Other Recreational Hot Spots
We’re helping ensure these popular areas aren’t loved to death
A number of the trails on federal public lands in the Roaring Fork Valley were built illegally without Forest Service or BLM permission. As a result many of these trails are poorly designed and traverse important wildlife habitat. While some of these trails are now well established and have been brought into the Forest Service’s or BLM’s formal trail system, the era of building bandit trails on our public lands needs to come to an end. It’s time to move from a frontier mentality of unplanned trail development to a more conscious and deliberate process of trail building.
Recreational use constitutes one of the biggest impacts and threats to our wildlife populations largely due to the habitat fragmentation that comes with increased trail development and use. Fortunately this doesn’t mean we can’t recreate in the backcountry or even build new trails. What it does mean is that we need to build trails and manage our increasing use through a deliberate planning process informed by good science and the advice of wildlife management professionals like the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.
The poster child for how not to do things is the Crown, a mid-elevation play area accessed from various points between Basalt and Carbondale. Unauthorized trail-building and unchecked recreation have turned this mid-elevation BLM unit into an ecological sacrifice zone, causing erosion, degrading habitat and driving out wildlife. It illustrates how things can get out of control when there’s insufficient agency oversight and enforcement.
With that in mind, we’re trying to avoid making the same mistake in the nearby Hay Park area. Working with local ranchers (who have summer grazing allotments there) and mountain bikers (who enjoy the popular Hay Park trail), we and our partners are advocating for a compromise solution, with Congressional wilderness designation for most of the area while providing for mountain biking to continue on existing, legal routes. This would ensure that the area remains as is in perpetuity.
Another area that could go the way of the Crown if we’re not careful is the BLM parcel at the north end of Assignation Ridge, southwest of Carbondale. (The parcel is officially called BLM Thompson Creek.) This area is also part of our wilderness proposal; in the meantime, we’re calling on the BLM to manage the unit for its wilderness characteristics.
Finally, we are working with the Forest Service to ensure that a proposed new dirtbike/ATV route between Basalt Mountain and Gypsum avoids sensitive habit and is limited to on trail or road, rather than creating a network of routes which will lead to significant fragmentation of this habitat.