Proposed 100-mile Moffat County trail race stops short with land usage concerns | CraigDailyPress.com

Proposed 100-mile Moffat County trail race stops short with land usage concerns

The Yampa River Trail spans some 100 miles across Moffat County.
Craig Press/courtesy photo

The bureaucracy in place to protect public lands could keep a new 100-mile trail race from coming to Moffat County for another two years.

In an email, Dinosaur100 Trail Race Series organizer Mike Mathisen said after more than a year of working with private land owners and the Bureau of Land Management to bring several different races to the Yampa River Trail, BLM recently dropped some bad news.

“After 14 months of working with the BLM and jumping through their hoops on getting a recreational special use permit to conduct a foot and bike race on the Yampa River Trail, they have informed me the earliest that they can possibly do a permit is 2020,” Mathisen said. “After getting a course route that met their demands, getting state and private land owners permissions on areas not even in the BLM control before they would approve the course; they have now stated there are culturally sensitive areas on this trail.”

Mathisen has several questions about BLM’s process.

“Did they not know about these areas before I started this process? The trail has been in existence for over 20 years. It is actively used by hunters, bikers and hikers,” Mathisen said. “Are they going to close these areas to hunters, bikers and hikers while they do the assessment? How long does the assessment take? Is it a public process?”

In an email from David Boyd, BLM’s Little Snake River field office spokesman said they won’t be sure culturally sensitive areas exist at all until they evaluate the area more.

“We don’t know whether there are specific concerns about cultural sites or other sensitive areas at this time,” Boyd said. “That’s part of the review process, which also includes how to minimize or avoid impacts. We use this review process to identify potential issues and minimize or avoid them. Part of our review process includes working with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).”

Boyd did not have an estimate on how long the assessment will take, but he did say the assessment will utilize public comment.

“The environmental assessment will be available for public review and comment,” Boyd said. “The length of time for the review varies based on the issues and complexity.”

While Mathisen admitted personnel at BLM support his race, it still might take almost two more years to secure the permits necessary.

“BLM continually shares with me that this race is something they want to do but they really drag the process out,” Mathisen said. “They have a tremendous amount of hurdles, and it can get very discouraging. It may be 18 to 20 months before a permit is given on the use of public land where there is already a trail.”

Boyd said BLM supports events like the Yampa Valley River Trail race, having recently approved the permit for Enduro Colorado’s motorcycle race at Sand Wash Basin.

“We support recreation events like this, but we need to ensure we have followed the laws and regulations, and taken a hard look at potential impacts, including how we can minimize or avoid them,” Boyd said.