Shoshone Non-motorized Trail System Planning
Shoshone Mountain Bike Route Designation – Scoping Notice
The comment period has ended. Thanks to everyone who submitted a comment. With the extension of the comment period that Wyoming Pathways was able to obtain, we were able to facilitate a substantial number of comments on this important issue. Wyoming Pathways staff and board members mobilized to solicit written comments from Governor Matt Mead and the Park County Commissioners, among others. Our Executive Director Tim Young also submitted a written comment and our supporters stepped-up and submitted over 130 comments via the comment form on this page. Next steps will be for Wyoming Pathways and our community partners to follow up with the Forest to make sure that the improvements to the Route Designation suggested in the comments are implemented. We will continue to work with the Shoshone on these and other trail issues and will keep you posted on any new developments.
ATTENTION Mountain Bikers:
Shoshone National Forest
New Trails Proposed – But Also Trail Closures – YOUR COMMENTS NEEDED!
The Shoshone National Forest has released a Notice of Proposed Action for mountain bike trails, including some new trails but restricting mountain bikes on other trails. This proposed action will greatly impact your ability to ride a mountain bike in the forest.
Comments are due January 12, 2017. Please take a minute and help comment. Your voice early in the process will help the Shoshone National Forest improve the final plan and enhance public land trails for everyone.
Key parts of the proposal:
- The proposed action would designate approximately 35 miles of trails, spread over four Ranger Districts, which would be added to the official Shoshone trail system. Some of this is actual new trail, and some is adding existing non-system trails or old roads.
- However, the proposed action would also limit your riding to a smaller set of trails (system trails) than what you can ride today, because the Shoshone National Forest is proposing to restrict mountain bikes to system trails forest-wide and close all non-system trails to mountain biking.
Scoping Notice here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=50621&exp=overview and draft maps of existing trails.
What’s being proposed?
The Purpose and Need section states: “The primary purpose of this project is to explore mountain biking opportunities forest-wide and to designate a system of trails for mountain bike enthusiasts. Guidance in the Record of Decision for the revised Shoshone Land Management Plan (LMP) directs the SNF forest supervisor to look for alternative opportunities for the community of mountain bike users displaced as a result of new LMP direction.”
There are two distinct actions proposed. The first is adding 35 miles to the trail system, through a combination of building some miles of new trails, and adding some miles of existing non-system trails, old roads and two-tracks. The proposal includes 4-miles in Clarks Fork District, 2-miles in Greybull, 12.5-miles in Wind River, and 16.5 miles in the Washakie District.
The second action would restrict mountain bikes to only official “system trails”. People on mountain bikes would be restricted from using any non-system trails, even trails used for decades. Those non-system trails would not be closed to hikers or horse riders, just mountain bikers.
The reality is, many miles of historic well-used trails are simply not in the Forest trail system database, and if this action goes forward, the public will no longer be able to ride bikes on them.
How many miles of trails will we lose access to? It’s unknown – unfortunately, the Shoshone has done no analysis to determine this.
What public planning step are we at?
The Scoping step, which in NEPA (environmental planning) is when the agency has identified a problem or issue, and proposes some action to address it. Scoping is the first step in the process, “we’re thinking about doing this, to address this problem” In Scoping, the public is asked to comment simply on what is being studied, what is the “purpose and need”, in NEPA-terms.
Scoping is the time to comment if the Forest is asking the right questions, in the right way, so good alternatives are put forward, so they can make the right decision at the end. Basically, Scoping is our time to tell the Shoshone what they need to study.
- The proposed action should be revised before the Draft EA is released, and refocused on simply approving the proposed new system trails and studying any specific trail closures that are warranted.
- The Shoshone should drop the blanket trail closure action restricting bicycles to system trails; the non-system trail closure is unnecessary, restricts public access, and runs counter to the Forest Plan and commitments to enhance mountain biking opportunities.
- The purpose and need statement must be changed, and not limited to just designate a system of trails for people on mountain bikes. The purpose and need should instead explore the needs and opportunities of all nonmotorized trail users, including people mountain biking, hiking, running, and on horses, with a focus on front country areas close to forest communities, and to approve the first phase of trail system additions and improvements needed.
- Actions the Shoshone should study in this process are:
- To add the proposed 35 miles of new trails to the system.
- To drop the blanket non-system trail closure entirely.
- To add the following trails in addition:
- Washakie District. Add the existing Blue Ridge Trail in Sinks Canyon to the official trail system.
- Washakie District. Washakie District. If the Catalyst Trail is proposed to be closed, the Forest should make a commitment to replace it with a purpose-built quality downhill trail off the Loop Road..
- North Zone. Add existing 1.75-mile connector trail from the top of Beem Gulch Spur road to Elk Horn Trail #601 which then leads into Elk Creek Trail, the classic “Beem Gulch to Elks Fork” ride in Sunlight Basin. This was a system trail in the 2015 LMP.
- Wind River District. The Shoshone should make a commitment to future phases of trail planning to explore a loop MTB trail in the Brooks Lake/Falls Campground/Togwotee Pass/Continental Divide area, to mitigate the loss of the Dunoir trails.
- Forest wide: Identify any specific trails which should be closed to mountain bikes, due to problems that can’t be mitigated, and provide information on why these trails should be closed.
- This EA should be viewed as phase one of a multi-step process. Many additional trails have been identified by user groups, which were not included in this initial EA. Some are existing non-system trails, and some are new trails needed to create loops and improve the overall trail system and visitor experience. The Shoshone needs to lay out an ongoing process of trail planning, mapping, data gathering, and partnership development with the Cody, Lander, Dubois, and Jackson communities and mountain bike groups.
- Fortunately, Congress just passed the National Forest Trail Stewardship Act, which improves the ability of volunteers to do forest trail work and encourages collaborative stewardship and partnerships with forest communities, like Lander, Dubois, Cody, Jackson. The Act also requires the Forest Service to identify “priority areas” to incorporate an increased role by partners – the Shoshone should seek to be a demonstration Forest for the Trails Act, which was sponsored by US Senator Mike Enzi and Rep. Cynthia Lummis.
- If the mountain bike non-system trail restrictions remain, the scope of the project will have to greatly expand to include a thorough analysis of all the trails that will be closed to mountain bikes and the lost number of miles of trail. An analysis of what this means to local communities and visitors of the Shoshone would need to be done.
Comments are due by Thursday January 12, 2017, to:
Shoshone National Forest All Units
808 Meadow Lane Avenue, Cody, WY, 82414
When the final Shoshone Forest Plan was released in 2015, the Forest Service closed the Dunoir Special Management Area to mountain biking, but promised enhanced mountain biking trails would be initiated to mitigate the loss of access.
This proposed Scoping action falls short of addressing that commitment. While the new trails are welcome, it also calls for forest-wide trail closures, a net loss for forest visitors.
Wyoming Pathways supports the new trails, but opposes the wholesale trail closure as excessive and unnecessary. Our position is:
- The Shoshone Forest Plan directs the Forest Supervisor to look for new opportunities to enhance MTB trails in the forest, in part to address trails that were closed in the Dunoir Special Management Area, and in part because mountain biking is an accepted recreational use that should be enhanced.
The Forest Plan specifically includes a goal to enhance mountain bike trails, and states “New non-motorized trail opportunities focus on providing experiences that are under-represented, such as mountain biking.”
- The Shoshone Trail Scoping proposal fall short of the Forest Plan goal. The proposed action effectively calls for wholesale trail closures, which even combined with the new trails proposed, equals a net loss.
- Information is lacking – the Shoshone does not have any idea of what trails would be closed, nor does the public, as no maps of trails to be closed are available.
- To address this, the EA needs to be revised to limit the proposed action to simply adding the new trails proposed, and the FS should commit to continue to study additional trails identified by user groups for future phases of trails needed.
- Trail closures can certainly be proposed, but should be limited to specific trails where the Shoshone National Forest has identified problems unique to bicycle use, which can’t be mitigated other ways.
- A blanket closure of all non-system trails to bicycle use, some which have been in use successfully for decades, restricts public access unnecessarily and runs counter to the new Forest Plan.
If you ride non-system trails, please let your local area person know so we can gather information to help the Forest Service.
Cody, Park County Pedalers – John Gallagher
Lander, Lander Cycling Club – Tony Ferlisi
Dubois, DART – Tever Deakins
Jackson, MTB the Tetons – Amanda Carey
Project Legal Notice:
Project Notice of Proposed Action:
Project Draft Trail Maps (posted 12/19/2016):
The comment period has ended. Thanks to everyone who submitted a comment. We will stay in touch with the Shoshone and will let you know when we have more information. Please check back regularly.
This form will allow you to submit your comment to the Shoshone National Forest representative, Olga Troxel, via email. Please be sure to include your name, address, and (if possible) telephone number; title of the document on which you are commenting; and specific facts or comments along with supporting reasons that you believe the Responsible Official should consider in reaching a decision.
As mentioned in a Forest Service document: “Comments that provide relevant and new information with sufficient detail and rationale are the most useful, and are referred to as specific written comments. The Forest Service reads and considers all comments and identifies the key issues for consideration to help shape the project alternatives.”
We have provided a comprehensive comment that can be submitted as-is, but we encourage you to write your comment in your own words. It is important to add your unique voice to the discussion. The comment area is limited to 4,000 characters, so you may need to do some creative editing.