Outdoor recreation groups praise White River travel plan
ASPEN – A coalition of recreation groups endorsed a Travel Management Plan for the White River National Forest that has taken shots from both motorized users and conservationists.
The coalition, which includes the Aspen-based 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, credited the Forest Service for aiming to create quality experiences for visitors to the White River National Forest, in large part by realizing the need to separate users in some areas.
“The plan avoids a common pitfall of ignoring user conflict issues, instead acknowledging them and tackling the problems head on,” the coalition said in a letter to the Forest Service. “We appreciate that the Forest Service recognizes the necessity of separation of uses in some areas, in order to reduce conflict and create a higher-quality experience for all forest users. We also appreciate that the Forest Service sets the expectation that not all uses can be accommodated in every place on the forest.”
Motorized user groups counter that they are being asked to surrender too much in too many places. While use of dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles is soaring in popularity, national forests are eliminating routes for them, according to the Blue Ribbon Coalition, a nonprofit that pushes for access to public lands.
The travel management plan was released earlier this year after several years of work by the White River National Forest supervisor’s staff. The plan determines which users can use which trails and roads. It also proposes closing and decommissioning 519 miles of roads and trails that are currently open in the sprawling national forest.
The plan faced eight appeals from motorized user groups and one from a conservation group. The motorized user groups wanted to prevent closure of trails while the conservationists wanted more closures.
The appeals were denied by a Forest Service review officer last week, and the findings were endorsed by the agency’s regional office. The White River can implement its TMP starting Aug. 25.
The Forest Service said its travel plan for the White River provides ample opportunities for all recreation user groups. The agency says 1,613 miles of roads and trails are open to licensed motorcycles and 2,172 miles of routes are open to bicycles. Hikers have 3,592 miles of routes from which to choose.
The recreation coalition, which said it represents tens of thousands of human-powered outdoor recreation enthusiasts, said the White River’s TMP represents a welcome shift in the Forest Service attitude. Instead of continuing to manage the forest for resource extraction, this plan’s top consideration is recreation users, the coalition said in its letter.
“In the past, recreation planning has often been given less consideration, having been lost between intensive resource extraction and preservation poles,” the coalition said.
The municipalities of Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and others on the edge of the forest will continue to benefit from the White River’s recreation-friendly approach, the letter continued. Colorado “active outdoor recreation” – from camping to bicycling and snowsports – produces $7.6 billion annually in retail sales and services, the coalition said.
The members of the coalition include the Outdoor Alliance, Colorado Mountain Club, American Alpine Club, American Hiking Society, International Mountain Bicycling Association, American Whitewater, American Canoe Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance and the American Mountain Guides Association, as well as the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.
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