Local recreation committee considers new tech for planning trails, roads | SteamboatToday.com

Local recreation committee considers new tech for planning trails, roads

Routt National Forest trailhead. (File photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County’s Recreation Roundtable is considering implementing plans to help land managers develop forest land with plant and animal wildlife safety in mind.

The plans, similar to those used in northwest Washington, are to further an effort set forth by Gov. Jared Polis’ goal to find a balance between conservation and recreation on Colorado’s public lands. The Routt Recreation Roundtable is a committee of city, county and federal representatives, as well as wildlife experts and recreational enthusiasts.

“We’re one of the first to develop this kind of conservation and recreation plan,” said Matthew Mulica, the roundtable’s mediator and a senior project director with the Keystone Policy Center. “We’re asking how do you allow land managers to make more informed decisions based on the public land and wildlife users.”

Presented by Lee Cerveny, a research social scientist for the U.S. Forest Service based in Washington, the plans aim to help implement sustainable recreation, which Cerveny defined as “desirable outdoor opportunities for all people, in a way that supports ecosystems, contributes to healthy communities, promotes equitable economies, respects culture and traditions and develops stewardship values now and for future generations.”

While details are still vague and in a preliminary phase, Cerveny encouraged the roundtable to consider use of geographical information systems and human ecology mapping to plan where to place roads and trails without disturbing wildlife or culturally important sites.

“Why are these places important to you? What values do you attach to them?” Cerveny encouraged group members to ask the community in such conversations.

While systems can be used to identify areas of land crucial to wildlife development, Cerveny recommended engaging in discussion with community members to identify areas of cultural and historical significance and factoring those conversations into decisions about where to design motorized roads and trails.

“It’s really a matter of matching where can we put additional recreational and road opportunities that have the least impact to wildlife and pristine places,” said Larry Desjardin, president of wildlife nonprofit Keep Routt Wild. “Let’s see if we can get some common understanding of what has historically been a contentious issue.”

Cerveny stressed the importance of considering history, culture and other social science perspectives in making decisions about public lands.

“The goal is to identify personal connections and unique places of importance,” Cerveny said.

Mulica said as Colorado’s population continues to grow, so does the demand on its public lands, and the group’s goal is to balance the interests of wildlife, recreators and government officials.

“We’re seeing an increase of demand on natural resources, and we’re trying to balance conservation and recreation and be proactive as we’re planning for what we know to be a big surge in recreation,” Mulica said.

Desjardin said the idea is “exactly where we should be going.”

“You use mapping techniques and then drive to a conclusion, and I think that’s exactly how we need to be doing this,” Desjardin said. “I think that’s really the best practice on how we move forward.”

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