During the spring of 2022, Colorado BHA Southwest Group Assistant Regional Director Alex Krebs got wind of a proposed mountain bike trail system in the Jackson Mountain area north of Pagosa Springs. Alex is an elk hunter and knows the Jackson Mountain area includes critical habitat and migration corridor for elk and deer. And with increasing development and pressure on the landscape, Jackson Mountain serves as an important wildlife refuge.
“I actually sat down and met the with Pagosa Ranger district team on a Teams call in August of 2022,” Alex explained. “We dove into some of the proposed miles of trails. … It seemed like the momentum was there and the trails were going to be constructed.”
In a letter to Forest Service District Ranger Josh Peck, Alex further stated, “This trail proposal, if approved, sets precedent that the USFS not only allows illegal trail construction but encourages and accepts it as a legitimate means of bypassing proper planning procedure."
During March 2023, Alex - with input from multiple southwest Colorado BHA leaders and others - submitted Colorado BHA comments on the “Jackson Mountain Proposal,” detailing some of the many problems associated with this proposed trail system. In particular, there seemed to have been no serious consideration regarding the impact on big game and other regional wildlife.
“Interestingly, it sounded very much like there would be little in the way of NEPA alternatives that fully alleviated the concerns I was hearing from biologists,” Alex added. “This led me to believe this would get rubber stamped, but then the exact opposite happened.” During April 2023, the San Juan National Forest Pagosa Ranger District completed the scoping phase of the Jackson Mountain Landscape Project and decided not to move forward with the proposed mountain bike trail system.
“Concerns over the probable impacts of a trail system on an important big game migration corridor have led me to conclude that we would be in error in proceeding with the analysis of the trail proposal as currently envisioned,” said District Ranger Josh Peck.
“Outreach is also really important, I think,” Alex added. “My wife coaches mountain biking, and a lot of our members are mountain bikers, hikers or otherwise. We all must be stewards. It’s the only way multi-use forests can be sustainable in the long run. Awareness of our impacts as users is a critical component to future conservation from all user groups, in my opinion.”
To help protect elk and other wildlife from the growing impact of illegal trail building, the Colorado BHA chapter increased its reward from $500 to $1,000 for reports or information leading to a conviction of those responsible for building illegal trails on public lands.