Wildcat Canyon Trail News - Gulches Legal Challenge Filed
Legal Complaint Filed
Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE) has officially filed a legal complaint to challenge the decision to close roads in the Pike National Forest. These roads include; The Gulches sections in Park County, the top of Twin Cone in the South Platte District and several roads in the Rampart Range Area.
Learn more about CORE:
Their mission is to keep trails open through action, adoption, stewardship, education, collaboration and to involve multiple user groups to accomplish this goal.Please watch the video for the update and read the summary below.
Watch the video here
or go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaBEFIbI-sAMotorized Recreationists Challenge Pike San Isabel NF Travel Plan
By Patrick McKay
Patrick McKay is a board member of Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE) and Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders.
In September 2022, the Pike San Isabel National Forest (PSICC) in Colorado published the long awaited final decision for its controversial new travel management plan. The final decision closed approximately 123 miles of currently open motorized routes, plus multiple other routes that were temporarily closed under previous actions that will now be permanently closed. While this amounted to only a 4% net reduction in total open route mileage, these closures were disproportionately concentrated in the three ranger districts closest to the front range cities of Denver and Colorado Springs and affected several of the most popular four-wheel-drive trails in the forest. Some of the closed routes had been featured in published guidebooks and regarded as destination trails for decades, yet the Forest Service deemed them to have no recreational value and closed them. As a result, the quality of motorized recreation opportunities in the region has been severely diminished.
The motorized recreation community in Colorado is extremely disappointed with this outcome and feels that our interests were almost completely ignored throughout the entire travel management process, which was driven from the start by extremist environmental groups and anti-motorized activists within the Forest Service itself. The Forest Service based its route designation decisions solely on inaccurate data that was gathered without public input in the 2015 Travel Analysis Process and on secretive ranger district input that was never disclosed to the public. All public comments that challenged the factual assumptions underpinning the forest’s analysis were ignored. While motorized advocates managed to save a handful of minor trails through the objection process, the Forest Service dismissed the majority of our objections regarding the most popular trails subject to closure. We were left with no choice but to challenge this flawed decision in court.
On February 14, 2023, Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE), of which I am a board member, filed a lawsuit challenging the forest’s decision to close 12 specific road segments. The complaint primarily focuses on five roads in Wildcat Canyon along the South Platte River, as well as seven other roads in the Kenosha Pass, Fairplay, and Rampart Range areas. You can download the complaint here and all exhibits filed with it here.
Our lawsuit is only the latest chapter in the long running controversy over the roads in Wildcat Canyon, the history of which I have described in a past blog post here. It is sad it has even come to this, as this situation was supposed to have been resolved back in 2004, when the Forest Service issued a decision allowing these roads (which had been temporarily closed since the Hayman Fire in 2002) to be reopened under county jurisdiction.
That decision was intended to be a compromise that would allow motorized users to continue using these popular trails while ensuring that they would be maintained to avoid negative impacts to the South Platte River. While easements were quickly granted for the roads in Teller County, the ink on the decision was barely dry before a group of activist staff within the South Park Ranger district (including the current district ranger) began working to undermine the deal. They delayed and ultimately thwarted its full implementation by convincing the Park County government to withdraw its application for an easement in 2015, after the South Park Ranger District had stonewalled it for seven years.
The result was that only half of the Wildcat Canyon trail network was reopened, while the other half in Park County remained closed, with its two major loops severed. While the roads in Teller County were well-maintained by motorized groups, the roads in Park County deteriorated because the Forest Service refused to allow any maintenance on them while their status was in limbo, even though they continued to be regularly driven by members of the public who were unaware they were closed at the county line. Those negative impacts were then cited as reasons to decommission the routes in the travel management process.
As documented in our lawsuit, the same activist Forest Service employees worked to keep the forest from conducting any NEPA analysis on reopening the roads in the travel management process, ensuring that the ultimate decision to decommission them was predetermined. They also made multiple attempts to illegally decommission and obliterate the roads while the travel management process was still pending, being stopped only when other Forest Service employees pointed out their plans were unlawful. In the words of one such employee, “If our leadership wants to know why the motorized community does not want to cooperate with the forest service, this is a great example of why they don’t trust us. I don’t blame them for their outrage.”
One of the central themes of our lawsuit is the way the Forest Service abused the Travel Analysis Process (TAP) to generate unsupported and blatantly false route data which was then used to determine route designations in the travel management process with no public input allowed. According to both Forest Service policy, the Travel Analysis Process is supposed to be a separate process from travel management. It is intended to generate baseline data that can be used to inform future travel management processes, not dictate their outcomes. Forest Service policy requires rigorous public involvement in both stages of the process, and specifically requires that the public be allowed to be given input in actual route designation decisions.
In the case of the Pike San Isabel National Forest, each ranger district produced its own travel analysis report around 2015, in which they assigned a range of risk and benefit scores to each route segment evaluated. These scores, which included things like recreational use benefit and wildlife risk, were based largely off of GIS data and the personal knowledge of district staff. These scores were later run through a formula to determine the ultimate designation of each route in the travel management process, with high value routes being retained as part of the “minimum road system” and low value routes being closed.
Each travel analysis report was subject to a 30 day public comment period which was not widely publicized and received only a handful of comments, in contrast to the thousands of comments received during each of the comment periods for the travel management process. Because of the forest’s failure to seek the input of motorized recreationists who actually use the trails, the many inaccuracies in the travel analysis reports were only discovered during the travel management process. Yet the forest chose to ignore all public comments challenging route designations based on inaccurate travel analysis scores, stating that decisions based on the TAP scores were not open to revision. Moreover, any route-specific recommendations included in the TAP reports by ranger district staff were automatically adopted in the preferred alternative regardless of their merit, and all public comments calling for different outcomes were ignored.
As argued in our lawsuit, the PSICC essentially treated the TAP reports as a dispositive travel management decision rather than a preliminary information gathering step, and then attempted to unlawfully “tier to” those documents to avoid having to conduct any real NEPA analysis of the impacts of individual routes in the travel management process. District staff were able to use the TAP scores and recommendations to largely predetermine the outcome of the travel management process, in blatant violation of NEPA and Forest Service policy. In the case of the roads in Wildcat Canyon, activist district staff manipulated the process by giving the roads blatantly false recreational benefit scores, ranking them as low benefit despite explicit findings in two prior NEPA processes that these roads had extremely high recreational value. Most of the other roads cited in our lawsuit were likewise given absurdly low recreational benefit scores, dooming them to unjustified closure.
The proper way for forests to determine their “minimum road system” (MRS) as required by the Travel Management Rule has always been a murky question with no clear answer. The PSICC claimed in its decision that the MRS was essentially determined by the TAP, even though Forest Service policy states that it is determined by the travel management process. Should our case go to trial, it will be (to the best of my knowledge) the first time the extent to which the travel analysis process can be relied upon for travel management has ever been litigated.
We believe it is clear that the PSICC violated NEPA and NFMA in multiple significant ways, not the least of which involved road closures in Wildcat Canyon that the forest itself had previously determined would violate the forest plan. As we know from internal emails we received, even some Forest Service employees considered the shenanigans the forest was trying to pull regarding some of these roads shameful.
I’m interested to hear the thoughts of people in this community on the forest’s actions here. The underhanded way in which certain activist employees were able to rig the process to close a number of highly prized motorized trails should be concerning to all. Legalities aside, the forest’s actions have caused a total loss of trust within the motorized community that will make it considerably more difficult for them to obtain our cooperation in the future.
December 1, 2022
We are currently formulating our legal response to the Forest Service Record of Decision. Please go the Go Fund Me page and make a donation to support this legal challenge. If you have already made a donation please consider another donation. A court challenge of this type could cost over one hundred thousand dollars. If you or friends want to see the trails at the river opened this will be our last chance. Spread the word friends and others organizations to help.April 29, 2021
We started working to find a solution for The Gulches Trail System in Park County more than two years ago. Many of you have followed the process and helped us along the way. Unfortunately, our only option to save the full Gulches Trail System is through the legal process. Watch the video below for the latest update.
Watch the video here
or go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOHWfr68ZWsDonate Now at Go Fund Me
or go to
Update: August 28, 2020
This has been a busy year for the fight to reopen Wildcat Canyon! Early this year, Predator 4WD and Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE) hired an attorney to file a FOIA request about the Forest Service’s actions with respect to the Park County trails in Wildcat Canyon.
Through the internal Forest Service emails we received in response, we discovered that South Park District Ranger Josh Voorhis not only helped block Park County from being granted an easement back in 2014, but he is currently collaborating with the anti-motorized environmental group Wild Connections to circumvent the ongoing travel management process and permanently close and obliterate the roads on the western side of the canyon.
Voorhis purchased metal barriers to block access to the Park County roads last summer and was still searching for a contractor to install them as of late 2019. Then this July, he gave Wild Connections permission to do a work project (funded by a grant from Park County) later this summer to remove all the old signs and fencing along the Park County trails.
This metal removal project was the first step toward full decommissioning in the plan Mr. Voorhis announced in an internal memo in 2018, which caused another Forest Service employee to say, “If our leadership wants to know why the motorized community does not want to cooperate with the forest service, this is a great example of why they don’t trust us. I don’t blame them for their outrage.”
Once those signs and fences (originally placed by Predator 4WD decades ago) are removed, it will be much easier for the Forest to obliterate the roads from the ground, and much harder for us to get them reopened. The Forest Service is allowing Wild Connections to proceed with this project despite the personal assurances of Forest Supervisor Diana Trujilo that no decommissioning work would be done on the roads in Wildcat Canyon this year.
This is unfortunate as it shows the Forest has no interest in partnering with or maintaining the trust of motorized groups who wish to see these trails reopened, and has already predetermined to close them regardless of public demand for motorized recreational opportunities in Wildcat Canyon. At this point we have no choice but to assume the Forest has not been proceeding with good faith in this matter, and to prepare for inevitable objections and likely litigation over the Forest Service’s malfeasance regarding these roads.
Call to Action
We call on all motorized recreationists to write to Supervisor Trujillo expressing extreme disappointment over her decision to allow Ranger Voorhis and Wild Connections to proceed with decommissioning these roads before the travel management process is even complete. We also ask that you write to Congressman Doug Lamborn, Senator Cory Gardner, and the Park County Commission about these trails. This is an election year, and enough attention from motorized users could persuade the county commissioners to reverse their current position that they want nothing to do with this controversy and will defer to the Forest Service’s decision to close these roads.
The fight is not over yet, and the offroad community in Colorado is hopeful that these treasured roads will once again be open motorized travel. Click here [link to full article] to read the full story of the battle for Wildcat Canyon.
● Forest Supervisor Diana Trujillo - Send Email
● Congressman Doug Lamborn -
● Park County Commissioner Mike Brazell - Contact Information
● Park County Commissioner Dick Elsner - Contact Information
● Park County Commissioner Ray Douglas - Park County, CO
Park County Commissioners Office
PO Box 1373
Fairplay, CO 80440
Fax: 719-836-3273The Fight For Wildcat Canyon
By Patrick McKay
The author’s Jeep on the currently open section of the Hackett Gulch trail in Wildcat Canyon.
A coalition of motorized access groups led by Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE), has recently uncovered a disturbing plot by officials in the Pike San Isabel National Forest to illegally close one of the most popular motorized trail systems in Colorado in circumvention of the ongoing travel management process and in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
For many decades, off-road vehicle enthusiasts nationwide have enjoyed driving the rugged four-wheel-drive roads in Wildcat Canyon in the Pike National Forest. Located in a steep canyon along the South Platte River about an hour’s drive west of Colorado Springs on the border between Teller and Park Counties, these Jeep trails are also known as “The Gulches” after the three primary trails of Hackett, Longwater, and Metberry Gulches. Since roughly the late 1950s, these roads have been one of the most popular off-road trail systems in the Front Range for recreation enthusiasts seeking adventure, offering a unique set of off-road challenges, river access for swimming and fishing, and spectacular scenery in a rugged gorge filled with towering rock formations.
Since the early 2000s, however, Wildcat Canyon has been ground zero for one of the most contentious battles in Colorado between off-roaders and environmental groups determined to close these roads and lock motorized users, but not themselves, out of the canyon in the name of “conservation.” In 2002, the area around Wildcat Canyon was devastated by the Hayman Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado history. All of the roads in the region were temporarily closed after the fire, and the Forest Service subsequently began working on a new environmental analysis to determine how to manage the roads in the burn zone.
After a highly contentious public comment period with off-road groups facing off against environmental groups wishing to close Wildcat Canyon to motorized use, the Forest Service issued a decision in 2004 which concluded that re-opening the roads in the canyon was the best option both to meet the public demands for motorized recreation and to protect the environment. However, due to its limited resources, the Forest Service would only allow the roads to be reopened if the relevant county governments agreed to take responsibility for maintaining these roads.
Teller County immediately applied for and was quickly granted easements allowing it to take over management of the eastern half of the Gulches trail system, which was reopened to the public by 2009, with the Colorado Springs off-road group Predator 4WD agreeing to maintain the trails on behalf of the county as they had already done for many years prior.
Park County, which contains the western half of the trail system, first applied for an easement in 2008. In contrast to Teller County, Park County’s attempts to obtain easements were repeatedly stonewalled by the Forest Service. Ultimately, Park County submitted no less than four easement applications between 2008 and 2014, with each being met with either silence or excuses from the Forest Service such as claims to have lost the paperwork or not having the budget to process it. Internal Forest Service emails obtained by CORE show agency employees, including two different South Park District rangers, repeatedly searching for reasons not to grant the easements and attempting to discourage Park County officials from moving forward with their request.
Finally in 2015, Park County Manager Tom Eisenman retracted the county’s easement application, apparently without obtaining the approval of the Park County Commission, leaving the Park County roads in limbo. With the eastern half of the trail system open and no signs or barriers at the county line to indicate the roads in Park County were closed, they have continued to be regularly driven by motorized users to this day.
New Travel Management Process
Also in 2015, a lawsuit by a coalition of preservationist groups resulted in a settlement agreement in which the Pike San Isabel National Forest agreed to completely re-do its motorized travel plan with a new travel management process. During the scoping period in 2016, the Forest Service received numerous comments asking it to reopen the closed roads in Wildcat Canyon.
The Forest Service responded by including an alternative in the draft EIS published in 2019, which considered reopening some (but not all) of these roads, leaving out crucial connecting routes to restore the loop opportunities provided by the original trail system. This analysis was flawed from the start, as it relied on a 2015 Travel Analysis Report written by South Park District Ranger Josh Voorhis which rated most of these roads as having low recreational value solely because they were currently closed, rather than considering the incredibly high value they had for motorized recreation when they were open.
Internal emails show that Mr. Voorhis strongly opposed including these roads in the travel management EIS at all, as he had already decided to permanently close and decommission them. As a result of the wide latitude Voorhis was given in making decisions for the roads in his district, the preferred alternative in the 2019 draft EIS proposed to decommission almost all of the Wildcat Canyon roads in Park County, with no indication that any serious consideration was ever given to reopening them. The preferred alternative also contained more road closures in the South Park District than in all other districts combined.
The Plot to Decommission the Roads
Instead of waiting for a final decision on the Wildcat Canyon roads to be made in the travel management process, Mr. Voorhis (along with South Platte District Ranger Brian Banks) decided to circumvent that process entirely and began working with local anti-motorized user groups to illegally decommission the roads with no environmental analysis or public involvement.
In May of 2018, Voorhis wrote an internal memo kicking off a decommissioning project with three elements: (1) Removing all existing metal signs and fencing from the Park County roads, (2) installing heavy metal barriers blocking access to the closed Park County roads from the open roads in Teller County, and (3) re-contouring the roads on the west side of the river to physically remove them from the ground. Another Forest Service employee strongly objected to Voorhis’ plan, saying in an email that decommissioning these highly desirable roads in a controversial area with no supporting environmental analysis or public input was illegal and invited distrust and justified outrage from the motorized community.
Nevertheless, Voorhis moved forward with his project, purchasing the metal barriers in the summer of 2019 and searching for contractors to install them that fall. Simultaneously, he and a Forest Service biologist with a demonstrably strong bias against motorized recreation wrote up a document claiming “changed circumstances” which would prevent Park County from being granted an easement under the 2004 EA, thereby thwarting a renewed push by CORE and other motorized groups to get Park County to re-apply for an easement in spring 2019.
It was during the public comment period for the draft EIS in fall 2019 that CORE first became aware of Voorhis’ plans to decommission these roads, when he unsuccessfully sought permission from Teller County to barricade the roads on the east side of the canyon further up in Teller County. CORE subsequently hired an attorney to file a FOIA request for all Forest Service documents pertaining to Wildcat Canyon, which we obtained in early 2020.
The Forest Supervisor’s Response
Having learned through the documents provided in response to our FOIA request of Voorhis’ plans to install permanent barriers blocking access to the Park County roads sometime in 2020, CORE wrote to Forest Supervisor Diana Trujillo this spring asking for her assurance that no actions would be taken to decommission any roads in Wildcat Canyon until after a final decision was made in the travel management EIS. After a phone conversation with the Supervisor in May, Deputy Forest Supervisor Dave Condit wrote to us on her behalf on July 1 stating that, “The Forest does not plan to do any work on the roads in Wildcat Canyon this year. There will be no changes until we complete our Travel Management Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and sign the subsequent project Record of Decision (ROD).”
Unfortunately, this assurance turned out to be false. On the same day Mr. Condit sent his email, Wild Connections (the lead environmental group pushing for closure of Wildcat Canyon) published their July monthly newsletter in which they announced they had received a grant from Park County and permission from the South Park Ranger District to move forward with a “metal removal project” in Wildcat Canyon later this summer.
This project was the same as the first element of Mr. Voorhis’ decommissioning plan from May 2018, removing all the old signs and fencing from the Park County roads in preparation for obliterating the routes from the ground. Those signs and fences were originally placed decades ago by Predator 4WD in partnership with the Forest, and continue to be helpful today in preventing drivers who inadvertently drive the closed roads without knowing of the closure from going off trail. They would also be critical for this purpose if the roads were ever legally reopened.
When CORE contacted Ms. Trujillo again in August with these concerns and asked her to prevent Wild Connections from completing this project until a final travel management decision has been made, she dismissed our concerns, falsely claiming that the metal removal work was not decommissioning and it would not affect the outcome of the travel management process.
This is unfortunate as it shows the Forest has no interest in partnering with or maintaining the trust of motorized groups who wish to see these trails reopened, and has already predetermined to close them regardless of public demand for motorized recreational opportunities in Wildcat Canyon. At this point CORE has no choice but to assume the Forest has not been proceeding with good faith in this matter, and to prepare for inevitable objections and likely litigation over the Forest Service’s malfeasance regarding these roads.
Call to Action
Well call on all motorized recreationists to write to Supervisor Trujillo expressing extreme disappointment over her decision to allow Ranger Voorhis and Wild Connections to proceed with decommissioning these roads before the travel management process is even complete. We also ask that you write to Congressman Doug Lamborn, Senator Cory Gardner, and the Park County Commission about these trails. This is an election year, and enough attention from motorized users could persuade the county commissioners to reverse their current position that they want nothing to do with this controversy and will defer to the Forest Service’s decision to close these roads.
The fight is not over yet. The off-road community in Colorado is hopeful that, if enough individuals get involved and show that motorized recreation is important to them, these treasured roads will once again be open to all outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
● Forest Supervisor Diana Trujillo: firstname.lastname@example.org
● Congressman Doug Lamborn: https://lamborn.house.gov/zip-code-lookup?form=/contact/email-me
● Senator Cory Gardner: https://www.gardner.senate.gov/helping-you/help-with-a-federal-agency/other-issues
● Park County Commissioner Mike Brazell: https://parkco.us/FormCenter/Contact-Us-4/Contact-Commissioner-Brazell-182
● Park County Commissioner Dick Elsner: https://parkco.us/FormCenter/Contact-Us-4/Contact-Commissioner-Elsner-180
● Park County Commissioner Ray Douglas: Park County, CO
Update: November 5, 2019
The time period to comment on the trails is now over. The next step takes place in November of 2020 when the Forest Service announces their decision.
_______________________________________________Update: October 18, 2019
Your comments are needed to open Wildcat Canyon.
All written comments need to be submitted by November 4, 2019.The Forest Service has decided not to open any trails in Wildcat Canyon unless there are overwhelming written comments requesting that the trails be opened. Tell your friends and club members to comment by the cutoff date of November 4, 2019.
Mail written comments to:
John Dow, PSICC Forest Planner
2840 Kachina Drive,
Pueblo, CO, 81008
News Release: September 19, 2019
Pike and San Isabel National Forest Officials Release Draft of Environmental Impact Statement for Public Motor Vehicle Use
Forest officials aim to continue working with all citizens to designate a motor vehicle
use system within the Forests that balances the needs of forest users with protecting the land
PUEBLO, Colo., September 19, 2019 — Officials from the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Comanche and Cimarron National Grasslands (PSICC) today released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for public motor vehicle use. The Notice of Availability will publish in the Federal Register on September 20, 2019, initiating the formal 45-day public comment period that ends November 4, 2019.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is part of the 2005 Travel Management Rule, requiring National Forests and Grasslands to designate roads, trails and areas that are open for motorized use. It offers five alternatives for a system of designated roads, trails and areas by class of vehicle and season of use. The alternatives reflect input from forest users, partners, and state and local governments.
“Feedback on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will help strengthen our analysis,” said Forest and Grassland Supervisor Diana Trujillo. “Hearing the voices of various forest users is extremely important to us. Our goal is to designate a motorized system that works for the public while caring for natural and cultural resources.”The Alternatives
The alternatives address a range of concerns about resource impacts from motor vehicle use, reduced motorized access, and potential conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users. The five alternatives are summarized below.Alternative A
Public Motorized Routes Prior to Settlement, is the Forest’s public motorized route system prior to the November 2015 settlement agreement.Alternative B
Settlement Action Proposal, removes all roads and trails not previously analyzed as identified in the November 2015 settlement agreement. Alternative B reduces the Pike and San Isabel National Forest’s motorized network by 34 percent.Alternative C
Proposed Action, emphasizes a safe and environmentally sound system of roads, trails and areas that allows for existing forest uses and access to private property. It decreases roads open to motor vehicle use by just under 11 percent and increases trails open by almost 22 percent. The 4 percent overall reduction in roads and trails specified under the proposed action aims to reasonably address and balance the expressed concerns of motorized users, non-motorized users and environmental groups.Alternative D
Motorized-Recreation-Focused Proposal, emphasizes public motor vehicle use and recreation. This alternative combines parts of Alternative C with motorized routes proposed during public scoping. It proposes new motorized areas. Alternative D decreases motorized access by about 3 percent overall.Alternative E
Non-Motorized-Recreation-Focused Proposal, emphasizes natural resource protection, habitat quality and non-motorized recreation while providing the least amount of public motor vehicle access across the forest. Alternative E decreases motorized access by just over 50 percent overall.
The Travel Management Rule exempts the following from designation: aircraft, watercraft, and over-snow vehicles; use by the military, law enforcement, firefighters, and Forest Service for administrative activities; permitted special uses, such as livestock grazing, mining, logging, and collecting fuelwood, Christmas trees and other forest products; and access to pipeline and utility corridors, as well as access to private land.
Forest officials will host four meetings for the public
to review the alternatives, ask questions and
learn how to submit comments.
Please attend a meeting listed below.Salida
Date: Oct. 8, 2019
6:00 PM-7:30 PM
220 West Sackett
Salida, CO 81201Pueblo
Date: Oct. 9, 2019
6:00 PM-7:30 PM
Pueblo Community College
900 W. Orman Ave. Student Center, Room 234
Pueblo, CO 81004Denver
Date: Oct. 10, 2019
6:00 PM-7:30 PM
MindSpark Learning, West Room
455 South Pierce Street Lakewood, CO 80226Colorado Springs
Date: Oct. 11, 2019
6:00 PM-7:30 PM
S4 Inc. Center For Excellence 1925 Aerotech Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80916
Written comments must be submitted in person,
through the online comment portal, or mailed to: John Dow, PSICC Forest Planner
2840 Kachina Drive,
Pueblo, CO, 81008
Comments, including the names and addresses of respondents, will be part of the public record. Anonymous comments will be accepted and considered, but those submitting comments anonymously will not have standing to object to the final decision. Only those who commented during this process will be eligible to object the final decision. Comments should be clear and specific to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and must be submitted by November 4, 2019.
After considering the comments submitted, Forest officials will prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement and designate a system of roads, trails and areas open for motor vehicle use by class of vehicle and season of use. The decision is expected to publish in the Federal Register in November of 2020.
Six new motor vehicle use maps will be published for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. These new maps will complement the two that already exist for the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands. All will be available free of charge.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement can be found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=48214 under the “Analysis” tab.
Copy this link in your internet browser to access the news release.
Media Contact: Julie Bain
(719) 553-1415 email@example.comBelow are some talking points for your consideration.
• The four-wheel-drive roads in Wildcat Canyon (aka The Gulches) have historically been some of the most highly valued motorized routes in the Pike National Forest, providing multiple full-size loop routes with spectacular scenery and access to a remote portion of the South Platte River. They are open all year and close to the Front Range making them popular spring and fall destinations for four-wheel-drive clubs.
• The Park County portions of FS 220 Hackett Gulch, FS 220.A Crossover, FS 220.B Widow Maker, FS 221 Longwater Gulch, and FS 540 Corral Creek have been closed since the Hayman Fire in 2002.
• In 2004 the Forest Service conducted an environmental analysis and concluded the benefits of reopening these roads outweigh the environmental risks.
• The Forest Service attempted to evade responsibility for these roads by granting counties easements and making the counties responsible for maintenance.
• Only Teller County obtained an easement and took over jurisdiction of its portions of the roads, which were reopened by 2009. Park County’s easement application was lost twice and then Park County decided it was no longer interested in managing its portions of the roads (reaffirmed in an April 2019 press release).
• The closed Park County roads are stuck in limbo in Maintenance Level 1 (ML1) status. The Forest Service has abdicated its responsibility to manage them or enforce the closures, resulting in widespread illegal use and road deterioration.
• The currently open portions of Hackett, Longwater, and Metberry Gulch are heavily used and are restricted to use only as out-and-back trails, increasing congestion, user conflicts, and resource damage.
• The current situation is unsustainable. The Forest Service must take responsibility for managing these roads and make a final decision on their status.
• The range of alternatives in the DEIS is inadequate with respect to the Wildcat Canyon area, as none of the alternatives fully reopens all of the Park County roads or allows full-size vehicles to complete the Hackett to Longwater or South Hackett to Sportsman loops. Some alternatives close half of Metberry.
• The Forest Service should modify at least one alternative (preferably Alternative C) to fully reopen FS 220, 220.A, 220.B, 540, and 221 as trails open to all vehicles, while keeping FS 205, 897, and 202 open as well.
• The 2015 Travel Analysis reports improperly classified all of these roads except lower Corral Creek and Longwater as having low recreational value merely because of their current ML1 status, ignoring their historical extremely high value for their recreational experience.
• The DEIS management recommendations for roads with high recreational value and high watershed risk are harden water crossings and convert to trails open to all vehicles. This is the best management recommendation for these roads.
• Designating these roads as trails open to all vehicles would relax engineering standards and allow four-wheel-drive clubs to maintain them using grant money from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife OHV fund.
• The Forest Service previously found that reopening these roads with regular maintenance would decrease overall environmental impacts including sedimentation and water quality in the rivers and harm to fish. Erosion concerns could be mitigated with maintenance.
• If water crossings are proven to cause harm, the Forest Service should investigate installing engineered low water crossing structures or bridges.
• Increased motorized recreation in the area would not threaten Scenic status for the Platte River under the Wild and Scenic River study. Just closing roads would not make the river eligible for Wild status, as the 2A management classification for the Wildcat Canyon area already precludes Wild status. That would require a Forest Plan amendment to change.
• Slow recovery of vegetation in Wildcat Canyon and continued impaired water quality is not caused by OHVs and should not preclude reopening trails.
• The introduction of bighorn sheep is not a changed condition that should preclude reopening roads, as bighorn sheep can coexist with roads and 4WD trails have a minimal effect on them.
• The Forest Plan’s 2A management designation for the area with emphasis on motorized recreation makes Wildcat Canyon unsuitable for quiet use recreation.
• Closing motorized trails to convert them to hiking trails is unfair to motorized recreationists and contrary to the spirit of the Travel Management Rule, which recognizes motorized recreation as a legitimate use of National Forest land.
• The nearby Lost Creek Wilderness offers a far superior quiet use experience. Those seeking to hike in the area should go there rather than demanding motorized trails in Wildcat Canyon be closed in order to give them exclusive access.
Trails remain closedDate Posted: March 28, 2019
Various meetings have taken place but the trails remain closed to motorized vehicles. The environmental assessment study for the Pike San Isabel (PSI) lawsuit has been completed and is due out soon. It will be the LAST chance to comment and request that these trails be re-opened.
Unless we obtain the backing from the Park County Commissioners, the trails will remain closed indefinitely. The Park County Commissioners are the key to getting these trails reopened for motorized vehicle use. If you want to see these trails opened it’s critical that you take action now and contact the Park County Commissioners to ask for their support.
Contact the Park County commissioners office and request that they adopt the Park County trails so they can remain opened to motorized vehicles.
Park County Commissioners Office
PO Box 1373
Fairplay, CO 80440
Trails in Wildcat Canyon
Date Posted: September 5, 2017
The trails in the Wildcat Canyon have continued to deteriorate at a disturbing rate. This is not good news for 4-wheel drive enthusiasts.
The Pike San Isabel lawsuit is still in progress. Even though there are organizations that support our concerns and are on top of the situation; the Forest Service has conducted closed-door meetings with anti-access groups. The Trail Preservation Alliance and COHVCO have notified the Forest Service that these exclusive closed-door meetings may be violating the law.
The Forest Service allowed motorists use of the trails but unfortunately motorists are also using the closed trails and the Forest Service does not have the resources to stop them.
Volunteers in the motorized community have offered to help with the trail maintenance but the Forest Service has declined their offers.
The Forest Service said there is too much sediment run off at the river. They haven't had the funding to find the true cause so they decided to close the trails to motorized vehicles, even though the actual cause could be attributed to bikers, hikers, environmental issues, animals and weather conditions.
Adding markers to help keep users on the trails and placing a sign at the river with guidelines on the proper use of the area could provide additional guidance for users who might be unaware of the concerns. The Forest Service acknowledges that educating users is the best answer to protecting public lands but they have dismissed requests to add these markers that would help make Wildcat Canyon a self-guided educational classroom.
Proper use of the trails
Over the years, 4-wheel drive groups adopted these trails, maintained them at their own expense and guided others in the proper use of the trails.
We can all help educate users why these areas are unique and how to properly use the trails in public lands so the trails can be opened and enjoyed by the motorized community.
Here are some suggestions on how you can help:
• Don't drive on the closed trails.
• Teller Country trails are open because Teller County adopted those trails and allowed motorized vehicles access to those trails.
• Support the businesses in Teller County which support motorized recreation.
• Contact Teller County commissioners and thank them for supporting motorized vehicles in public lands.
Teller County Commissioners Office
PO Box 959
Cripple Creek, CO 80813
• Contact the Park County commissioners office and request that they adopt the Park County trails so they can remain opened to motorized vehicles.
Park County Commissioners Office
PO Box 1373
Fairplay, CO 80440
• If you vote in Park County, contact the Park County commissioners to share your concerns about trail closures in the Wildcat Canyon and ask the commissioners for their support.
• If you see anyone not respecting public lands take a minute to educate them.
• Guide users to visit websites such as “Stay the trail in Colorado” to learn proper use of motorized vehicles on trails.
• Offer to take new users on a trail ride to show them proper respect and use of public lands.
• Support organizations such as the Trail Preservation Alliance www.coloradotpa.org and COHVCO www.cohvco.org. Both of these local organizations are supporting the use of motorized vehicle in public lands.
• Support organizations such as Blue Ribbon Coalition (Share Trails) www.sharetrails.org which is supporting the use of motorized vehicles in public lands on a national level.
Now is your chance to take action to do more. Support these organizations and contact the representatives to voice your concerns.
Teller County is looking for input on opening of County Roads to OHV use.
Date Posted: October 18, 2016
The Teller County Board of County Commissioners is considering adopting ordinance #19 to allow unlicensed OHV use on select, designated county roads in the North Divide/717 trail system area and the Commissioners need to hear from YOU! Public comment will be accepted until November 13, 2106. By allowing OHV use on select, designated roads or road segments will allow OHV users to connect isolated trail segments, provide more loop opportunities and enhance OHV recreational opportunities.
1. A large number of Counties that have already opened county roads to OHV recreation and have improved recreational opportunities and seen an increase in visitation to that county. Counties that do not keep pace in providing improved opportunities run the risk of seeing a decline in visitation as riders utilize areas with improved opportunities.
2. OHV recreation in Colorado is a major economic driver and in the Central Colorado region accounts for more than $157,000,000 in spending and more than 1,760 jobs.
3. The addition of the identified routes to the existing network would greatly improve the quality of the riding opportunities in the 717 area and allow users to leverage existing facilities, such as parking more completely.
4. Adding the designated routes removes the need to park on road shoulders and other less than ideal parking locations in order to access a riding area, which will increase the safety of all usage and travel on county roads.
5. OHV recreation has been found to be a safe family sport that does not signficiantly impact wildlife or other resources in the riding area.
More information on the Proposal is available here:
For more information visit the Teller County website (http://www.co.teller.co.us) or contact the Public Works Department at 719-687-8812
Electronic comments via:
The County is requesting emails directly to the three County Commissioners at the following address:
Marc Dettenrieder: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Paul: email@example.com
Norm Steen: firstname.lastname@example.org
November 13, 2016.
We need your input for the next COHVCO economic contribution study.
This study is our best tool for preserving off road access in wilderness areas.
Date Posted: December 16, 2015
COHVCO and its partners are undertaking a complete review of its economic contribution study for motorized recreation in Colorado that was originally prepared in 2001. As many of you know, the economic contributions from our sport are critically important in the fight against Wilderness proposals, development of plans for the management of federal public lands and insuring that motorized access remains on public lands.
As part of this study, we are asking for the public to fill out a short questionnaire about spending on their most recent motorized trips. Simply click the link below for the appropriate category of study(atv/sidebyside/motorcycle or 4x4 fullsize or snowmobile). Filing out this questionnaire will only take a couple of minutes but it is critically important!!! If you have multiple types of vehicles please fill out each appropriate category with the appropriate information and if you frequently go out of state for motorized opportunities please note that as well!
Fill out the survey’s based on the type of vehicle do you drive.
If you drive vehicles in all three categories we encourage you to fill out all three survey’s.
Survey 1: Motorcycle, Side by Side and ATV vehicles
Survey 2: 4x4 and Jeep vehicles
Survey 3: Snowmobile vehicles
Check back again. The snowmobile questionnaire to come January 2016.
The study is expected to be completed within approximately one year.
Please share this request with all your friends.
Some forest roads will be shuttered.
Environmental study is part of settlement
Article appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette Newspaper
December 1, 2015
BY RYAN MAYE HANDY email@example.com
In the coming year, nearly 150 forest roads will be closed and hundreds of others will be reviewed following a U.S. District Court settlement that declared 500 miles of roads that cut through endangered species’ habitats need reassessment.
The Forest Service has one year from Nov. 16 to either completely or partially shut down 147 roads for motorized vehicles that run through six ranger districts in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, according to the settlement terms of a years-long lawsuit over the Forest Service’s process for opening forest roads.
The shutdowns will affect nearly 18 miles of roads, and some of the roads will be closed entirely, while other roads will have short stretches closed. Those roads will likely remain closed for years while the Forest Service undergoes a court-mandated intensive environmental study of 500 miles of roads in the Pike and San Isabel forests.
The more immediate shutdowns are meant to preserve habitats for the Mexican spotted owl and the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, both considered threatened species. But more analysis could lead to more road closures to motorized vehicles in certain areas of the forest.
The Forest Service will conduct the study over five years in response to the lawsuit claiming that it skipped a major step in road construction — doing environment assessments — and holding public meetings before building roads in national forests. In 2011, several environmental groups filed suit against the Forest Service, claiming that 500 miles of road for motor vehicles added to the system in 2008 had been added or built illegally, without the required study or public input. Officials from the Forest Service said they did not flout legal requirements, but they considered other things, such as older maps and regular road use, along with previous environmental studies or public comment when it added roads.
The agency also agreed in the Nov. 13 settlement to pay $151,000 to Earthjustice to cover attorneys fees. The Forest Service will spend $850,000 to $1 million over five years to conduct the study, said Barbara Timock, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service.
“The settlement stops the Forest Service from just adding routes willy-nilly without doing the necessary study, without looking before they leap,” said Ted Zukoski, a lawyer with Earthjustice, which represented the environmental groups. “They didn’t do any environmental review, didn’t ask the public and just added these 500 miles to the roads.”
The road closures will impact routes in the Pike, Leadville, San Carlos, South Park, South Platte and Salida ranger districts. The settlement also requires that, in the next three months, the Forest Service meet with Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials to discuss what other roads should be closed in the short term, to protect the winter ranges for elk, deer and other big game. The settlement’s requirements will bring the public’s voice into the Forest Service’s review of its guidelines for motor vehicles in the forest, and accountability that Zukoski hopes will diversify how the forest of the future will be used.
“This gives the public a chance to engage with the Forest Service, instead of the Forest Service doing a bunch of spaghetti on this map and saying, ‘You can drive there,’” he said.
There are more than 2,200 miles of motorized roads snaking through the Pike and San Isabel forests. The forests are a recreational haven for southern Colorado — 19 of Colorado’s 54 peaks taller than 14,000 feet are in this region, including Pikes Peak. Although the forest lands have long been popular spots for fishing and hunting, they are also home to rare wildlife, including the threatened Mexican owl and the greenback cutthroat trout.
Motorized vehicle use in national forests has long been a problem, said Zukoski, who collected pages of evidence from frequent forest visitors who saw ATVs and other vehicles using paths that had been made by elk in nonmotorized zones. Forest officials might normally struggle to enforce nonmotorized zones, but in the Pike and San Isabel forests, officials disregarded environmental signs — such as threatened animal habitats — that should have kept vehicles out, Zukoski said.
“The Forest Service had a route system that was on a map in the 1980s, and to that they added everything they could find on the ground,” he said. “Which means they added a lot of stuff that was never analyzed and a lot of stuff that was just created by people driving around out there.”
The latest maps of motorized routes in the Pike and San Isabel forests were drawn up from 2007 to 2010, adding to the map from 1984. But unlike the 1984 map, the newer maps skipped the environmental impact analysis of the routes in violation of the law, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, according to the complaint filed in 2011.
While Zukoski knows of no other Colorado national forest that has violated the legal requirements for approving road construction, the problems seen in the Pike and San Isabel forests are pervasive throughout the country, he said.
In 30 years of running along the trails and roads of the Salida Ranger District, Tom Sobal discovered many trails that frequent illegal use had turned into roads for motorized vehicles — some of the 500 miles of roads under review. In years of personal observation, Sobal saw the nonmotorized zones that were home to elk become heavily trafficked areas for ATVs.
“I still occasionally hike on other sections of the Rainbow Trail on the Salida Ranger District, where the trail is still designated as a single track trail where ATVs are not legally allowed according to (motorized vehicle plans),” Sobal wrote in a court document. He noted that he frequently sees ATVs on the trail. “I have not been able to find any documented decision or public process that allowed part of a trail to become used by and widened for ATVS when they were previously prohibited on that same trail.”
Pike National Forest
“Badger Flats Management Project Park County, Colorado
OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT
Date Posted: December 16, 2015
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Pike National Forest, South Park Ranger District, is preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) to consider the environmental effects of the Badger Flats Management project. The Badger Flats Management project includes 72,049 acres of National Forest System lands located in Park County just northwest of Lake George, Colorado. The Forest Service is soliciting comments from federal, state, and local agencies, and other individuals or organizations that may be interested or affected by the implementation of the proposed project.
About the Project:
The Forest Service is proposing to implement changes to the system of existing National Forest System Roads (NFSR) and National Forest System Trails (NFST) within the Badger Flats Management area. Non-Forest System routes (user-created roads and trails) may be added as necessary to create a sustainable network of routes. In addition, existing NFSRs may be eliminated to create a sustainable network of routes. The Badger Flats Management project will not affect any current permitted rights-of-way access. Proposed modifications are shown on the Badger Flats Management project area map. These maps and information about the proposed project are available on the web site http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=48069.
The purpose of this project is to address resource damage due to the unauthorized development of non-system roads and trails in addition to high levels of recreational use in the Badger Flats Management project area. The need is to manage and reduce existing resource impacts caused by roads, motorized recreation, and dispersed camping in order to make these uses sustainable into the future.
A system of motorized roads and trails would be defined and/or created to improve the motorized recreational experience. Routes will avoid sensitive resource areas and provide for additional motorized opportunities where feasible.
The Forest Service proposes to designate dispersed camping in the project area, and mitigate impacts caused by unmanaged and large-group dispersed camping . All areas outside of these designated camping areas within the project boundary are proposed to be closed to camping. Proposed designated areas have been selected based on current use and resource sustainability, for the purpose of minimizing impacts to sensitive resources and other uses within the project area. The proposed designated camping areas are shown on the Badger Flats Management project area map.
How to Comment:
Pursuant to 36 CFR 218.25, comments on this proposed project will be accepted for 30 days beginning on the first day after the date of publication of the legal notice in the newspaper of record (The Fairplay Flume, Park County Colorado). The publication date in the newspaper of record is the exclusive means for calculating the comment period for this analysis. Those wishing to comment should not rely upon dates or time frame information provided by any other source. The regulations prohibit extending the length of the comment period. It is the responsibility of persons providing comments to submit them by the close of the comment period. Comments must be received by January 4, 2016.
The purpose of this comment period is to provide the public the opportunity for input to the Deciding Official regarding the proposed action prior to the issuance of a draft decision. This input is important in the development and subsequent analysis of the project.
Individuals or entities who submit timely and specific written comments about this proposed project or activity during this or another public comment period established by the responsible official are eligible to file an objection in accordance with 36 CFR 218.5. Comments should be within the scope of the proposed action, have a direct relationship to the proposed action, and must include supporting reasons why the Responsible Official should consider them (36 CFR 218.24.
Written comments may be submitted to:
Badger Flats Management Project, C/O Josh Voorhis, District Ranger, South Park Ranger District, by one of the following methods; mail: P.O. Box 219, Fairplay, Colorado, 80440, or by telephone: 719-836-2031, or facsimile: 719-836-3875.
The office business hours for those submitting hand-delivered comments are: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday excluding holidays. Oral comments maybe provided at the Responsible Official’s office during normal business hours via telephone 719-836-2031 or in person. Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an email message, plain Text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), or Word (.doc) to: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=48069.
Comments are encouraged to be provided in written format online or via mail. In cases where no identifiable name is attached to the comment, a verification of identity will be required for objection eligibility. If using an electronic message, a scanned signature is one way to provide verification.
You are also invited to the scheduled Open House on December 17, 2015, 6:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. The Open House provides the opportunity for you to ask questions and get additional information about the Badger Flats Management project. The Open House will be held at the Woodland Park Library (large meeting room) at 218 East Midland Avenue, Woodland Park, CO. 80863.