You may have caught wind in recent days of proposed land protection legislation that’s being sponsored by CO Senator Michael Bennett and CO Congressman Jared Polis. What should mountain bikers know about it?
The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness & Camp Hale Legacy Act is quite a lengthy name, but starts to explains itself through that detail. The primary areas proposed for stronger land protections in the bill can be found north and south of Silverthorne, CO, and as far west as Camp Hale, west of Vail, CO. RFMBA has been part of + paying attention to the process for many years since an earlier version of the proposal included lands in the Roaring Fork Valley. Because of hard work by Vail Valley Mt. Bike Association, Summit Fat Tire Society, staff at IMBA, and many others, we have been very successful at crafting/influencing a bill that is good for MTBing and we can be proud of.
Having mountain bikers at the table while this land protection bill was developed resulted in several key wins for our community. This bill…
- Creates bike friendly land protection designations that are alternative to traditional Wilderness Designation.
- Includes non-Wilderness Corridors to preserve access to priority trails or trails of interest to mountain bikers.
- Includes boundaries that consider future trail development goals identified by local riders.
- Includes Wilderness boundaries drawn to protect bike access to bike trails.
There are three new and positive MTB aspects of this latest version of the bill that are noteworthy:
- The Tenmile North Recreation Management Area has been expanded as originally advocated to include more MTB trails and land in a bike friendly designation. We expanded it down to Frisco and Hwy 9. This includes the Miners Creek trail, Peaks Trail and CT. Precise acreages to be calculated soon but appox from 11,600 Acres to 16,000 acres.
- New Bike Friendly Designation – A long sought after change to the bill by some MTBers was to ensure that the Williams Fork addition was not made Wilderness. We voiced our concerns and thanks to similar concerns voiced by CO Parks and Wildlife, the area is now proposed as a Wildlife Conservation Area (WCA). Due to the change, the area was expanded over some trails. So after some challenges, we ensured the language will be bike-friendly so that existing MTB trails remain open to bikes.
- Non-Wilderness Corridor – In 2016/17 we launched an effort to keep what is informally referred to as the “Tunnel Trail” out of Wilderness so that someday we could regain access to this trail closed in 2010 to bikes over the Ike tunnel. While we were not able to reopen the trail just yet, we succeeded at creating a non-wilderness corridor between the Porcupine Gulch WCA boundary and the Straight Creek Wilderness addition so that the trail is not in either area. This preserves our advocacy ability to someday reopen this cross county trail.
- Permanently protects 96,000 acres of wilderness, critical wildlife habitat, recreation areas, and historic areas in Summit and Eagle Counties within the White River National Forest.
- Adds 3 new Wilderness areas (20,000 acres) in the Tenmile Range, Hoosier Ridge and the Williams Fork Mountains.
- Designates our nation’s first National Historic Landscape to protect 30,000 acres of public lands around Camp Hale, home of the WWII-era training camp of the storied 10th Mountain Division.
- Adds areas to the existing Eagle’s Nest, Holy Cross, and Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Areas (20,000 acres)
- Creates a unique Recreation Management Area to protect mountain biking, hiking, and hunting access and ensure conservation for key parts of the Tenmile Mountain Range.
- Establishes two Wildlife Conservation Areas totaling nearly 12,000 acres to protect critical wildlife linkages near Loveland Pass and in the Williams Fork Mountains.