Recreation Enthusiasts Applaud Rico West Dolores Decisions

March 2013 Powersport News

DENVER-Multiple use trail users praised a federal court decision rejecting an effort by anti-access preservationists to close 14 southwestern Colorado trails to motorcycle use. The decision was issued Friday, March 22 by Chief U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger in a lawsuit brought in early 2012 by the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Colorado Chapter against the U.S. Forest Service.

The trails in dispute were prized single track like the Calico Trail which have been treasured routes for decades to a broad spectrum of users, including motorcycle riders. The trails are found in what is known as the Rico West Dolores area of the San Juan National Forest.

A number of other interests weighed in during the suit.  Supporting the agency as defendant-intervenors were the Telluride and Durango based Public Access Preservation Association and the San Juan Trail Riders, along with the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition, the Trails Preservation Alliance and the BlueRibbon Coalition ("Recreation Groups").
"We are pleased by not only the outcome but the court's solid legal analysis and common sense," stated Paul Turcke, counsel for the Recreation Groups.  "The court properly understood that the plaintiff here was aggressively trying to use a Forest Service decision eliminating cross-country motorized travel as a weapon to impose a narrow preservationist view on the much broader spectrum of users who enjoy these trails."

Others supported the plaintiff by filing "friend of the court" briefs, including San Juan Citizens Alliance and a group including the Town of Rico and Dunton Hot Springs, LLC, represented by the resort's lawyer. Dunton's filings complained about continuing motorcycle use while boasting of continuing recognition as a top 10 worldwide "wilderness" resort by authorities like Conde Nast.

The plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction in the early stages of the case, contending that irreparable harm would occur to wildlife and other resources in the vicinity of the trails.  Their motion asked the court to immediately close the trails upon snowmelt in early June 2012.  The Court was not persuaded by these claims and in a May 2012 telephonic hearing combined the preliminary injunction motion with the merits, directed the parties to fully brief the case, and ultimately rendered its decision without further argument.

"Perhaps this decision will allow trail users to work more closely together as an alternative to litigation," said Gary Wilkinson with the San Juan Trail Riders. "These trails have been enjoyed by motorized and non-motorized enthusiasts for decades, and hunting should not be the excuse to drive a wedge between Colorado's trail users. Both hunters and trail users need to unite against radical critics and work together for active and effective management."

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