Uncompahgre Group supports road closings in western Colorado
more natural and larger habitat for elk, deer, raptors and other
wildlife in western Colorado’s wilderness areas is a pleasant thought
for Eric Rechel.
A Rocky Mountain Chapter Uncompahgre Group
(UG) co-chair, Rechel and other UG members are supporting a draft
proposal by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that would, if approved,
greatly limit or prevent motorized access to about 2,500 miles of
public roads in the western part of the state.
have been living here for what: 100, 10,000, or a million years?” asks
Rechel. “People, however, have been going to their picnic areas for
what, 50 years? When their picnic is over they go home. Where can the
wildlife go? What options do they have?”
The potential road closings are part of BLM’s plan to revise and update its 25-year-old Regional Management Plan.
The plan includes several options for changing the permitted uses of
some of its trails and roads while potentially closing others
altogether. One option is geared toward conservation, another for more
development and a third with no changes. The public comment period has been extended to June 24, 2013. The final RMP and Record of Decision is expected in late 2014.
the four alternatives offered by BLM, we support Alternative C, the
conservation alternative,” Rechel said. “Another alternative, B, also
has good attributes, with numerous roads being closed and several
important areas being designated as “land with wilderness
characteristics.” However, we need to push the BLM toward Alternative
component of the updated proposal is related to energy development,
including which areas should be open to oil and gas leasing, coal mining
and uranium development.
Earth Day message
along with UG members Shelly Weiss and Katey Buster, took their message
about the proposed road closures to an Earth Day event in April in
Grand Junction. They staffed the booth all day, talking about the road
proposals and other Sierra Club issues, including recycling, to more
than two dozen people who stopped by. They also handed out maps of the
wilderness areas where the roads could be closed.
updates its RMP every 20 to 25 years, and given the cultural changes
that have occurred during past decades, it’s about time,” said Rechel.
“I didn’t have much hope for a real change, just more of the same, so I
was surprised when I first saw the draft RMP. It included more than 15
inventoried lands with wilderness characteristics and lots of roads
being closed. We like to see roads closed. It’s good for wildlife and
understands that many people do not like the proposed road closings,
especially those who will no longer be able to drive their off-highway
vehicles (OHVs) into certain areas.
motor heads aren’t going to like this,” Rechel warns. “It will deprive
them of access, which is sacred to them. I don’t know why they are so
attached to these roads; some are routes that are parallel to other
routes and some are roads to no-where. In some cases there are two or
more roads going to the same location. I think they just see BLM land as
a place to play and run around (in their vehicles) which, I guess, is
their definition of recreation.”
OHV impacts on natural areas
In 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey completed an extensive study
on how OHVs have impacted BLM areas, concluding that OHV activity is
detrimental to wildlife populations and habitat, soil, vegetation and
water and air quality.
wilderness areas that could be closed to motorized traffic include
critical winter habitat for elk and deer, rare and endangered plants and
raptors in BLM’s Grand Junction Field Office (GJFO) area. “I have
wondered about prairie dogs and mice, too,” Rechel said.
are trying to get the public to support these wilderness lands with
comments of their individual experiences in them,” Rechel urges. “As of
now the enviros are not commenting to the degree I would like. The
motorized community is really organized and sending in letters all the
He asks all Sierra Club members and supporters to go to the GJFO Website to get more information about the proposal, including how to provide comments before the June 24 deadline.
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