We have been watching proposed changes for dispersed camping in Chaffee and Lake Counties in Colorado for the past year. This is an ongoing effort by the U.S. Forest Service as well as the BLM to implement restrictive camping and travel management within these districts. USFS has released its Notice of Proposed Action (NOPA) for vehicle based camping in the Leadville and Salida ranger districts. Vehicle based dispersed camping (VBDC) will only be allowed along a fraction of designated routes.
According to the released NOPA, “In recent years, visitation to the PSICC has increased and so has the demand for access to dispersed recreation and camping opportunities.” Yet through this process USFS will be limiting even more the areas in which users can experience car camping. Other forests in Colorado, “have implemented strategies to manage VBDC, which include allowing dispersed camping in designated sites only and closing or adopting motorized routes through travel management planning. BlueRibbon consistently argues that closure is not management. An increased desire by the public to experience their public land is being met with road closures and restrictions. Many roads exist on public lands because they provide access to dispersed camping. By closing these routes to dispersed camping opportunities it opens the door for the roads to be closed all together, which is the goal for many organizations who want to see less motorized use on public lands.
As you can see from the maps below, the areas in which you will be allowed to camp out of your vehicle or “overland” will be restricted. This will lead to overcrowding and oftentimes no areas for you to camp in these ranger districts. Public land should benefit as many users as possible. With the proposed designated areas, dispersed camping in Colorado will start to become a rare opportunity in order to experience public lands.
The yellow routes are where designated campsites will occur, however these are the areas of high recreational value. The routes that are not being restricted are often not sought after camping areas or are near impossible to camp in in the first place. The USFS is restricting the areas that are desired. Another point of concern are the “triggers” written into the plan. The areas that aren’t currently being restricted will have trigger metrics that will allow the agency to implement restrictions and closures in the future. Under these triggers, a few irresponsible users could forever restrict the thousands of responsible users. This is a bad management strategy that arbitrarily hardwires in possible long term closures.
Add your voice to ours and let land agencies know that dispersed camping should stay a dispersed and readily available opportunity in Colorado.
BRC supports additional system routes that would allow for continued and growing use of the forest lands for dispersed camping. Instead of closing and rehabilitating routes, USFS should be adopting these roads into the system to provide adequate opportunities to meet the growing need for routes and recreation in the area. Closing sites also would be counterproductive, and the agency should only be looking to add additional facilities, infrastructure and resources to the public.