Is Another Public Land User Group About to Find Itself on the Outside Looking In?
An excellent in-depth article was posted by the Moab Sun News this week on the LaSal Mountain trail use situation.
The Moab/Monticello Ranger Districts plan to come out with its final plan on changes to the non-motorized trail system in the La Sal Mountains within the next few months. The hope is that the upcoming plan will provide a clear map for the management and development of the mountains’ trails for years to come. And many stakeholders have been vocal about the changes that they would like to see.
“Over the last seven years or so we were piecemealing and adding one trail at a time. We wanted to sit down and say ‘what should the trail system actually look like up there?’ and involve all the users and all the public,” said Brian Murdock, the Moab Ranger District’s recreational/trails manager, who his overseeing the project.
Are mountain bikers the new “red headed stepchild”?
“My perception is that a lot of bikers have come to the area and, over the years, have done all of the desert stuff. So they seem to want to do some activities outside of the desert so they go up to the mountains,” said Lynn Jackson, the vice chair of the Grand County Council and the liaison with Trail Mix. “Over the last few years that has resulted in some conflicts.”
Many of the trails that people are using were created -and in some cases are still used- by livestock and big game. Because of this, erosion and encounters with livestock have become an issue. Hunters also worry that the increasing number of visitors are scaring away the wild life, Murdock said.
Some users might be finding out the shoe is now on the other foot!
The possible loss of access to the popular Hell’s Canyon Trail is also a big concern for mountain bike enthusiasts.
“Hell’s Canyon Trail is a unique trail and we think it is important to keep it open to bikes,” Mark Sevenoff, of Western Spirit Cycling, said. “It is a challenging down hill trail that meets a need and we don’t have any other trails like it in the county.”
Local user groups think there’s a way we can all get along!
Hunters claim that the increase in non-motorized trail use in the La Sals has led to deer and elk herds diminishing rapidly over recent years. Bikers in particular are now coming through hunting grounds that hunters used to have all to themselves, said Gene Ciarus, the chair of the Grand County Council, who has received several complaints from hunters.
“(The hunters) were not saying that bikers shouldn’t be able to use the land too, just that they shouldn’t be up there during the calving, breeding and hunting seasons,” Ciarus said. “That the forest service basically has to control or limit some bicyclists in every area.”
Ranchers, who have been using the La Sals as grazing grounds for the last century, are also noticing the impact of recreational trail users, said Joe Taylor, a life-long rancher and property owner in the La Sals. The cattle are easily startled by bikers, and since many of the bikers use cattle trails, it can make controlling the livestock quite difficult.
However, Taylor believes that educating cyclist on how to act around cattle, and creating more bike trails to keep them off the cattle trails, would go a long way towards solving the problem.
Some groups never want to get along…
Environmental groups are worried about the negative impact additional trails could have on the areas wild life and waterways.
“The problem is if you put more trails in, and particularly if those trails get marketed, then they greatly increase traffic in the La Sals. That does have a serious impact on wildlife,” said Laurel Hagen, the director of Canyonlands Watershed Council.
“A lot of the proposed trails go through waterways and wet meadows or very close to springs, so that makes them extremely prone to erosion, especially in June and July when people like to ride bikes up there,” Hagen said. “What happens is that erosion then increases sediment levels in creeks which makes lakes sediment up a lot higher.”
Read the article HERE
- Mountain Bikers losing access in La Sal Mountains (sagebrushcoalition.com)