Seasonal closures now in place in Routt National Forest
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Both voluntary and mandatory seasonal closures for big game winter range began Tuesday and are in place until April 15 in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.
Mandatory closures include: Spring Creek Trail 1160; Spring Creek Alternate Trail 1160.1A; Mad Creek Road 128; Mad Creek Trail 1100 (Swamp Park Trail); Red Dirt Trail 1171; Hot Springs Trail 1169; and the foothills south of Steamboat Resort to U.S. Highway 40.
Voluntary trail closures include: Greenville Mine area (Roads 440 and 471); Coulton Creek area (Trail 1188 and 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 (Roads 212 and 214); and areas north of Toponas off Forest Road 285.
While not all closures are mandatory, Aaron Voos, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, said all closures should be treated with equal seriousness.
“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 said in a written statement.
Larry Desjardin, president of Keep Routt Wild, stressed the importance of using closures to preserve elks’ lives by giving them opportunities to breed.
“It’s critical to the survival of our elk and deer herds,” he said.
Elk in the winter live off of calories stored in their systems from the summer, he explained. Human activity causes them to stay away and spend extra energy moving, when they rely on that energy simply to stay alive through the winter.
Additionally, Desjardin said most female elk are pregnant, which makes it even more important for them to survive the winter and give birth.
“It behooves all of us to pay attention to these closures,” he said, “They aren’t made arbitrarily. This is real science behind this in order to preserve these elk.”
Routt County has the second-largest elk herd in the world, Desjardin said, but the elk survival rate has declined by 15% from 2006 to 2019.
“A lot of that is just human encroachment,” he said.
Closure signage is posted at affected trailheads, and maps and brochures are available at area businesses and at the Forest Service district office in Steamboat Springs.
Other area land managers, such as the city of Steamboat Springs and the Bureau of Land Management, also have seasonal closures in place that recreational users should respect and be aware of, Voos said in the statement.
On Emerald Mountain, all areas south of the Ridge Trail, including Beall Trail and Kemry Draw, are closed to all forms of entry from Tuesday through June 30 to protect elk during their sensitive winter and calving seasons. This closure corresponds with Colorado Parks and Wildlife lands to the east and the Humble Ranch property to the southeast.
Those wishing to enjoy Emerald Mountain during this closure are encouraged to visit Ridge, Rotary and Wild Rose trails, which remain open all year.
Winter recreationalists are asked to use Buffalo Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, Gore Pass, Lynx Pass, Bear River Corridor (entrance to the Flat Tops) and Dunckley Pass.
“Public cooperation is needed to ensure effective closures, as well as shared information amongst the community and with out-of-area visitors,” said acting Hahns Peak/Bears Ears District Ranger Alex Grant. “Conserving wildlife habitat is a team effort.”
More information on the closures can be found at fs.usda.gov/main/mbr/home.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a winter storm warning for much of the West Slope ahead of a major weather system expected in the area starting Thursday.