SJFS finalizes motorized mecca

Off-road vehicles are getting their own playground on the San Juan National Forest. The San National Forest Service has enhanced motorized recreation opportunities in the Missionary Ridge and Middle Mountain areas.

In July of 2004, the Forest Service announced that it would be taking steps to reduce damage to public lands from off-road vehicles. The announcement came in response to huge growth in motorsports in just a few years and the appearance of more than 60,000 miles of renegade ORV trails on national forest lands throughout the nation. At the time, Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth proclaimed that ORV abuse was a top threat to national forests and ordered regional and local offices to confine ORV use to designated roads and trails and prohibit cross-country travel.

San Juan National Forest took a roundabout approach to Bosworth’s order. Rather than cracking down on illegal ORV use or further policing the situation, the Forest Service set out to direct use to certain areas and create specific for off-highway vehicles.

“In 2004, the chief of the Forest Service released a travel management rule that confined motorized travel to designated routes and roads,” said Nancy Berry, recreation forester for San Juan Public Lands. “We had pods of areas where you could travel across the landscape as long as you didn’t do resource damage. Our goal was to get the use onto designated routes and keep people out of the delicate areas.”

The San Juan National Forest selected the “Lakes” area as that ORV sanctuary. The Lakes encompasses a large portion of Missionary Ridge as well as Lemon and Vallecito reservoirs and the Middle Mountain and East Florida areas. The San Juan Trail Riders, a local advocacy group for motorized users, was instrumental in spotlighting the region.

When it was announced, the approach for the Lakes landscape was hailed by a variety of users as an intelligent solution to an impasse. Trails 2000 supported the effort to concentrate ORV use on that section of Missionary Ridge, arguing it will eliminate user conflicts elsewhere in the forest.

The final regulations were released this week, along with a special order requiring motorized vehicles to stay on designated roads and trails in the Middle Mountain and East Florida areas. Per the regulations, motorized travel is now allowed only where signs have been posted indicating motorized use is appropriate. In addition, forest roads and trails open to motorized uses may be restricted to specific types of use, such as motorcycles only, vehicles less than 50 inches in width or highway-legal vehicles only.

“We tried to provide motorized opportunities, and we tried to take care of some resource concerns, including the bighorn sheep up above Tuckerville,” Berry said. “We worked to balance everything as best we could, and I think we accomplished the goal. There were no appeals of the decision, and I suppose that means that everyone is at least satisfied.”

The Forest Service is now carrying the Lakes success into another section of the forest. The agency is close to completing its review of the Beaver Meadows-Sauls Creek Landscape and has made allowances for motorized recreation there as well. The decision should be released in coming weeks.


‘Low Carbon Diet Club’ takes shape

The Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency is inviting area residents to lose 5,000 pounds in just 30 days. The Low Carbon Diet Club is a New Year endeavor to encourage residents in Southwest Colorado to decrease their carbon footprint – the amount of carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere as a result of an individual’s daily activities. An average American releases more than 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year. In addition, households represent between 50 and 90 percent of a community’s carbon footprint.  

The Montezuma Climate Action Network, 4CORE’s sister organization in Montezuma County, started the region’s first local Low Carbon Diet Club – Carbon 1 – in January of last year.  The club set goals to reduce individual carbon emissions through everyday activities, and in the first four months, Carbon 1 had reduced its carbon usage by nearly 10 percent.  

“My husband and I found that instead of talking about ways to reduce our carbon footprints, we actually took action because we were accountable to the rest of the group,” said Sue Whitehead, Carbon Reduction Green Team member. “We were very excited to see our own electric bill drop by 17 percent and our gas bill by 27 percent.”

Joining a Low Carbon Diet Club on 4CORE’s website allows an individual to evaluate how much carbon is currently being used, gives tips and guidelines for decreasing use, and finally, tracks progress.

 “This is the perfect way for anyone to start out the New Year and work at saving money and decreasing emissions,” said Aileen Tracy, executive director of 4CORE. “You can diet on your own, as a household, form your own club, or find a club on our website.”

To learn about the steps involved in starting a Low Carbon Diet, visit or e-mail


Nordic Nationals bring racing to town

Nordic ski racing makes a downtown debut this week. The Durango Nordic Ski Club will bring a race to the Hillcrest Nordic track – the Pine Needle Mountaineering Sprint Race Classic on Jan. 16. In addition, the Animas Orthopedics Associates Junior National Qualifying Race is set for Jan. 17 at the Durango Nordic Center. Many of the nation’s top and up-and-coming athletes will be squaring off in the fast-paced, spectator-friendly competitions.

Mike Elliott, chief of competition, is anxiously anticipating strong community turnout and support for the young athletes. “We are pleased to be in a position to share this exciting event with the Durango community,” he said. “Community support and participation always ignites these young athletes and we’re anticipating that we will have a high turn out.”

Saturday’s races get under way at 9 a.m., but the best spectator viewing will be at that day’s sprint finals, which begin at Hillcrest at 10:45 a.m. Hillcrest will be closed to public skiing from 3 p.m. Friday - 3 p.m. Saturday. On Sun., Jan. 17, racing will shift to the Durango Mountain Resort Nordic Center, where racers will leave the starting line at 9 a.m.  


City hosts forum on Animas Mountain

Durangoans have a new opportunity to weigh in on the controversial proposal to log Animas Mountain. The City of Durango will sponsor a public open house on the fuels-reduction project on Tues., Jan. 19.

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a fuels-reduction project on approximately 733 acres of BLM land on the top of Animas Mountain.  However, primary access to the fuels reduction project site is through the City parking lot and trailhead located north of 32nd Street and along 1,500 feet of City-owned trail. The BLM maintains that minimal impacts to the trail will be necessary to complete the project, and the project will reduce the risk of high severity wildfire, protecting adjacent private property and natural resources, while improving habitat for big-game wildlife species.

The Jan. 19 open house will meet from 5 - 6 p.m. in Durango City Council Chambers, 949 E. Second Ave.  Representatives from the City and Bureau of Land Management will be available to answer questions and interested community members are encouraged to attend. The Durango City Council will consider whether to grant an easement across City property to the BLM at its Feb. 2 meeting.

– Will Sands




In this week's issue...

July 21, 2022
Wildlife success or deal with the devil?

Land swap approved in Southwest Colorado, but not without detractors

July 21, 2022
Tapping out

The latest strategy to save the San Luis Valley's shrinking aquifer: paying farmers not to farm

July 14, 2022
Hey, good environmental news

Despite SCOTUS ruling, San Juan Generating Station plans to shut down