As a 70-year-old resident of Wisconsin, I have enjoyed hunting in the pristine Gunnison National Forest the last six years. On Sept. 10 this year, while walking the Powderhouse Gulch Road, I was met by a Forest Service worker on an ATV.
He informed me the Forest Service was in the process of closing the road and that he was making a final run through to make sure no vehicles were on the road. After taking a mid-day break, I returned and in disbelief and dismay found a large portion of the old roadbed torn up and further down the road found numerous large old trees felled across the road.
The following morning I visited the U.S. Forest Service office in Gunnison seeking the mission statement on road and trail closures. I wanted to understand the rationale behind cutting down 80-year-old trees and using a backhoe to rip up 100-foot sections of a road that probably dates back to the 1800s. I expressed my concerns over the scarred environment to a Forest Service representative in the Gunnison office. He proceeded to ostracize me for presenting my viewpoints and further stated that I had no training in this area. In addition the representative pronounced that the reason I was upset was because the torn up roadbed and downed trees were a personal inconvenience to me! At that point I ended our discussion.
After reviewing the Final Environmental Impact Statement books I received for the Gunnison Basin federal lands travel management, I contacted a Forest Service representative in the Delta office. The Delta office representative was informative, helpful and understanding. I had found no prescribed method for the road and trail closures in the books and the Delta office representative confirmed closure methods were not addressed, and that Forest Service personnel in the regional offices had jurisdiction over method and aggressiveness of physical closures. He also indicated there might be a corollary between the aggressiveness of the closure method and the public feeling over a trail closure. I also questioned why snowmobiles were not addressed on any of the road closure signs already in place and was informed they were not part of this Gunnison Basin federal lands travel management study.
It is my understanding the Powderhouse Gulch Road has been reopened because of road ownership issues. As a taxpayer, I have watched my tax dollars spent on what turned out to be an improper and excessive physical closure that within a short period of time required undoing at further expense. Perhaps proper "training" in matters of property ownership needs to be addressed by the USFS.
The destruction of historic roads and trails and cutting of old trees is a painful sight and in my opinion unnecessary. I have seen in my lifetime many forest roads successfully closed with simply a locked gate and a sign. I respectfully suggest the Forest Service consider this less scarring method of closure where it is justifiably decided that an old road or trail, which has seen many travelers for many years, must be closed.
William W. Wunrow
Green Bay, Wis.