Chaffee County offers a wonderful diversity of outdoor recreation opportunities. And it is true that many more people have “discovered” this place and are now coming here to enjoy it. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, it does come with problems.

The reality is that some recreation activities are inherently incompatible with each other, and our local wildlife populations are known to be detrimentally affected by many of the activities we humans like to do in their habitats.

The basic law of supply and demand applies here. Whereas the demand for recreation assets in the county is ever-increasing, the supply of public lands, and wildlife habitat, is fixed and not expandable.

For over two years, the Chaffee County Recreation Council has been addressing those challenges head-on. Its purpose is, and has always been, to use find local, collaborative solutions to the problems generated by increasing numbers of recreational users including their impacts on wildlife.

One part of that has been the use of state-of-the-art wildlife habitat data collection and spatial modeling techniques to identify the most critical areas where intrusive human activity should be minimized.

Unfortunately, this scientifically valid critical habitat map is seen as a threat by certain motorized recreation groups. Their vision for the county seems to be unrestrained expansion of trails, vehicles, and disturbance.

There is nothing inherently wrong with motorized recreation activities. It’s fun, I get it. But there is no denying that ATV, OHV, UTV, etc, along with all the support vehicles they require, have an impact on the areas where they are used in terms of noise, dust, and trampled ground.

There are a number of local areas that are now de-facto motorized use meccas such as Four Mile, St Elmo, Mt Antero, and others.

There is room in Chaffee County for all to enjoy in their own ways, while also allowing our wildlife populations to at least survive, if not flourish. And that is exactly what the new Chaffee County outdoor recreation plan is designed to accommodate.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, as well as our county Commissioners, deserve thanks for finding and supporting this community-based, common sense, scientifically-driven plan.

It is wrong for one particular group (motorized users in this case) to have been invited but declined to participate, and then attack the resulting collaborative plan by using an external hired-gun to falsely accuse the methodology of being biased and flawed.

There is room in the county for motorized recreation, and there are already many good places to do that. But there are many other places where that type of activity is inappropriate and unwelcome.

Complaining about and falsely attacking a collaborative, community-driven plan that seeks to provide balanced opportunities for all is not helpful, and reflects poorly on those who initiate and support the attacks.

Brad Leach


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