BHA to White River National Forest: Consider Wildlife Impacts from New Trail Development

The following letter was recently submitted by White River National Forest Habitat Watchman, Bob Shettle, in regards to a proposed 10-mile motorized trail development that would intersect a large tract of critical roadless big game wintering habitat.

Concerning the Basalt to Gypsum motorized singletrack #41619. This trail, and the bandit trails it hopefully replaces and eliminates, run through the heart of prime big game habitat. I have hunted Colorado GMU #444 for the last 20 years, and I am concerned over the increasing motorized access (some legal, some not) and subsequent decrease in animal presence in the area in which I hunt, chiefly the north side of Basalt Mt., Cattle Creek area, and the south side of Red Table Mt. This planned trail goes smack through the north part of unit 444 and into unit 44. From past history, I believe this trail will exacerbate displacement of wildlife, and produce more conflicts with hunters. Also, if history is any lesson, maintaining the decommissioning of the 20 miles of unauthorized trails will be impossible. The Forest Service and BLM are already shorthanded in the enforcement department, and current budget cuts are making that even worse. Hoping that the motorized community will self police has proven to be an exercise in futility.

 I recommend that this trail does NOT continue to go forward, unless adequate funding is made available for trail enforcement, and that it adopts the management model used with the Tenderfoot trail system; trails stay open only if illegal use is curtailed. The Decision Memo needs to include written guarantees that the funding will come from Colorado's state OHV licensing program, the only available source. 

 More importantly, this area needs to include a motorized closure period. That period should begin with the first archery season (August 30) and extend through the big game calving and migrating season (typically June 30). Realistically, I'd prefer to see the entire south facing side of Red Table Mt. designated as deer and elk winter range, the same as the adjoining area immediately to the south. I also wish that this Decision Memo would be delayed until the hunting and conservation communities were included in the stakeholder group, something we were deprived of in the stakeholder meetings leading to this proposal.

About Caitlin Thompson