Rico Trails Alliance (RTA) has been working with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) on the Rico Trails Project. The project consists of four multi-use trail projects (three non-motorized trail projects in the Rico area and one motorized trail connector between Stoner and Taylor mesas). The Rico Trails Project is needed to make the trails system around Rico cohesive, with improved connection to and from the Colorado Trail via Circle Trail and via trail upgrades on Ryman Creek Trail and with a beginner-friendly trail along the historic Rio-Grand Southern railroad grade which parallels highway CO-145. The Project also provides connection for motorized trails that became fragmented with the updated Rico area Travel Management Plan. Thanks to our vibrant and supportive community, RTA has successfully raised considerable funds for implementing the non-motorized portion of the project, if approved.
The USFS, as part of its standard planning process, issued a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) in March, 2020. RTA contributed to the EA by funding the cultural resource assessment (identified as a planning process bottleneck) by an independent USFS-approved contractor. In response to requests by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the USFS issued a revised EA on June 24th, 2020.
The revised EA includes a third proposed alternative action on the Project, consisting of a seasonal closure of Ryman Creek Trail to all users between May 15th and June 30th each year. CPW has identified a portion of the Ryman Creek Trail used by elk during the spring calving season. The closure would help minimize the impacts of recreation on big-game wildlife during a time when animals are calving and newborn animals are most-sensitive to disturbance.
RTA supports Alternative 3 of the Rico Trails Project for the following reasons:
- Impacts to wildlife by recreational trail users are increasing as more people hit the trails. At the same time, recreational opportunities and trail system improvements are necessary to support healthy mountain communities like Rico. We support sustainable and holistic use, management, and construction of our trails. Seasonal closures are an effective tool for balancing the needs of wildlife and of recreational trail users.
- The proposed seasonal closure is consistent with other high-elevation early-season wildlife closures in the San Juan National Forest.
- The seasonal closure is most protective of wildlife by restricting all trail use, recognizing that all users impact wildlife. Alternative 3 represents an effective compromise by restricting use of an identified sensitive area during a critical time period and still providing recreational opportunity when appropriate. Thoughtful and effective compromises will become more crucial with time as more people enjoy our public lands. Without compromise, we only stand to lose access to trails.
Please voice your support of the Rico Trails Project and effective wildlife/recreation management by submitting a comment to the USFS by July 24, 2020. RTA encourages our supporters to copy and paste the above bullet points into their comments, or to voice your support in your own words. Comments must be submitted online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=56748 (click on “Comment on Project” on the right side) by July 24, 2020. Additional project information is located at the above link.
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