Attention please! Your access to our public lands is under attack! Did you know that hybrid skiers and snowboarders as well as snowmobilers are battling access issues throughout the country? Winter Travel Management Plans are currently being developed in National Forests in California, Wyoming, and Montana; some of these areas could potentially loose 50 to 80% of the land they access via snowmobile and other over-snow vehicles. Fact: organizations such as the Winter Wildlands Alliance sued the National Forest, requiring them to establish Winter Travel Management Plans, without an increase in funding to help develop the plans or enforcement of them. These first Winter Travel Management Plans are especially important because they will pave the way for those in our remaining National Forests, including ours!
So, let’s back up and remember why Share the Slate began… We began a few years back because a segment of our local population expressed interest in reducing motorized use or access to our winter recreation areas. But, the main reason why this segment of the population felt empowered was due to the OSV (Over-Snow Vehicle) Ruling which became law in February, 2015. Basically, a group called Winter Wildlands Alliance sued the National Forest, requiring the already financially-burdened organization to create Winter Travel Management Plans (summer ones already existed) for every National Forest. It’s taken some years for them to really start this process, but the first Winter Travel Management Plans are just now being developed. Even though these are currently located in California, these are extremely important to us in Colorado as they will set the precedent for future Winter Travel Management Plans – and ours is coming soon!
In a recent letter, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory wrote, “RMBL fully supports Share the Slate in their efforts to develop this winter recreation layer to the already existing CBG Trails app. This app will be a great educational tool that will help preserve existing RMBL research as well as our public lands!”
This winter recreation app will have many other benefits as well. First, it will educate locals and visitors alike about what trails and zones are designated for what use which will in turn help spread out usage. This will hopefully reduce some of our more crowded trailheads as users may opt to explore alternative areas on busy days. Additionally, winter recreationalists can identify where they want to go and whether they want a mixed-use experience or a more selective experience. And last, we hope that it will minimize conflicts among winter recreationalists and hopefully help people have an overall better experience.
Gunnison National Forest Revision The Gunnison National Forest, which comprises the area surrounding Crested Butte, is undergoing a forest-wide revision process. That process also includes the Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre national forests, and the three forests are collectively known as the “GMUG”. This is an ambitious and far-reaching process which will last years. Not only does the forest revision cover a large area, the revision also encompasses recreation aspects and tackles questions about mining, logging, and other activities. The revision process is just beginning, and you can learn more by visiting the USFS website here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/gmug/landmanagement/planning. The revision process will serve as the “guide” for future USFS decisions, and that is why it is important that winter recreationalists that care about access for all user groups, like Share The Slate, need to take note of the process and make sure that our comments and suggestions are heard. It is important to note that while the GMUG revision will not directly impact the upcoming winter travel management plan, the outcome of the revision will guide changes (if any) in winter travel management plan. The actual winter travel management plan will take place after the GMUG revision, and is what will directly
Our public lands seem to be a particularly hot debate as of late. Do we increase Wilderness? Where should mountain bikers be disallowed? What areas should we make non-motorized? What public lands are “for sale”?
Over the course of a few years, the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative has been working hard to develop a comprehensive land management plan for our Forest Service lands that takes into account recreation, resource management, conservation, and ecology. The GPLI constists of ten local organizations which represent users of various interests including ranching, water resources, motorized use, conservation, mountain biking, recreation, and hunting and angling. Over the course of years, this group has met to develop a balanced and insightful use plan for Gunnison Public Lands which satisfies the needs of all user groups. They have set a model for the nation in representing all users, promoting awareness of land use, and developing a culture of compromise. By coming together to develop an insightful well-balanced proposal for sustainable growth and use of our Gunnison National Forest, the GPLI is setting a positive example for promoting shared use of our public lands.
Ever since speculations began to surround the use of our backcountry in winter, the Crested Butte community has recognized the need to develop a survey which begins to collect information from the various voices in the valley. Thankfully, Western States MEMs (Master in Environmental Management) students, along with Brian Lieberman, have taken this on. The intent of this survey is to gain some baseline data about the use of our winter backcountry and our goal is to get as many people to take this survey as possible. In order for all voices of our community to be represented, it is important that all winter backcountry users participate.