George Wuerthner <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2018 09:44:50 -0700
Subject: Mountain bikers building miles of illegal trails
This has been documented all over the country. Just as numerous studies have documented that ORVers are guilty of creating new trails and entering closed areas, mountain bikers are often no different. This is just one reason why you don't want to let mountain bikers use any trails in the potential wilderness, soon there will be a very enlarged trail system. You don't find bird watchers or backpackers making illegal trails, but mountain bikers? Too many mountain bikers are not "friends" of wildlands. Again the deal-making by GYC, MWA, and TWS on the Gallatin Range is going to guarantee that the Buffalo Horn and Porcupine areas will become mountain bike outdoor recreation areas.Â
People in Durango are building illegal trails in closed areas that are critical winter habitat for wildlife, and itâ€™s causing an issue for land managers, wildlife officials and trail advocates that canâ€™t rein in the longstanding problem.
â€śWeâ€™re not talking small connector trails,â€ť said Shannon Borders, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management. â€śWeâ€™re talking miles of illegally built trails. And itâ€™s not like thereâ€™s not a ton of recreational opportunities around town.â€ť
Rogue trails constructed on public lands is not a new problem, but the most recent spike started when the BLMâ€™s Tres Rios office updated its â€śResource Management Planâ€ť in 2015.
The plan, which covers eight counties in Southwest Colorado across 503,000 acres of BLM-managed lands, seeks to balance commercial, recreational and environmental uses.
As part of the process, the BLM was tasked with including a separate â€śTravel Management Plan,â€ť which identifies what routes are open to hiking, mountain biking, motorized vehicles and other uses.
When planning began in 2015, the BLM included all existing routes in its inventory – 2,500 miles of roads andd trails.
But people who wanted to include more trails in the travel management plan without going through the proper BLM process started building the illegal trails, especially around Durango, Borders said.
The BLM has a process for proposing new trails, which includes an extensive environmental analysis and a process that can take a few years.
Over the past three years, miles of unapproved trails have cropped up around Durango, particularly in the Animas City Mountain and Grandview trail networks, said Tyler Fouss, a BLM law enforcement ranger.
While the trails are considered â€śmixed-use,â€ť the routes appear to be mostly constructed and used by mountain bikers.
At Animas City Mountain, on the north end of Durango, for instance, a 3Â˝-mile trail known locally as â€śSick Birdâ€ť was built, mostly for mountain bikers.
And Fouss said there are at least three to four other illegal trails at Animas City Mountain.
The BLM and other agencies treat the illegally built trails as a criminal case of trespass, but itâ€™s tough to find perpetrators. Since 2015, no one has been caught in connection with building illegal routes.
The trails are also being built and used in closed areas. Every year, the BLM cordons off areas that are critical winter habitat for wildlife from Dec. 1 to April 15, and every year, people disregard the closures.
â€śItâ€™s a shame people canâ€™t share the landscape with wildlife, and that all they can think about is their mountain bike jumps,â€ť said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joe Lewandowski.
In 2016, 19 tickets were written to trespassers, and in 2017, another 13 tickets were issued by the BLM. This year, Fouss said heâ€™s written one citation and issued five warnings. A ticket typically requires trespassers to pay a fine that can be a couple hundred dollars.
But with only one ranger for Durango, enforcement can be difficult.
For instance, Fouss said last wejek he saw mountain biking tracks at the Sale Barn trailhead that accesses Grandview that were likely from the weekend.
Mary Monroe, executive director of Trails 2000, a local trail advocacy group, said the BLMâ€™s travel management plan is the best and most effective way to inventory all the trails and identify missing links.
Monroe said Trails 2000 never condones people taking trail building into their own hands.
â€śWe go through great extent to work hand-in-hand with our partners,â€ť Monroe said. â€śThatâ€™s the way you come up with a trail network that is effective.â€ť
The problem extends beyond BLM lands.
The U.S. Forest Service last fall discovered an illegal mountain bike trail near Hermosa Creek Campground, in a special management area protected by law. Forest Service staff and volunteers went out in June to eliminate the route by spreading shrubs, rocks and trees along the path.
Cam Hooley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, said illegal trails have become more of an issue in the last five to 10 years, especially as mountain biking has gained in popularity.
â€śWe recognize the demand for trails and the economic driver that mountain bike use is in our community,â€ť she said. â€śBut we encourage the public to participate in our planning processes.â€ť
Hooley said the Forest Service has received reports that people cut open the illegal trail near Hermosa Creek Campground that was rehabilitated in June.
She said no one has been caught in connection with the illegal act.