BLM to develop updated four-wheeler guidelines

Public input on motorized uses sought

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— The future of four-wheeling in Sand Wash Basin and dirt-biking near Wolford Mountain will be impacted by new guidelines being developed by the Bureau of Land Management to handle motorized use on its 264 acres of land nationwide.

The BLM is seeking public input to help it develop new guidelines that maintain access while preserving public interest in the land.

The BLM comment period will last until the end of August. Two public comment meetings will be held in Colorado: *1 to 5 p.m. Friday at the Sheraton Denver West Hotel in Lakewood * 1 to 5 p.m., July 20, at the Holiday Inn in Grand Junction. A comment mailer will be sent to people who contact BLM at: 1849 C Street N,W,, LSB204 Washington D.C. 20240 Attn: Correspondence Or, log on to www.blm.gov

The new guidelines are a response to the swelling popularity of motorized sports, as well as a growing public sensitivity to motorized vehicles on state and federal lands.

The guidelines will help make better decisions on instituting and maintaining motorized regulations on land managed by the BLM, said Dennis Zachmon, BLM Colorado project manager.

"The effort that's going on right now is to receive public input so we have a feel for the issue," he said.

Routt County has 62,500 acres of BLM-managed land. Almost all of that is broken up into small plots throughout the county. The land is a portion of the 1.5 million acres of BLM land in northwest Colorado and 8.3 million acres statewide.

More than half of the local Little Snake River area is designated open, meaning that motorized vehicles are allowed on all parts of the land not just on a trail or road. The rest of the BLM land is closed, or has limited access, to motorized vehicles, according to a 1989 Resource Management Plan for the area.

That 11-year-old plan is out of date and doesn't reflect today's issues involving motorized use, Zachmon said.

Of the 11 BLM management areas in Colorado, seven have plans that are at least 10 years old, Zachmon said. The majority of plans across the nation also are out of date, he said.

"Off-highway vehicles are a growing popular use (in northwestern Colorado)," said David Bray, assistant manager at the Little Snake River Field Office, which manages this region.

He said the most popular area for recreational motorized use on BLM land is in Moffat County at the Sandwash Basin, west of Craig.

A large amount of BLM land in Routt County is used for hunting, which means all-terrain vehicles are commonplace.

Don Markley, of Steamboat Lake Outfitter uses BLM land at the top of Sleeping Giant mountain for hunting. Though horses are his usual means of transportation, sometimes Markley's client use ATVs. However, he said he makes a point to keep the ATVs on trails and roads.

"There are some places on BLM land where people travel without roads," Markley said. He believes and Zachmon confirmed that is one point of contention behind the push for a BLM motorized-use plan. If off-highway vehicle use is restricted, it primarily will limit motorized vehicles to trails and roads.

"Out biggest concern is that people still have access," Zachmon said.

Better guidelines that reflect public interest in the land will help field managers make decisions about implementing restrictions, Zachmon said. It also would give some nationwide consistency in managing BLM land, he said.

Officials want to hear comments about recreational uses of the land, cross country travel, game retrieval and any other use of the land that is affected or involves off-highway vehicles.

Off-highway vehicles include four-wheel drive vehicles, ATVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles.

"We want to know what type of things would people like to see us provide for direction," Zachmon said.

The new guidelines are expected to be ready by Nov. 30.

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