Routt National Forest seeks feedback on new set of proposed Mad Rabbit trails before formal review | SteamboatToday.com

Before formal review, Routt National Forest hopes for feedback on new set of proposed Mad Rabbit trails

A hiker walks down the Hot Springs Trail near Mad Creek in Routt National Forest.
Katie Berning

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The U.S. Forest Service will soon release another round of proposed trail alignments in the Mad Rabbit trails project to get public feedback on the “pre-project proposal.”

Before the Forest Service enters the National Environmental Policy Act review process on the proposed trails between Mad Creek, Rocky Peak and Rabbit Ears Pass, land managers want to get another round of comments from trail users and those impacted by trail development. 

“It won’t make everybody happy, but hopefully, it reflects some the things that have been suggested,” Routt National Forest spokesperson Aaron Voos said.

The Forest Service expects to release the pre-project proposal within the next few weeks, according to a Forest Service news release. Hahns Peak Bears Ears Ranger District Recreation Specialist Kent Foster said he couldn’t say much about what’s in the latest proposal, as “everybody needs to get the information at the same time.”

“What we’re trying to do is provide something for everybody, but not everything for one use or one group at the expense of others,” Foster said.  

Comments on the pre-project proposal will be considered as the Forest Service drafts a proposed action, which will begin the formal NEPA process. The agency expects to release a proposed action in July.

Once the NEPA process is underway, the Forest Service will conduct a review of the proposed trail system, either through an environmental analysis or a more intensive environmental impact statement.

“We haven’t started. We’re still trying to get to that point,” Voos said, adding that the decision to review it through an environmental analysis or an environmental impact statement is mandated by federal law. “No matter what we end up doing, it’ll be the appropriate level of NEPA. … It’s not an option. It’s not a choice where we get to pick and choose. We’re going to use whatever the most appropriate kind of NEPA is.”

In a news release, the Forest Service said Mad Rabbit would include the development of both motorized and non-motorized trails.

“Other aspects of the project include infrastructure improvements, increased access for individuals with disabilities, permit evaluation, closure of user-created trails and development of a Forest Order prohibiting mountain bike use off designated routes,” the news release stated. “This project addresses unmanaged recreation, such as in the Rocky Peak area, and user-created routes, which are already being used and adversely affecting natural resources.”

Voos said feedback from initial proposals and the Routt Recreation Roundtable was valuable in developing the latest proposed trails. He said the Forest Service was grateful that folks came together to sit at the same table, listen to the same information and talk through the Mad Rabbit project.

While Voos said some roundtable members might have hoped to see more of an agreement emerge from those discussions, he said it was a success in the eyes of the Forest Service.

“They didn’t come out of those meetings with consensus, but that’s OK,” he said. “That wasn’t necessarily the intent of it, from our perspective. We wanted to make sure that everyone was getting all the information, that we were then hearing from everyone. Then, we wanted to highlight the areas where people could agree and the areas where there was a lot of disagreement. We feel like, from that angle, that was very, very successful.”

Foster said he thinks people will be glad to see the project advance closer to a decision.

“I think this is just human nature. When we don’t know what’s going on or there are any unknowns, we’re afraid of the unknowns,” he said. “Once we get something out here, and we start moving forward with things, I think people will be happy that we’re moving forward.

“It seems like we’ve been talking about a lot of different things with these roundtable discussions, but we haven’t really moved forward and made a decision, so that’s what we’re hoping to do,” Foster added.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.


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