Sportsmen, OHV riders call on USFS for access
Trout Unlimited Press Release
Durango, Colorado ó Sportsmen Ride Right today joined Trout Unlimited, Tread lightly!, Rocky Mountain Ramblers and Creeper Jeepers Gang in calling on the San Juan National Forest to keep a popular section of the Middle Mountain road open to motorized use.
U.S. Forest Service officials have announced their intention to close the last section of the road at Tuckerville a mile short of where the trail currently ends at parking area near the Weminuche Wilderness boundary. San Juan National Forest officials are taking action because of repeated incursions by off-highway vehicles (OHV) into the wilderness.
The final section of trail was opened to motorized use in 2009 when local motorized enthusiasts assured the Forest Service that allowing motorized users to ride to the edge of the Weminuche would not encourage incursions into the wilderness. Fencing and a gate were installed at the trail's end in 2010 with the help of the Creeper Jeepers Gang, a local four-wheel-drive enthusiasts' club, but the gate was torn down this summer.
In a joint letter to the Forest Service on Monday, SRR and the off-road vehicle clubs asked that the final section of the road be kept open, and in return offered to help the Forest Service construct a new barrier in place of the one that was vandalized, and to help monitor the area.
"Responsible wheeling is one of our primary goals - and if it's not legal, we donít do it," said Dave Shannon of the Creeper Jeepers. "Let's face it, if we don't take responsibility, we may lose our sport."
"We want to help the Forest Service address this issue," said Matt Clark, backcountry coordinator for TU in Colorado, who noted that the road is an important access point for sportsmen who want to hunt or fish in the wilderness area. "Our plan is to provide some funding that can be used to rebuild the barrier and to work with local OHV clubs to organize some volunteers to help in construction and maintenance. It's just as easy to tear apart a gate a mile further down the road what we need is more peer to peer education and better compliance with the rules."
"The Creepers voted overwhelmingly to do anything they can to help the Forest Service rebuild the closure at its current location," Shannon added. "The wilderness overlook near the end of that road is a wonderful resource that we donít want to lose."
Sportsmen Ride Right was organized this year as a coalition of sportsmen and women who use motorized vehicles to access hunting and fishing on public land. As motorized users, SRR members know the importance of access, but recognize that the privilege of motorized access comes with the responsibility to protect vital fish and game habitat and follow the rules of the trail.
"SRR was created to bring hunters and anglers into the forefront of travel planning on our public lands," said Aaron Kindle, TU's field coordinator for Colorado and a member of the SRR coalition. "All too often we have seen just two polarizing points of view define the debate over OHV access on public lands Ė people have been either been calling for more motorized access or for a ban on OHVs altogether. Meanwhile, our hunting and fishing opportunities have dwindled."
"We hope that preserving motorized access at Middle Mountain can be the first in a series of solutions where sportsmen and motorized users come together to find practical ways to solve problems while protecting fish and big game habitat across the West," Kindle said.