LARAMIE — The U.S. Forest Service is proposing closing over 200 miles of unclassified roads in the Medicine Bow National Forest, while designating other trails for motorcycle and ATV use and adding other trails.
"It's a viable use of the National Forest. We hope this is a win-win, by closing roads and converting them to motorized trails," District Ranger Clint Kyhl said. "You have a wide array of users from totally nonmotorized to completely motorized. We need to find some middle ground with the least impact on the environment that we can."
The Forest Service's travel management plan, as well as plans for a timber sale and improvements to the Snowy Range Ski Area, were addressed by the public in an open house on Thursday.
Of individuals who attended, the majority expressed interest in the travel management plan.
"These roads are used by a lot of people — hunters, motorcyclists, ATVers — and we're not proposing taking that away," wildlife biologist Steve Kozlowski said.
The Forest Service is proposing to eliminate many of the unmanaged trails that have been developed by users over years of use and consolidate some roads into both single-track motorcycle trails as well as ATV trails.
The trails that the forest service is adding are generally to create loops instead of the dead ends that encourage people to go off-trail or to make new trails.
"I'm glad they're taking a look at it and hopefully they'll implement this trail system so we have enough to ride legally," motorcyclist Dennis Keyser said. "If we're given trails to use, we'll use them. Right now, people go wherever whenever, but if people had official trails they'd use them."
But not everyone favored more trails for motorized use.
Josh Tatman expressed concerns that adding trails for motorized use is destructive to wildlife and hinders hikers and mountain bikers' ability to enjoy the public lands.
"With every trail and every road, you are chopping up forest as far as habitat for wildlife," Tatman said. "It's great that the forest service is going to close some of these vehicle trails."
The Forest Service is accepting comment on its proposal until April 11.
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