The following article originally appeared in the Mountain Mail.
Journal entry from Browns Canyon on November 29, 2014.
“I’ve backpacked a few miles southeast of Ruby Mountain on the Turret Trail, trying to get to a spot flat enough to nail down my tiny shelter and gather firewood before I get caught in the dark. Getting caught out in the dark in these dry washes and rugged hills doesn’t pose much of a problem though, because there’s a half moon tonight. It’s late November, and there’s a chinook wind coming in. It won’t even freeze tonight at 8,000 feet above sea level…one of the advantages of a warm wind blowing downslope, and the fact that I’m visiting some unique low-elevation wilderness in Colorado. I come here from time to time to muscle my way into the backcountry, clear my head, and listen to the wind blow through the pinions. This isn’t the first time I’ve spent time in Browns Canyon, and it certainly won’t be the last.”
In Colorado and much of the west, it has gotten harder to simply move across the parts of the landscape that were special when some of us were growing up here. Many things conspire to take away access even as we try and maintain some of it for our future generations. Currently, there is an insidious but relentless effort to transfer federal public lands to the states. This is a bad idea. It will ultimately impact those who like the freedom of being able to don a pack or saddle a horse or ride a bike and experience beautiful country that is largely undeveloped. Federal land ownership helps to ensure that we will continue to have such access. State lands do provide some important public access and school revenue but 80% are privately leased and have limited access.
October 10, 2014
Montrose County Commissioners,
On behalf of the membership of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and the twenty-four undersigned Montrose County sportsmen, we urge you to reconsider the resolution that the commission unanimously approved in July to transfer federal public lands to the State.
While we acknowledge the fact that federal land management is anything but perfect, that is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. We are committed to help work towards solutions rather than attacking a resource and opportunity so near and dear to the hearts and minds of both Coloradan and non-resident sportsmen alike.
We cannot stress enough the importance of quality public access to federal public lands. According to the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation upwards of 90 percent of Coloradan sportsmen have hunted public lands in the past ten years. National polls from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife back this stat up, showing that the number one reason that hunters give-up their tradition is due to a lack of quality public hunting access. In addition, the most recent survey by Colorado Parks & Wildlife found that Montrose benefits enormously from excellent publicly-accessible outdoor recreation opportunities which support jobs in the county and generate $12,021,000 in economic output annually – a figure that’s much higher than most other Colorado Counties. Coloradan residents understand both the economic and quality-of-life values that our public lands provide. That’s why when polled, 66% of Colorado residents opposed the transfer of federal lands to the state, while only 26% supported it.
September 3, 2014
RE: McArthur Gulch SLT
Dear State Trust Land Commissioners:
A matter has been brought to our attention which we respectfully wish to provide comment on. At the present time, a proposal is under consideration that jeopardizes hunter access and sound habitat stewardship on Colorado’s state lands.
On August 8, 2014, the State Land Board approved a recommendation that the staff be directed to complete negotiations with an entity known as Human Movement Management ("HMM") for a recreation lease on the 480 acre McArthur Gulch state trust land parcel in Park County, off Country Road 64, between the communities of Bailey and Shawnee.
San Carlos Ranger District -
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the San Carlos Ranger District’s Draft Travel Analysis. Please consider my comments to be part of the public record.
First, I will address certain roads that are mis-categorized in terms of benefit and risk.
1. Road 173B (North Taylor Creek above the Rainbow Trail). Whereas lower portions of 173 allow Rainbow Trail motorized and non-motorized users to enter and exit the trail, the upper portion dead ends at the wilderness boundary, making it less desirable for motorized recreation. Its location is highly susceptible to sheet erosion in spots, and there is very little parking for users of the North Taylor Creek Trail.
To prevent further erosion and protect elk habitat on the ridge between North Taylor and Verde creeks, FSR 173 should be decommissioned and converted to a trail above the Rainbow Trail crossing, with some provision made for trailhead parking at that point.