BLM wants to ban off-trail travel in vast area

Off-trail travel by motorized vehicles and bicycles would be prohibited on hundreds of thousands of acres south of Grand Junction under a proposed decision by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The agency’s Uncompahgre Field Office has released a plan eliminating what is referred to as an “open” travel management designation for 410,351 acres within the field office’s jurisdiction.

The affected area covers portions of Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, San Miguel, Mesa and Ouray counties. Much of the acreage is in the Nucla area, and other major affected areas are near Montrose, and midway between Montrose and Grand Junction.

Limiting vehicle travel to existing trails is intended to reduce impacts in response to a rise in sales of all-terrain vehicles, off-road motorcycles and four-wheel-drive vehicles in Colorado. It aims to prevent creation of unauthorized new trails, and also prohibits vehicle uses that would convert a single-track trail to a two-track route, or enlarge an ATV trail to a wider two-track route.

While federal agencies also have dictated in certain cases that trails are closed to vehicle use unless specifically marked as open, BLM spokeswoman Erin Curtis said that’s not part of the BLM’s Uncompahgre Field Office decision.

Curtis said the BLM worked with a wide range of interests over the last 2 1/2 years, including motorized vehicle representatives, and all have supported the proposed travel management plan.

Said Delta resident Walt Blackburn, a member of the Thunder Mountain Wheelers ATV Club, “We support going from riding anywhere to (using only) designated trails. We don’t have any problem with that.”

He said concerns are more likely to arise when efforts are made to take trails away.

Fellow ATV enthusiast John Hesslink of Grand Junction said the BLM’s decision is in line with ATV groups’ advocacy for staying on trails, and their efforts to help make trail maps available to riders.

Hesslink said he thinks the only people who might oppose the change would be hunters who rely on motorized off-trail access.

“They typically enjoy that kind of access more than any other community because of their use of ATVs to recover downed game off the trails,” Hesslink said.

The BLM is accepting protests to its plan through March 26. Curtis said no protests have been received to date.

For information on the proposed decision and protest procedures, contact the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office, 2465 S.

Townsend Ave., Montrose, CO, (970) 240-5300;  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); or go to


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