‘Rewarding illegal trail creation is not good public policy’
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Summit County commissioners continue to express concerns with a U.S. Forest Service proposal to build more than 10 miles of new trail primarily for motorized use on Tenderfoot Mountain, between Dillon and Keystone. All the Forest Service documents for the Tenderfoot proposal are online at this WRNF web page.
In a formal comment letter submitted last week, the BOCC asked the Forest Service to delay making a decision on the project pending a joint collaborative planning process with the county, and offered to come to the table with some funds for maintenance and management of a trail system.
“I don’t think anyone on the planning commission is opposed to finding a place … But I don’t think the Forest Service did its job in looking at other places and saying why they won’t work,” said Craig Suwinski, chair of the Snake River Planning Commission, representing those citizens potentially most affected by noise and other impacts a motorized trail system could have.
Suwinski said opposition to the proposed location has been based mainly on the closeness of the proposed trail system to residential areas.
In their Dec. 17 letter, the county commissioners said they recognize that the county does not have jurisdiction over public lands managed by the Forest Service, but asked for a joint planning process based on language in the White River National Forest land use plan, which calls for working with local governments to the greatest extent possible to address issues of common concern and to “maintain consistency with locally adopted master plans.”
The county’s comment letter came after a Dec. 6 Snake River planning commission meeting attended by 97 people, with 25 individuals offering comments in support of the trail system, claiming that there are only six miles of trails available for motorized users in Summit County. Read a summary of the planning commission meeting here.
Among the concerns listed by the county is that the trail system, as proposed, was developed primarily from a motorized perspective and “does not adequately consider other needs,” including non-motorized trail users, hunters and anglers.
The county commissioners said that the Forest Service environmental study for the plan is incomplete and includes conflicting information, making “frequent inferences based on incomplete, inconclusive, unscientific and undocumented evidence.”
One of the biggest problems is that the study doesn’t consistently disclose the projected number of trail users, making it nearly impossible to accurately project the impacts of the projects.
The conclusions in the Forest Service study also appear to be in conflict with parts of the WRNF plan, stating, for example, that rehabilitation of aquatic resources would only occur if the motorized trail system is built — but the forest plan calls for that work to be done in any case.
The county’s comment letter also addresses the history of motorized use on Tenderfoot Mountain, pointing out that the Forest Service appears to be justifying the trail proposal at least in part on the fact that past motorized use has resulted in the creation of more than 20 miles of illegal trails.
As part of a site suitability analysis, the county also wants the Forest Service to put the Tenderfoot proposal in a wider context of trail systems available in national forest units other than the Dillon Ranger District, pointing out that up to 44 percent of all motorized single-track trail on the entire WRNF would be in the Dillon district if the proposal goes through.