Travel Management Plan up for public review

Public meeting set for Community School

The future of mountain biking, dirt biking, hiking and horseback riding in the Gunnison and Crested Butte area will be a hot topic of debate over the next three months. On March 6 the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will release for public review a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS or draft EIS) for the proposed Gunnison Travel Management Plan.

 

 

Local trail enthusiasts are encouraging the public to take a look at the document and make their voice heard during the official comment period, which ends on June 4. There will be a public meeting in Crested Butte on March 24 to discuss the plan and land management officials will be present to answer any questions.
High Country Citizens’ Alliance (HCCA) conservation analyst Lawton Grinter says, “Essentially this document is going to weigh out what trails are official on the ground and what roads are accessible. Anyone who recreates in Gunnison County on federal lands is definitely going to want to take a look at this.”
Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association (CBMBA) vice president Kay Peterson-Cook says there are many existing trails that could be affected by the plan, and the plan will also play a major role in determining if new trails can be built.
“Both CBMBA and Gunnison Trails have asked for some new trail segments. In order for us to be able to realize those trails, they have to be part of the plan,” Peterson-Cook says. “It would be good for people to look at this document and get the maps and comment on it… This will be the opportunity to make comments on the plan. It’s not the final opportunity, but it’s the big one. This is pretty much it.”
Crested Butte Trail Riders Association board president Mike Thuillier says, “We’re very interested in the draft EIS.” The Trail Riders Association is a group similar to CBMBA, but geared to dirt bikers. “From our point of view we’re concerned about what trails remain open and the criteria too—if there are seasonal closures or other restrictions,” Thuillier says.
Travel management on public and federal lands in the Gunnison Basin has been a topic of discussion since 2000, when the Forest Service began creating the Interim Travel Management Plan. According to the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest website, the interim plan was created to cut down on the number of off-trail and off-road routes being created illegally on federal lands. The interim plan, finished in 2001, was also created with the intent that a more comprehensive management plan would be completed later.
A comprehensive travel management plan for the Grand Mesa section of national forest was finished in 2004, and a plan of the Uncompahgre section was completed in 2007. Both plans are currently being updated.
According to the Forest Service website, “In July 2006, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, in a joint effort, began the more detailed Gunnison Travel Management Plan to designate routes open to mechanized and motorized vehicles for summer, spring and fall uses. The plan would also designate vehicle class and season of use for various routes.”
Several maps of existing and proposed trails were released last summer in a preliminary scoping period. At that time the public was asked to comment on the maps and what trails should or shouldn’t be included. Many people and organizations made comments, including CBMBA, the Trail Riders Association and HCCA.
Over the course of the winter the two federal agencies reviewed the comments and developed a set of four management alternatives, which are included in the DEIS.
“We are pleased to have this document out for review and comment,” said Jim Dawson, Gunnison district ranger for the Forest Service in a March 6 press release. “Our stakeholders have had two field seasons to provide us suggestions and input on routes and needs for travel management, and the Forest Service and BLM interdisciplinary team have worked hard to incorporate the public issues and desires into a range of alternatives.”
Peterson-Cook says both CBMBA and Gunnison Trails will be reviewing the DEIS in coming months and making comments. She says CBMBA’s website will have more information as the comment period progresses. Thuillier says the Crested Butte Trail Riders Association will also be taking a look at the DEIS.
The meeting in Crested Butte will be held in the Community School auditorium on March 24 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. There will be a similar meeting the following day at the Aspinall-Wilson Center in Gunnison, at the same time.
CBMBA’s website is cbmba.org; the Trail Riders’ website is cbtrailriders.org. Finally, to get a copy of the DEIS and previous travel management documents and maps and to find out how to make comments, check the Forest Service website at www.fs.fed.us/r2/gmug/policy.

Check Also

Kebler Pass Road a no-go for this weekend

Cottonwood, Gothic will open Friday By Katherine Nettles Despite its best efforts, Gunnison County Public Works …