Keep Routt Wild gets organized, pursues nonprofit status | SteamboatToday.com

Keep Routt Wild gets organized, pursues nonprofit status

A herd of elk makes its way through the snow at a ranch along River Road in 2015. (File photo by John F. Russell)

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Keep Routt Wild’s principles have been endorsed by the Northwest Colorado Chapter of the Great Old Broads of Wilderness, not the national office of the organization.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In creating a board and seeking nonprofit status, Keep Routt Wild, the loosely knit group of wildlife advocates who came together to call for a halt to the U.S. Forest Service’s Mad Rabbit trails proposal, is formalizing the organization.

On Thursday, Keep Routt Wild was officially incorporated in the state of Colorado, which will now allow the organization to file for 501(c)(3) status.

“We’ve made a key step forward, not only filing for the incorporation but getting the board and making the board public,” said Larry Desjardin, president of the Keep Routt Wild board of directors.

“I think, in the past, Keep Routt Wild was this mysterious club that no one knew who was behind it,” Desjardin said. “We've opened up, and you’ve got all these people with Steamboat connections. They’re conservationists. They’re cyclists. They’re hunters. They’re hikers. It's a wonderful cross section of enthusiasts, and I think that’s really important to show the values we have through the board of directors that represents us.”

Board officers are Desjardin, president; Cedar Beauregard, secretary; and Bob Strong, treasurer. Other board members are Deb Freeman, Gaspar Perricone, Todd Lodwick, Cody Lujan, T.J. Thrasher and Eric Washburn.

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Desjardin said formalizing Keep Routt Wild, which he described as a "spontaneous combustion" of concerned citizens, will allow the organization to create a long-term impact.

"A lot of things are just getting the organization together, so that we can be more effective,” Desjardin said.

This will eventually include monthly meetings, a budget, committees and a formal structure for general membership.

"We will choose the projects that we want to do — that we believe we can have the most impact on," he said.

Though they're only ideas, Desjardin said this could include volunteering in an upcoming Colorado Parks and Wildlife study, helping educate the public about trail and area closures due to wildlife or helping spread the word to prevent trash bears and other wildlife-related mishaps in town.

Keep Routt Wild's first project is the ongoing discussion on the Forest Service's Mad Rabbit Trails proposal.

"Mad Rabbit has been a contentious issue, and we certainly think it should be halted," Desjardin wrote in an email to the Steamboat Pilot & Today. "But we hope that afterward, we can have a communitywide discussion of where trails should be added and where they shouldn't."

Desjardin said Keep Routt Wild sought to assemble a set of principles that most Routt County residents could get behind. Those principles serve as a guiding document for the organization, and Desjardin hopes they will guide how development for outdoor recreation moves forward.

"The development principles are like a constitution for public land development," Desjardin wrote. "They set the boundary conditions. What we need to do is create a planning process that lives within those bounds."

The principles declare that development on public land should meet the following criteria:

  • Protect existing fish, wildlife and plant habitat.
  • Protect wildlife from harassment and dislocation from their natural, preferred locations, including pushing them on to private agricultural lands where they can cause additional depredation and damage.
  • Protect aquatic resources, including avoiding any significant erosion into Routt County streams, rivers and wetlands.
  • Be prioritized to occur in areas where approved development already has occurred and currently exists.
  • Be accompanied by an integrated maintenance and enforcement plan, including procuring the necessary funding, personnel and commitment to implement that plan.
  • Be limited in scope to the minimum footprint necessary to achieve the purpose of the project.
  • Be viewed and assessed in the context of the total cumulative impacts of all previous development and use in potentially affected areas.

According to Keep Routt Wild, the Colorado Back Country Hunters & Anglers, Colorado Premier Outfitters, Colorado Wildlife Federation, the Northwest Colorado Chapter of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, local Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Chapter and the Routt County Cattleman's Association have endorsed the principles.

Visit Keep Routt Wild’s website at http://www.keeprouttwild.com, its Facebook page or email keeprouttwild@gmail.com for more information.

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

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