Letter: To balance conservation and recreation, Forest Service must follow the science
The United States Forest Service has released the Draft Environmental Assessment for the Mad Rabbit Trails Project. This newest version of the Mad Rabbit project retains many elements that threaten the well-being of wildlife and our forest ecosystems. Some of the concerns are:
- Proposed trails are concentrated in Long Park, a designated roadless area known for rich biodiversity and critical wildlife habitat, including the second largest elk herd in Colorado.
- Trail density in Ferndale, a pristine area of Long Park, is three times that recommended for an elk calving area. (Colorado Parks and Wildlife, “Planning Trails with Wildlife in Mind”).
- The plan includes constructing 21 miles of trails in identified elk calving areas that, alarmingly, would not require a seasonal closure at all.
- The plan includes a redundant trail that would run parallel to the current Continental Divide Trail creating loops that inflict unnecessary and extensive habitat disturbance.
- The proposal includes eliminating illegally constructed trails and uses this as justification to build additional trails. Lack of enforcement is the root cause of these illegal trails however the new plan does not include adequate resources to enforce closures.
- This proposal was based on the outdated (1998) Forest Management Plan, which does not take into account the unprecedented number of visitors to our forests, pressures of growth and development, new technologies that allow us to travel further and faster into the backcountry, and increasing stressors posed by drought and wildfire.
In the most recent Routt County Master Plan Survey, 70% of residents agreed with the statement “it is important to balance recreation and conservation.” To be in favor of this balance does not imply opposition to biking, hiking or off-road vehicles. Rather, it is to stand in support of the rich abundance of wildlife and wild places we cherish and to understand that these precious resources are rapidly being exhausted.
Ask the USFS to reconsider the scope and size of the Mad Rabbit Trails Proposal and to use the best available science when planning recreation on our public lands.
Diane Miller, NWCO Great Old Broads for Wilderness
Diane Brower, Trappers Lake Group-Sierra Club
Leslie Lovejoy, Friends of the Routt Backcountry
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