July 13, 2016
To Whom It May Concern:
Please accept this letter as public comment pertaining to the DRAFT 2016-2026 Statewide Trails Strategic Plan on behalf of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), as well as our extensive membership.
We applaud your efforts to gain widespread feedback in advance of development of this plan. But to ensure you are aware, a technical glitch prohibited some of those attempting to call the conference line to participate in early discussions.
As such, we appreciate you including this information among your public comment in development of the final document to be adopted. We respectfully submit the following comments for your consideration.
As currently drafted, the stated mission statement appears to hold an inadvertent omission. It currently reads:
In order to provide for the greatly increasing outdoor needs of a rapidly expanding Colorado population for public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of the out-of-doors of Colorado and for the conservation, development and use of natural resources against fire and other natural and geological hazards, it is hereby declared to be the public policy of this state and among the purposes of this article to: Increase the accessibility and encourage the use of such natural resources by the residents of the state; encourage an increase in riding, hiking, bicycling and other compatible recreation activities as influences for the improvement of the health and welfare of the people; and provide for the needs of specialized recreational motorized vehicles.
Noting that this document is intended to hold a lifespan of a decade or more, we encourage the DNR to include “sportsmen” in the mission. Whether this is an inadvertent omission or the intent is to include sportsmen under “other compatible recreation activities,” we believe that over the lifespan of this document, it is subject to interpretation. Therefore, specific inclusion of sportsmen within the mission is essential to the success of the document and the stated objectives.
In addition, we ask that the stewards of this effort also consider the following contributors to its ongoing success:
A. As the Plan currently reads, a weighted preference appears to exist toward motorized vehicles, which appears to be contrary to both the “conservation, development and use of natural resources” and “the health and welfare of the people.” To ensure lasting benefit to the State and its citizens, we maintain that a balance must exist from the root mission through the execution of efforts. Please revise the document to fairly represent all stakeholders.
B. Highlight the direction that was provided within SCORP to use statewide LWCF funds for priorities beyond trail development. It is our belief that greater definition should be identified at this juncture.
C. We encourage the various trail user segments (hikers, bicyclists, sportsmen, etc.) be required to come to the table with proposals for funding mechanisms of their respective origins as opposed to relying on funds that are otherwise dedicated to conservation, wildlife and the like (GOCO, etc.).
D. Most importantly, we believe that a dedicated wildlife manager should be assigned to the execution of the adopted Trails Strategic Plan and wildlife impact reviews are made available to the public at least 120 days prior to start of execution. Such measures are essential to ensure the trails program can benefit from field knowledge and public input prior to final determinations.
Reviewing the economic impact and values identified by the residents of Colorado, we believe the above recommendations are in the best interest of the Trails Strategic Plan, as well as the State as a whole.
In conclusion and consistent with the objectives of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers stakeholders, we encourage the State:
• To ensure that appropriate documentation exists to include sportsmen as a stakeholder in these efforts today and into the next decade (or beyond).
• To ensure that wildlife provisions are such that lead to a true balance between trails and wildlife/habitat. Such consideration to balance should be a determining factor in grant consideration, educational efforts and all other execution and communications efforts regarding the said Plan.
• To include language to clarify that trails development and promotion grant criteria shall not override considerations of habitat fragmentation, wildlife disruption and public values.
For additional information on any of the comments provided and/or to invite sportsmen stakeholders to join your conversation, please do not hesitate to contact us. This is an important strategic initiative to us, as well as to the State. We are honored to participate.
Habitat Watchman, Colorado
David A. Lien