High Country News -- Printable -- January 17, 2000: STOP - A national f.
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STOP - A national forest tries to
rein in recreation
feature article - January 17, 2000
by Allen Best
Colorado hasn't been this contentious about its forests since 1907, when Gifford Pinchot himself
had to stare down insurgents assembled in Denver.
It's a different cast of characters now: Here on Colorado's White River National Forest, it's not
cattlemen, lumbermen and miners who are bellyaching - it's recreationists.
On a forest that stretches from the Continental Divide, just an hour's drive westward from Denver's
expanding suburbs, into the heart of western Colorado, the Recreating West has rushed in hard on
the heels of the Extractive West.
Sightseers and mountain bikers have shooed off the lumbermen and appropriated old logging
roads. And every hunting season, all-terrain vehicle drivers blaze new trails onto the land. Hikers,
cross-country skiers and snowmobilers every year make it more of a year-round playground, while
downhill skiers account for 7.5 million visits a year.
All this recreation is beating up the White River, which covers almost 4 percent of Colorado.
Now, instead of accommodating every request that walks in the door, the Forest Service's Proposed
Revised Land and Resource Management Plan seeks to reassert loyalty to the land itself.
But with many users, the agency's preferred alternative is not going down well.
In Edwards, Colo., 115 miles from Denver, at a meeting of some 30 builders last month, talk swirled
nervously around the White River National Forest and its draft plan. Eagle County Commissioner
Tom Stone pointed to a map that identified in red every road the plan would close.
Running across the 3,700 square miles of national forest, the red lines looked like a cardiovascular
diagram in Gray's Anatomy.
Backcountry skiers, the bulk of the state's ski areas, dirt bikers - all face restrictions, he said. Why?