Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

27 Jun 2017

My comments on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Management Plan Environmental Assessment

Posted by Adam Howell


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Dear Columbine District Ranger Matthew Janowiak,

A view of La Plata mountains from Big Lick Trail.

A view of La Plata mountains from Big Lick Trail.

I have several comments to make on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Management Plan Environmental Assessment.

Among the four alternatives that the Forest Service has laid out in the document, I support Alternative 3 the most.

Alternative 3 makes the most sense to me as a mountain biker and as a conservationist.

Mountain bikes, electric bikes and the trails that they are ridden on are all compatible with conservation values. From my extensive experiences on foot and bike in the forest, people on foot are just as likely to scare off wildlife as people on bicycles.

In addition, bicycles are less impactful to trail systems than horses because they cause less of a sediment yield than the hooves of horses do, which are known for tilling and pocking the soil.

Mountain bikes and electric bikes are a quiet, environmentally-friendly and sustainable mode of travel for all forms of life in the Hermosa Creek Watershed.

Big Lick Trail should be open to bicycles

Alternative 3 is the most tolerant proposal in the Environmental Assessment for mountain bikes.

The ridge line on Big Lick Trail.

The ridge line on Big Lick Trail.

An example of tolerance through sharing is how Alternative 3 resists the temptation to discriminate against mountain bikes on the Big Lick Trail based on class warfare.

The push to exclude bicycles from the Big Lick Trail is perpetrated by a class of wildlife managers and hunters who claim to care about the resiliency of the population of elk habitat there.

It’s a sham that a class of people is justifying their request to exclude mountain bikers on Big Lick Trail in the name of preserving elk habitat, when realistically they just want to have the opportunity for themselves or their clients to shoot the elk before the elk get scared off. It’s a hypocritical line of reasoning for them to seek to exclude bikes from Big Lick Trail so that they can have more opportunities to shoot the same animals that they claim to want to protect.

Aside from the attempts of one user group to bully the existence of another, Big Lick is a trail where bikes have historically been allowed to travel. The intolerance proposed in Alternative 4 of one user group over another has no place where “sharing the trails” is the vision of the land managers.

Big Lick Trail on the San Juan National Forest has some epic views when you get about half way down.

Big Lick Trail on the San Juan National Forest has some epic views when you get about half way down.

If the Columbine Ranger District wants to preach a “Share the Trails” philosophy on signage anywhere in the Hermosa Creek Watershed, it needs to avoid discriminating against mountain bike access where these signs are posted.

Please do not post “Share the Trails” signage on trails that are designated for certain types of recreational uses over other uses, as this could be perceived as totally hypocritical even if officials have certain preconceived notions about the context of what the “Share the Trails” philosophy means.

If the alternative that’s chosen by the Forest Service ends up discriminating against bicycles on the Big Lick Trail, it could find a compromise with the cycling community by allowing access to the trail outside of the regulated hunting seasons.

Open West Cross Creek Trail to bicycles

Alternative 3 also does a good job of bringing the West Cross Creek Trail into the official trail system for mechanized travel. Why wasn’t West Cross Creek Trail open to mountain bikers after a private parcel that was intersecting it was acquired by the Forest Service?

If the Forest Service is keeping West Cross Trail closed due to a lack of agency resources that are needed to keep it properly maintained, then please accept my personal offer to work to keep it cleared of trees, brush and debris. Can I please adopt this trail? I have training and 15 years of professional experience with a chainsaw as a sawyer.

I’m offering to install water bars on the trail, as well, where they are needed.

I would like to take your chainsaw certification class in order to become compliant as a volunteer who wants to do trail maintenance on West Cross Trail. In 2009 I helped teach that chainsaw class. Please let me know of the next opportunity to take that class.

Open the Cutthroat Trail to electric bikes

Progressively, Alternative 3 would and should allow electric bicycles on the Cutthroat Trail on the south side of Hermosa Creek. Thank you for providing an alternative to the road that bikers would otherwise have to ride to access the upper Hermosa Creek watershed.

Install a bridge over Hermosa Creek

Near the upper Hermosa Creek Trailhead, I support the idea of installing a bridge over Hermosa Creek that vehicles and other recreationalists could use. This could help reduce the impact to aquatic populations from liquids that leak out of vehicles.

Obliteration of Long Hollow Trail was unnecessary

Lastly, I think that it is sad that the Forest Service chose to destroy the Long Hollow Trail, which mostly existed before the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Plan was created, according to historical satellite imagery from 2006.

It should’ve never been destroyed just because mountain bikers chose to do maintenance on this preexisting trail, even if it wasn’t on a map and few people knew about it.

This was an eighty-year-old ponderosa that the Forest Service took down to obliterate the Long Hollow Trail.

This was an eighty-year-old ponderosa that the Forest Service took down to obliterate the Long Hollow Trail.

Sincerely,

Adam Howell

Submit Your Own Comments

To submit your own comments to the Forest Service regarding the pre-decisional Hermosa Creek Watershed Management Plan, email HermosaSMA@fs.fed.us by July 10th, 2017. Provide a signed letter, if possible. http://a123.g.akamai.net/…/nepa/97270_FSPLT3_3993304.pdf

To view the EA document and maps, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=43010.

Forest Service, Trails 2000, San Juan Citizens Alliance and San Juan Mountains Association obliterate illegal trail, live trees, near Hermosa: http://wp.me/p2Darv-2fH

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