Motorized recreationists call for continued access to forest
A group of motorized recreationists told U.S. Forest Service officials Tuesday they want no further reduction of their activities.
The group, convened at the Glenwood Springs Ramada Inn, sounded off about needing space because their numbers are growing. They stressed the need for trails with scenic views and trails to camping destinations, and called for continued access to the national forest in numerous areas. And they observed that heavily-used recreation areas must be monitored to minimize violations.
But a few members of the group also expressed doubt that the input they gave the agency will find its way into the White River National Forest management plan, now proceeding from draft form to a final plan.
The group, invited by the Forest Service, included four-wheel-drive enthusiasts, all-terrain-vehicle drivers, motorcyclists and snowmobilers. Several members complained that, due to the mandated direction of the forest plan toward protection of biological diversity and away from resource extraction, their concerns weren’t heard in earlier citizen input stages.
“Does anybody think we’ve changed anything by what we said today?” asked John Martin of Grand Junction, chairman of the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO). “You could ask for a show of hands, and I don’t think you’d see an armpit in the room.”
“What’s different about what’s going to come out of this?” asked Don Riggle of Colorado Springs, representing Colorado 500, an off-road motorcycle touring organization. He asked Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle if the forest plan would actually be altered as a result of the meeting.
Ketelle responded that though not all of the input could be made part of the plan, the input from the six stakeholder meetings would all be considered. Though the group expressed doubt in the outcome, members participated in the process by volunteering their objectives for the plan, which will guide the management of the forest indefinitely, with revisions along the way.
“We don’t want to be herded into restricted recreation areas,” said Dave Mikulyuk of Carbondale.
Mikulyuk is affiliated with the White River Forest Alliance, a motorized recreation advocacy group, and the Mid-Valley Snowmobile Association. He said motorized recreation enthusiasts want solitude as much as hikers and cross-country skiers.
Scott Riebel of Colorado Springs, representing the United Four Wheel Drive Associations, said roads that provide access to camping spots and other such objectives should have priority.
Jack Welch, a COHVCO spokesman from Golden, said limiting motorized recreation to a specified number of miles of roads and trails couldn’t be the whole story.
“If you use miles, you have to tie it back to the degree of challenge,” he said. Trail riders’ satisfaction is partly based on the degree of difficulty of the trail, he said.
A discussion of how regulations would be enforced under the new plan was inconclusive. The assembled recreationists agreed monitoring is necessary, but they said they didn’t want to see roads and trails closed because of the lack of money for monitoring.
Dan Hormaechea, director of planning for the White River National Forest, told the group there’s not going to be money to complete another forest plan, either. The current planning process is expected to cost $5 million. In the future, he said, monitoring will attain a greater level of importance, because the forest plan will be continually modified as a result of monitoring.
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