Colorado Parks and Wildlife asks Forest Service to close trails around Hermosa Creek

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife has asked the U.S. Forest Service to exclude mountain bikers from two trails in response to the pre- decisional Hermosa Creek Watershed Management Plan Environmental Assessment.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants the Forest Service to ban mountain bikers from two trails in the Hermosa Creek area.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants the Forest Service to ban mountain bikers from two trails in the Hermosa Creek area.

Specifically, the CPW is asking officials on the Columbine Ranger District to exclude mountain bikers from the Big Lick Trail, which has historically been open to mountain bikes.

Additionally, the CPW is asking that mountain bikes be excluded from the West Cross Creek Trail, in the event that the trail is cleared and becomes usable again.

CPW’s Trail Density Guideline

In general, the CPW recommends that the Forest Service closes twice as many miles of trail as it creates in the Hermosa Creek Watershed area.

“The north end of the SMA and the ski area has a high density of existing trails and roads. CPW is concerned that the inclusion of additional miles of trails will continue to further fragment and diminish the habitat effectiveness of this area. Therefore, CPW strongly supports the Hermosa Plan guideline that all new trail miles result in a reduction of existing trail miles at a 2:1 ratio,” said Matt Thorpe, a CPW Area Wildlife Manager. “This guideline applies to the SMA and includes trails within the ski area boundary and just outside of it.”

CPW Requests Seasonal Closures For Cyclists

While the Forest Service recommends a seasonal closure to motorized vehicles on the Hermosa Creek Trail, Jones Creek Trail, Dutch Creek Trail, and the Pinkerton Trail, the CPW is pushing for that closure to restrict bicycles, as well.

Dates included in the Forest Service-recommended seasonal closure for motorized vehicles are January 1 through April 30.

CPW suggests extending those closure dates to December 1 through April 30 and to also restrict mechanized travel.

“Elk were found to have a greater flight response from motorized and mechanized users than that for hikers and horseback riding (Wisdom et al. 2005),” Thorpe said in the letter. “CPW recommends extending the closure to include mechanized travel on these trails to minimize impacts to wintering big game.”

In other words, an elk that’s scared off by a mountain biker isn’t as likely to stick around for a hunter that wants to shoot it.

CPW: Ban Bikes On Big Lick Trail To Minimize User Conflicts

The ridge line on Big Lick Trail.

The ridge line on Big Lick Trail.

CPW supports the recommendation that the Big Lick Trail be restricted to non mechanized use only, Thorpe said in the letter.

Additionally, the CPW recommends limiting mechanized use of Upper Dutch/Pinkerton and Little Elk trails during the period of September 1- November 30 to reduce conflicts with hunters and outfitters, said Thorpe.

Read the letter from CPW’s Area Manager Matt Thorpe to the Forest Service on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Management Plan EA by clicking here.

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.

This blogger’s comments on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Management Plan Environmental Assessment: http://wp.me/p2Darv-2hP

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

My comments on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Management Plan Environmental Assessment

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

Campaign contributions made to defeat Durango’s fluoride-free ballot initiative

In the run up to the April 2017 election ballot initiative question about ending water fluoridation in Durango, campaign contributions poured in on both sides, with opponents of change having raised eight times more than Clean Water Durango, reports show. Among the roughly $40,000 dollars that was donated to the No […]

Source: Campaign contributions made to defeat Durango’s fluoride-free ballot initiative – Clean Water Durango

Wildlife photography essay, 10 species, location will remain undisclosed

bobcat

bobcat

Abert's squirrel

Abert’s squirrel

Abert's squirrel

Abert’s squirrel

Abert's squirrel

Abert’s squirrel

Abert's squirrel

Abert’s squirrel

Abert's squirrel

Abert’s squirrel

bobcat

bobcat

bobcat

bobcat

Empidonax genus (dusky, Hammond’s, cordilleran, etc.)

flycatcher of the Empidonax genus

northern flicker

northern flicker

northern flicker

northern flicker

bears

bears

bears

bears

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

spotted towhee

spotted towhee

spotted towhee

spotted towhee

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

northern flicker

northern flicker

bears

bears

bear

bear

bears

bears

bears

bears

bears

bears

bears

bears

bears

bears

bears

bears

bears

bears

western tanager

western tanager

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

spotted towhee

spotted towhee

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk jumping in the water

Cooper's hawk

A Cooper’s hawk jumps in the water.

bear

A bear eyes the camera.

bear

A bear cools off in the water.

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

bear

squirrel

squirrel

squirrel

squirrel

squirrel

squirrel

bird

bird

bird

bird

western tanager

western tanager

western tanager

western tanager

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

owl

owl

Trail+live trees obliterated by Forest Service, Trails 2000 and San Juan Citizens Alliance

An illegal trail and dozens of live trees along it were obliterated by employees of the U.S. Forest Service and Trails 2000, as well as volunteers from the San Juan Citizens Alliance, the San Juan Mountains Association and Garrett Coleman.

IMG_5814Known as the Long Hollow Trail, Forest Service officials caught wind of the unauthorized trail after people complained about it being actively constructed by mountain bikers.

Google Earth satellite imagery from April of 2006 confirms that the lower half of the trail existed at that point.

In other words, the Long Hollow Trail existed before the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection legislation was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in December, 2014. It created both the Hermosa Creek Special Management Area and the adjacent 37,236-acre Hermosa Creek Wilderness.

It is unclear when the upper portion of the Long Hollow Trail was constructed, or if it was in existence before the working group began mapping out the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Plan.

In response to complaints, officials decided that the trail was not allowed per the Hermosa Creek Special Management Area Designation, and organized a group of people to obliterate it, according to Columbine District Ranger Matt Janowiak.

Reasoning that Janowiak gave for the trail closure was that it was an illegal trail with sections that were environmentally unsustainable due to their erosive potential.

Ask the Forest Service before you build

Last week, Janowiak stated publicly that the Forest Service isn’t against mountain bike trails, while requesting that people come talk to him or Staff Recreation Officer Jed Botsford before they build anything.

IMG_5818“I’ve been consistent in my message ever since I started this job,” said Janowiak. “They may not necessarily like the final decision, or they might not like what they hear, but I will always listen and we will talk, and we will talk constructively.”

“I will also explain to people if there’s a prospect for the project to be a successful project how would you make it a successful project, and how to work with us. So it’s not heck no we’re not going to listen to you, go away, unless it’s just a completely ridiculous project like someone wanting to build a mountain bike trail through a wilderness.”

“Certain downhill trails would be grotesquely expensive to maintain, let alone build,” said Janowiak. “Why would we say yes to something like that when we know down the road it’s going to lead to a big scar on the landscape? Then we’re going to get yelled at by other members of the public.”

Trail work proposal previously rejected

IMG_5816In the past, this blogger asked permission to do trail work on the Forest from Columbine Trails Foreman Don Kelly, who promptly rejected my request, stating that the agency already had enough trails for people to recreate on.

Unilateral rejection is something that Janowiak does not support.

“I’ve told Don that that’s not our position on Columbine Ranger District,” said Janowiak. “We don’t say flat out no to those kinds of things. If Don doesn’t want to have those conversations with people then he needs to give them Jed Botsford’s phone number or my phone number. That’s what I’ve explained to Don. We’re not just unilaterally saying no. We will talk, we will listen, and that’s how we come up with travel management plans, is by listening and talking to the community, and figure out what’s going to make sense in the next area where we’re going to do planning.”

“The public has spoken to us through congress,” Janowiak said. “So when congress passed that legislation, they were clear. They said: this is what the public wants. They want this managed differently. They want a higher level of protection and one of those levels of protection is telling mountain bikes to stay on designated trails. That’s something that we’re working with the mountain biking community to figure out what the right trail network is, and you’ll see some options in the Environmental Assessment as far as what trails we’re proposing to add.”

“Have a look at it, and provide us your feedback.”

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

The Long Hollow Trail is seen in this August 2006 satellite image.

The Long Hollow Trail is seen in this April, 2006 satellite image.

A satellite image from June of 2012 shows the lower portion of the Long Hollow Trail in existence.

A satellite image from June of 2012 shows the lower portion of the Long Hollow Trail in existence.

IMG_5809
IMG_5810

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.

IMG_5833