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Mountain bikers protest BLM plan for Delta area

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Photo submitted Members of the Delta Area Mountain Bikers are enlisting support from outdoor lovers to protect an area west of Delta for use by ATV riders, motorcyclists, horseback riders and other users.

The Bureau of Land Management's plan for a small area just west of Delta has initiated a formal protest by COPMOBA, the parent organization of the Delta County group, DAMB, Delta Area Mountain Bikers. The protest is based, in part, on BLM's proposed designation of the area north of the Escalante Rim Road.

BLM's own local advisory council had recommended, back in April 2014, that the area be designated as an SRMA, a Special Recreation Management Area. Instead, BLM chose to designate the area as an ERMA, an Extensive Recreation Management Area.

The differences between the two designations are subtle, but the SRMA designation requires BLM to manage the area "to protect and enhance a targeted set of activities, experiences, benefits and desired recreation setting characteristics," according to the BLM definitions.

"We would like to see this small, unique and picturesque area managed to protect its use by ATV users, motorcyclists, and horseback riders, as well as for other users such as hikers, runners and mountain bikers," stated Jason Love, president of DAMB. "While as mountain bikers we would of course like to see the development of new, separate, non-motorized single track trails, we are also advocating for the area's continued recreational use by motorized users. As we envision it for the future, we would like to see a single staging area, where motorized users can unload their equipment, equestrian users can pull through with their trailers, and bike riders or hikers can park their vehicles. The staging area could lead to a separate area for non-motorized single track users, while providing access to motorized OHV trails on both the Escalante Rim and the rest of Lower Sawmill Mesa. Hopefully, a graveled parking area, informational and educational kiosks and restrooms could eventually be provided."

"As a group, we recognize that the agricultural heritage and the wildlife considerations of the area must be respected. We understand that there will be rules, including possible seasonal closings or limited use during grazing periods. However, a well-managed area would benefit these considerations by concentrating recreational impact to designated areas."

According to Tim Gallegos, who is working on the project for DAMB, an SRMA designation would help leverage private grant money and other governmental funding sources. An example of this is the Flat Tops/Peach Valley OHV area east of Olathe, with its recent extensive improvements, which were paid for largely by grants. Outside funding sources are recognized as necessary because of our depressed local economy.

A secondary consideration, according to Gallegos, is that an SRMA would help bolster recreational tourism and the economic benefits associated with visitors to the area.

Delta is already the location of the state's largest open OHV use area (in North Delta), and is in the center of other renowned OHV use areas, such as the Uncompahgre Plateau and the Flat Tops/Peach Valley area, according to Gallegos, who favors continued and responsible OHV use in the Escalante Rim area, and is himself both a motorized and non-motorized trail user. "We would like to see some effort made by BLM to protect and enhance our recreational use of this unique area, while they do their work of conserving the landscape."

DAMB is asking that individuals, groups and entities that support the SRMA designation inform the Grand Junction BLM office of their position on this issue.

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