• Welcome to the new NAXJA Forum! If your password does not work, please use "Forgot your password?" link on the log-in page. Please feel free to reach out to [email protected] if we can provide any assistance.

(CO) White River National Forest travel management plan

Ed A. Stevens

NAXJA Member
NAXJA Member
Forest access battle (CO)


Forest access battle taking shape

By Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

As winter yields to spring and the roads and trails of the White River National Forest start to thaw, a debate over access for off-road vehicles is heating up.

One year after the U.S. Forest Service released its White River National Forest Plan, the agency is preparing this summer to complete a complementary document that dictates which
roads and trails remain open and which are closed.
The forest plan laid out general philosophies of how chunks of the 2.3 million acres of public lands in the White River are managed. Now, the travel management plan will address the status of individual trails and roads.

Motorized recreation groups are already gearing up to try to prevent any loss of access. They’re trying to get wary mountain bike groups to join forces with them.

Conservationists are rallying to preserve roadless areas remaining in the forest and to add land with the wilderness designation, which prohibits mechanized travel.

‘Enough Wilderness’
A well-funded national organization called the BlueRibbon Coalition has established itself as a leading voice for motorized recreation in the travel management fight.
The group lives by the motto, “Preserving our natural resources FOR the public instead of FROM the public.”

The Pocatello, Idaho, group filed an appeal to the White River National Forest Plan opposing creation of more wilderness and closure of access for off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. As
grounds for the appeal, the BlueRibbon Coalition said the Forest Service must be more responsive to user trends.
“Non-wilderness uses are just exploding,” said Bill Dart, public lands director for the coalition.
“You have to sell what the customer wants.”

The coalition’s appeal cites data in the forest plan that showed
off-road vehicle use increased 74 percent between 1984 and 1996 and mountain bike use shot up a staggering 214 percent on forest lands.

Hiking grew at a smaller rate, the coalition stated, so it makes no
sense to designate more land
as wilderness and reduce access at a time when motorized and mechanized
demand is growing.
“We feel there’s enough wilderness,” Dart said.
Hiking still tops
Sloan Shoemaker, conservation director for the Aspen Wilderness
Workshop, said it’s not the
rate of growth of a specific forest user group that counts as much as
the overall use by a group.
For example, mountain biking’s growth is so drastic since 1984 because
it was relatively new
Although hiking didn’t grow as much as off-road vehicle use or cycling
since 1984, it still grew at
7 percent, and it accounts for 15 percent of all recreation visitor days
in the forest during
summers. The forest plan estimated there are 352,000 visitor days from
hikers annually.
Off-road vehicle use accounted for 168,000 recreation visitor days or
about 7 percent of the
total, the forest plan shows. Mountain biking accounts for 240,000
visitor days or 10 percent.
Automobile travel on paved or two-wheel-drive roads accounted for 50
percent of visitor days.
The Aspen Wilderness Workshop has also appealed the forest plan, taking
the lead for a
coalition of conservation groups. That coalition wants more land
designated as wilderness and
more roadless areas preserved.
The plan designates 82,000 additional acres of wilderness. Some of that
land is in the Thompson
Creek area southwest of Carbondale.
Shoemaker said the conservation groups want 200,000 acres added to
The Wilderness Workshop and other conservationists also object that the
Forest Service only
considers 640,000 acres as roadless, and that it is preserving only
about 31 percent of those
lands in their wild state.
Shoemaker said the group feels the roadless acreage was underestimated
and that about 1
million acres really qualify as roadless.
In addition to filing its own appeal to the forest plan, the
conservation coalition has filed a request
to “intervene” in the Forest Service’s hearing on the BlueRibbon
Coalition’s appeal. The
conservationists want to make sure the Forest Service hears both sides
of the issue on travel
Shoemaker said conservation groups believe that enough access already
exists for motorized
forest users. A large amount of research shows that roads and trails
fragment ecosystems and
have a detrimental effect on wildlife, he said.
Groups like the Blue Ribbon Coalition “always scream about their right
but they never talk about
their responsibilities,” Shoemaker said.
Sticky position for feds
The forest plan acknowledges that the Forest Service is in a sticky
position when it comes to
conflicting uses.
“Along with the multitude of diverse uses has come an increasing demand
for segregating the
uses,” the plan said. “Public scoping indicates non-motorized travelers
are finding it more difficult
to find areas outside of wilderness, free of motorized use.
“Motorized users maintain that the forest provides more than ample
opportunity for seclusion
within 750,000 acres of Wilderness. They are concerned that future
management will tend to
reduce motorized access,” the plan said.
The plan shows that 800,000 acres outside of wilderness are accessible
for motorized users.
The forest currently has 2,350 miles of forest roads and 1,900 miles of
The forest plan sends a mixed message on how those numbers will be
affected once the travel
management plan is completed.
“Management will be encouraged to convert roads to trails or fully
decommission roads no
longer needed to serve the forest or public,” said the plan’s policy
statement on travel
On the other hand, the plan seems to try to avoid offending the powerful
off-road vehicle lobby.
It declares that summer motorized travel opportunities will be
“This revised forest plan envisions creation of motorized loops, and the
Forest Service hopes to
work with user groups to create new trails specifically geared for
motorcycles and all-terrain
vehicles,” the plan summary said.
Indications are that the Forest Service expects the travel management
plan this summer to be a
bit more heated than the broader forest plan of last summer.
“Travel management was so contentious they separated it out,” Shoemaker

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted
material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who
expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for
research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: