CBD Threatens Lawsuit Over Motorcycle On-Trail Sedimentation Impacts to Greenback Cutthroat Trout

Upper Cap’n Jack’s Trail, Colorado Springs Gazette file photo

This is an interesting story (1) because of the unique history of Greenback Cutthroat Trout and the discovery that they had survived in this particular drainage.

After more than five years of research, Kennedy concluded that Bear Creek was historically fishless. The greenbacks had been stocked sometime after 1874 by a man named Joseph C. Jones. Jones had come to Colorado as a prospector during the gold rush and later built an inn for the hordes of tourists that visited Pike’s Peak. There he built a series of fish ponds for guests, where it is believed he stocked the greenback far outside of its native range.

It was human stocking — the same practice that had killed off or pushed out so many of Colorado’s native trout — that had accidentally preserved the greenback. With only 800 individuals left in the entire subspecies, it would be up to humans again to save it.

Here’s an article in High Country News that tells the whole story. Philosophically, it raises interesting questions. Would ecological integrity requirements include moving the Bear Creek fish out, since they had been originally transplanted? How important is “genetic purity” compared to the ecosystem services provided by genetically motlier populations/subspecies of cutthroat trout?

(2) Here’s the Colorado Springs Gazette story on the potential lawsuit with a link to the CBD letter. It’s got everything.. a collaborative group from previous litigation..design disagreements..and it’s about a trail. Perhaps most interesting that it looks like CBD is distinguishing between impacts of hiking, mountain bikes, and motorcycles.

The Colorado Motorcycle Trail Riders Association sent a statement to The Gazette, criticizing the center’s “incessant zeal.”

“The long, thoughtful process that resulted in the rerouting of several popular trails in Jones Park represents a balance between preserving Bear Creek fish habitat and allowing reasonable recreational outdoor access for all users,” the statement read.

For years during the Forest Service’s analysis and reroute negotiations, motorists were barred from the singletrack closest to town. Now roaming the realigned Trail 667 on the north side of Kineo Mountain, they are “the crux” of the center’s concern, said the organization’s attorney, Margaret Townsend.

“If it was just a footpath or even potentially a mountain bike trail, it could have some impact, but not necessarily the same impact a motorcycle trail is likely to have,” she said in a phone call. “Of course we want folks enjoying the forest, and where the trail was going to be originally, that location wouldn’t have affected the greenback.”

So.. what do others think of the “impact” idea?

“We’ve got some concerns with upkeep; the trail’s not holding up the way it was sort of advertised,” said Cory Sutela, with Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates. “But it’s also pretty far from the creek.”

He’s no biologist, he said. “I’m a mechanical engineer, so I look at it technically, and it looks to me like sediment shouldn’t be able to get from the trail to the creek.”

Tim Volken of El Paso County:

The county “would appreciate reviewing any scientific data generated by the center indicating water quality concerns,” Wolken said. “This will be helpful in determining next steps

But to Allyn Kratz, president of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, the evidence is “overwhelming,” and not in the favor of conservation.

He said he raised concerns about the trail before it was built, noticing at least eight “ravines” on the mountainside while hiking the flagged route — “ravines created by water,” Kratz said, “and the water obviously went to Bear Creek.”

He said he was told Trails Unlimited would address this. But he was unsatisfied in the end and remains so.

“I would love to see (Trail 667) closed,” Kratz said.

Conceivably after previous litigation, the trail was designed with sedimentation concerns in mind. Does anyone know of studies about different on-trail users having different sedimentation impacts? This may be time for a field trip…

3 thoughts on “CBD Threatens Lawsuit Over Motorcycle On-Trail Sedimentation Impacts to Greenback Cutthroat Trout”

  1. Crickets from trail users?

    Regarding the potential lawsuit, from the NOI –
    “The Proposed Action specified that the Forest would relocate Trail 667 around Kineo Mountain and outside Bear Creek basin..”
    “The Forest Service did not re-route Trail 667 outside Bear Creek basin. Instead, although
    the Forest Service relocated the trail out of Bear Creek itself, the trail remains almost entirely
    within Bear Creek basin.”
    “The Forest and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”)have failed to reinitiate consultation over the change in location of Trail 667 from the Proposed Action and the resulting new effects to the greenback.”
    That seems like a pretty obvious problem, and consultation would force the parties to address the science related to the sedimentation risk.

    Your tangential question about stocking non-native species in national forests is an interesting one, since the presence of non-native species would obviously be outside the natural range of variation. I could reason that as long as the original components of NRV are within NRV, or can get there in the presence of introduced species, that would meet the diversity/viability requirement. But I am not aware of specific agency policies on this, other than those to facilitate what states want to do, which may include stocking non-native species (at least outside of wilderness).

    • I wonder what science there is about sedimentation from a well- designed trail.. and wouldn’t observations from that trail currently with motorbikes be of greater value.. if there’s no sedimentation from that trail then we wouldn’t have to worry about differences between mb and hiker and motorcycle impacts. This reminds me of timber BMPs if they are working they are working. Before a timber sale, you can argue about what the impacts might be. In this case, it seems like the discussion should focus on what the impacts already are. Should be interesting!

  2. How would you even quantify the sedimentation caused by motorized/bike/foot traffic vs natural causes into Bear Creek? How about address the reason the alternate trail wasn’t built on the south side of Kineo? Why didn’t anyone consult with the Forest Service before the alternate trail was built to ensure compliance with conservation guidelines regarding the fish?


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