On Tuesday January 19th, the Crested Butte Town Council had a meeting about winter trailheads. At that meeting, many groups presented regarding winter travel.
Of most importance to us, Silent Tracks made a presentation to the Town Council. They introduced who they were and specifically asked the council to write a letter to the National Forest asking them to speed up the re-evaluation of the existing winter travel management plan.
Public comment was at first not allowed. But, due to the number of people present at the meeting and after a few remarks by Crested Butte local Mike Arbany, Mayor Glen Michel granted public comments, provided they were directed to the actual town council. A summary of the comments that ensued and the overall discussions are recapped in the Crested Butte News and the Gunnison Country Times.
We at Share the Slate believe that the time has not yet come to discuss the winter travel management plan and that the current plan is working. We believe that any conflicts that supposedly exist can be resolved through education and awareness. We made these points clear during the town council meeting and these sentiments were echoed by much of the public.
After learning that the Nordic Center wrote a letter pushing the issue and in support of Silent Tracks, and after seeing the director of the Nordic Center meeting with individual council members to further his agenda, we decided we needed to take further action.
We have written the following letter to Mayor Glen Michel and the Crested Butte Town Council, explaining our position further.
As an organization representing winter recreationalists of all types, Share the Slate urges the town council to deny Silent Tracks and the Crested Butte Nordic Center’s request to write a letter to the Forest Service supporting a “rush to judgment” regarding winter travel management.
- · While a small but vocal minority likes to paint a somber picture of the situation on the ground, the truth is that most users support the compromises made by the Gang of Nine decision. Compare, for instance, Silent Tracks’ Facebook page, which was eventually removed with a couple dozen likes versus Share the Slate’s 500+ likes. Likewise, the voice of the Nordic Center, Keith Bauer, is not representative of many of its’ members, including board members. From dog walkers to fat bikers, backcountry skiers to snowmobilers, users of the valleys surrounding Crested Butte largely get along and will continue to do so under the framework of the Gang of Nine decision.
- · Speaking of the Gang of Nine decision, changes have been made and can continue to be made to the basic framework. In 2005, for instance, additional regulations were added to the Washington Gulch drainage to address changes in user patterns.
- · At a national level, policy directives have not yet been written regarding Over Snow Vehicle use following the ruling that requires winter travel management overview. We believe that discussions prior to the establishment of these directives would not be the best use of our time. We need directives to guide decisions that will affect all of us.
- · One of the goals that nearly every group agrees on is the need for more information regarding winter travel. Entities including the Forest Service, Silent Tracks, Western State students, Share the Slate and others are hoping to learn more about how the types of use that the area experiences. Without that information, speeding up the travel management process will only serve to produce poor decisions with no basis in facts.
- · The Forest Service plan for future travel management is sound. The local forest service intends to look at every aspect of forest management in a holistic way, while taking public comments, over the upcoming years. Those discussions will shape forest service recommendations on everything from logging to conservation to travel management. As all of us who spend time outdoors doubtless recognize, everything is connected. Shouldn’t our local forest service goals and winter travel management proposals reflect that fact? Why rush what can be a great plan for a poorly thought out and rushed one?
- · Instead of focusing on a whole winter travel management plan reevaluation, we should start with smaller discussions, like the need for changes at trailheads, which are typically operated by the county.
- · Finally, as one local business owner brought up at the recent town council meeting, winter can be a difficult time for businesses to survive financially. Why would the council support any efforts which could result in fewer visitors and locals spending money, whether on fat bikes, backcountry gear, or gas for snowmobiles?
For all the reasons outlined above, we see no reason for the town council of Crested Butte to write a letter to the forest service urging them to speed up the winter travel management plan review. Doing so will only facilitate a rushed and poorly thought out plan based on the whims of a small minority, rather than a comprehensive one based on facts, figures, and the desires of the majority of the community.
We encourage you too to take action. Write a letter to Mayor Glen Michel and the Crested Butte Town Council asking them to NOT to respond to the requests of the Nordic Center and Silent Tracks to speed up the re-evaluation process of our existing winter travel management plan.
Need some help? We’ve got a letter all laid out for you to use as a guide, and info of how to send it too.