Thanks to Patrick McKay for this guest post. Note that this post has been updated as of 3/11/19, thanks to Patrick getting more information from Conservation Colorado. Thanks to Patrick and Conservation Colorado![/caption]
Lately I have been seeing a steady stream of articles and editorials in publications around Colorado advocating for Senator Bennet’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, based on the fiction that there is a strong consensus among stakeholders in favor of this bill. There is no such consensus. The CORE Act is simply a combination of failed wilderness bills that were each too unpopular to pass on their own. Those who support multiple-use of federal lands for all forms of recreation, rather than locking them up for the exclusive use of a single user group, unequivocally oppose it.
The motorized recreation community especially opposes the bill, because it would convert thousands of acres of land currently open to motorized use into wilderness. Almost every area of proposed wilderness is either currently open to motorized use or is considered a motorized expansion area under current Forest Service travel planning.
This bill will be devastating to snowmobilers, dirt bikers, Jeepers, and mountain bikers, who will all either immediately lose access to existing recreational opportunities or potentially lose opportunities in the future as a result of the bill. Snowmobiles would be hurt the most, as vast tracts of land that are currently open to that activity would be closed. In one of the most callous corporate land grabs imaginable, the popular Sheep Mountain area near Silverton would be closed to mountain biking and snowmobiling (which has been allowed since 1983) but would remain open to a private heliskiing operation.
This comes amidst an ongoing feud between local snowmobilers and the outfitter, which has long sought to secure exclusive first-tracks usage of the area for its clients. The CORE Act picks a firm winner in that conflict, favoring corporate interests over the public (including quiet use) in giving the company the exclusive right to mechanized access. Members of the public would be forbidden to even fly toy drones in the area, but a corporation would still be allowed to land noisy helicopters in what would otherwise be managed as a wilderness.
While it will not close them directly, the bill threatens several important Jeep trails including Imogene Pass between Ouray and Telluride (a Jeep Badge of Honor Trail), and other routes that would be “cherry-stemmed” by the bill. The wilderness boundaries would be placed within 50 feet of the edges of these roads, making future trail maintenance or re-routing impossible. Requests by the motorized community for larger buffers surrounding existing trails have been rebuffed.
These boundaries are based on the Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use Maps, which are frequently inaccurate regarding the actual locations of roads on the ground. With so little buffer, any mapping errors could result in the permanent closure of some of the best off-road routes in Colorado. Moreover, there are no additional protections in the bill ensuring cherry-stemmed routes will remain open in the future, which is a significant concern given that roads cherry-stemmed by past wilderness legislation have frequently faced immense pressure for closure in subsequent travel planning due to conflicts with the surrounding wilderness areas.
Even where this bill does not directly close trails, permanent wilderness status will preclude any future expansions of existing trail systems. It will also deprive the Forest Service of much-needed flexibility in caring for forests already suffering from poor health, beetle infestations, and wildfires.
While I agree that wilderness areas are important and I enjoy hiking and backpacking in them myself, Colorado has plenty of wildernesses already. The CORE Act claims to promote recreation in Colorado while in fact decreasing existing opportunities for recreation. This site has previously covered the issue of manufacturing wilderness by kicking out existing users, and that is exactly what is occurring here.
If new wildernesses are to be designated, that should be done without closing areas currently open to other incompatible forms of recreation. If not, wilderness proponents should at least be honest about the fact that they are deliberately sacrificing certain forms of recreation in order to promote others, abandoning any pretense that they are anything other than a majority steamrolling a disfavored minority. Consensus, that is not.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that this bill would directly close motorized trails in the Spraddle Creek and Tenderfoot Mountain areas near Vail and Dillon, and would put wilderness boundaries next to the Holy Cross City trail near Leadville. After a discussion with one of the proponents of the bill, I discovered these statements were incorrect, and were based on inaccurate information in my source material as well as low-fidelity maps that made it difficult to determine the precise boundaries of proposed wilderness relative to nearby motorized routes. I apologize for these errors.
52 thoughts on “Colorado Wilderness and the CORE Act: Hearing From Those Left Out of the “Consensus” Corrected Version”
(1) I wonder whether the Denver Post editorial board invited people in to talk who represented opposing views, or they just assumed that the others were wrong. Or perhaps they are just used to using words in a casual manner:
“We certainly don’t want to make light of those concerns, but this is a rare opportunity to pass a very good bill, that has made significant strides toward becoming perfect.” Those are pretty strong words for folks who haven’t delved into details.
It reminds me of the story covered here previously https://forestpolicypub.com/2018/07/07/andrew-wheeler-acting-epa-administrator-and-bears-ears-and-uranium/
in which the Denver Post editorial board didn’t call the offices 9.2 miles away from their headquarters to find out the other side of the uranium/Bears Ears story. I know they aren’t held to journalistic standards because it’s only opinion, but still, we’re all Coloradans here (and subscribers)- even those who disagree.
(2) The Recommended Wilderness Forest Service exercise is laborious, fairly transparent, and documented up the wazoo. But who exactly makes the decisions on the Wilderness bills? Who are the players? Who is in “the room where it happens”? I am curious.
My only concern is that the FS leads people through a laborious process to possibly no end as the folks who do the Bill aren’t following that. So why don’t we save the public and the FS the trouble and the taxpayers’ dollars, and be honest that it will ultimately happen due to political horsetrading. Kicking people out in the RW process may not really matter, because as we see here the actual political heft of a Wilderness bill can kick any users out at any time.
I wonder if this is very different in each state based on its politics. In Colorado, it’s all coupled with a partisan edge. Senator Gardner managed to do enough horsetrading to get a good LWCF bill through, but it turns out that we can still criticize him because he didn’t get the CORE act in there, so he still needs to go. The fingerprints of partisan ideology are all over this one, IMHO, such that the details tend to be lost. Maybe if we had two Senators in the same party, it would be different.
It seems to me like conservationists, or anyone who somewhat agrees with Ed Abbey or Jim Stiles’ approach to land use would be supportive of this bill. What “corporations” besides Sheep Mountain would have helicopter access, and is helicopter access in the winter comparable in wilderness impacts to what keeping access open to public jeep and 4x4ing would do in the same areas? McKay’s approach here really focuses on the recreation usage component of this regulation. How much of this Act was developed in consideration of wildlife impact and long-term land use conservation?
Greg, you have raised a point that I don’t think is covered by many.. if you can only have a few people in due to environmental impacts, then how do we pick those people? Are they the people who can pay the most? Are you having an impact on access by those who have fewer $ and keeping it open to those with more $? I think that that is the issue.
There is almost an air of some (not you, Greg) that the “riffraff” are responsible for threats to wildlife and conservation and need to be kept out. Some have suggested a class component. I think we need to unpack all these ideas about Wilderness to understand each others’ points of view.
My view of the Act was that it was intended to keep the last wild places wild, not so much to re-wild places that had been unwilded.
Greg, as I understand it, an earlier draft of the Sheep Mountain portion of the bill referred to wildlife benefits for bighorn sheep, but that language was actually dropped from the current version of the bill. I didn’t have space in my article for lengthy quotes, but the Colorado Trail Preservation Alliance (which was my main source for details regarding the OHV effects of the bill) explains it this way:
“The lack of any rational basis for the Sheep Mtn. decision is highlighted by the fact that previous versions of the San Juan Legislation asserted a benefit to bighorn sheep that might be in the area with the added SMA management. Such a position was removed when the public noted that bighorn sheep response to a helicopter landing in the backcountry to drop off skiers would clearly be higher than any dispersed snowmobile type impacts simply due to the volume of sound produced by the helicopter.” — http://www.coloradotpa.org/2019/02/06/san-juan-wilderness-proposal-2/
It appears that wildlife concerns as well as recreation were sacrificed to ensure the area remains open to heliskiing. I’ve seen multiple references to that being the only reason this would be a Special Management Area instead of a Wilderness. The actual language of the bill is virtually identical to a Wilderness designation (closed to motorized, mechanized, etc.) but with the exception that helicopter landings are allowed.
This is a statute, not a NEPA document. It need not contain a Purpose & Need statement.
Sooo… This front range software developer was letting his law degree collect dust until the government did something to threaten his high-tech hobbies. Now he is taking to the editorial pages to educate the rest of us on proper multiple-use management.
A.. I don’t see it that way. I have read day in and day out about how the CORE act is wonderful, and I thought hearing the other side is worthwhile, the same way a different view on Bears Ears is worthwhile, or the same way we discuss different views on a variety of topics. He’s not “educating us on proper…”, he’s giving us his point of view. I think his point of view is equally legitimate and equally worthy of being heard as anyone else’s. Why so pejorative?
Those who choose to dedicate their lives and legal careers to advancing multiple-use management of public lands might understandably bristle when others espouse expertise in this area only when their personal interests are threatened. My reaction had more to do with how Patrick framed his bio than the content of his overtly biased and purposefully narrow analysis.
I would be the first to acknowledge I am no expert in this area, and I have the utmost respect for those who have dedicated their lives to working in land-use policy. My bio was simply meant to convey my background and the reason I am interested in this subject, not to present myself as an expert or to demean those who truly are. All of my knowledge on this subject comes from those who have dedicated themselves to this subject, such as the issue briefs from the Colorado OHV Coalition and Trail Preservation Alliance which I linked to in my article.
Beyond that, I will not apologize for advocating for my “high tech hobbies”, as would anyone who sees an activity they enjoy and have invested a lot of money in threatened by government legislation.
A .. if new potential allies with legal expertise show up on the scene why would you be concerned? I would throw a champagne party…
We’re all biased , whether overtly or not IMHO. Why is his analysis more narrow than that of others?
Patrick — I don’t expect an apology, just stronger arguments.
“Those who support multiple-use of federal lands for all forms of recreation, rather than locking them up for the exclusive use of a single user group, unequivocally oppose it” is an asinine statement. Characterizing the OHV advocacy community as believers in ‘multiple-use of federal lands for all forms of recreation’ is highly misleading. Their objectives, like yours, are far less egalitarian than you let on.
The concept of ‘use’ in the context of multiple-use management is much broader than you suggest. The uses authorized in the Forest Service’s Organic Act are 1) “to improve and protect the forest within the boundaries,” 2) “securing favorable conditions of water flows,” and 3) to “furnish a continuous supply of timber.” Recreation was not mentioned at all and forms of recreation that diminish the health, productivity, and diversity of a National Forest are arguably prohibited by that language. While the MUSYA does explicitly include recreation (it is the first use listed in that statute) it also plainly states that the “purposes of
this Act are declared to be supplemental to, but not in derogation
of, the purposes for which the national forests were established.” So, any recreational use of National Forest System is properly subject to regulation to ensure the stated purposes of that System are upheld.
As for the Wilderness Act, it’s stated purpose is “to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition.” So to review: increasing population… expanding settlement… growing mechanization. Sounds like this law exists to constrain some of the very activities you enjoy. Snowmobiles and ATVs and Jeeps and drones and even bicycles have ecological impacts. The more people who engage in those activities on shared public lands, the more they must be restricted. That’s precisely why the Wilderness Act exists.
My overarching issue with your assessment is that you ignore the actual purposes of the National Forest System and the National Wilderness Preservation System. You frame this a recreationist vs. recreationist conflict and completely ignore any conservation objectives. If you want to argue that heliskiing be banned along with other mechanized uses I’m with you, that’s perfectly valid. But if you simply don’t like being regulated I suggest you find some less impactful hobbies. Or, since you already “invested a lot of money” in these toys, maybe you can invest in some private land where you and your friends can go play with them.
I don’t think we disagree as much as you think. I fully acknowledge that Wilderness exists to exclude motorized and mechanized use in favor of preserving the natural state of those areas. I agree the primary purpose of that is ecological, though human enjoyment through non-mechanized recreation is explicitly called out as one of the purposes wilderness exists for. Hence in terms of recreation, those communities are the primary beneficiaries, to the necessary exclusion of all others. Note I’m not calling to change the Wilderness Act here, only to be careful when designating new wilderness to not do so in ways that kick out existing users.
As for National Forests in general, I haven’t researched the original enabling legislation from 100 years ago that established them. But the management plans of all National Forests today acknowledge recreation as a primary use of the Forest, and at least the ones I’ve read explicitly acknowledge that motorized recreation is as valid a use as any other.
I’m not arguing for no restrictions on motorized recreation by any means. All I want is for existing motorized recreation opportunities to be preserved. Given that most National Forest units have experienced over a 50% reduction in motorized trails just since the enactment of the 2005 travel management rule, is it really too much to ask that the remaining trails stay open and not be converted to wilderness?
Patrick, I am neither a historian nor a lawyer, so stand to be corrected, but my understanding is that it was the 1960 Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act know as MUSYA that put outdoor recreation on the National Forest map.
“That it is the policy of the Congress that the national forests are established and shall be administered for outdoor recreation, range,
timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes. The purposes of this Act are declared to be supplemental to, but not in derogation of, the purposes for which the national forests were established as set forth in the Act of June 4, 1897 (16 U.S.C. 475). Nothing herein shall be construed as affecting the jurisdiction or responsibilities of
the several States with respect to wildlife and fish on the national forests. Nothing herein shall be construed so as to affect the use of administration of the mineral resources of national forest lands or to affect the use or administration of Federal lands not within national forests.”
Here is a link: https://www.fs.fed.us/emc/nfma/includes/musya60.pdf
Oh that’s right. I’ve read about that before but couldn’t quite remember how recreation first entered the picture, as we obviously have a very different conception of outdoor recreation today than people did in the late 1800s. I am admittedly rather new to this field and am still learning a lot about the subject. So I’m glad I found this blog as it has lots of useful information and good discussion!
These two statements seem to be contradictory:
“I’m not arguing for no restrictions on motorized recreation by any means. All I want is for existing motorized recreation opportunities to be preserved.”
Care to explain?
Sure. My statements can be explained by the simple fact that the status quo is anything but unrestricted motorized recreation.
In every National Forest unit, motorized vehicles are restricted to designated roads and trails, and cross country travel is prohibited except for very short distances for dispersed camping. Most National Forests have experienced around a 50-80% reduction in motorized routes in the last 20 years alone. The few routes that remain have already been determined in at least one travel planning to be part of the “minimum road system”, after having been extensively analyzed for environmental impacts. Those routes are continuously monitored for resource damage, and those that cause excessive impacts are closed.
The motorized community is highly cognisant of the impacts we do have and works hard to mitigate them through regular trail maintenance and cleanup efforts, as well as campaigns to encourage motorized users to “Stay the Trail” and abide by the rules.
While every other user group (hikers, mountain bikers, etc) frequently gets new trail systems added, opening new motorized trails in National Forests is unthinkable. The best we can ever hope for is to slow the rate at which our trail systems are being reduced through closures.
So my point is simple. I simply think that motorized recreation is restricted enough already, and that further restrictions and closures are unwarranted. This is doubly true in the case of wholesale conversion of areas currently designated for motorized use into wilderness areas.
So I would ask you in turn, what would you consider to be sufficient restrictions on motorized recreation? Is there any point at which you would say it is restricted enough?
“So my point is simple. I simply think that motorized recreation is restricted enough already, and that further restrictions and closures are unwarranted. This is doubly true in the case of wholesale conversion of areas currently designated for motorized use into wilderness areas.”
Can you please share some examples of where “wholesale conversion of areas currently designated for motorized use” are being turned “into wilderness areas” by Congress?
Your use of the adjective “wholesale” is interesting, since the definition of “wholesale” is “done on a large scale; extensive.” Are we really in a midst of a period of a “large scale and extensive” reduction of motorized recreation on public lands?
Also, you said that the “opening new motorized trails in National Forests is unthinkable.” However, it sure appears as if the Bitterroot National Forest did the “unthinkable,” as they added nearly 50 miles of ATV trails in two loops on old Darby Lumber Lands south of Darby.
Coincidently, the new ATV trails were added on the Bitterroot National Forest shortly after:
My article gave one example of the conversion of a large area currently open to snowmobiling (Sheep Mountain) to what will essentially be wilderness (other than heliskiing). Whether you consider that large enough to qualify as “wholesale” is just semantics.
And yes, since the 2005 Travel Management Rule, every National Forest unit has had massive closures of motorized trails. According to this article, http://www.lassennews.com/the-2005-travel-management-rule-needs-revision/, some forests have closed over 90% of motorized routes.
Here in Colorado, the Pike San Isabel National Forest is currently undergoing its second travel planning under the 2005 rule, and the alternatives they are considering close 20% of existing trails at minimum. One closes over 40%. And that’s just among trails that survived the last travel planning which I believe was in 2009.
So yes, I would say were are in the midst of a period of a “large scale and extensive” reduction of motorized recreation on public lands.
Now, you never answered my question. How much restriction is enough?
I agree that it’s just semantics…however, you are the one who chose to use the word “wholesale.” Also, speaking of “semantics” there is a difference between “wholesale conversion of areas currently designated for motorized use into wilderness areas” and a specific area that “will essentially be wilderness (other than heliskiing).”
Also, I think some of you motorized recreation folks are guilty of using some pretty “fuzzy math.”
For example, the article you just provided claims:
“In the Plumas National Forest, the application of the 2005 Travel Management Rule resulted in the closure of more than 3,000 routes, comprising approximately 94 percent of the historically available motorized access routes in the forest.”
Yet, according to the Plumas National Forest:
The Forest Service announced a new regulation on November 2, 2005, governing off-highway vehicles and other motor vehicle use on national forests and grasslands….There are 4,482 total miles of motorized road, trail and area access on the Plumas National Forest displayed on the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM).”
Also, at that same like the Plumas National Forest says:
Designated route mileage includes:
Motorcycles – 4,482 miles
4-Wheel Drive – 4,383 miles
Passenger cars – 4,118 miles
Unlicensed (not highway legal) motorcycles – 3,855 miles
Unlicensed (not highway legal) All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) – 3,802 miles
Yet, your motorized recreation buddies in that article make it seem like about 4,400 miles of routes open to motorcycles and 4-wheel Drive motorized vehicles on the Plumas National Forest is a 94% reduction?!? Wow. Does that really mean that 65,000 miles of motorized routes used to be available to you guys on the Plumas National Forest? If not, what in the heck is their 94% figure about?
Patrick.. why is heliskiing OK but snowmobiles not, am I missing something?
Sharon, that’s exactly my point. Under the CORE Act, there is a special carve-out for heliskiing while all other motorized uses of the Sheep Mountain area are forbidden. So you’d have to ask the bill’s sponsors why heliskiing is ok but not snowmobiles, as they are the only ones who can explain that.
Patrick, I do have something of a concern that when there are too many people on public lands, people who can’t pay as much will be left out. Lotteries seem fair. Both activities, and perhaps all activities, have the potential for disturbing wildlife.
The latest omnibus Wilderness bill closes just under 80 miles of routes in Emery County, Utah.
Sharon — Allies of whom? Patrick is quite clearly only in this for himself.
Allies of those who question the idea of kicking other current uses out to make more Wilderness.
I agree with Sharon’s point about the disconnect between the Forest Service planning process, and Congress, and I’ve always thought that the way the agency characterizes what it does overstates the role that the planning process plays. It would be better to simply say “these are the areas that we are going to manage like wilderness until Congress does something,” based on what the public has told them and their professional judgment. They should always include a caveat that Congress can discount or ignore both. (It would be interesting to look at the subsequent fate of the areas recommended for wilderness in the first round of forest planning.)
Jon, that’s a great point.. except that apparently everyone doesn’t “manage them like Wilderness unless and until Congress does something” hence the controversy over the R-1 policy. This topic might win the Most Confusing Issue After Forest Carbon Accounting award.
I have seen this kind of thing before and there is never any end to the fighting and it never works. If it has to be Wilderness then all uses that aren’t compatible are out. Then you are down to simply (Ha!) whether to have W or not.
“Those who support multiple-use of federal lands for all forms of recreation, rather than locking them up for the exclusive use of a single user group, unequivocally oppose it.”
Wilderness IS “multiple-use of federal lands.” Most all of the federal public lands, especially when you take Alaska out of the equation, has very, very little Wilderness, as an overall percentage.
Also, what “single user group” get the “exclusive use” of Wilderness?
Where are the “locks” placed on Wilderness?
The main purpose of Wilderness is not, and has never been, recreation. Designated Wilderness protects and preserves many other “multiple-uses of federal lands” including biodiversity, clean water, wildlife habitat, natural processes, etc.
By multiple use, I am of course referring to multiple human uses. Leaving an area “natural” for nature’s sake may promote certain goals that you mentioned (wildlife habitat, etc.), but it does so through non-use. Non-use is not multiple-use. The locks and exclusivity I refer to are again regarding allowed human uses of Wilderness land, which in terms of access are restricted to hiking and (in some locations) horse riding. The sole beneficiaries of Wilderness are the so-called “quiet use” recreationists who practice these two (really one, since horse riders are a tiny minority of Wilderness users) forms of recreation, while all other user groups are excluded.
You can say that recreation is not the primary purpose of Wilderness, but the Wilderness Act itself lists recreation and human enjoyment of natural solitude as one of its primary purposes. Regardless, you can’t deny the fact that numerous recreational activities are excluded, while others (primarily hiking) benefit from being the sole activities that are allowed. That exclusion and resulting exclusivity of use favoring one user group over all others is what I was referring to in my article. We can disagree on whether or not that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s foolish to deny its reality.
You may want to revisit many of the posts on this blog (especially recently) in which we discuss and debate the Wilderness Act of 1964, its text and its intent.
Yes, the word “recreation” appears in the Wilderness Act of 1964 a grand total of one time. The word “recreational” appears in the Wilderness Act twice.
As anyone can see, The Wilderness Act of 1964 begins with (emphasis added):
Next, the Wilderness Act provides a “DEFINITION OF WILDERNESS.”
“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which….(2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation;
Next, under “Use of Wilderness Area” the Wilderness Act of 1964 states:
The only other mention of the word “recreational” is in connection to “commercial services.”
Finally, here’s what Wilderness Act author Howard Zahniser said about the purpose of the Wilderness Act:
Wilderness Watch actually has a good bit of information about Wilderness Character, Wilderness Stewardship and the purpose of the Wilderness Act here.
That would make sense, Matthew, except that there are restrictions in place to protect biodiversity wildlife habitat, and clean water on all the other lands. The only way that Wilderness is a better place to do that is if you imagine that “leaving it alone except for certain recreation uses” is the best way to protect it. As to “natural processes” I don’t think any are “natural” since humans started affecting fire behavior, and since air pollution and climate change. And if a fire were caused by humans (unnatural) and suppression is unnatural, then you’re practically stuck with unnatural no matter what you do- even in the deepest part of Wilderness. The ideas and philosophy of Wilderness were great when it began, but now I think our understanding of the environment is much more complex and if it were up to me we would rethink the whole thing.
Sharon, your patience for and placation of Matthew K. is impressive. Not that it will change anything being discussed here. His mind is about as wide as a string of spaghetti.
Thanks for your support Jennifer. As a longtime contributor and moderator of this blog I appreciate it. My questions offered here in the context of Wilderness were quite serious, and respectfully submitted. Maybe you should stick to spreading your conspiracy theories about a Wilderness poll.
BOTH extremes use ridiculous conspiracy theories to support their extreme agendas. It’s no wonder they don’t participate in collaborative groups. It is very easy for us, in the know, to shoot down the accusations. Sadly, the public trusts their echo chambers more than actual facts.
Sharon: “And if a fire were caused by humans (unnatural) and suppression is unnatural, then you’re practically stuck with unnatural no matter what you do- even in the deepest part of Wilderness.”
Again under the present system, there hasn’t been pritine natural for a long time now. Take old growth giant trees (irrelevant the species), they will never appear again once finally eliminated, which looks likely. I was reading this research published in published in Physics World. Sad, but makes sense why so many areas which were devastated decades back are dying now. Something just seems to be holding everything back from not only maturing, but even remaining in a state of equilibrium.
Sharon: “The ideas and philosophy of Wilderness were great when it began, but now I think our understanding of the environment is much more complex and if it were up to me we would rethink the whole thing.”
I agree that setting things aside for Wilderness had great intentions, but even if no one was ever allowed into any Wilderness or National Park period (no humans allowed rule) since their creation, I think thinks were bound to deteriorate anyway. Frankly I have no answer either. There appears to be no materialist fix either.
I’d like to post a correction to my article, which stated that this bill would directly close motorized trails in the Spraddle Creek and Tenderfoot Mountain areas near Vail and Dillon, and would put wilderness boundaries next to the Holy Cross City trail near Leadville. After a discussion with one of the proponents of the bill, I discovered these statements were incorrect, and were based on inaccurate information in my source material as well as low-fidelity maps that made it difficult to determine the precise boundaries of proposed wilderness relative to nearby motorized routes. I apologize for these errors, and have asked Sharon to post a revised version of the article which more accurately reflects what the latest version of the bill would actually do.
I appreciate Patrick McKay’s efforts to correct the record. While it is true that the CORE Act would not impact the specific trail systems originally claimed (Spraddle Creek, Lost Lake, Tenderfoot, Holy Cross City, Imogene Pass, etc.), the post’s broader claims are still misleading. The fact is that the CORE Act would not close areas currently open to motorized use. It doesn’t close a single mile of trail, road or groomed snowmobile route that is currently open. It does not shut down any proposed future trail system. Only one quarter of the bill is wilderness (73,000 acres), the rest are special management areas, mineral withdrawals or a national recreation areas that also impose no restrictions on existing motorized use. The fact is that the small minority of the motorized community that is vocally opposing the CORE Act simply don’t have facts on their side and their complaints are ideological – they just don’t like conservation designations. That’s fine, but it’s too bad they are resorting to a campaign of misinformation to argue their case. You don’t have to believe me, check out the maps and other resources on Senator Bennet’s website: https://www.bennet.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=COREAct
Here’s an addition to the “steady stream of articles and editorials in publications around Colorado advocating for Senator Bennet’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, based on the fiction that there is a strong consensus among stakeholders in favor of this bill.
But I wanted to point out the role of forest plans in this debate:
“David French, acting deputy chief of the National Forest System, also testified to the committee that the U.S. Forest Service, while approving of a majority of the proposed protections, objected to certain portions of wilderness designation, including significant wilderness designations in Summit. French testified that certain wilderness designations ran afoul of a 2002 forest management plan intended to prevent wildfire and make use of timber resources, and that wilderness designation would prevent motorized vehicle and machinery use necessary for forest management.
When asked about French’s opposition to certain portions of the bill, (Representative) Neguse downplayed the objections. Neguse said that the forest management plan French mentioned was out of date, having not been updated within 15 years as mandated by law, and did not reflect current conditions and forest management needs.”
Someone has asked about the costs of having out-of-date forest plans or the value of revising forest plans. Some might use this as an example, but in theory the forest plan revision process should be getting the same input as the political process – and the same outcome. Or should it?
In this case, forest plans were being used by the Forest Service to screen OUT wilderness candidates; were they used at all for picking areas to include in the bill?
As for who should provide the input, “Neguse also said that the concerns did not reflect those of the community who actually live in the areas affected by the legislation. The forest plan and wilderness designations we develop here in Washington should reflect the views of the people who live in these communities and the people we represent,” Neguse said. “In this case, I believe the CORE Act does that.” This sounds to me too much like “local control” (especially for a “NATIONAL Wilderness Preservation System:” https://www.fs.fed.us/managing-land/wilderness).
Does Neguse understand that forest plans are not developed in DC? Local control is good when it aligns with your opinions..ahh politicians. Consistency is the hobgoblin.. and so on.
Here’s a “success story” of forest plan recommended (small, eastern) wilderness additions apparently heading for designation (getting passed by the Senate). There’s a link to the bill, which is short. It ties directly to the forest plan recommendation. It gives the Forest two years to finish up a restoration project with mechanized equipment.
Here’s what the current management is for “recommended wilderness study areas” (which includes these areas): “Use of bicycles on existing trails can continue. Trails may be maintained but will not be improved to facilitate bicycle use.” This would appear to be a case of “kicking people out” as a result of the wilderness designation (so not just in R1).
That’s a bit puzzling, not being a biker myself. Does “maintained…to facilitate bicycle use” or what exactly does “improvement to facilitate” mean? It sounds like it could mean BAU with no improvements that are specific to bikes. As in “bikes are fine,”
My point was that “bikes are fine” now, but will be prohibited when it becomes wilderness. (The forest plan’s prohibition against improving trails for a use they don’t plan to allow seems almost unnecessary, but it does add a message that they’re serious about maintaining the status quo.)
Jon, that makes more sense to me (bikes are fine until they’re not) for two reasons:
1. Wilderness legislation may not pass, so why pre-manage based on some possible future behavior of some individuals?
2. It clarifies to the bikers and wilderness advocates that they perhaps want different things, bikes out or bike trails cherry-stemmed or …. and they can each lobby their delegation to that end. Leaves the FS out of the debate.. whoopee! The more land allocation decisions made by Congress, the less additional drama due to different levels of the FS, politicals, NEPA, litigation and all that.. what’s not to like?
You’re right, this is Congress kicking people out, not the FS. The FS is just putting them on notice.
Here’s another example of a congressional designation being based on a forest plan – and it happens to be an apparent alternative to the CORE Act in Colorado (though the sponsor disagrees with that characterization). Except in this case the bill has been developed concurrently with the revision of the Rio Grande National Forest proposed plan, and its recommended wilderness designations.
**”The bill represents the preferred alternative in the forest plan revision proposal after multiple rounds of public input,” Keller said in an email. “If that proposal changes as the Forest Service moves to finalize the revision plan and there are additional conversations with stakeholders and other members of the delegation, the senator is open to altering the bill to reflect the consensus view.”
On Wednesday, the Forest Service published responses to issues and objections raised to its final draft of the 5-year-old forest plan revision. A final Record of Decision should come this summer. Gardner’s legislation steps ahead of that process by designating wilderness before the forest plan is finalized.”**
A supporter of the CORE Act “wonders why Gardner didn’t wait for a final decision on a long-negotiated forest plan that designates the same land as wilderness.” It looks like the bill only includes about 2/3 of what was recommended by the Forest Service. Will the Forest Service take issue with this under-inclusion the way they did with the CORE Act being over-inclusive (above)? I’m not holding my breath.
Patrick and others, I see that Colorado’s senators are trying to advance the CORE Act again. (See below.) Patrick asserted in the original post in 2019 that there will be access losses to a number of groups, including mountain bikers. Can Patrick or anyone else identify what trails or areas are jeopardized in the current version? Has it changed much since 2019?
I notice that corridors have been carved out to preserve the Hardrock 100 foot race. This shows how quixotic Wilderness interpretation and management are; no competitive events allowed in Wilderness, I guess per agency dictates, so carve a corridor out of a Wilderness for this once-a-year event. Bizarre indeed, but Wilderness is beset by so many ironies that I guess this is just another one.
Here is an ArcGIS map I created showing both of the current Colorado wilderness bills. https://arcg.is/1HXreC. I believe that data is current, as I grabbed it from a map that one of Congresswoman DeGette’s staffers gave me, produced by the Outdoor Alliance, which appears to have been keeping it updated. The original map I built mine off of can be found here: https://outdooralliance.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=b78db48f76f146d299a35e520712681d
As best I can tell now that I’ve been able to examine more detailed maps than are available on the Congressional websites, the CORE Act would not directly close any motorized routes. It’s done a pretty good job of cherry-stemming all currently open motorized routes in its wilderness areas. DeGette’s wilderness bill on the other hand would close numerous motorized routes, mainly on BLM lands on the western slope. These two bills are likely to be passed together.
Both bills would close numerous mountain bike trails and snowmobiling areas, especially in the San Juans and around Breckenridge. The CORE Act would also permanently close numerous roads near Vail that were unjustifiably closed in the White River NF travel plan that the motorized community would very much like to see reopened in the next travel management process.
Patrick and Lourenço: Here’s a CoPo story in the Gazette today. Let me know if you run into a firewall.
I can read it, though it doesn’t give any information on if anything has changed since the last version. The maps I have are from 2019. DeGette’s bill is way worse than the CORE Act since it will directly close a lot of roads, especially on Nyswonger Mesa in the proposed Dolores River Wilderness. It will also close a lot of roads in the Curricanti area in the West Elk Addition.
My main irony is the PR that making something Wilderness “protects” it and “adds economic benefits” at the same time… I guess those are the economic benefits of removing current recreation users such as MBers and OHVers. I’m not exactly sure how that works but maybe there’s a study somewhere out there?
As for me, I’ve never been turned off to recreating because of oil and gas infrastructure. In fact, I’ve enjoyed recreating there more, because there tend to be fewer crowds and parking problems. And the roads are more welcoming to high MPG vehicles…and the kinds of vehicles that urban folks might have. And we’re trying to encourage them to get out onto public lands, or are we?
Yes, the misleading “protects” trope is trotted out routinely, with an aim to deceiving people that any public lands that aren’t Wilderness are unprotected. Unprotected from precisely what (sailboats? game carts? foot races?) seldom if ever is specified. I hope people don’t fall for it, but I’m sure they do.