The USFS Draft Assessment Reports are ready for review. As of November 6, 2017, there is a 30-day comment period for feedback. You can view the various assessment reports here.
At this point, the USFS wants to know:
- Are we on track with the information assembled?
- Did we capture what’s going well and what’s not going well on the GMUG, or are we missing any critical pieces?
- And most importantly, does the potential need for change reflect the major issues that we should concentrate on in plan revision?
The USFS has also put together a guide on how to review these documents, you can find it here. Page 3 of this guide reviews the format of each document so you can easily navigate to the section you are interested in reading more about. Chapter 5 reviews the potential need for change and is an important chapter because it outlines the needs for change that will guide the upcoming plan revision phase.
There are many reports on various topics, but here we look at the Recreation Report in greater detail. For reference, you can view the entire report here. Below are a few excerpts from the plan. Basically, the USFS has identified that trails in the GMUG do not meet user needs, but that there is a lack of funding to support non-motorized trails and trail maintenance. Additionally, the USFS has identified that there are user-created trails that are not up to their trail standards. They outline a few approaches to addressing these types of trails. Last, the USFS acknowledges that the public wants more non-motorized trails and motorized trails, yet these user groups don’t necessarily want the same trail systems. There are more topics covered in the entire Recreation Report, these are just a few that you might be interested in. If you want to comment, there is more info below. This is the time to be proactive!
“Some current trail designs do not meet user needs, are creating erosion issues and causing environmental damage. To remain safe, sustainable and usable and to minimize environmental effects, trails need regular maintenance. With 2,641 miles of standard trails (ground-based), the GMUG has the most expansive trail system in the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service. Recent budgets, as described above, along with increased use, have resulted in a backlog of trail maintenance. Alternative sources of funding and labor are being used to complete maintenance activities. Significant funding for motorized trail maintenance comes from the State OHV fee program and partners. Non-motorized trails in particular need increased attention and maintenance. Relatively little funding is available from outside sources for non-motorized trails, although partnerships with hiking and equestrian groups help to clear and maintain trails. Mountain bike groups are very active with trail clearing and maintenance.
While we are working to achieve trail maintenance through alternative means, trails are not receiving the maintenance needed to provide a high quality facility and experience. The frequency of trail maintenance is rarely annual and may stretch as high as 10 or more years on lesser used trails. No one enjoys having a difficult time finding a trail or having to constantly watch where you step. Trail condition is adversely affecting the quality of the recreation experience on many trails.”
“A source of incompatibility that the GMUG manages is user-created trails. Most unauthorized user-created trails result from bicycle users and OHV users. Other users such as hikers and horseback riders create their own routes too….
These trails are susceptible to erosion, may cause soil and water damage, can affect wildlife habitat and cause conflict among user groups due to changed settings. Unauthorized trails generally take the easiest route from one point to another and typically fail to meet Forest Service trail design and construction standards. Grades are often too steep and alignments do not meet design standards for safety and resource protection.
The Forest can take a number of approaches when addressing unauthorized trails, from improving and adopting them as official Forest Service trails to removal of the unauthorized routes. Perhaps most importantly, addressing user-created routes depletes funding and staff capacity to maintain the authorized facilities, let alone to plan and design new trails and facilities.”
Motorized and Non-Motorized Recreation
“Increased public interest in having more opportunities for motorized and non-motorized recreation has fueled disagreements over the optimum allocation or extent of motorized and non-motorized recreational opportunities on the GMUG. In recent years demand for new or expanded motorized trail systems has grown on the Uncompahgre Plateau, in the Gunnison and Crested Butte areas, and on the Grand Mesa. The Forest has also received proposals for new mechanized trail systems near Crested Butte and the San Juan Mountains.
Both motorized and non-motorized advocates want more routes and areas allocated to their use. Adding to the conflict are economic and environmental considerations, with some asserting that restrictions on motorized recreation harm local industries that serve vehicle users. Others argue that growth in motorized recreation damages valuable natural resources that also draw visitors to the forest and support gateway communities. Balancing the mix of motorized and non-motorized opportunities and resolving the conflicts among users will continue to be an ongoing challenge in coming years.”
You can submit your comments through the USFS online comment tool, through email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or through post to 2250 South Main St., Delta, CO 81416.