10 KEY REASONS WE OPPOSED THE MAD RABBIT TRAIL NETWORK
1. The high-volume trails built to attract tourists will have a significant impact on wildlife and habitat, specifically elk habitat.
2. Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates up to 14,000 acres of additional loss habitat for mule deer and elk. Current trails have already impacted 33,000 acres.
3. Though branded as “multi-use” trails, these are largely trails designed for high volume mountain biking.
4. Funding the Mad Rabbit Trails will preempt funding of the Core Trail in Steamboat Springs, which is overwhelmingly supported by the public.
5. There are no maintenance or trail enforcement plans associated with the funding of the trails. This is essential for protecting wildlife.
6. The majority of the trails will be placed in Colorado Roadless Areas, a designation close to that of a wilderness area.
7. More human pressure on public lands will lead to deer and elk being pushed onto private agricultural lands, causing damage
8. We already have a plethora of trails to use. When is enough enough?
9. We face unbalanced risks with the Mad Rabbit decision. We can always use a different trail, but habitat loss is forever.
10. There is value in wild places. Let’s keep Routt wild.
Since our objections to Mad Rabbit, the US Forest Service has responded with a new proposal. The news release and summary can be found here. The actual proposal can be found here, after expanding the 2019 Scoping list.
This proposal is an improvement over the initial proposals. It has eliminated some problematic trails in the Mad Creek area, and will remove some illegal trails in that area as well. Keep Routt Wild endorses those changes. Nevertheless, many other trails in the 50 miles being proposed will continue have a deleterious effect on wildlife, including habitat fragmentation and impacts on elk calving areas. Keep Routt Wild considers the new proposal as evidence the US Forest Service is working in good faith, and has decided to engage with the Forest Service to create a plan that will offer new recreation opportunities while minimizing the impact to wildlife. If the US Forest Service adopts these suggestions, Keep Routt Wild will drop our objections to Mad Rabbit, and will promote the final plan as a best practice for meeting the needs of recreation and conservation. Our complete comments can be downloaded at the link below.
SECOND SET OF COMMENTS
After submitting the above comments, Keep Routt Wild acquired new public information, an analysis of Steamboat Springs trails by IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association). Here, IMBA prioritized the most needed trail improvements, and none would be met by Mad Rabbit. This serves as an independent analysis showing that mountain bikers have other options, and better options, than creating new trails in pristine areas of our forest. Indeed, the specific improvements called out by IMBA can’t be met even with a modified Mad Rabbit proposal. We believe that the singular focus on Mad Rabbit to provide all the needs of mountain bikers is not beneficial to the cycling community, and adoption of the IMBA recommendations would provide more benefit for mountain bikers and fewer impacts on Routt County’s wildlife. This new information caused Keep Routt Wild to write a second set of comments, below: