporation or a small volunteer not-for-profit.

The Organizations submit that a far more refined course filter/fine filter type of review must be developed in order to make permitting processes more understandable and effective in the NEPA process. Our concerns can generally be outlined with the following issues:

  1. Application of permitting requirements has to be consistent on all public land;
  2. The current “Hand Book” for permitting of events on public lands needs dramatic revision; Clearly identifying that previous environmental analysis developed for permits should remain the basis for the issuance of categorical exclusions for the event unless there is a significant change in the event;
  3. Complete outline of any independent monitoring;
  4. Review of “Cost Recovery” and insurance qualifications must be addressed. Guidance should clearly identify that:
  5. costs associated with the event operation, such as lodging outside federal lands or food provided to participants is a deductible expense when calculating revenue from events for permitting applications;
  6. Providing a 3% cap of the adjusted gross revenue of the event cap on permit costs; and
  7. Explicitly provide a waiver of cost recovery provisions under specific conditions.
  8. Streamline “Volunteer” and “Cost Share “agreements; and
  9. Set reasonable timelines and institute an event analyses. High Country can’t get a permit to groom longer than a year because the insurance company will not issue a certificate for more than a year.

The permitting process and related NEPA can make simple projects with strong long-term partners far more complicated and the Organizations submit that some of these issues can be resolved with more clarity in guidance documents surrounding permits. We are providing three  examples of projects events  where permits and associated NEPA have become major challenges.  While the examples of the beacon checkpoints and grooming have been resolved and operations are continuing but resolution has taken significant time and effort to resolve and the local office response to these projects has been highly variable. The Organizations have to believe these types of efforts can have a significant impact on resources of any office when resolving these types of concerns are tallied.  While two of the three examples have been resolved too often the club type social events simply are not occurring.

The first example involves the placement of beacon checkpoints by local snowmobile clubs  at winter trailheads to: 1.  recommend to the public the use of avalanche beacons in areas where avalanches are a high concern; and 2.  Remind the public to turn their beacon on before going into the backcountry. The checkpoints are reflected in the following pictures:


Avalanche sign - Are you Beeping? Local Snowmobiles clubs placing avalanche signs

Colorado Snowmobile Association has placed more than 2 dozen of these beacon checkpoints throughout the state, and is pleased to report that in some locations in the state land mangers immediately saw the value of these efforts and placement was smooth and seamless. These managers were aware that club liability insurance and existing grooming permits covered signage and moved forward with little additional review. Once these checkpoints were in place, community response was overwhelmingly positive and benefitted all users of these areas, which the Organizations submit are exactly the types of projects USFS managers should be partnering to achieve in the most effective and streamlined manner possible.

About half of the clubs placing these signs had a very different experience, where land managers had concerns about liability from admitting there were avalanches in the area, advertising of businesses identified as project partners on the signage; and a possible need to undertake some level of NEPA or issuance of a specific permit for the sign.  While these concerns were eventually resolved, the process was slow and often painful for the volunteers attempting to place the sign.  These issues were compounded when one club has a beacon checkpoint sign up for a year or two on one side of a pass while the club on the other side of a pass, which is managed by a different office, does not have the same sign placed due to concerns over NEPA and permits slowing the process. The amount of administrative time allocated to these requests in offices moving forward with additional review must have been significant.

Our second example of NEPA and permitting requirements greatly complicating providing services to the public involves the issuance of SRPs for winter grooming. In Colorado all winter grooming is provided through a partnership with our Colorado Parks and Wildlife Program and local snowmobile clubs.  The CPW program provides grants to purchase groomers and partial funding for operation of this equipment, which is then leveraged with volunteer operators and huge levels of community support. Each club obtains an SRP for their grooming operations through their local forest service office. For many clubs this is a reasonably streamlined process and permits are provided on a multiple year basis.

However, this experience is not universal as we are aware of a club that must apply for an SRP on an annual basis.  The reasoning for an annual SRP being required is simply astonishing and represents a prime example of where a poorly streamlined process can significantly impact on the ground benefits. The basis for the annual permit is the fact the local club cannot get proof of insurance for their operations for more than one year. The Organizations believe a comparison to other long-term obligations that require insurance is highly valuable. This is simply astonishing as this type of issue could easily be resolved with a multiple year permit that simply required insurance be in place, as is the norm for residential mortgages.  The residential borrower simply has to keep insurance on property as part of the mortgage and without insurance the mortgage is fully due. Without such provisions, the residential mortgage market would simply not exist. The Organizations are unsure why additional proof is necessary for these grooming operations.

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

An example of this situation will provide context for our concerns. Frequently local clubs meet on an evening during the week and members may identify a desire to meet at a particular trailhead or parking lot later that month and run a particular trail and end the day at a particular restaurant or pavilion in the town park for a barbeque.  It is not uncommon for a particular member to stop and grab a value pack of burgers, some chips and soda at the local market so when people stop for lunch the meal is enjoyable and more social. Normally a hat gets passed as part of this process and everyone attending throws in $10 towards lunch and maybe rental fees on a pavilion or back room at the end location for the event. The funding from this type of an event is simply comically insufficient to support any type of NEPA analysis and imposition of even an administrative fee will probably be cost prohibitive due to the small number of attendees, who may very well be on the forest individually that weekend.

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

The Organizations also believe that streamlining permits for small not for profit organizations will improve relationships between these Organizations and land managers, which is of growing importance to the future of the forest service.  Many of these local clubs that are facilitating these impromptu events, are also a major source for volunteer labor now being sought to supplement diminished agency budgets and often these small local clubs are a major source of funding for projects.  In some states, federal land managers must partner with clubs in order to obtain grants and other private funding is only issued to organizations with particular tax status, such as the §501© designations frequently held by clubs. Overly strict permitting requirements for non-profit events frequently impairs the interest of the local clubs to partner with land managers for grants or other support in the future.  These benefits are critical moving forward and will also be difficult to place an exact monetary value on as well.

3b.  The scope of permit streamlining efforts should be expanded to allow for full inclusion of federal land management agencies involved in event permitting.

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

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

3d.  Timely issuance of permits for events can be difficult.

The Organizations are also aware of numerous situations where permits for events simply cannot be issued in a timely manner due to a wide range of issues surrounding the permit issuance.  Frequently many small events are simply not thought of months or years in advance but are more of informal nature and may only be organized at a club meeting a month or two in advance and this type of event development is completely at odds with a permitting process that often requires at least an 18-month lead time for a complete NEPA review of permit applications at an EA or higher level of review. While these events may be less formal in nature, these events provide important recreational opportunities to those that are participating in the event.   Often these small less formal events simply cannot be planned more than 18 months in advance and do not have the resources to undertake extensive review of possible impacts for what are existing routes and facilities.  Often event coordinators simply don’t pursue the event due to the barriers that are presented by the permitting process, which is unfortunate at best and a major barrier to access to public lands at worst.    This is an area where streamlining of NEPA can assist.

Timing of permits is also complicated by factors outside the direct permit issuance and these are often related to the timing restrictions of insurance coverage for the partnership. An example of this problem would be highly valuable. In Colorado, the majority of winter grooming on Forest Service lands is provided through local snowmobile clubs with the issuance of a special management permit for the grooming by various districts.  Each of the local clubs pools insurance costs through the state association and collectively purchases insurance for these operations at a significantly reduced cost.  While many USFS offices understand the limitations of insurance coverage to one year in this situation and issue multiple year permits with a requirement that insurance coverage remain in place, we are also aware of offices that simply will not issue multiple year permits due to the limitation of insurance coverage and policies to one year.

Rather than simply requiring insurance coverage be maintained under a multiple year permit, both the land manager and volunteer club representatives must apply for a new grooming permit every year. If this policy was applied to the purchase of homes, the public would not be able to obtain a 20 or 30-year mortgage to purchase a home but would rather have to renew their mortgage annually after providing proof of homeowner’s insurance. Clearly this issue has been resolved outside of public lands,  and continued issuance of annual permits simply makes no sense and would highlight a situation where a streamlined process would assist both managers and volunteer partners on public lands.

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

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

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

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

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

6. Organizational liability must be addressed in addition to volunteers.

As part of recent Forest Service efforts to expand partnerships for recreational maintenance type projects, not for profit Organizations are now being asked to undertaken more and different types of maintenance projects than ever before. This is very concerning as USFS volunteer agreements and Cost Share Challenges do address individual liability but fail to include a limitation on organizational liability for volunteer groups that are working on stewardship projects on public lands.  With the expansion of partnerships as a resource tool for federal land managers, NPO will be expanding partnership projects with land managers and they should be clearly protected in these situations.

Liability can easily result for the Organization when zealous volunteers may not be familiar with the scope of the insurance coverage in place or there are issues that arise out of up to date training for volunteers. We frequently encounter this issue when an NPO has BD&O or general liability coverage in place to undertake a project but the scope of the project with the USFS encompasses projects that are believed to be maintenance by some and construction by others. An example of this situation would be a club being asked to replace a damaged, vandalized, removed or end of life span sign along a trail.  While some will look at replacing this sign as maintenance, as the sign was there and is being maintained under a volunteer agreement and probably covered under a general liability policy, other interested parties will see this as new construction, which should have been the basis of some type of cost share challenge agreement and at least an endorsement on the general liability policy. Volunteers frequently lack the technical insurance savvy to even understand the concern and possible liability in this grey area, as commonly a “well versed” volunteer can identify what the policy for the club cost and maybe the term of the policy.  It is highly unlikely that any club representative will understand the scope of coverage and related limitations of their coverage.

This type of grey area liability is a huge concern for the Organizations as we are aware of several state level partners who have been sued in these situations  for projects on state lands. Several of these Organizations were defended under insurance that was in place but the Organizations failed to survive the lawsuit, such as the experiences of the Nebraska Off Highway Vehicle Coalition. Often these defenses for NPOs are undertaken without clear language in the policy and the Organizations are concerned that at some point this type of coverage will not be provided to the not for profit partners. This is the type of ambiguity that will eventually result in liability to an NPO and every effort should be taken to minimize risk and avoid this situation.

We are aware of several clubs that have undertaken stewardship projects on trails on federal public lands and after consulting in detail with their general liability insurer, were either entirely dropped from future coverage renewals or were provided with quotes that were entirely out of reach for the club.  Many of these quotes exceeded $10,000 per year for the club as insurers were treating the project in a manner similar to construction of a major interstate highway rather than repair of a trail on federal public lands.   While clubs can cover small insurance requirements, these are volunteer organizations with limited resources to cover insurance. With insurance expenses of this size providing a clear immunity type protection to the federal budgets, as the Organizations are aware that any savings from insurance costs would probably be directed into stewardship donations for projects the club may be undertaking that year. With the large levels of volunteer organizations doing this work, this cold easily develop into significant new funding for land managers.

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

While the Organizations are aware this issue will only be truly resolved with an amendment to existing federal legislation, the Organizations appreciate this opportunity to raise this concern and seek any assistance that might be able to be provided.

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

In the development of any planning efforts, maintaining the scope and goals of the planning effort is critical as the planning effort moves forward, as often planning efforts can drift away from the original goals and objectives of the plan.  This issue is of more significant concern in larger planning efforts, as often when landscape level planning efforts drift away from the original intent of the process new directions for the effort are embraced to address issues that are outside the scope of the original proposal.  Public support for efforts is sought to be expanded by seeking to address numerous localized issues when the primary driver of planning may drop in value or concern.  With this project drift, the public is not properly engaged and there are numerous collateral impacts such as the project now addressing artificially inflated management issues in the planning process.

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

Planning efforts must strive to address challenges that can actually be addressed at the scale of planning being undertaken and avoid directing resources towards artificially elevated planning issues.  Any planning efforts must be meaningfully undertaken, avoid taking what are largely symbolic gestures on issues, avoid making local site-specific decisions at the landscape level and insure that the final regional plan is a high-quality document that meets the original goals and objectives of the regional planning efforts.  This may mean that planning efforts should be stopped and this position can be difficult for local or regional planning staff to undertake and explain internally, especially when there are interested parties seeking to move forward with goals outside the scope of the original project.

8. Revisions should streamline and clarify the applicability of Categorical Exclusions and other lower levels of NEPA for projects.

Any NEPA revisions must streamline and clarify the applicability of Categorical Exclusions and other lower levels of NEPA for projects, in order to provide consistency in the decision-making process while reducing costs and speeding the resolution of management challenges. These challenges generally fall into two major categories: 1. Situations where a single project or event crosses multiple planning boundaries or involve multiple agencies which can result in inconsistent analysis or decisions between districts for the same project; and 2. Similar projects are often analyzed differently based on target audience of the project, such as lower levels of NEPA being required for a heavily used bicycle trail while more NEPA analysis is often required to address a minimally used multiple use trail. While this can be defended based on guidance currently in place, this application simply makes no sense on the ground and clearly results in increased costs and reduced partnership opportunities.

With the high rate of transition among field staff, this clarity in guidance will also avoid significant changes in NEPA necessary for a particular project with a change of staff in the office. These mid- process changes often result in conflict between partners and delayed resolution of issues with higher costs and may put partner funding obtained under strict timelines into jeopardy simply due to the revised NEPA timelines.  An example of this concern is again helpful.  Many times, when recreational trails are crossing wetlands or other riparian areas, these crossing areas need periodic maintenance and this periodic maintenance provides a good example of where streamlining would be very helpful.   Some land managers will see this as a wetland or riparian restoration that can clearly be done with a Categorical Exclusion, while other managers will see this type of project as a trail construction issue and require at least an EA. If a staffing changes occur in the middle of the project, the project may basically stall until the higher level of NEPA is satisfied and all the while the resource damage continues to occur.  This would be a prime opportunity where clarity in management requirements would streamline the process significantly and insure that any partners engaged in the process are not lost and that partner funding simply does not expire waiting for NEPA to be completed.

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

9. Guidance should encourage planners to recognize that federal planning may not be effective for all challenges.

The Organizations are aware that often there is significant public pressure on land managers to enter into planning efforts in response to a wide variety of pressures or concerns, some of which can be resolved in planning and others of which are motivated by a desire to appear responsive on issues.  Any NEPA streamlining must provide the ability to local land managers to allow a decision not to move into planning in response to a challenge.

As highlighted in recent Greater Sage Grouse planning, habitat management was a major planning challenge and was directly impacted by high levels of quality habitat being on private lands adjacent to public lands. Often public lands habitat was of significantly lower quality in a large number of planning quadrants.   In many  Sage Grouse planning quadrants, Grouse habitat areas were located more than 50% of the time on private lands adjacent to public land and as a result, planning efforts required collaboration at much higher levels than planning that only addressing public lands.  Managers should be allowed to recognize this issue and rather than reenter NEPA planning, simply work collaboratively with private land owners as habitat management was often an issue outside the scope of federal authority.

10a. Implementation of the minimization criteria in subsequent rounds of planning must be clarified.

Guidance around the NEPA process could significantly streamline implementation of the minimization criteria provided for in the Travel Management Rule,[4] when new planning efforts are adopted. Under the minimization criteria, possible resource impacts from roads and trails are to be minimized, while allowing managers to achieve the management objectives for each area identified in the relevant Resource Management Plan for the Forest. This issue is becoming more common as many Forests are approaching the end of the normal life spans for Forest Resource Management Plans created in the first round of forest plan development. Absent an intervening act, such as an ESA species listing, Wilderness or SMA Congressional designation, previous minimization analysis may remain highly relevant for significant portions of federal lands and would essentially create a presumption that existing activities in conformity with the existing plan would continue to be available under the new Resource Plan being developed. In contrast any argument that minimization must be undertaken completely and without regard to the planning in place lacks factual credibility as most forest plans we work with have clearly identified minimization goals and objectives in place and often fully implemented over the life of the plan.  If the goals have not been achieved managers should be confident in their decisions to lessen minimization goals to achieve the plan objectives rather than have to defend against those seeking to tighten access to public lands.

Providing guidance to local managers that minimization does not need to be fully reviewed at the forest level with each round of RMP development when there are not significant changes in the forest plan goals and objectives for the area would streamline planning and NEPA review. Areas that will continue to be developed under higher levels of usage will continue to have high intensities of roads and trail, while backcountry areas will have less.  While a forest plan revision may adjust small portions of boundaries for these areas, a landscape level alteration of these general goals and objectives is simply not probable or realistic.  Management  clarity on the relationship of existing minimization and ay minimization review in any new planning effort would allow managers to more extensively review minimization in areas that management goals have significantly changed and avoid directing resources to area without significant changes in the goals and objectives of the area.

Too often extensive pressure is applied on land managers by those opposing a particular usage to minimize all possible impacts from an activity on the forest without regard to planning history in a portion of the forest.[5]  Often this pressure is provided in the form of compelling summaries of partial summaries of court decisions or management decisions from the National Park Service, which operates outside multiple use requirements of the US Forest Service. The Organizations must question any asserted relevance of management decisions taken by agencies outside multiple use requirements to the decision making process for agencies governed by multiple use requirements.

The Organizations submit that there is a limited factual relevance of the minimization criteria to most second round Resource Management Plan development efforts at the forest level unless there is a significant change in management or an intervening Congressional action such as a Wilderness or Special Management area designation. Most management plans do not significantly alter the goals and objectives for management of large portions of the forest and as a result resource impacts should remain consistent with the goals of the management area and not be heavily impacted by artificial needs to minimize resource impacts. Levels of usage and routes will simply be higher around a developed campground or urban corridor when compared to a Research Natural Area and any assertion to the contrary would lack factual basis.  Land managers should be provided with clear management direction addressing the need to recognize the complete management history of the area, and the basic consistency of management objectives across planning processes to avoid issues in reapplying the minimization criteria that most forest planning resolved in the first round of planning. Minimization simply was never intended to be an ongoing process without regard to the goals and objectives established in the Forest Planning process and implementation of guidance recognizing this factual reality could again significantly streamline the NEPA process.

10b. Management direction for areas adjacent to National Trails System routes must be clarified to streamline NEPA.

The management of areas adjacent to routes identified under the National Trail System Act, such as National Scenic or National Historic Trails, has recently become another issue where clear agency guidance could significantly streamline the NEPA planning process. Existing agency guidance currently  asserts that motorized vehicle use by the general public is prohibited on these routes, which simply is not accurate and directly conflicts with the clearly stated intent and provisions of the National Trails System Act.  The Organizations do not contest that motorized usage is prohibited in Wilderness areas, Research Natural Areas or national wildlife refuges but would also note that there are significant portions of the National Trails System Act that specifically recognize multiple usages on trails outside those areas and identify the need for planners to maximize benefits and minimizing conflicts in areas adjacent to any trail identified in the NTSA. As an example of how clear guidance will streamline NEPA is the fact that almost 20% of the Continental Divide Trail is currently located on motorized roads and fails to identify how many miles of motorized trails are currently co-located on the CDT. Such a factual situation is functionally impossible to exist if current NTSA guidance was accurate.

As a result of this incomplete and inaccurate current guidance, local land managers are now at least forced to provide an alternative in NEPA analysis that addresses the complete closure of these corridors to motorized usage. Again, this is another issue were incomplete summaries have been provided previously and then subsequently significant public pressure is being applied based on the incomplete summaries.   Providing accurate guidance on this issue would narrow the scope of questions to be resolved any NEPA process involving areas around a route designated under the NTSA.

10c. Roadless areas managed outside National Roadless Rule.

Both Colorado and Idaho have promulgated state level roadless rules that are outside the scope of the 2001 National Roadless Rule and both of these Roadless Rules have moved towards higher intensity management and wider scopes of usage of Roadless Areas when compared to the National Rule. Both State Roadless Rules have recognized the need to manage poor forest health of these areas at a higher level than were previously addressed in the 2001 Roadless Rule.  While these rulemaking efforts have been completed for several years, the differences between these state rules and the national rule have not been fully integrated into the planning and inventory process guidance from the USFS.   The failure to fully integrate these new rules has complicated NEPA implementation on both Forest and District level efforts undertaken subsequently.

While timber sales and road construction were identified as primary change factors in Roadless areas, these factors are often now seen as critical factors in establishing basic forest health and protecting recreational usage, water quality.  While the 2001 Roadless Rule never altered multiple use requirements for management of these areas, there was immediately inferred a strong relationship between Roadless Areas and future Wilderness designations in much of the USFS management guidance.  This relationship is at best questionably relevant nationally with the explosion of forest health issues since final release of the national Roadless Rule and even less relevant in states that have completed promulgation of their own roadless rules which clearly identify the need for timber management and multiple use of Roadless areas in those states.

The basic direction and intent of these state planning efforts is significantly different in addressing these activities now found necessary, but that were originally found to be the major activities to be avoided in Roadless areas.  While these state Roadless Rules have been formalized for extended periods, no national guidance has been provided to inform local planning efforts regarding the different direction and scope of these rules in relation to active management.  Rather all inventory process move forward under the premise that there is still a similar level of desire to move Roadless areas to Wilderness, which is directly contradictory to the direction and intent of both the Colorado and Idaho Roadless Rule.  As part of a NEPA streamlining process, proper guidance should be provided regarding the different direction and intent that Colorado and Idaho have promulgated in their Roadless Rules.  These are different guidance and inventory standards and these differences must be reflected in guidance documents.

10e.  Recommended Wilderness Areas must have management clarity.

For many of the same reasons as Roadless Area management could be streamlined in Idaho and Colorado, the inventory and management of Recommended Wilderness areas could be significantly streamlined as well. Too often land managers feel compelled to expand Recommended Wilderness areas in the management process and to subsequently manage these areas to improve their Wilderness suitability. The Organizations are aware that often those seeking expansion of these types of designations make a compelling presentation in meetings asserting a need for more Wilderness and that often Wilderness is the solution for pretty much any management challenge.  It has been the Organizations experience that often these presentations simply lack factual basis and often lead to significant management changes in these areas, such as prohibiting dispersed recreation on trails, forest health treatments and other activities that the USFS has successfully balanced for decades in the areas now sought to be designated as RWA or similar. Our concerns about lost opportunities for dispersed recreation are compounded by the fact that until such time as Congress designates an area as Wilderness it is to be managed for multiple use under federal law.

Two concerns highlight this need for management clarity on RWA and related management standards and these concerns are: 1. Public lands are a finite size and the odds on finding new Wilderness like areas is slim after the numerous inventory and planning efforts that have been undertaken to date; and 2.  The ability of land managers to actively address the poor forest health now systemic on public lands is impaired by Wilderness like designations applied in the planning process. The first concern is simply factual in nature and based on more than 50 years of inventory and review of possible Wilderness designations as part of the Forest planning efforts.  The odds on any manager finding a new Wilderness area on a Forest is slim, especially given the increased visitation to public lands that the USFS is struggling to continue to address and manage. At this point, most new Wilderness areas identified  have resulted from restrictive management practices in the past or the failure of current managers to understand the extent of previous inventory undertaken. Most NEPA analysis the Organizations have participated in fails to recognize the previous inventory process and related conclusions of these inventories.  Sometimes this problem arises from the fact that the local land manager was in Junior High School when the first rounds of the RARE process were being undertaken.  They simply have no personal knowledge and must be educated about the long and intricate history.  This is where the streamlining opportunities are presented, as many land managers are not able to locate detailed reports and other information conducted around possible RWA or Roadless areas previously.

Many of these possibly new Wilderness recommendation areas were found unsuitable for designation as Wilderness decades ago, and the reasons were identified in those inventory documents. Unfortunately many times these documents are not readily available or have not been transferred to a modern format for use by managers in current planning efforts.   The Organizations submit it is no more acceptable to close a non-conforming usage in subsequent planning than it was to close the usage at the time of the original inventory. Such an occurrence is simply too frequent and has again happened in the Great Burn RWA on the Nez-Pierce/Clearwater NF in Idaho, where motorized usage was lost due to a perceived need to manage these areas to improve Wilderness characteristics despite these areas never being suitable for designation previously and often these areas having a well documented history of multiple usage.

In addition to managers lacking a complete inventory history for areas, which makes closure decisions easier, managers frequently are subjected to significant pressure to the effect that Wilderness improves forest health and protects wildlife.  This position again lacks any factual basis as the poor forest health is the single largest challenge that will face land managers in this generation. As a result of pressure and poor facts, managers are forced into poor decisions that impair addressing poor forest health rather than streamlining planning requirements and subsequent site specific efforts.  Resource Management Plans should be asking how do we  address dead tree removal and streamline restoration of landscapes to protect water resources and recreational opportunities by restoring forest health in future.  Instead Resource Management plans and expanded Recommended Wilderness designations often make addressing  these issues more difficult.

The relationship of poor forest health and heightened restrictions on management of public lands has been repeatedly addressed by the USFS researchers  but much of this information is simply not well know to planning officers.   In a Rocky Mountain Research Station report reviewing the USFS response to the bark beetle outbreak, management restrictions were clearly and repeatedly identified as a major contributing factor to the outbreak and a major limitation on the response.  This report clearly stated:

  • Limited accessibility of terrain (only 25% of the outbreak area was accessible due to steep slopes, lack of existing roads, and land use designations such as Wilderness that precluded treatments needed to reduce susceptibility to insects and disease).[6]
  • In general, mechanized treatments are prohibited in designated wilderness areas. The Arapaho Roosevelt, White River, and Routt National Forests in Colorado have a combined total of over one million acres of wilderness; the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming has more than 78 thou­sand acres. A large portion of these wilderness acres have been impacted by the current bark beetle outbreak.[7]
  • Owing to terrain, and to budgetary, economic and regulatory limitations—such as prohibitions on entering roadless areas and designated wilderness—active management will be applied to a small fraction (probably less than 15%) of the forest area killed by mountain pine beetles. Research studies conducted on the Sulphur Ranger District of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest help us understand the implica­tions of this situation.[8]

With clear management concern regarding the impacts of restrictive management on the pine beetle response, the Organizations must question any restrictions on active management of forest health issues from expansion of these types of recommended Wilderness like management designations.

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

Live vs. Dead Whitebark Densiity


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

10e.  Subpart C implementation guidance must be issued to streamline subsequent NEPA.

The Organizations have been significantly involved in the litigation and subsequent rule making efforts around implementation of the over the snow portions of the Travel Management Rule as a result of the Idaho lawsuits in both 2011 and 2017 and legal challenges to the California grooming efforts on USFS lands. Our support for the need for expanded guidance on the implementation of the OSV Rule  is further based on our experiences with implementation of the new USFS planning rule.  After involvement in these efforts the Organizations submit that these are issues were future NEPA efforts could be significantly streamlined with the issuance of guidance documents by the USFS leadership to local offices. While this guidance documentation would not directly address NEPA, this guidance would clearly address numerous issues surrounding the NEPA process, such as when is existing planning sufficient to move forward with issuance of an OSVUM,  and educating managers there is no deadline for the issuance of an OSVUM if planning is less than complete. It has been our experience that there is significant confusion around the OSV planning issue currently  with line officers.

Our experiences working with local managers undertaking forest plan revisions after issuance of the USFS Planning Rule 2.0 and before issuance of agency implementation guidance documents weighs heavily in our position on the need for OSV guidance materials to be developed.  Often local managers became overly cautious on issues as a result of the lack of national guidance and undertook reviews that were simply unnecessary since there was no guidance available for these planners to rely on when developing a new forest level plan.  At best these overly cautious decisions lead to additional levels of public reviews and  what can only be a FAR more extensive internal agency process  being undertaken in an attempt to dot every I and cross every T.  Often times these new processes and reviews lead to confusion of the public regarding a wide range of issues such as: 1. The scope of what was and was not open for comment in the planning process; 2. When next steps in the planning process were going to be undertaken; and 3.  Conflicts between the planning process undertaken on planning units within immediate geographic proximity as some forests dealt with issues in one step while other forest broke a process down into multiple elements. This lead to confusion and frustration of the public and some of the public simply disconnecting from planning efforts moving forward. Guidance documents from USFS leadership recently issued have seemed to help with this issue.

An example of the overly cautious planning efforts that have resulted from the lack of national guidance on how to implement USFS planning 2.0 requirements can be found on the GMUG national forest in Colorado.  Here planners provided a far more extensive comment process in the Wilderness Inventory phase of planning that ever before, in the hope of complying with the new transparency and public involvement portions of the Planning 2.0 efforts. As a result public comments were accepted regarding the suitability of the entire landmass of the GMUG for possible Wilderness recommendations.

While the Organizations are aware such a review is technically required under the Wilderness Act and related planning regulations, the scope of public comment was unprecedented on the GMUG as comments were accepted on the entire forest and on new issues such as boundary adjustments in the inventory process.  Most planning efforts previously have inventoried the entire landmass of the forest but only accepted comment on areas that at least arguably met the criteria for possible inclusion in the Wilderness after a preliminary review by land managers.  Involving the public in Wilderness inventory process so much earlier than ever before appeared to be based on a lack of clarity around implementation of Planning 2.0.  The Organizations are concerned that this lack of clarity in the planning process implementation has probably degraded the quality of public involvement in the process, lead to some confusion of the public in commenting and created work for planners, both as a result of the added process and the need to respond to public input that will probably be confusing at best.  While the Organizations appreciate the caution and transparency of the process, we are also not sure this level of transparency is necessary and submit this would be a situation where guidance could be very helpful in streamlining future NEPA processes. The Organizations submit that implementation of the OSV rules should not suffer from these types of confusion that resulted from delayed national guidance around the implementation of Planning 2.0.

Our concerns regarding a lack of national guidance documents addressing OSV travel is even more acute with implementation of OSV planning as this is an entirely new process for winter travel management and has been evolving as a result of the various lawsuits. This litigation has fueled the rumor mill regarding what is and is not required in planning. Most planners had a working knowledge of USFS planning process before Planning 2.0, but any of the planners we have spoken with lack even this type of basic working structure for OSV travel. While there have been areas and forests that have previously embarked on winter travel specific plans, such as the White River National Forest (WRNF) in Colorado or the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) around Lake Tahoe, California, most planners we have contacted are simply unfamiliar with the planning requirements, scope of lawsuit settlement and are expressing a generally confused position on OSV management and implementation.  National guidance would be very helpful in developing high quality NEPA in the future and avoiding litigation of OSVUM that might not be based on high quality planning efforts or forest plans that are out of date, such as happened with the second round of litigation in Idaho in 2017.  These types of guidance documents would be even more valuable for planning efforts as there is no mandated completion date for OSV travel management under the litigation settlement, which is a very different direction than most planning efforts and certainly implementation of the summer portions of the travel management process.

Implementation of OSV planning has moved forward under three general categories:1. The LTBMU, WRNF and others have moved forward with independent separate landscape level winter travel plans; 2. Other forests have moved forward with winter travel planning as part of forest planning; and 3. Other areas have moved forward with Winter Travel on a very site specific level, such as that occurring on Rabbit Ears and Vail Pass areas in Colorado. National guidance on the factors that  were weighed by land managers and impacted how these land managers identified the proper level to move forward under  would be helpful for planners that are embarking on OSV planning for the first time. Basic information and guidance on  questions such as:

  1. Would these land managers repeat the OSV planning at the same geographic level or would they change the scope of their efforts?
  2. What hurdles were encountered during implementation of their plan?
  3. What planning tools have well and what issues or challenges could be addressed more accurately or completely in planning in the future?

These are the kinds of basic challenges that land managers appear to be addressing around OSV travel and the experiences of planners on the WRNF and LTBMU and others  would prove very insightful on landscape level decisions.  The fact that the LTBMU is now moving forward with their second round of OSV planning on the basin provides even further opportunity to leverage the experiences on this unit and further refine planning on other units.  The LTBMU provides opportunities to address questions like  how has the previous vigor in planning on the LTBMU influenced the direction and scope of the second round of winter travel review being currently undertaken on the LTBMU on issues such as minimization factors.

Guidance from the national office could address experiences with more detailed questions or proposal in the planning processes at the forest or local level.  Several of these existing OSV plans efforts have also relied on planning criteria that were interesting at the time the plan was developed but either failed to be valuable for a variety of reasons.  Examples of this would include:

  1. Relying on altitude as a trigger for winter planning as attempted by several forests as part of the California grooming settlement;
  2. The WRNF attempting to include tree density as a planning factor in OSV planning.

Guidance should be addressing why the altitude floor as a trigger failed in the California discussions and that while the WRNF tree density issue was interesting, it has proven to be less than relevant to the planning efforts.  The WRNF experience has been that many in the snowmobile community frequently are now seeking out areas foresters thought were unrideable and with the ever evolving technology and hybridization of the OSV travel many of these more densely treed areas are now the most desirable for snowbikes and hybrid skiers.  Conveying this type of experience would be highly valued in any national guidance.

In addition to the more specific OSV planning experiences identified above, the Organizations believe any guidance from the summer travel planning process would also be helpful.  From the Organizations standpoint our experiences with local travel planning were always more successful than larger landscape level planning efforts for travel.  Local planning for travel simply allowed better public involvement, issue identification for specific routes, and better public buy in to the planning during the implementation process as the public understood why decisions were made. Too often the public was completely  overwhelmed by the scope of identifying specific  routes in landscape planning for more than 1 million acres, priorities were directed to certain areas of the forest while other important areas received and  this generally resulted in lower quality public input being received.

The Organizations area aware of situations where landscape level travel and site specific planning were being undertaken at the same time, which has led to awkward issues and fostering of distrust between users and managers for inadvertent oversights.  This resulted in local planning being completed immediately before the release of landscape level analysis and then landscape level planning omitting routes to be build or opened in the site specific efforts, despite the route being a priority in the site specific planning.  While these failures were resolved eventually in the landscape level efforts, the identification and resolution of the issues were awkward at best and did not improve relationships between land managers and the public.

Additionally it has been the Organizations experience that landscape level planning for travel results in simply too many issues of scale.  Often maps lack clarity such as basic landmarks or are relying on boundary lines that are unclear or cover a large a large corridor simply due to the scale of mapping needed to cover millions of acres.   Too often questions at the route specific level, such as a route being inside or outside a certain planning designation are complicated by a map boundary covering a corridor of hundreds of feet on the ground.  This is a major concern when that boundary makes or breaks the existence of a route that is only 50 inches wide but beloved by a community.


The Organizations welcome the opportunity provided in this comment period on how to refine and streamline the NEPA planning process and to provide more detailed information and input on our experiences with the NEPA process on a wide range of public lands in the hope that previous mistakes will not be repeated.  The Organizations are providing these more extensive comments as we are aware that often the “why” behind a position that is taken is as important as the position itself. In these comments, the Organizations are targeting changes that can be undertaken in the planning process under the current legislative systems. While the Organizations support changes to the Legislative structure that governs planning, such as revising and updating the Endangered Species Act, the Organizations are also aware that such changes are outside the scope of the request from your Offices’.

The Organizations are aware that the scope of NEPA review is heavily driven by federal legislation and as a result much of the statutorily required process is probably outside the range of discussion for the current request.  As a result, the Organizations are focusing on guidance documents and principals related to the implementation of NEPA requirements for various projects and efforts. The Organizations submit that significant opportunities for a leaner and more efficient NEPA process  are present as a result of the ambiguity in many of these guidance documents and related poor understanding of land managers in addressing many of the technical aspects of the NEPA process.  These benefits are limited and any benefit of the streamlining process could easily be lost with implementation of processes that increase the administrative overhead of site specific projects or to the NEPA process as a whole.   On the ground benefits of streamlining must be the goal of the proposal implementation.

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

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

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

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance


[1] See, Department of Interior, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Brochure – undated at page 3.  available at

[2] See, Department of Interior, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Brochure – undated at page 1.  available at

[3] See, Department of Interior, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Brochure – undated at page 2.  available at

[4] See, Executive Order 11644 as amended.

[5] See, or—May%202016.pdf as examples of the pressures applied on managers to minimize without regard to management history or goals and objectives for the management area and to rely on Park Service guidance for basic management direction on multiple use lands.

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

[7] Udall Forest Health report at pg 5

[8] Udall Forest Health Report at pg 18

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


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