Travel plan targets spur roads on three national forests in Colorado
The federal government has trimmed away what it considers unnecessary roads under a finalized Gunnison Travel Management plan.
The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests and the Gunnison Field Office for the Bureau of Land Management will officially release the plan Thursday. A 45-day appeals period will follow.
The plan covers federal lands within the Gunnison Basin and North Fork Valley. Gary Shellhorn, the project’s manager, said the plan will result in about a 26 percent reduction in public road mileage open to full-size vehicles, which will continue to have access to 2,334 miles of roads. However, he said the average road being closed is little more than a third of a mile in length, reflecting efforts to close spur and dead-end roads.
“We tried to keep a system intact, which is how you get from point A to point B. We tried to maintain a transportation system,” Shellhorn said.
Some of the closed roads instead will become trails for motorized users, Shellhorn said. Nevertheless, the plan will result in a net 8 percent decrease in motorized trail mileage, with 559 miles now designated for that purpose. Much of the reduction reflects closure of unplanned and user-created all-terrain vehicle trails that cause resource damage or impacts.
The plan also specifies that only 300 miles of 409 miles designated for nonmotorized use outside wilderness areas are open to mountain bikes. Previously, no restrictions were placed on bikes on any nonmotorized trails.
“In reality that isn’t really a reduction because very few of the trails that we did not allow mountain bikes on were being used by mountain bikes because they just were not suitable,” Shellhorn said.
The plan identifies the potential to develop 40 miles of new trail, includes seasonable restrictions to protect resources, and provides for no motorized routes within inventoried roadless areas. It also is intended to provide a full range of recreational opportunities.
Shellhorn said the goal was to create a recreation-oriented but environmentally sustainable plan.
More than 3,000 comments were submitted to federal agencies during a planning process that lasted more than three years.