Irresponsible ATV owners destroying backcountry

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To the Editor:

I am a lifelong resident of Moffat County, my family has deep roots in Craig and Moffat County, and I myself have tread either on foot or horseback over almost every mile of this gorgeous country. My wife and I still look forward every year to exploring our favorite places with our horses, but I am deeply worried about the future of the land that I know so well and care about very much.

Over the years I have seen the increasing damage that off-road vehicles do on our public lands in Moffat and Routt counties; trails which were once just a few feet wide through the countryside are now enormous, eroding scars on the scenery. Not to mention the pollution, noise and annoyance to wildlife and pack animals that irresponsible ATV users bring along with their machines. There are plenty of places to ride these machines without tearing into the backcountry.

I am more and more worried over the years that our public lands, which belong to all Americans, are being unjustly closed off from us. Private land owners have more than once accused me of trespassing on their property when I was actually enjoying my rights to my public lands. More significantly, I am disturbed by Moffat County commissioners' proposed "NW Colorado Working Landscape Trust" that would turn over management of our public, national lands to a group of seven folks hand-picked by the commissioners and the governor. I know that the BLM's way of doing things is not always perfect, but I also don't want to see a few people with their own motivations deciding how to manage our federal lands here in Moffat County. This idea would shut out a lot of the public's right to be involved in public lands.

I am also disappointed that Moffat County commissioners have not taken a more balanced approach to issues such as wilderness designation. Wilderness is proposed for some amazing places here in Moffat County like Cross Mountain and the Cold Spring Mountain area. I love visiting these places, and want to see them protected for my grandchildren to visit well into the future. We shouldn't have a knee-jerk reaction against protecting our own backyard from ATV abuse and other damaging uses of public lands. Wilderness keeps lands the way they are now, and that's the reason we live here.

I hope these are issues that will be addressed by folks running for the Moffat County Commission this November. I know that many other people in Moffat County feel the way I do that we need to protect our federal lands as soon as possible and that we need not be frightened by the prospect of wilderness designation, but we should look at wilderness proposals as the best way to keep our lands in Moffat County the way they are now.

Leroy Lawton

Craig, Colo.

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