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Why Wilderness?

What new wilderness would mean for mountain biking in the Roaring Fork Valley

There’s been a lot of misinformation floating around about what new wilderness designations might mean for mountain biking in the Roaring Fork Valley. This fact sheet is intended to set the record straight.

Executive summary: none of the commonly ridden mountain bike routes will be affected
None of the popular (or even slightly popular) mountain bike trails in the Roaring Fork Valley will be affected by any existing wilderness proposal. (In fact, only a half-dozen existing routes, all of them quite obscure or downright unridable, are in conflict with the proposal – see below.)

Click here to see a list of all known mountain bike trails in the Roaring Fork watershed that will not be affected by any existing wilderness proposal. This list should reassure you that the trails you ride aren’t threatened.

Major concessions have been made for mountain biking
Wilderness advocates have been working with the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association (RFMBA) and other mountain bikers in the valley since 2007 to work through potential wilderness-mountain bike conflicts. During that time, we have redrawn our proposed wilderness boundaries to exclude 18 different mountain bike routes, giving up more than 35,000 acres of wilderness and preserving a total of 75 miles of trails in the Roaring Fork watershed.

In the Roaring Fork Valley new wildernss would close only two miles of mountain bike routes located on abandoned and overgrown logging roads that bike advocates have never requested be open. New wilderness would close no miles of designated dirt bike trails, only one mile open to full-size vehicles, and only nine miles open to ATVs.  These 10 miles of motorized routes that would be closed are all located within the Thompson Creek BLM lands with the only public motorized access being up a severely eroded route that that shoukld be closed due to its ecological damage. Over 1,000 miles of roads and trails are available on federal lands for bikers and motorized users.  Similarly, new wilderness would minimally affect snowmobiling.  Only 2% of Forest Service designated play areas in the valley would be closed, leaving over 30,000 acres open. 

Click here for a list of trails that have been conceded to RFMBA.

Most of the routes RFMBA is contesting are slated for closure by the Forest Service

Of the trails that RFMBA is concerned about losing, the vast majority are expected to be closed by the White River National Forest under its new Travel Management Plan, which is due to be finalized in mid 2010. This plan has been several years in the making, and represents the Forest Service's best attempt to balance the interests of the various user groups, including mountain bikers. If you have concerns about these trail closures, you should contact the Forest Service.

Most of the remaining contested routes don’t exist
Many of RFMBA’s routes are off the table due to issues other than wilderness, either because of access issues or because they don’t officially exist. For example, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has made it clear that it won’t allow bike access through the Lake Christine State Wildlife Area, so RFMBA’s idea of creating a trail through there to Cattle Creek isn’t grounded in reality. Another proposed trail from Dinkle Lake to the Crystal River Valley assumes access will be granted by the private property owner at the Crystal River end, which we know to be out of the question.

There are also a few other “user-created or improved” trails – e.g., spurs to the south of the Hay Park Trail, the balcony trail on smuggler mountain and the Barber Gulch trails above Carbondale.  Because these trails were constructed without legal approval from the Forest Servic or BLM, tboundary adjustments to accommodate these trails as this would imply approval of illegal trail construction or improvement on public lands.

The bottom line
In the Roaring Fork Valley only the 2 miles of the Rocky Fork Spur network of trails in the Wildcat Proposal Area would be closed by the new wilderness proposals.  Given that more than 35,000 acres of wilderness have been removed from the proposal in the Roaring Fork Valley at the specific request of mountain bikers it seems reasonable that most mountain bikers would support our proposal.  However if being able to ride these few trails is more important to you than protecting the entire surrounding area from the encroachments of motorized vehicles, gas development, road building, clear-cutting and other threats please contact us and we’ll gladly sit down to discuss how we might resolve the conflict.


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