Routt County trails project could set bad precedent, wildlife advocates warn |

Routt County trails project could set bad precedent, wildlife advocates warn

Forest Service, supporters defend plan as striking right balance in area where recreation demands are growing

Judith Kohler
The Denver Post
A plan to construct mountain biking trails from Mad Creek to Rabbit Ears Pass in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest has wildlife and conservationists concerned. They believe the trails will negatively impact nearly 44,000 acres of elk habitat. Mad Rabbit proponents say their five-year assessment plan follows a holistic approach and potentially harmful trails have been dropped.
Lance Maggart / Sky-Hi News file photo

A plan long in the works to respond to demands for more mountain-biking trails in the Steamboat Springs area is being criticized as not taking enough steps to protect one of Colorado’s largest elk herds.

The Routt National Forest released a draft environmental assessment and proposal for the Mad Rabbit trails project in October and will review the comments and feedback before issuing a  preliminary decision, possibly by April or May. People will then be able to file comments and objections before a final decision is released.

Forest Service officials said the proposal, in development for about five years, strikes a balance between providing new trails on forest land and protecting wildlife and other natural resources.

“We removed trails, moved trails out of undisturbed areas and really focused the trails into existing impacted areas,” said Brendan Kelly, the project’s manager and the Routt National Forest’s recreation specialist.

The draft plan reduced the proposed trails from approximately 79 miles to 52 miles.

Mountain Bikers at Winter Park Resort’s trestle bike park in June, 2022. The Western Slope is facing increasing demand for more mountain bike trails; the Mad Rabbit trails project intends to meet that demand by constructing trails in national forest land. Wildlife advocates and conservation organizations believe letting the project go forward as is would set a bad precedent for pitting recreational areas against fragile wildlife habitats.
Carl Frey/Courtesy Photo

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