It's the end of an era for local off-road motorcyclists.
The U.S. Forest Service will close Captain Jack's trail and other trails in the Bear Creek watershed to motorized vehicles on Monday. The closure comes on judicial order after an environmental group sued. Connecting trails owned by Colorado Springs Utilities will also close.
From the Forest Service:
U.S. FOREST SERVICE TO IMPLEMENT TEMPORARY TRAIL CLOSURE IN BEAR CREEK WATERSHED MONDAY
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Dec. 7, 2012 — The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Pike National Forest — Pikes Peak Ranger District is temporarily prohibiting motorized vehicles on USFS trails within the Bear Creek Watershed in El Paso County. The Order will go into effect on Monday, December 10 and remain closed until the conditions of the Settlement Agreement are met.
The following National Forest System Trails (NFST) are restricted:
• NFST 665 in its entirety
• NFST 667 from its junction with High Drive to its junction with NFST 701
• NFST 668 in its entirety
• NFST 701 in its entirety
• NFST 720 from its junction with NFST 701 to its junction with NFST 668
The Order is issued according to the terms of a Stipulated Settlement Agreement between the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the USFS entered in U.S. District Court. The CBD filed a lawsuit on September 17, 2012 citing violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) related to authorization of existing Off Road Vehicle (OHV) trails within the Bear Creek Watershed.
The public may continue to enjoy access to the area through the non-motorized trails which remain open. In addition, miles of motorized trails are available for recreational use throughout the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands (PSICC).
For further information call the Pikes Peak Ranger District office at 719-636-1602, or access the PSICC webpage at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/psicc/. Navigate to “Alerts and Warnings” to read Order 12-21 and view a map of the closure area: http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/psicc/alerts-notices/?aid=15778
Violators of this prohibition are punishable as a class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations or by imprisonment of not more than (6) months or both.
Motorized vehicle access to Jones Park trails closed after USFS legal settlement
Dec. 7, 2012 — In response to U.S. Forest Service trail closures resulting from a recent legal settlement between the U.S. Forest Service and the Center for Biological Diversity, Colorado Springs Utilities is closing motorized access to connecting trails on land owned by the City of Colorado Springs and managed by Colorado Springs Utilities. Specifically, motorized access to all trails that occur in the Bear Creek watershed in an area known as Jones Park, including trails 622, 622A, 667, 668, 701, 720 and 720A. See map for trail locations, will be prohibited.
“Because of the location of Jones Park trails, the action taken by the U.S. Forest Service effectively closes motorized access to Jones Park as well,” said Kirsta Scherff-Norris, Wildlife Biologist for Colorado Springs Utilities. “We believe the responsible course of action is to temporarily suspend motorized access to ensure that we do not inadvertently encourage continued use.”
The temporary closure begins Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The area will remain closed until an assessment of the watershed is completed and any associated land management changes are determined. The process is being led by the U.S. Forest Service and in collaboration with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, and Colorado Springs Utilities. The assessment is scheduled for completion in early 2013.
The public is invited to participate in the assessment process to determine the best long-term sustainable management of the watershed.
For details about USFS actions and planned public involvement, please contact Oscar Martinez, Ecosystem Staff Officer, at 719-553-1400.
——- ORIGINAL POST, Nov. 28, 7:42 A.M. ——-
In today's paper, we report that trails in the Bear Creek watershed, including the popular Captain Jack’s trail, will soon close to motorcycles and off-road vehicles.
The move is a result of a legal settlement between the U.S. Forest Service, which owns much of the area’s land, and the Center for Biological Diversity. The latter believes that closure is necessary to protect Bear Creek as a habitat for the threatened greenback cutthroat trout.
Of all those affected by the ban, Ned Suesse, trail coordinator for the Colorado Motorcycle Trail Riders Association, is among those who fought hardest to keep the Bear Creek trails open. Reached by e-mail, he sent the following reply:
I'm out of the country and mostly offline, but I have kept up with the general state of things. The settlement is not yet final, but in my opinion, it continues a long line of faulty reasoning. However, I am somewhat optimistic that it will open the door to a proper study of the watershed that can conclude with a responsible decision.
The facts show that the large majority of sedimentation from a trail owes to the existence of the trail, not its use. So, if the trail is unsustainable for motorized use, it is most likely also unsustainable for non-motorized use- anyone who has been in the watershed during a rainstorm can see how that works. So, closing the trail to motorized use does not represent a solution to sedimentation in the stream, and this settlement does not represent a solution for the trout.
The Center's press release on the settlement is below:
Agreement Will Protect Colorado's Rare Greenback Cutthroat Trout
Motorcycles to Be Prohibited Along Only Creek Inhabited by State Fish
DENVER— The Center for Biological Diversity and the Pike and San Isabel National Forest signed a settlement agreement today that will help protect the only creek in the world inhabited by rare greenback cutthroat trout, Colorado’s state fish. The agreement prohibits motorcycles and off-road vehicles from trails along Bear Creek, just outside of Colorado Springs, and resolves a lawsuit filed by the Center in September.
“We’re so glad the Forest Service agreed to do the right thing and protect the only place in the world where greenback cutthroat trout still live in the wild,” said Tim Ream, a Center attorney. “This endangered fish has been hanging on by a thread for decades. The last thing it needs is motorcycles tearing through its only home and filling the creek with sediment.”
Greenback cutthroat trout have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1978. A DNA study earlier this year determined that Bear Creek hosted the last pure and wild population of the fish. For years, though, off-road vehicles have been severely eroding Bear Creek Canyon’s steep slopes. The runoff harms water quality and is filling in deep pools that the fish use to hide from predators and survive winters and droughts.
Under the terms of the agreement filed in federal court today in Denver, the Forest Service is required to prohibit off-road vehicles on nearly all of the five trails that run through the Bear Creek watershed. Before any part of those closed trails can be reopened, the Forest Service will have to consult, as required by the Endangered Species Act, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that trail use would not harm the threatened fish.
“I am so happy that greenback cutthroat trout are finally getting the respect they deserve,” said Jack Hunter, a longtime Colorado Springs resident and advocate for greenback. “This was a known problem for the trout for years, but thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity, Bear Creek is finally getting real protection.”
The Forest Service also plans to complete a comprehensive assessment of the watershed that could result in additional changes to protect the fragile stream. While the settlement agreement does not include the Colorado Springs Utility, closure of the Forest Service trails in Bear Creek effectively closes all access by motorcycles to the Utility’s Jones Park land. Access by hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders is not affected by the agreement.
“This is a tremendous victory for the greenback cutthroat trout and the state of Colorado,” said Ream. “With today’s agreement, the state’s fish has a shot at survival.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.