Colorado Northwestern Community College held an informative meeting Tuesday focusing on gaining a better understanding of what residents deem important for federal lands use in Moffat County.
Four local speakers, each speaking about different recreational activities on area lands, explained why they feel their activities were important to the public and why access to public lands was important to them and their activities.
Rob Stickler, Timberline Trail Riders (dirtbike club) member, spoke about off highway vehicle use in Northwest Colorado. Stickler said the activity is becoming more popular as a family activity. He also said the off highway enthusiasts in Northwest Colorado were very fortunate.
"Right now, we have a tremendous trail system here," Stickler said.
Off highway vehicle enthusiasts are taking a bad rap for what is perceived to be damage to the environment on public lands, he said.
"People don't always see the good that we do," Stickler said. "Many riders volunteer their time to upkeep trails and improve the areas we ride in."
Family activity remained a constant theme as Mike Frazier, avid outdoor enthusiast, spoke about his experiences in goat/llama packing, hiking and Kayaking. His presentation had some incredible slides of local residents enjoying the area hot spots for outdoor recreation.
"I love the wilderness because I guess it restores the soul," Frazier said.
When asked what needs to be done with public lands in the future, Frazier struggled to come up with a solution.
"Multiple use is essential," he said. "The world doesn't revolve around me or anyone else. I love the wilderness. We have got to share and we have to work it out."
Joe Tonso, Northwest Colorado Snowmobile Club (NOWECOS) member, opened his presentation speaking about how the sport of snowmobileing has changed in the last 20 years. The sport has evolved into a family sport because of the improvements to machines and to area trail systems. Tonso wanted to stress how Northwest Colorado was home to some of the best snowmobileing in the west due to the work that (NOWECOS) has done with trail building and grooming.
"They are starting to come into this area because they know we've got the best snowmobileing in the west," Tonso said. "We know we've got the best trails and the best grooming system."
A responsibility that the members NOWECOS place on themselves is to take an active role in the community and in keeping public lands open to their style of recreation, Tonso said. The group actively lobbies locally, state-wide and nationally to get their voice heard when it comes to keeping snowmobiles on public lands.
"More and more of our public lands are becoming non-multiple use," Tonso said.
He explained how their group contributes a portion of their dues to groups that help them to "get a voice" politically.
Tonso said that the group also contributes to the local Make-A-Wish Foundation and helps to publicize safe riding to the public.
Joe Funkhauser, president of the Northwest Colorado Outfitter's Association, spoke about the challenges that people in the guiding and outfitting business have due to a changing attitude when it comes to public land use.
Funkhauser said the new hart beat rule that has taken effect in the White River National Forest is one example of land use limitations. The rule makes it unlawful to have more than 12 hart beats on any single trail per day in one group for outfitters. This includes horses, humans, dogs and llamas. Funkhauser said that it is causing real problems for those that outfit in that area.
"We have a lot of issues that are coming down on us," he said. "They really want us out of public lands."
Funkhauser explained how outfitting wasn't just for the fall any more, horse back riding, fishing and children's camps make it a year-round business. Funkhauser said that outfitters are put under a microscope when it comes to their impacts on public lands and the way that outfitters conduct their business and the way the must treat the land to survive in the business.
"If we don't respect the land, we aren't going to have a permit for the next year," Funkhauser said.
The recreation land use meeting was the final meeting in a series of land use seminars sponsored by CNCC. The seminars were initiated to inform the public about wildlife, mining, agricultural and recreation land use issues in Northwest Colorado.