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Action Alert: Council for Environmental Quality NEPA process

Action Alert: CEQ NEPA Revisions

The Council for Environmental Quality is seeking to make the entire NEPA process more effective and efficient. We are asking for your comments in support of this effort.

The Council on Environmental Quality(“Council”) is seeking to make the entire NEPA process more effective and efficient and is undertaking a review similar to those recently performed by the Forest Service(“USFS”). The Council is a division of the White House and oversees NEPA processes for all federal agencies, so this is different than the process recently completed by the USFS. Both the USFS and BLM are subsidiary organizations of other federal agencies and CEQ is much higher in the federal management model. This proposal would be a quantum leap forward in reducing the amount of analysis and paperwork needed for the basic maintenance and operations of trail networks on public lands.

One of the major barriers consistently encountered by the motorized community is extensive NEPA analysis of minor projects. This is exemplified by the fact CDOT can add a lane to I70 with an EA but we are required to do an EA to build a 36-inch-wide dirt path in the woods? These changes will allow the Agency and partners to more efficiently implement projects that support the management and operation of agency infrastructure, including administrative sites and facilities, recreation sites and facilities, and trails, roads, and bridges.

While this is a quantum leap forward, we also expect a lot of opposition to the proposal from those opposed to multiple use, and as a result we are asking for your comments in support. That information is below.

Our thoughts for comments:

Overall Proposal is a major step towards a more efficient and effective NEPA process. A few examples of the Proposal revisions would include:

  • Expanded usage of CEQ guidelines regarding scientific uncertainty around a project. Too often NEPA is attempting to analyze the impacts of weather and other forces on a project or seeks far too specific a level of analysis of issues that are generally well understood. Expanded use of the ability to determine this data is unnecessary or that conclusions are uncertain and allowing greater flexibility in these situations is very reasonable.
  • Expanded public scoping of projects early in the NEPA process, in a manner similar to the GMUG efforts on their new Forest Plan.

Recommendations for further improvements to the NEPA process:

  • The travel management Executive Orders (EO 11644 and 11989) simply must be updated as the travel management EO concepts add significant complexity to the NEPA process when they are overlapped with other statutory charges passed since the early 1970s. The EO create highly subjective requirements such as minimum roads for an area, and this is simply redundant with planning requirements found in most forest plans. Minimization was never supposed to be an ongoing process.
  • We need more data on what drives NEPA analysis. It has been our experience that managers are seeing NEPA analysis as a cost-reducing tool when compared to legal defense of decisions. An example of this would be the litigation settlement of claims on the Pike/San Isabel NF. NEPA analysis from this settlement has now taken 5 years of work and is nowhere near completion. This is a significant cost and a tracking system should be implemented to track these costs. We do not believe this model is saving money overall but has resulted in significant extra costs to land managers.
  • More clarity is needed on what can be done with lower levels of NEPA – USFS provided specific examples of project that can be done under low levels of NEPA such as:
    • – Land managers can now construct trailhead facilities like parking lots and toilets with a Categorical Exclusion;
    • Allow land managers to construct/realign up to 5 miles of new NFS road and reconstruct up to 10 miles of NFS roads;
    • Clarifying that managers can move user-created routes to system routes with a categorical exclusion under certain circumstances; and
    • Allow issuance of permits for events that are occurring on existing USFS roads and trails.
      CEQ should follow this example.
  • A Cooling Off period following NPEA is warranted. The Proposal does seek to avoid repetition of NEPA analysis in other proceedings, and we are all too familiar with groups using emergency petitions for endangered species listings as a replacement for NEPA. The Organizations would support a cooling-off period for alternative reviews of a NEPA decision for a period of time in order to avoid these types of behaviors.

One issue of concern has arisen, which is concerning for us, which is the reduced analysis of possible economic impacts from a project. Too often economic impacts are poorly understood and calculated and rather than making this easier, the proposal should require additional discussion of how decisions of no economic impact are reached. If there are truly no economic impacts from a project this is evidence that too high a level of NEPA is being pursued for the analysis not that there are no economic impacts.

More information on the NEPA streamlining efforts

Filing Information for comments

Electronic comments:
Go to and follow the online instructions for submitting comments to Docket ID No. CEQ-2019-0003

Written comments:
Council on Environmental Quality
730 Jackson Place NW
Washington, DC 20503
Attn: Docket No. CEQ-2019-0003

Due Date: March 10, 2020

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Action Alert: The Core Wilderness Proposal Needs Your Opposition!

 Action Alert: The Core Wilderness Proposal Needs Your Opposition!

Our Quick Thoughts:

Senator Bennet and Representative Neguse recently proposed the CORE Wilderness Act and it prohibits motorized usage of almost 400,000 acres of public lands. We lose legal trails and riding areas right now and even more long-term expansion opportunities in the future. Many areas proposed to be designated have been previously released for non-wilderness multiple use by Congress. Rather than the strong community support that is being asserted, there is a complete lack of consensus on the CORE Wilderness Act. Our requests on the CORE Wilderness Act component proposals have been very reasonable and have been consistently stonewalled.

The CORE Wilderness Act is simply a combination of two of the usual Wilderness suspects we have been fighting for a decade or more. They are: 1. The old San Juan Wilderness Proposal; 2. The old Continental Divide Wilderness Proposal. CORE also includes the Old Thompson Divide Proposal and a boundary for the Curecanti National Park around Blue Mesa Reservoir. Despite the assertions this is a recreation bill, CORE Wilderness Act does not improve recreation access for most users but rather closes trails, put far more trails at risk in the long term and closes open areas to future usage. This is a Wilderness bill!!

We also would like to recognize Senator Gardner and Congressman Tipton Office’s for resisting the immense pressure being applied regarding this legislation and recognizing the negative impacts to public access to public lands that would result and continuing to work towards a legislative proposal that protects all forms of recreation and multiple usage of these lands.

Quick Summary of the San Juan Wilderness impacts to motorized recreation:

  1. The San Juan portion of CORE Wilderness closes approximately 55,000 acres to motorized usage with 32,000 of Wilderness and 23,000 acres of management areas prohibiting motorized usage. No releases or protections for motorized are in the San Juan portion of the CORE Wilderness.
  2. The CORE Wilderness closes the Sheep Mtn area outside Telluride to snowmobile usage, which is currently legal and has been under the GMUG management plan since 1983.
  3. While the San Juan proposal does not close trails it brings the Wilderness within 50ft of where boundary trails are thought to be. USFS MVUM are simply not accurate for this type of management and we would lose with any inaccuracy in mapping. More room is needed to perform maintenance and reroutes on the trails to keep them open. We have proposed 300 ft buffer and a Congressional protection (similar to National Scenic or National Motorized Recreation Trail) for these trails for years – they have fallen on deaf ears
  4. We are unable to determine the exact origin of the 50ft buffer standard but by comparison the US Forest Service recommends a half mile buffer around trails designated under the National Trail System Act. Why is the buffer so much smaller here?
  5. Many of the areas now sought to be designated as Wilderness were specifically released by Congress for Non-Wilderness Multiple Use as part of the 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act. Many of the current Wilderness boundaries were put in the specific location to avoid conflict with trails in the area, and the San Juan Proposal would put the boundaries in the locations Congress already found unacceptable in 1980.

A quick summary of Continental Divide Wilderness impacts to motorized:

  1. The Continental Divide portion of CORE Wilderness proposes 43,000 acres of Wilderness and 28,000 acres of management areas that prohibit motorized usage, while claiming to balance this with management of 28,000 acres for motorized (which is already open to motorized). Tough to claim that is a benefit to recreation.
  2. The Continental Divide portion of CORE Wilderness closes extensive legal trail networks in the Spraddle Creek and Williams Fork areas that were just supported by travel management planning in 2012.
  3. Almost every area proposed to be Wilderness in Continental Divide portion has been identified as a future motorized expansion area. This is simply unacceptable as only 7% of WRNF was suitable and available for snowmobile usage in the 2012 Forest Travel plan. By comparison almost 30% of the WRNF is already Wilderness and sees approximately 3% of all visitation.
  4. There is no balance in the Continental Divide as the Ten-mile Recreation area is closed to motorized along with wildlife areas despite the fact that much of these areas have legal motorized access currently.
  5. The Camp Hale provisions allowing motorized access to 28,000 acres we already have legal access to is simply insufficient to balance out approximately 400,000 acres of new Wilderness and closures.
  6. The “No Name” addition to the Holy Cross Wilderness puts the Holy Cross City trail at risk due to the proximity of the Wilderness impairing the ability to maintain the trail. This is a nationally recognized route

A more detailed analysis of site-specific impacts is available here:

2018 San Juan Wilderness Proposal Comments

San Juan Wilderness Proposal

2018 Continental Divide Wilderness Proposal Comments

Continental Divide Recreation Wilderness and Camp Hale Act

A draft of our counter proposal protecting public access to recreational opportunities

Conceptual paper on Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act Proposal

Our asks from you is submitting comments around these issues:

  1. There is no consensus around the CORE Wilderness Proposal and previous Congressional decisions made by consensus must be honored. Pursuing consensus efforts that ignore previous consensus decisions is difficult to understand. A lot of work is needed to protect all forms of recreation in the CORE Wilderness act. Don’t close the public out of public lands.
  2. If we are protecting recreation, why are so many opportunities being lost? Legally designated areas should not be closed. Wider buffers for existing legal trails should be combined with Congressional designations protecting motorized usage of the route when Wilderness is immediately adjacent to the trail.
  3. Previous legal determinations regarding the utilization of areas for recreation in the future must be honored rather than having these areas designated as Wilderness.
  4. Outstanding commitments made in previous Wilderness bills such as Rollins Pass Road that Congress mandated be reopened in 2002 must be honored. There are also areas we would like to see released and protected for multiple use, such as the North Sand Hills.

Electronic Comments:

US Postal Service:
Congressman Neguse
1419 Longworth HOB
Washington DC 20515

US Postal Service:
Senator Bennet
261 Russell Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

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Critical Action Alert: San Juan Trail Riders

To all our members and other loyal constituents:

As many of you already know San Juan Trail Riders has been working diligently for more than 9 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Dolores Ranger District on a travel management plan.  The final plan, issued July 2018, primarily impacts motorcycle riding on existing trails that have been ridden by motorcyclists for almost 4 decades.  Even with all our efforts to work out a reasonable, just and appropriate travel plan for motorcycle recreation in the Rico/West Dolores landscape, the District Ranger has acted arbitrarily and capriciously and has signed a Record of Decision which eliminates nearly 30% of existing trails from motorcycle travel.  In yet another blow to trail users, the District Ranger chose to impose a restrictive seasonal closure that further limits motorcycle travel on existing trails, allowing riding only from June 1 to October 30.

The Decision will crush long and historic motorcycle recreation in the area and serve special interests.  It is so imbalanced that multiple organizations have now filed a lawsuit challenging the Decision.  San Juan Trail Riders (SJTR), Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), and PAPA have banded together with legal counsel Mr. Paul Turcke of Boise, ID to use this litigation to exhaust all opportunities to overturn this Decision on behalf of our members, constituents, local business owners, county organizations, future generations of motorcycle recreationalists and other OHV user groups.

This battle, which may be long-lasting, will need an extremely strong financial backing to see it through to success.  If we cannot collectively overturn this Decision we believe the future of motorcycle recreation in the San Juan National Forest, as well as other forests, will be at risk.  YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT IS CRITICAL if we are to win this battle and we believe we can.

Today we are launching a 45 DAY DONATION CHAMPAIGN (to November 15) as an opportunity for each and every one of us to STEP-UP AND DONATE to the cause!   This litigation could amount to well over $100k.  For as little as the cost of a couple of motorcycle tires from each of us, we can do this.  All donations are being collected by the lead organization Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) for our lawsuit.   TPA is a 501c3 corporation, allowing donations to be tax deductible. The address for TPA for all donations is listed below.  Let’s commit to make this a highly successful donation campaign to protect these world-class trails that we have used for so many years and to keep them available for others to enjoy for years to come.

Respectfully:  Your San Juan Trail Riders Board of Directors

Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA)
P.O. Box 38093
Colorado Springs, CO    80937

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