Showing posts with label ATVs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ATVs. Show all posts

January 10, 2017

No Farms at Chaco Canyon, Off-Road Vehicles, Lynx Surprise

A "great kiva," restored but roofless, at Chaco Canyon
¶ All boats, snowmobiles, and ATV's in Colorado have to be state-registered. Proof of ownership is required, but the state is fairly flexible about documentation.

¶ Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico is the site of a collection of ancient "great houses," multi-room dwellings. They were not built simultaneously, and it is unclear how many people actually lived there. And apparently they did not grow their own food, so apparently it was backpacked in by the Anasazi equivalent of serfs.  Or maybe they were willing pilgrims.

¶ With typical feline nonchalance, a lynx surprises skiers at the Purgatory ski area in southwestern Colorado. 

UPDATE, Jauary 10, 2017: A sad ending to the lynx story.

December 05, 2013

Browns Canyon and a New Spin on Wilderness Advocacy

Senator Udall outlines his bill.
Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) stood up in front of a group of mostly Chaffee County folks on Tuesday to announce that his bill to create the Browns* Canyon National Monument soon start its perilous journey downstream through the dark canyon that is Congress.

As snow swirled outside the venue, the reception area at Noah's Ark Whitewater Rafting, no doubt some of those present were mentally calculating what percentage of a decent snowpack had accrued thus far in the season.

This proposal has been a long time coming. I remember seeing Browns Canyon from a raft for the first time in 1986 or '87 — and that trip was a junket organized for some conservation group (Trout Unlimited?) connected either with Browns Canyon or the proposed Arkansas River state park. And I can recommend testifying at a public meeting in Buena Vista six (?) years ago before Ken Salazar when he was in the Senate. And there has been a lot more done along the way.

Part of the proposed national monument — to be administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, not the Park Service — has been a BLM wilderness study area (WSA) since the 1980s, at least.

Like a lot of the BLM WSA's, it is a not a high-altitude alpine forest-and-snow area, but would protect lower elevation forest (important big game habitat) and riparian areas. It had a road into it to an old mining camp. And lots of people wanted a say for or against the proposal: recreational gold miners, hunters, dirt bikers, four-wheelers, cattlemen, commercial rafters, private rafters, anglers . . . and one group that surprised me, but whose inclusion makes perfect sense.

Over the years, compromises were made, and the original proposal shrank down to about 10,000 acres.

Udall praised the effort as "emblematic" of how a public lands bill should be crafted, from the bottom up and as a "common sense proposal" that would "protect all existing legal uses."

Then came brief statements from supporters. There was the motel owner-real estate agent from Buena Vista, who said that a designated national monument would bring more visitors. I suspect that he is right. The vice president of the commercial rafters association made a similar point, noting that whitewater rafting on the Arkansas is a $54 million industry.

Another outfitter, Bill Dvorack (holder of Colorado outfitting license #1) spoke about protecting wildlife habitat. Bill Sustrich of Salida, at 87 years probably the oldest life member of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, talked about ATVers ruining elk hunting.

Interestingly, there was another speaker from a nonprofit group helping veterans reintegrate into society. He identified himself as a former Army sniper in Iraq, and talked about the part that public lands recreation played in his own de-stressing from his war experience.

That rang a bell — I remembered outdoor writer and vet Galen Geer writing an article about how hunting did something similar for him after his tours in Vietnam. His article seemed to stand alone at the time (the late 1980s or early 1990s), but now people are organizing such outdoor experiences.

* About a century ago, the US Board of Geographic Names or some such agency decided that the possessive apostrophe was too complicated for them.

December 09, 2011

Backcountry Hunters Group Sues Forest Service

In southwestern Colorado, the group Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is suing the U.S. Forest Service over unauthorized motorized use in areas valuable as watershed and big-game habitat.

This is the news release:

MANCOS – The Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) took legal action today [Dec. 2, 2011] to protect big game habitat and hunting opportunity from encroaching dirt-bike traffic in the Rico-West Dolores area of the San Juan National Forest.

The Rico-West Dolores (RWD) landscape comprises 244,550 acres of prime wildlife habitat.  It contains the headwaters of the Dolores River and stretches from elevations of 7,500 feet to three peaks exceeding 14,000 feet.  The landscape’s value as wildlife habitat and a source of clean water is unmistakable, but it’s being degraded by encroaching motorized overuse and abuse.  This unmanaged traffic violates the Management Plan for the San Juan National Forest.

“Over the last three years, sportsmen have worked to resolve this issue with public lands agency personnel, exhausting all options available,” said Bob Marion, a BHA volunteer from Mancos.  “We have been left with no choice but to file this lawsuit.  We welcome any opportunity to settle this case in a positive manner.”

According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, “Motorized vehicle use … inhibits wildlife use of this important habitat by increasing fragmentation … [It] bisects important elk habitat, e.g., calving, nursery and summering area.”  Put simply, without the proper balance of secure wildlife habitat and motorized traffic, habitat suffers and becomes less desirable for elk and deer, and the hunters who pursue them.

“It is the Forest Service’s job to strike the correct balance between motorized access and secure big game habitat,” said David Lien, BHA board member from Colorado Springs.  “We are simply asking the judge to hold the agency accountable for its promises to the American people.”

In particular, BHA is seeking to correct that balance on fourteen trails in the RWD landscape where unlawful motorized use is adversely impacting big game habitat.  Given that there are some 2,800 miles of roads across the 1.8 million-acre San Juan National Forest (including 120 miles of single-track motorized trails in the adjacent Mancos-Cortez Travel Management Area), there is plenty of access for motorized users in the region.

“These motorized routes do not serve as important access points and are fragmenting prime hunting grounds,” said John Gale, Colorado BHA co-chair.  “We support recreational motorized use in a controlled manner and in places it’s allowed, but in this case the forest plan is being violated and sensitive big game habitat is negatively impacted.”

Colorado BHA is represented in this case by the Natural Resources Clinic at the University of Colorado Law School.

Key Facts:

• The Forest Service has a responsibility to manage America’s national forests for the greatest good, including traditional hunting and fishing opportunities.  The agency is failing in the Rico-West Dolores (RWD) country of the San Juan National Forest.
• The agency is violating its own forest plan by allowing fourteen dirt-bike trails to encroach into fragile alpine country and big game habitat, damaging traditional hunting and fishing opportunities we have enjoyed here for generations.
• There are thousands of miles of roads and trails for motorized recreation elsewhere in this region.  For example, across the San Juan Public Lands in southwest Colorado there are about 5,500 miles of roads and motorized trails.  If lined up end-to-end, these roads and trails would extend from Cortez to the State of Maine—and back.
• In the San Juan National Forest there are some 2,800 miles of roads, and 120 miles of single-track motorized trails in the nearby Mancos-Cortez Travel Management Area.
• The public land being impacted by motorized overuse and abuse on the trails in question is important big game habitat and inappropriate for dirt-bikes.
• The trails include: Bear Creek, Burnett Creek, Calico, Eagle Peak/Upper Stoner, East Fall Creek, Gold Run, Grindstone, Horse Creek, Johnny Bull, Little Bear, Priest Gulch, Ryman Creek, Stoner Creek, and Wildcat.

February 05, 2010

Shift Some Colorado ORV Funds to Enforcement, Restoration

Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and other conservation groups are urging the Colorado State Parks Board, which controls off-road vehicle registration fees, to start spending some on enforcement and restoration.

Durango writer Dave Petersen explains why at The Huffington Post:

Currently, Colorado charges $25.25 in annual registrations fees for each ORV, which raises some $3.2 million annually for the state ORV Program. Logic demands that a portion of that fat purse goes to ORV law enforcement to assure public safety and prevent further resource damage, with another share dedicated to repairing the damage already done. But when it comes to ORVs, logic fails. As a recent Durango Herald editorial pointed out, virtually every penny of ORV "sticker fund" monies goes to maintaining, improving and in some cases expanding motorized trails on public lands, and to various forms of ORV self-promotion.

A lot of Coloradans think that's wrong. A broad coalition of more than 40 state and national organizations representing more than 100,000 sportsmen, other outdoor recreationists, conservationists, law enforcement personnel and elected officials joined together to ask the State Parks Board to make much-needed changes to the Colorado ORV Program to provide significant funding for dedicated law enforcement -- now critically lacking -- and restoration of motorized damage to fish and wildlife habitat.

If you are sick of seeing ORVs/ATVs traveling on prohibited trails, driven carelessly through streams and wetlands, or run straight up and down hills to cause erosion, let the board know.

December 20, 2009

The Impacts of Off-Road Vehicles are Worse than We Thought

Some links related to abuse of public lands by off-road vehicle riders:

• Paul Vertrees from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers explains just what the problem is:

Off-road vehicles (ORVs) had carved six-inch-deep tracks through a damp alpine meadow in the Pike National Forest southwest of Denver. Soil ripped from the ground by spinning tires washed into a nearby stream, dirtying it with sediment. A Forest Service "No Motor Vehicles" sign lay smashed on the ground next to the ugly tire ruts, scarring what would otherwise have been unspoiled backcountry.

• In related news, Colorado seeks to put ORV user-fee money towards law enforcement

• And an off-road outlaw sees the light:

When I confronted the riders, they had no clue that their raucous invasion had destroyed my outdoor experience. They didn't even think about the impacts their riding had on those who enjoy quiet recreation -- hiking, camping, hunting and horseback riding in our national forests. I knew I had to change my ways. I love ATV riding, but the truth is that my ATV and the millions like it have made severe and cumulative impacts on our public lands and wildlife. The impacts of off-road vehicles are probably even more profound and far-reaching than we think they are

• Take a non-binding poll on appropriate punishment for illegal off-road riding.

May 20, 2007

A Few Reasons for Controlling ATVs on Public Lands

Call them all-terrain vehicles, ATVs, quads, four-wheelers, whatever--their reckless use causes problems for the land, for wildlife, and for people who just want to walk in the woods without the sights, sounds, and smells of motorized traffic.

The Durango Herald points out how "elk don't like ATVs."

In heavily motorized habitat, travel and hiding cover are drastically reduced and this essential freedom to roam must be bought by elk at the usurious price of greatly increased physical and emotional stress and social disruption.

"Off-roaders destroy pristine lands," from the Pueblo Chieftain.

Roads are being carved through pristine fields where wildflowers and grasses struggle to grow.

Gates and signs are being cut down, run over, shot to splinters or smashed into pieces.

And from the Denver Post, a suggestion that the all-terrain vehicle is the worst invention of the writer's lifetime.

At the willingly assumed risk of upsetting, even alienating, a significant segment of otherwise sedentary society and the industry it sustains, I'm handing out the award for the worst invention of my lifetime to the all-terrain vehicle.

Yes, I understand that era includes the Flowbee, spray-on hair, aerosol cheese, New Coke, psychic hotlines, Milli Vanilli and "Rocky V."

And the writer concludes,

Meanwhile, a recent analysis commissioned by the Outdoor Industry Association determined that non-motorized outdoor recreation kicks in a whopping $730 billion to the national economy annually, generates $88 billion in state and national tax revenue and supports nearly 6.5 million jobs nationwide. At $289 billion in retail sales in 2005, active outdoor recreation outpaced even auto and light-truck manufacturing by nearly $40 billion.

Most of these articles quote someone from some organized ATV-user group. Those groups may police their members--but from my experience, they probably represent about 1 percent of ATV users.

Hat tip: Mike Beagle at Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

October 18, 2006

Assault by ATV

The future of backcountry law enforcement in Colorado and elsewhere in the West will be trying to curb out-of-control ATV riders.

From the Durango Herald:

After Jepson asked two ATVers to leave his property, "One guy just hit the throttle and ran into me," he said Wednesday. "The guy who ran into me just split, and he left me lying there with a broken leg."

January 08, 2006


Last Friday night M. and I went to Pueblo for the (deep breath) Roadless Area Review Task Force Public Hearing, one of several being held around Colorado.

To summarize drastically, this was the latest step of a tedious process going back to the Nixon Administration. Such processes are why the Forest Service has more people staring at computer screens rather than doing things out on the national forests. Now, according to the pro-roadless area activists:

In May, 2005, the Bush administration repealed the national policy — known as the “Roadless Rule” — that protected roadless areas in our National Forests, and replaced it with a process that requires governors to petition the Department of Agriculture in order to seek continued protections for these areas. In response, the Colorado legislature created the Roadless Areas Review Task force to advise the governor in that process. The task force is now holding hearings around the state to discuss these areas and identify any compelling reasons to shift the boundaries and the types of protections offered in the Roadless Rule. Even as the task force review process proceeds, roadless areas are increasingly subject to road-building and other disturbance from oil and gas development, mining, and logging, as industrial and commercial interests are already making plans to degrade these critical areas by opening them up to development.

According to the Pueblo Chieftain, about 250 people attended. I would put the pro-roadless crowd at a slight majority if I were counting noses. In terms of people getting up to speak, the pro-roadless folks were the definite majority.

The other side was represented by ATV and dirt bike riders, many of whom, unfortunately, don't realize that "roadless" and "trailless" do not mean the same thing. Like the man from Cheyenne, they seem to care nothing about wildlife, watersheds, or future human generations. They fear only that their motorized recreation might be disrupted. In fact, as one more-informed speaker pointed out, more than 80 percent of "roadless" areas on Colorado national forests are open to ATVs and motorcycles on designated trails.

One little irony: trying to walk on both sides of the fence in a classic bureaucratic way, Bob Leaverton, supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel national forests, said he was all for continued management of roadless areas as roadless--provided his people could have access for forest-fire fighting.

Immediately before that statement, he had projected a series of map slides. One showed how the immense Hayman Fire of 2002 (southwest of Denver) had burned right through the most heavily roaded part of the Pike NF. Meanwhile, the adjacent Lost Creek Wilderness Area came through mostly untouched. Pay attention to the slide, Bob.

The meeting ended only twenty minutes late. I had a chance to speak. There were no fistfights. No one had vandalized the Jeep's "Wilderness: A Great Place to Hunt and Fish" bumper sticker. So it was a successful public meeting.

August 28, 2005

Compare and contrast

In England, a victory of sorts for ramblers (hikers).

But somebody please explain this: "Under the new legislation half of Dartmoor National Park is now open to the public."

Who gets to use the other half, the Duke of Cornwall?

In Colorado, meanwhile, parts of the Pike National Forest southwest of Denver are a sacrifice zone for dirt bikes, ATVs, target shooters, keg parties, and child molesters with teddy bears. "Teens go wild amid Pike trees." (Link may evaporate.)