Archived Oct. 2, 2015
Santa Fe Forest grants CDTS appeal on Mesa del Camino PUDs
The Santa Fe National Forest has completed nearly all parts of a large segment of the CDT north from the San Pedro Parks Wilderness to the Rio Chama (near Ghost Ranch). This work has resulted in a greatly improved hiking experience.
The Forest is now planning to construct the final few miles. Its plans, sent to us for review last September, would remove the Trail from the existing location along Forest Road 468. In so doing, however, hikers would need to descend far below the road and then regain about 400 feet of elevation – a pointless up-and-down in our opinion.
Based upon our study of the topography, we advised the Coyote Ranger District to take a look at two alternatives – (1) to include the proposed descent but continue close to contour to intersect the existing trail down to Ojitos Canyon, and (2) to start out with the proposed alignment but then contour to the Ojitos Canyon Trail near its junction with FR 468 (off the road but crossing it twice).
When the District Ranger issued a decision to follow its announced plan, we filed an appeal, which has now been granted by the Forest Supervisor on the following grounds:
· The Decision Memo and project record do not provide sufficient documentation to determine that the proposed trail location will maximize outdoor recreation potential and take into account the associated resources of the national scenic trail corridor as required by the National Trails System Act.
· The Decision Memo and project record fail to provide adequate rationale [under NEPA] for not considering the appellant’s proposed trail realignment.
· The Decision Memo and project record did not fully assess the possible effects to extraordinary circumstances [so as to justify the use of a categorical exclusion instead of an environmental assessment, under 36 CFR 220.6].
See the CDTS appeal for a full statement of our concerns and the grounds for our challenge.
CDTS and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest settle mountain bike dispute on new trail east of Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness
The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, after years of study, selected an attractive non-roaded route to connect the CDT between the Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area and the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness in Montana. An alternative that would have included a crossing of the Continental Divide was ruled out because of the rugged topography. While we concur with this routing decision, we appealed the approval of mountain bike use as part of the plan; this use in the high unspoiled landscape, we contended, would "substantially interfere" with the nature and purposes of the Trail (a simple facility for the hiker and horseman). We were particularly concerned here because of the prospect that the CDT, which would descend about 1000 feet in less than 10 miles, might become an attractive recreational trail, with motorized access at both ends, for cyclists to enjoy.
While the appeal was pending, the Society and the Forest resolved the matter informally. Under the agreement, the Forest recognizes that mountain bike use may substantially interfere with the enjoyment of the CDT and undertakes a monitoring program designed to assure that, as it anticipates, such wheeled travel will not exceed ten percent of total use of the trail. The Forest also prepared an analysis to support their expectation that bike use will be insubstantial, taking into account the availability of other trails in the area, the low population density, and the difficulty of access to this new segment. We are optimistic that bike use will be insubstantial and that the Forest would impose restrictions if this does not prove to be the case.
Although the new route is at high elevations, it lies on the flank of the Divide, with limited views of the Anaconda-Pintler's peaks. We took this into account, along with the possibility that our appeal might have been denied, in arriving at the settlement. Both the Society and the Forest were desirous of having the project move forward without delay and acted diligently to arrive at this resolution.
Archived Nov. 7, 2013
Miner-Berry-Goldstone relocation (on Idaho border) has been completed.
Construction has been completed on the portion of the CDT between Miner Creek and Goldstone Pass (Guide to the CDT: Southern Montana and Idaho, Part 2. Big Hole Segment, Section 4). The improved route traverses some high country and moves the trail off well-traveled roads. A map of the new alignment appears on page 4 of the 2011 decision notice.
Rawlins wind farm approved -- what next?
As reported in the October 2011 DIVIDEnds, CDTS submitted critical comments on BLM's proposal to authorize about 1000 hundred-meter tall wind turbine generators on the bluffs south of Rawlins, Wyoming. We argued that the ensuing loss of scenic values would be inconsistent with the nature and purposes of the Continental Divide Trail -- which are "to provide for high quality scenic, primitive hiking and horseback riding opportunities and to conserve natural, historic, and cultural resources." We identified relocation options that would greatly reduce the visibility of the wind farm from the Trail.
BLM issued a decision that confirms its original proposal and makes no accommodation for the values of the CDT.
We formally protested this decision on several grounds, including its nonrecognition of the nature and purposes of the Trail and its failure to consider the reasonable alternatives we had identified that would lessen the environmental impacts.
We have posted the Discussion section of our July 26 protest letter. Read it here.
Update: On August 7, the White House released a statement prioritizing seven pending wind energy projects, including this [Chokecherry-Sierra Madre] one, which it characterizes as "the largest proposed wind farm in North America."
The statement reads, in part:
"WASHINGTON, DC – Today, as a part of his We Can’t Wait initiative, President Obama announced that seven nationally and regionally significant solar and wind energy projects will be expedited, including projects in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming. Together, these job-creating infrastructure projects would produce nearly 5,000 megawatts (MW) of clean energy – enough to power approximately 1.5 million homes, and support the President’s all-of-the-above strategy to expand American made energy."
Update 2: A new issuance by BLM (Manual 6280) sets out policies and procedures for the management of national scenic and historic trails. It provides direction that strongly supports our objections to the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre(CCSM) project as currently proposed. We asked BLM to apply this issuance in its review of our protest.
Update 3: In an unusual action, the Secretary of the Interior personally authorized the CCSM project on public lands south of Rawlins. The decision refuses to balance BLM's energy priorities with the values of a national scenic trail and ignores -- does not even mention -- its own Manual policies. CDTS had identified relocations that would have moved several miles out of the CCSM viewshed, but the decision fails to deal in any way with our proposals.
We are looking into steps that might still improve the situation. We understand that BLM will need to issue a more detailed environmental assessment describing the project specifications in greater detail, an action that might allow us to revive our concerns and recommendations.
Archived Nov. 30, 2012
BLM considering relocation near Cuba
The Santa Fe National Forest and BLM's Rio Puerco Field Office are considering relocation of the Trail north and south of Cuba.
The northern portion assumes that the Forest Service will move the route east for a few miles more in the San Pedro Parks Wilderness, thereby avoiding the road walk past the Circle A Ranch to Cuba. If this were to be done, then the relocated route would pass a couple of miles east of downtown.
The southern portion covers Cuba to Jones Canyon Spring. The prospective relocation would not be exciting, but it would move hikers off the highway out of town. The negative, though, is that hikers would miss Mesa Portales and lose some nice scenery as well as the venturesome climb or descent of the Mesa Portales cliff.
Getting off the highway is definitely a plus; we think it might be possible to adopt this part of the plan while still preserving the Mesa Portales section. There also needs to be a decent way to take a side route (a couple of miles each way) to get into Cuba for resupply.
Proposed management plan for BLM Rio Puerco area needs to be improved
BLM has also circulated a draft environmental impact statement and management plan for the Rio Puerco Field Office. For more information, view the BLM documents online. The proposals should be modified to provide greater protection for the scenic qualities of the CDNST. Click here to read the comments submitted by CDTS.
New Great Divide Basin water sources
BLM continues to do a good job improving access to water in the Great Divide Basin. Our thanks to Jared Oakleaf in the Lander Field Office for updating us on two new developments.
The first project is a spring close to Haypress Creek -- long a problem because of contamination by livestock. The coordinates are 42 23.103 N, 108 0.330 W. [Wyoming Supplement, Green Mountains Segment, Section 1, mile 12.7] Follow this guidance:
- Do not take the shortcut. Instead, climb to a junction at 12.9. Obtain water from a developed spring to the southeast. Then make a sharp left turn at the junction and rejoin the supplement route.
The second project is in the gully of the West Fork of Crooks Creek (Green Mountains Section 1, mile 23.4), coordinates 42 20.044 N, 107 52.254 W. A new spring is located to the east of the road here.
BLM reportedly has also erected a fence to protect the water source in the third creek on Crooks Mountain (Green Mountains 1:16.7).
Archived Oct. 23, 2012
For the past ten years or so, volunteer activities spearheaded by the Continental Divide Trail Alliance have helped in the construction and maintenance of many segments of the CDT. Since CDTA ceased its operations in 2011, other trails organizations have stepped in to fill this need.
To inquire about current volunteer opportunities, consult the organizations listed in the Volunteer link.
2012 Forest Fires [more information available at InciWeb]
Montana. Lightning initiated several fires south of Benchmark that have merged into a single area of about 20,000 acres. As a result, no hiking is permitted along the CDT (or guidebook alternates) between Benchmark and Straight Creek Pass. The fire perimeter includes the portion of the guidebook route south of the Elbow Creek junction (Scapegoat Wilderness Segment, Section 1, mile 7.1) to Straight Creek Pass (Scapegoat 2:3.8), some of which had burned in the 1988 fires. On the designated trail, an additional five miles, including Elbow Pass Trail No. 248, is within the perimeter. The only apparent alternate trail routes are quite circuitous (though there may be cross-country options outside of the closure area); the most direct way to go is along the Benchmark road to Petty-Ford Creek Trail No. 244, connecting with Trail No. 214 over Welcome Pass to the Dearborn River headwaters south of Straight Creek Pass.
Idaho. The Mustang Complex fire is burning west of U.S. 93, the highway through Lost Trail Pass. Although the CDT was not impacted directly, the Forest Service issued an order(Sept. 11) that closed the Trail from Lost Trail Pass to the head of Fourth-of-July Creek (Big Hole Segment, Sections 1 and 2). This closure order was lifted on Sept. 17 and normal travel is allowed once again.
Wyoming. The active North Buffalo fire started on August 24, about nine miles south of Two Ocean Pass (i.e., at Teton Wilderness Segment, Supplement Section 4, mile 9.0), which is just north of the junction with the Soda Fork trail. Although very little of the CDT has burned to date (August 30), travel is closed along the North Buffalo Fork and the Soda Fork. (The Nowlin fire in 2011 also burned a short stretch of the Trail on the Soda Fork route, roughly a mile south of the Nowlin Meadow patrol cabin.) A suggested alternate is from Fox Park (near the Yellowstone Park boundary) to Turpin Meadow by way of Enos Lake. From there, you should be able to rejoin the guidebook route at the South Fork Trail junction (Guidebook: Teton Section 4, mile 14.6). The fire perimeter so far encompasses about 25,000 acres, generally east of the North Buffalo Fork and north of Soda Fork. Further expansion may result in additional closures.
New Mexico. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire, started by lightning on May 16, eventually spread to almost 300,000 acres before being contained. The most severe burning was well west of the CDT and little, if any, direct fire damage will be encountered along the Trail (guidebook route or alternates). However, sediment from upstream burned areas has been deposited on the streambed, making for crossings of black, sticky mud.