Letter: Mad Rabbit project needs to be revised or nixed
I wish to voice my objection to the Mad Rabbit trails project as currently proposed.
Let me state that I am an avid hiker and back-country cross country skier and do not object to new trail development.
However, I do object to the development of new trails that have a significant negative impact on our local elk herd as the current proposal would. Seasonal closures to protect elk calving areas must be included whenever trails encroach on these areas. The current proposal does not.
An even better solution would be to not build trails in elk calving areas in the first place. Routt County residents have overwhelmingly shown to favor conservation over recreation. The U.S. Forest Service should respect this local input and build trails where they will not have such a serious negative impact as does this proposal.
An environmental impact statement should be conducted before proceeding. To not conduct an environmental impact statement certainly appears to violate current regulations. It also appears that the proposal is based on a 1998 study that is out of date. This is not good science and it is not responsible management practice.
Alternatives that would have less impact on wildlife appear to have been dismissed. Let’s build new trails but do so outside of elk calving areas or summer elk range.
Finally, the plan is designed to attract an additional 180,000 visitors to Steamboat each summer. This result in a significant increase in users on the entire trail system. For those trails in roadless areas, such an impact requires an environmental impact statement.
Do we really want to attract 180,000 more visitors to Steamboat each summer? If a poll were taken in Steamboat today, I suspect the answer would be no. The Mad Rabbit Trails Project #509517 needs to be significantly revised.
Eric B. Schmierer
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