Routt Recreation Roundtable continues work on conservation, recreation master plan |

Routt Recreation Roundtable continues work on conservation, recreation master plan

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt Recreation Roundtable, a group of government officials and private residents who meet once every three months to discuss the county’s future for balancing multiple interests in the outdoors, updated the county’s recreation plan at its most recent meeting earlier this month.

First, the county is committed to protecting 30% of its public lands by 2030. That decision has been in discussion for a while, but roundtable members agreed public land protection was particularly important after a majority of residents who took the Steamboat Springs Community Survey ranked protecting the Routt National Forest and other public lands in the area as a top priority.

Roundtable members also said they believed the issue is pressing, as more people continue to move to and visit Routt County, primarily for its outdoor appeal.

“We need a community-led vision for mitigating the effects on our growing community,” said Soren Jesperson, natural resources and environmental advocacy representative from The Wilderness Society. “We need additional durable protections for lands and water in the county.”

Jesperson and other board members said they realized most concrete, meaningful protective measures cost money and agreed to discuss how to increase current funding and “get creative” in seeking future funding sources but felt the most important steps to protecting the county’s public lands were providing more open space and public access, maintaining existing trails and implementing more enforcement of rules.

“The answer isn’t buying new toys and new amenities; it’s maintaining the ones we already have,” Jesperson said. “We need to improve the stuff we have and make it better.”

Ranchers on the board emphasized the need to protect their ranch land and preserve Routt County’s western feel, as it drives tourism and honors long-existing culture.

“The ranching community recognizes that need to keep the current look and feel of our valley,” said Marianne Sasak, the ranching and farming representative on the board. “The town loves the western culture, and we have a lot of nonprofit groups that promote ranching as a good way of life.”

As part of the discussion surrounding how to better protect public lands, others on the board said the impacts of climate change were of utmost importance, with the impacts of human recreation as a close second.

Michael Wisdom, a wildlife biologist in Oregon and guest presenter in the meeting, said the impacts of motorized and non-motorized recreation on wildlife were about the same, and both take a toll.

“A lot of studies have been done showing that most recreation has a negative effect on wildlife,” Wisdom said. “This is something that’s really becoming a challenge to a lot of folks because there are so many different types of recreation, and the effects on wildlife are diverse.”

In order to mitigate these impacts, roundtable members agreed on a set of goals: plan future trails with wildlife in mind, avoid birding areas and implement seasonal trail closures for other wildlife and maintain certain undeveloped areas of the Routt National Forest.

While the plan is not finalized, all roundtable members agreed to move forward on discussing the measures, as the purpose of the roundtable is to represent interests of multiple groups and work together on a solution for the county.

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