Popular trails around Steamboat close for winter on Sunday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Winter closures take effect on Sunday, impacting several popular trails around Steamboat Springs on the Routt National Forest.
The seasonal closures, which last from Dec. 1 to April 15, protect about 12,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in an effort to preserve big game habitat and maintain the health of herds, according to Aaron Voos, a local public affairs specialist with the Forest Service.
“If respected, these closure areas provide pockets of habitat where deer and elk find security and food during the harsh winter months without being disturbed by human activities,” Voos wrote in a news release on Tuesday.
The agency is enforcing mandatory closures on the Spring Creek, Mad Creek, Red Dirt and Hot Springs trails, as well as the foothills south of Steamboat Resort to U.S. Highway 40. The resort has included winter closure areas in its ski area trail maps, and signs have been posted between the South Peak chairlift and the Broadway trail to delineate the boundary, according to Voos.
Punishment for violating Forest Service mandatory closures could mean a fine of up to $500 or up to six months in prison, according to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.
Voluntary closures also exist in several areas in Routt County, among them the Sarvis Creek and Silver Creek trails south of Steamboat.
“The District greatly appreciates public cooperation in adhering to the closures and sharing information amongst the community, as well as with out-of-area visitors,” Forest Service Ranger Tara Umphries with the Hahns Peak and Bears Ears District said in the news release.
The Forest Service recommends the public use alternative winter recreation areas. Those include Buffalo Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, Gore Pass, Lynx Pass, Dunckley Pass and the Bear River Corridor at the entrance to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
- Spring Creek Trail 1160
- Spring Creek Alternate Trail 1160.1A
- Mad Creek Trail 1100
- Red Dirt Trail 1171
- Hot Springs Trail 1169
- Foothills south of Steamboat Resort to U.S. Highway 40
- Greenville Mine area (U.S. Forest Service roads 440 & 471)
- Coulton Creek area (Trail 1188 & Forest Service Road 429)
- Lower Bear Trail 1206
- Sarvis Creek Trail 1105
- Silver Creek Trail 1106
- Areas adjacent to the Radium and Indian Run State Wildlife areas (Forest Service roads 212 and 214)
- Area north of Toponas off Forest Service Road 285
If people do not respect these closures, they can disturb wildlife and endanger the health of big game herds, according to Voos. Winters are a test of survival for local wildlife, he said, and disturbances from human traffic cause animals to flee.
“It uses up a lot of energy, and then they have less to survive the winter,” Voos said.
He sees that situation as a lose-lose for both wildlife and the people who value the health of local, natural habitats.
In the past, all closures were voluntary, Voos said. The Forest Service initiated mandatory closures several years ago after voluntary enforcement was not successful at protecting herds. If current regulations are not effective, the Forest Service may expand the size of the mandatory closure area in the future, Voos said.
This winter, the Forest Service will partner with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to conduct research within the winter closure area to document elk movement and health, according to Voos. He said that Parks and Wildlife officials are leading the study, coordinating with the Forest Service to access the land.
“It’s a really good example, in addition to these area closures, with how we are working with (Parks and Wildlife) toward commons goals,” Voos said, namely improving wildlife habitat in the winter.
For more information about the closures or alternative recreation areas, visit the Hahns Peak and Bears Ears Ranger District office at 925 Weiss Drive in Steamboat or call 970-870-2299.
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