Judge: No bike race on public land

A federal judge on Friday told Colorado Mesa University it can’t use public lands for this weekend’s Rocky Mountain Collegiate Mountain Bike Championships.

Judge Marcia Krieger balked at CMU’s request for a court order that would allow the races to go on in the Bangs Canyon area. That means the short-track portion of the championships on the CMU campus will proceed as planned today, but a cross-country race today and a downhill race on Sunday in the Bangs Canyon area are prohibited.

“We’ll see if we can hold another part on Sunday and we’ll see what the coaches want to do,” CMU President Tim Foster said. “The problem is most of the fee ground is in the high country and has snow on it.”

What Foster called the “ridiculousness of the entire response (to the shutdown) by federal agencies” began on Tuesday when university officials were told by the BLM that they couldn’t conduct the portions of the championships scheduled on BLM-administered lands.

University officials called the Department of Justice and were told the permit depended on certain conditions that the BLM couldn’t meet, so the races had to be canceled.

“So we went to federal court,” Foster said.

Krieger determined that while the BLM did not have the responsibility to monitor the race under the special-use permit, it did have the right to do so, said Mike Feeley, the attorney who represented the university in Denver. Feeley is a former Democratic state senator and CMU trustee.

The BLM’s decision to cancel the race because it could not exercise that right was not an abuse of discretion, Feeley said.

“It’s an unfortunate exercise of discretion by the local BLM authorities,” Feeley said. “It’s not something that they had to do by canceling it, it’s something they simply chose to do.”

Katie Stevens, who heads the Grand Junction BLM office, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Krieger said her decision “was a tragedy,” Feeley said. “That is the way that Judge Krieger described the decision that she felt compelled to render. She used that word specifically. Clearly, she wasn’t happy with what she felt compelled by the law to do.”


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