Friday, January 4, 2008

BLM travel-plan meeting set for Wednesday

Topics to include wildlife overlay district, road closures and Rotarun West management zone

Express Staff Writer

A draft U.S. Bureau of Land Management plan being developed together with the Blaine County Commission would spell out how motorized and non-motorized recreationists?like these snowmobilers in Quigley Canyon east of Hailey?would be managed in the years to come. The County Commission will take public comment on the plan at a meeting next week. Photo by David N. Seelig

The public's next opportunity to comment on a draft travel plan to manage motorized and non-motorized recreation in the southern Wood River Valley will take place next week on Wednesday.

The meeting will be held in the upstairs meeting room at the Old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 9. It is a continuation of a series of public meetings the Blaine County Commission has held during the past few months with BLM staff from Shoshone.

Topics that will receive special emphasis during next week's meeting will include the county's wildlife overlay district, road closures and the plan's proposed Rotarun West management zone, which would prioritize motorized, single-track and loop-trail opportunities.

Titled the "Blaine County Cooperative Conservation Recreation and Travel Plan," the draft plan spells out how the approximately 160,000 acres of BLM and state-owned lands located on both sides of the valley will be managed in the years to come. The plan also spells out future management of the large area in separate winter and summer recreation maps attached to the 57-page document.

The plan envisions 14 recreation-management designations, two related to winter use and 12 related to summer use. During the winter, another management designation called the "Winter Seasonal Area of Critical Environmental Concern" would close off large areas to all public use to protect wintering wildlife, though the size of that area has been reduced considerably in recent months as the meetings have progressed.

While the plan prioritizes certain types of recreational use in each of the different recreation-management areas that are proposed, it doesn't mean other types of uses would be prohibited in every one of them. For example, while the tentatively dubbed Lee's Gulch-Bunker Hill zone would prioritize horseback riding over other summer uses, motorized recreationists, mountain bikers and hikers could still use the roads and trails found in the hilly area west of Bellevue.

John Kurtz, BLM outdoor recreation manager for the Shoshone Field Office, said in December that rather than excluding certain recreational uses from the different zones, the plan in large part sets out the kinds of amenities that would be built to support the prioritized use in each of the different areas. In the Lee's Gulch-Bunker Hill zone, the idea is to build amenities like horse ramps and hitching posts at new trailheads, as well as to design new trails with equestrian needs in mind.

Motorized recreationists, mountain bikers and hikers could still use these amenities in the Lee's Gulch-Bunker Hill zone, but their needs wouldn't be prioritized there. The same would go for the Rotarun West-Cove Creek zone, which would prioritize motorized use through construction of trails in the large area west of Hailey.

Kurtz said only a few of the zones proposed under the plan would restrict recreational uses. Those include the Rotarun East zone immediately west of Hailey, which would limit uses to non-motorized, single-track mountain biking and hiking, and the Ohio Gulch and East Magic motocross zones, where use would be limited to motocross riders.

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