Community Center May 27.
By Mark Esper
The Bureau of Land Management has a few changes in store for the way it manages recreation activities on the 186,000-acre Alpine Triangle.
And a couple dozen residents attended a briefing Thursday, May 27 on the BLM’s draft recreation plan for the vast swath of BLM land between Silverton, Lake City and Ouray.
Meeting at the Kendall Mountain Community Center, Jed Botsford, recreation planner for the San Juan Public Lands Office, noted that the current plan has not been updated since 1986 and it was time to bring it into the 21st century.
“If a business was operating since 1986 they would not have the same business plan” as when they started, Botsford said.
He said work on the new recreation plan was begun in 2006, and by the way, has nothing to do with the Trout Unlimited proposal to convert the tract to a national conservation area.
“The BLM can’t designate a national conservation area,” Botsford said. “Only Congress can designate it.”
He said the spectacular Alpine Loop is something “we all care about. We all have something highly invested in it.”
And use of the area has changed quite a bit in the last couple decades, with more ATVs, heli-skiing, the opening of Silverton Mountain ski area, and advances in snowmobile technology.
Botsford said the draft plan released May 20 continues “a whole lot of current management.
“The current management status is working well,” Botsford said. “But there are a few things we want to change.”
Those things include more ATV staging areas, a small campground up Cunningham Gulch, and establishment of a county campground at Eureka as part of a land exchange that is at last nearing fruition.
And Botsford said the BLM wants to encourage more use during the “shoulder seasons” to get longer use from the area and to hopefully address the overcrowding the area has experienced in July and August.
The plan will restrict mountain biking to designated roads and trails to protect sensitive alpine tundra, and the BLM wants to add trails to a formal maintenance plan.
The plan would also ban the increasingly popular activity of geo-caching.
The problem with that activity, Botsford said, is that “we start getting trails coming into one site from all directions.”
The BLM would also like to limit the size of tour groups and space out organized Jeep tours into groups of 10 or less.
He said casual Jeeping and ATV use will not be regulated any more than it is now.
Another change in the plan is to ban air tours of the area, except for heli-skiing operations operating under BLM permits.
The draft plan also proposes limiting new permits for competitive non-motorized events to the shoulder seasons, again to address the tremendous use the area gets in July and August.
But he said established events such as the Hardrockers 100-Mile Endurance Run will be allowed to continue during the peak season.
Botsford said the plan proposes no withdrawal of mineral rights in the area, no new limits on snowmobiling and no assault on private property rights.
Public comments on the draft plan are due by June 21 and the final plan should be released by late September.
“We want to have it done before the end of the fiscal year,” Botsford said.
“This is a draft,” Botsford said, and changes may be in store based on further review.
“We will hear from the public.”