New plan will address trails, user conflicts | AspenTimes.com

New plan will address trails, user conflicts

Greg Schreier

The White River National Forest will release a preliminary draft of its long-awaited travel management plan in the last week of July.The draft presents ways to solve conflicts among different users, such as mountain bikers, dirt bikers and horseback riders. The popularity of mountain recreation has exploded in recent years, and the Forest Service expects that trend to continue. The plan was supposed to come out last summer. However, federal regulations delayed the plan because local authorities had to clearly label official roads and trails on maps and in the field. Anything not labeled would be considered closed to travelers. Controversy erupted in 2005 when that national rule was made. Conservationists argued that it didn’t do enough to keep motor vehicles out of prohibited areas. However, others said the Forest Service didn’t create enough new trails for the people getting into to dirt biking and other sports.All types of use impact the forest, but “rogue roads” – trails that aren’t recognized by the Forest Service – have an especially significant impact. The final plan will decide whether to integrate some of these rogue roads or restore the land they destroyed.Many have also raised concerns that the forest does not have enough rangers to monitor people breaking the rules.White River National Forest spokeswoman Kristi Ponozzo said the plan will hopefully mitigate those conflicts. There are also disagreements, which the plan will address, over whether motor vehicles should be allowed on certain trails.Additionally, the Forest Service will decide in the final plan which trails to leave open and which to close, and it will also decide whether to open any new trails.The Forest Service hopes the plan will protect the trails for future use.”It allows us to protect water, air and soil resources,” Ponozzo said.Visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver/ to view the plan when it’s released.Greg Schreier’s e-mail address is gschreier@aspentimes.com

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