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Salida Mountain Trails (SMT) distributed a message to its members and trail enthusiasts last week, ahead of the June 20 deadline for comments on the Draft Chaffee Envision Recreation Plan.

The message (minus its call to comment on the proposal since the deadline is now past) with the concerns raised by SMT is submitted for distribution to the general public below:

This plan will most likely be a driving force for the city/county/BLM/Forest Service for the next several years …

Salida Mountain Trails Logo (Photo Courtesy of SMT’s Facebook Page)

We also have considerable overall concerns about the plan and the process, and would also ask that you read below, and also comment if those concerns resonate with you.  SMT strongly feels that the direction of Chaffee Envision Recreation in Balance process and their resulting draft Chaffee Recreation Plan needs to include more emphasis and priority for responsibly-planned expansion of high-value recreational resources (trail systems) to also address the growth in recreation – and not to limit future expansion of those recreational resources.

The Envision Recreation in Balance process began with a survey that we feel was biased against recreation in general.  The title of the email that contained the survey was “Are You Concerned about Recreation Growth?”.  A majority of the questions were about outdoor recreation in general and led the survey participant to think about the worst – dispersed camping, trash, human waste.  We get it, this is bad and the rec plan does attempt to address these issues which we certainly support!  However, the survey had relatively few specific questions about specific forms of outdoor recreation and their value and importance.  Very little data about our trail systems, our users, and the value to our community were gathered.

We feel that this Recreation Plan places too much emphasis on the relationship of recreation in general and its effects on wildlife.  We question – how strong is the connection between specific individual forms of outdoor recreation and wildlife decline?  In reading the Recreation Plan, the increase of outdoor recreation, in general, is directly and primarily tied to wildlife decline without hard facts [linking it] to which recreation activities.  This is overly simplistic and too generalized, as many factors contribute to wildlife decline.  Importantly – all recreation is not created equal in its impact or value.

Any new trails we propose from the BLM and Forest Service already go through a very thorough environmental review for effect on flora/fauna/archeology.  The federal processes are rigorous and comprehensive.  This plan attempts to dictate where future trails can go (Community Concentration Zones) and where they cannot go.  We believe this should be left to the BLM and Forest Service as currently is done with their long established Travel Management Planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes.  This Recreation Plan implies an extra level of approval as we read it and is not justified, nor possibly enforceable.

We obviously strongly feel that legal NEPA-approved trails with seasonal closures, if necessary, are not primary contributors to wildlife decline.  The high community and economic value they provide vs. the impact they have to public lands is a win-win in the eyes of a vast majority of people in our opinion.