DENVER-Multiple use trail users praised a federal court
decision rejecting an effort by anti-access preservationists to close 14
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
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."