Discussions on Mad Rabbit proposal in Routt National Forest kick off again under third party facilitator | SteamboatToday.com

Discussions on Mad Rabbit proposal in Routt National Forest kick off again under third party facilitator

A biker climbs up the Mad Creek trail in 2013. The Mad Rabbit Project would connect trails on Mad Creek to trails Rabbit Ears Pass.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A third party organization is leading discussions to develop a recommendation for proposed trails in the U.S. Forest Service's Mad Rabbit project, a proposed network that would connect trails on Mad Creek and Rabbit Ears Pass.

The Keystone Policy Group, hired by the city of Steamboat Springs at the recommendation of the local Forest Service office, is facilitating conversations about the project, which has become a contentious issue among user groups in Routt National Forest.

"Keystone Policy Center, the third party facilitating the roundtable, encourages participants to take ownership in and be open to the outcomes of the dialogue; Keystone declined to comment in detail on the ongoing process," project manager Matt Mulica wrote in an email to the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

According to a summary of the meeting written by Keystone, the meetings aim to bring together user groups to discuss and develop recommendations to the Forest Service for the Mad Rabbit Trails system. The Forest Service will make the final decision on where or if the Mad Rabbit trails are built.

"We will strive for consensus, but our primary goal will be to set up a respectful environment where the group can deliberate, better understand the interests around the table, capture agreements and disagreements and help inform the Forest Service's decision-making process for the Mad Rabbit Trails systems," the document said. "The Mad Rabbit Trails discussion will also provide the first step toward establishing a Routt Recreation Roundtable to serve as a forum for future discussions about land management and recreation in Routt National Forest."

The firm will hold a series of four meetings with representatives of user groups, much like a congress of local outdoor recreation.

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The first meeting was held on Jan 24. In that meeting, members of the roundtable discussed their specific interests in the Mad Rabbit project. The group also established ground rules and heard presentations about the history of the project and the 2A accommodations tax. 2A funds are set to help pay for the project.

Additional Mad Rabbit roundtable meetings will take place on Tuesday, as well as March 4 and March 21.

Public comment is slated from 5:30 to 6 p.m. March 4 at Olympian Hall. Comments gathered by Keystone will be included in meeting documents presented to the Forest Service, but the formal public comment period will kick off at a later date as the Forest Service advances the project through the National Environmental Policy Act review.

The following people are serving as representatives on the roundtable:

Stakeholder organizations:
Butch Boucher, Bike Town USA
Cristina Harmon, Great Old Broads for Wilderness
Jason Landers, Keep Routt Wild
Jason Weber, Mountain Trails Access
Kelly Northcutt, Routt County Riders
Matt Belton, Routt County Cattleman’s Association
Greg Grasso, Routt Powder Riders
Kent Vertrees, Steamboat Powdercats
Jim Schneider, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation
Luke Crespin, Steamboat Springs Running Series
Edward Watson, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Scott Larson, Steamboat Springs Chamber
Helen Beal, Yampa Valley Community Foundation
Shane Yeager, Colorado Premier Outfitters

Citizens at large invited for their specific interests or expertise:
Marilyn McCaulley, equestrian, hiking, homeowner near proposed trails
Soren Jespersen, public lands
Katie Lindquist, homeowner near proposed trails
Eric Meyer, 2A Trails Alliance proposal history; mountain biking
John Spezia, multiple trail uses; community sustainability and environmental advocacy
Eric Washburn, natural resource/wildlife advocacy

Ex Officio Representatives of Government Entities:
Kathy McKinstry, U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Kris Middledorf, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Mike Mordi, Routt County Road and Bridge
Kent Foster, U.S. Forest Service
Pete Wither, 2A Accommodations Tax Steering Committee
Gary Suiter, City of Steamboat Springs
Mark Eike, Colorado Department of Transportation
An ex officio government representative representing the interests of sheepherders is currently vacant.

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

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