Speak Up TODAY for Trails in WY's Shoshone National Forest
Shoshone National Forest in Northest Wyoming is proposing both new trails and trail closures that would impact mountain bikers. The comment period ends tomorrow, January 12. Send your comments today!
There are two distinct actions proposed. The first is adding 35 miles to the trail system, through a combination of building some miles of new trails, and adding some miles of existing non-system trails, old roads and two-tracks. The proposal includes 4-miles in Clarks Fork District, 2-miles in Greybull, 12.5-miles in Wind River, and 16.5 miles in the Washakie District.
The second action would restrict mountain bikes to only official “system trails”. People on mountain bikes would be restricted from using any non-system trails, even trails used for decades. Those non-system trails would not be closed to hikers or horse riders, just mountain bikers.
Use pieces of the comment letter below to help craft your own comments:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the "Notice of Proposed Action Mountain Bike Route Designation” scoping notice.
As a mountain biker who likes to visit the Shoshone NF to recreate and ride, I believe that the Purpose and Need and Proposed Action should be revised before the Draft Environmental Analysis is released. The revised Purpose and Need and Proposed Action scope should focus simply on approving the proposed new system trail additions, limit continue access to existing trails only, and then study any warranted specific trail closures for the next stage of planning and designation.
Specifically, while mountain bikers support the Forest Service goal and intent to move mountain bikes to a system of designated routes, we can not support this without a quality and thoughtful system in place first. The trails being proposed during this process, while welcomed and of value in their own right, are not adequate to comprise a “system of mountain bike trails” for the public to enjoy. Considering the trails and mileage that were lost in the DuNoir, it is imperative that the USFS take steps to limit the impact of blanket closures while still making progress toward the goal of designated system trails. A policy of limiting to designated routes without designating adequate routes amounts to a blanket ban on what the public has been legally riding for years. This runs counter to the Forest Plan and commitments to enhance mountain biking opportunities. While we know that leaving the forest as is is not an option, a drastic step that closes off traditional access should not be an option either.
Instead, as a reasonable compromise, we we would encourage the Shoshone NF to consider moving to an interim access policy of permitting continued use on existing trails that have been inventoried and mapped and determined, via a rapid assessment, to be sustainable. This helps prevent new trail development and creation, helps preserve current public access, and takes necessary and appropriate steps towards designating a quality, albeit limited, system for public use. Only at that time should access be fully limited to the designated system. This is a common action to appropriately and fairly address moving straight from a lack of system trails to limiting to system trails only...particularly if there is inadequate information to make informed decisions.
I recommend the Forest should study the following actions:
The proposed action should be revised before the Draft EA is released, and the revised Proposed Action scope should focus simply on approving the proposed new system trail additions, limit continue access to existing trails only, and then study any warranted specific trail closures for the next stage of planning and designation.
The existing trails should be inventoried, mapped and assessed for sustainability and design. Maps should be provided to the public and feedback collected.
The purpose and need statement should be improved, and should explore the needs and opportunities of all non-motorized trail users, including people mountain biking, hiking, running, and on horses, with a focus on front country areas close to forest communities, and to approve the first phase of trail system additions and improvements needed.
To add the proposed 35 miles of new trails to the system, and in addition include the following:
Add the existing Blue Ridge Trail in Sinks Canyon to the trail system.
If the Catalyst Trail is proposed to be closed, the Forest should make a commitment to replace it with a purpose-built quality downhill trail off the Loop Road.
North Zone. Add existing 1.75-mile connector trail from the top of Beem Gulch Spur road to Elk Horn Trail #601 which then leads into Elk Creek Trail, the classic "Beem Gulch to Elks Fork" ride in Sunlight Basin. This was a system trail in the 2015 LMP.
Wind River District. The Shoshone should make a commitment to future phases of trail planning to provide a loop MTB trail in the Brooks Lake/Falls Campground/Togwotee Pass area, to mitigate the loss of the Dunoir trails.
Forest wide: Identify any specific trails which should be closed to mountain bikes, due to problems that can’t be mitigated, and provide information on why these trails should be closed.
This EA should be viewed as phase one of a multi-step process. Many additional trails have been identified by user groups, which were not included in this initial EA. Some are existing non-system trails, and some are new trails needed to create loops and improve the overall trail system and visitor experience. The Shoshone needs to lay out an ongoing process of trail planning, mapping, data gathering, and partnership development with the Cody, Lander, Dubois, and Jackson communities and mountain bike groups.
Also, Congress just passed the National Forest Trail Stewardship Act, which improves the ability of volunteers to do forest trail work and encourages collaborative stewardship and partnerships with such forest communities. The Shoshone should take advantage of this new resource for trails and partnerships.
If the mountain bike non-system trail restrictions remain, the scope of the project will have to expand to include a thorough analysis of all the trails that will be closed to mountain bikes, the lost number of miles of trail and what this means to local communities and visitors of the Shoshone.
I sincerely hope that the Forest will revisit the proposed Mountain Bike Route Designation and consider the above suggestions as a means of improving it to provide the best result for the greatest number of Forest users. I thank you again for the opportunity to provide input on this important issue.
Thank you for being a mountain bike advocate and helping protect our places to ride!
—IMBA Government Relations Team
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