I am not a hunter. I am, however, a mountain biker who uses the roads and trails in the Boggy Draw and McPhee Lake sections of the travel plans extensively. I have seen the condition of the roads in these areas of the plan at close range, from the seat of my bicycle, and many of them exhibit serious degradation from the use of OHVs and 4WDs (see letter, Cortez Journal, Oct. 28, 2010).
I support Modified Alternative B of the Boggy-Glade Travel Plan. The Dolores Public Lands Office is to be complimented for a balanced plan that provides ample open roads and trails for all and protects the long-term health of the forest for current and future generations. I am impressed by the efforts of the employees and supervisors of the Public Lands Office to provide extensive information for interested citizens and to consider all comments in several venues.
Approximately 70 percent of currently open roads remain open, except for seasonal wildlife protection and wet weather conditions. A look at the map indicates, if anything, a surfeit of open roads. It is hard to find an area that is more than one mile from an open road. The criticism that the Forest Service is closing access to the forest is without merit.
The restriction of all motorized travel to roads or designated trails is the most important part of the plan. The last 20-30 years have seen a tidal wave (perhaps a reverse tsunami?) of OHVs (many are made in Japan), which have caused great damage to FS (and BLM) lands, shattered the peace and quiet of the forest sought by many users, and degraded the air quality in their vicinity.
To allow game retrieval by motorized vehicles would be a serious mistake. First, it would be beyond the capabilities of the FS and the DOW to enforce. Rio Grande National Forest, where motorized game retrieval has been tried, has reported difficulty in distinguishing game retrieval from random hunting on OHVs. Second, allowing game retrieval interferes with hunting by non-motorized hunters, since it drives game from the area. Third, since wet weather often occurs during hunting season, it increases the damage to the forest and the probability of creating more user-generated roads.
Fourth, since the clear goal of those protesting the plan is the complete removal of all motorized-travel restrictions and road closures, permitting game retrieval will not satisfy them — it will only create further demands. Finally, a major argument by pro-game retrieval advocates is that the expense of hiring a horse or a game cart for retrieval is beyond their means. This is rather disingenuous in view of the cost of an ATV ($10,000+).
Prohibition of cross-country travel by mountain bike is not a serious issue. Because of the rough terrain, undergrowth and dead trees, such travel for any distance is almost impossible. Some consideration, however, could be given to permit mountain-bike travel on closed administrative roads which are open to foot and horse travel, since their impact is minimal, the use would be low, and they would effectively expand mountain bike trails and reduce conflicts on motorized trails.
It is my impression of this unfortunate controversy regarding the travel plan that motorized hunters have received unwarranted attention, particularly the organizers (and those they represent) of what appears to be a politically motivated campaign — almost a vendetta — against the USFS in general and the personnel of the Dolores Public Lands Office in particular.
I have yet to read in the avalanche of letters to the editor and commentaries from the protestors, a word of concern for the rights of others or for the long-term health of the forest — the overriding concern of the USFS and of thoughtful citizens.
Jack Spence lives in rural Dolores.