Community warns BLM over route closings

Closing roads and trails across federal land near De Beque could force a growing population of riders, drivers, bikers and others to create new, unauthorized routes, a participant in an open house discussion said Saturday.

“Leave them there,” Karen Etcheverry said, advising Bureau of Land Management officials not to close routes on the more than 1 million acres of land mostly in Mesa County the agency manages.

The BLM is considering how to manage hundreds of miles of routes — including roads, trails, paths and other travel corridors — as it drafts its resource-management plan, which will guide the agency for the next two decades.

Making no changes in the way the Grand Junction Field Office manages its territory is an option, field office Manager Katie Stevens said in a question-and-answer session. The agency, however, has to take into account changing conditions on the ground and in the way the federal government views its land. Open areas for transportation are no longer allowed, for instance, so the field office will have to decide how to manage such lands,

“We do have roads and trails out there that are causing significant problems” in terms of erosion and drainage, affecting wildlife, water and air quality, agriculture and recreation, Stevens said.

In some cases, the problems can be dealt with by rerouting roads, in some cases the roads have to be closed, Stevens said.

The BLM is seeking comments on the resource management plan through June 24, and the open house was intended to help participants craft comments so they would be most helpful to the agency as it makes recommendations to the state director, who will issue the final record of decision.

Etcheverry and her husband, Lee, who grew up near De Beque, said they were writing a comment discouraging the BLM from closing several roads used for decades by motorcyclists and all-terrain vehicles near the town.

Bradley Barker said he hoped also to discourage the potential closure of ATV trails in the Kannah Creek area, trails that he and his family have used for years to hunt and picnic.

“This is where we ride” when family members visit, Barker said, pointing to trails that would be closed under the BLM’s preferred alternative.

Barker said he was unaware of the possible closures until he attended the meeting at Two Rivers Convention Center.

Rules governing mechanized travel affect him, even though his mechanized travel is a game cart for which he is the horsepower, said Kraig Andrews, who attended the meeting with his wife, Beth.

The cart could be prohibited because it has moving parts and the rule could hamper his ability to save meat from hunts when he’s successful, Andrews said.

Peach farmer David Cox lamented that no local elected official would have a direct say on the outcome of the plan and at one point late in the meeting urged a BLM official to go to work for the state and manage the land under the auspices of a state agency.

The process under which the resource-management plan is being revised calls for officials to take into consideration public comments in reaching their recommendations.

Several organizations sent representatives to the open house, where they offered participants advice in crafting their comments.

Members of the Grand Mesa Back Country Horsemen, for instance, use global-positioning to verify trails they use so comments they make can be most useful, said Jan Potterveld, chairman of the group.

Conflicts among users are unavoidable, but “we’re making great progress” in deciding how to handle them, Potterveld said, noting recent work with mountain bikers.

Not everyone is eager to keep open routes and roads, Stevens said.

“You can see from looking around this room that there are a lot of different opinions on travel management,” Stevens said.


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