Jim Lovelace – Outdoor Recreation Planner
Gunnison Field Office – Bureau of Land Management
210 West Spencer Avenue, Suite A
Gunnison, CO 81230
Thank you for the opportunity to comment upon the draft alternatives to the Signal Peak Trails Plan presented by Gunnison Trails. We have attended both ‘open houses’ in regards to this plan and are grateful for the transparent process you have created to better engage and inform the greater public of the scope and the steps involved in this process.
We are grateful that the proposed alternative addresses wildlife and winter habitat needs, and as a result the area will be better managed than as it currently stands. However, we feel that the proposed alternative leaves an incomplete recreation amenity in looking to the plan as a whole.
The Candidate Conservation Agreement recognized Signal Peak as an Urban Interface Recreation Area. Access, connectivity, experience, awareness, and sustainability are pillars of proper recreation amenities, and we feel the proposed alternative does not adequately address all of those needs. Gunnison Trails’ Proposed Action Plan addressed wildlife and resource concerns, but also the desires and the benefits of the recreation community. The absence of Lost Canyon, Sheep Gulch and the full North Woods Trail eliminates connectivity, as well as a larger backcountry loop experience. With increased residential access and opportunity on Lost Canyon Road, along with the proposed Gunnison to Crested Butte trail, eliminating access and connectivity with Lost Canyon Road via sustainable single-track routes discourages the use of the Signal Peak trail system for residents of these outlying communities. With the overall goal of placing recreational trail use in a confined setting to alleviate disturbance to other areas important for wildlife conservation, accessibility should be a key strategy in achieving these goals
The more wooded and aspen forest portions of the areas North of Signal Peak were included to provide diverse, remote experiences and to create a different and more unique trail amenity for the ‘urban interface’. Sustainable trail building techniques can responsibly cater to those specific areas. Eliminating Lost Canyon, Sheep Gulch, and the full North Woods Trails does not address the desire for more remote loop opportunities similar to the Aberdeen Trail at Hartman Rocks. The ‘sphere of influence’ of these trails will be significantly smaller than those closer to the ‘urban’ access of the trails closer to the City of Gunnison, and will therefore receive less resource and wildlife impacts. In addition, recreationists are also seeking diverse experiences in regards to ecosystems and landscapes, and nothing in an ‘urban interface’ trail system suggests these experiences would be out of place or inappropriate. CBMBA feels these three trails will be the greatest asset to the Signal Peak Recreation Area as a whole and we sincerely hope the BLM reconsiders including these trails, in some form or another, into the proposed plan.
CBMBA is in support of the camping restrictions proposed along with the closures proposed for the protection of the Gunnison Sage Grouse. We understand the BLM does not take full closures lightly, and we respect the reasoning and importance of the full closure. CBMBA would like to help support the BLM by helping to spread information and educate users about these specific closures and restrictions.
In regards to the mechanized seasonal closures, CBMBA is not in support of the hard closure period that reflects the shed antler season and restrictions. Informed, aware, and educated users are more likely to heed environmental concerns and more adaptive management measures than a blanket closure, which is not governed by seasonal conditions. In the last two years in Gunnison County, we’ve seen extreme snowfall along with minimal snowfall. A restriction in place during big snow years makes a lot of sense and the needs of the mule deer population are much inline with the responsible use that many informed recreationists would take to heart. However, in years such as the current one, where snowfall is minimal, the restrictions are excessive and prohibit use and access to public lands, while not serving any needs of the mule deer population.
Many of us here in Crested Butte see Signal Peak as Gunnison’s version of the Upper and Lower Loop and Lupine trail systems. These trails concentrate much of the use when trails higher in elevation are covered in snow, and they also provide residents and visitors with a quick lunchtime run or after work ride. Signal Peak has historically served the same purpose, providing an outlet for the residents of Gunnison to recreate when other areas are still inaccessible. While we understand the importance the area serves for wintering wildlife, there will be many years when mechanized use in the area would not only be appropriate prior to the May 1st opening, but should be encouraged to avoid use in other areas still under snow. CBMBA would like to see a more progressive and adaptive management approach to this ‘mechanized closure’, with an opportunity for education and wildlife awareness as a positive result of such measures.
CBMBA is committed to supporting Gunnison Trails in their proposed Action plan. We look forward to the next step in the process and a collaborative approach to realizing the best interests of the Signal Peak area.
The CBMBA Board of Directors
David Ochs – Executive Director