Mad Rabbit Trails proposal still waiting for state input |

Mad Rabbit Trails proposal still waiting for state input

Local Forest Service Ranger hopes plan will be presented to public this fall

Moeka Suzuki, front, Mark Petty and Bob Daudt, back, saw three moose and a handful of deer while hiking to the summit of Rabbit Ears on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. The U.S. Forest Service's long-awaited Mad Rabbit Trails proposal, which would add new trails on Rabbit Ears Pass, is currently waiting for feedback from state agencies about how the plan could impact area wildlife.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The U.S. Forest Service is still waiting for input from state agencies on the Mad Rabbit Trails project, further delaying the much-anticipated release of details about the proposed trail network on Rabbit Ears Pass.

Hahns Peak and Bears Ears District Ranger Michael Woodbridge said Monday, Aug. 15, the assessment has largely been done since May, but the Forest Service wanted to give Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources an opportunity to weigh in first.

“We’re still waiting for that feedback,” Woodbridge told Routt County Commissioners Monday. “When the Rainbow Gathering was going on, I wasn’t too worried. But now that that’s wrapped up, I’d really like to get this out to the public.”

Woodbridge said initially he expected getting this feedback would take a few weeks, but that has quickly turned into about three months. When asked if he expects to release the plan by the end of the year, Woodbridge said he hoped it wouldn’t take that long.

Feedback from the two agencies will largely be focused around how the trail system would impact wildlife in the area, which is considered of high significance in terms of biodiversity.

“I’ve talked to my counterparts over at (the Department of) Natural Resources and they said they would be getting us feedback soon, I just haven’t gotten it yet,” Woodbridge said. “I’d be still hopeful it’s a fall thing.”

There hasn’t been much official communication about the proposed trail network from the Forest Service since 2019, and the project was held up when Woodbridge’s position in Steamboat was vacant. He picked up the plan when he started in the role in March 2021.

This map from the updated Routt County Master Plan shows areas that are particularly important for wildlife. The area of Rabbit Ears Pass has been deemed of high biodiversity significance, illustrated by a light green-lined area. The area also is a migration corridor for Mule Deer, illustrated by yellow.
Routt County Master Plan/Screenshot

The proposal is called Mad Rabbit because early plans would have added trails that connected Mad Creek with Rabbit Ears Pass, but a preliminary proposal in 2019 didn’t include any trails near Mad Creek. Woodbridge said the current iteration of the plan has seen updates from the 2019 version.

Once released, the environmental assessment would go through a 30-day comment period that Woodbridge said would include several community meetings as well as a presentation to the Routt Recreation and Conservation Roundtable.

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While meetings are the most useful for presenting the plan to the public, Woodbridge said comments are most useful when submitted online.

“Once we’re ready with it, then we’ll figure out dates for public comment,” Woodbridge said.

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