The Marble off-highway vehicle saga reminds me of a tale from the Obama White House. On the president’s desk in the Oval Office was a plaque, gifted by advisor David Axlerod, reading, “Hard things are hard.” It was a memento from the 2010 fight to pass the Affordable Care Act.
Hard things quite often are also worth doing, as I think many involved with the Marble community’s efforts to get a handle on how its treasured public lands are used would attest.
The situation is complex and, unlike the latest side-by-side utility terrain vehicles, slow moving over rocky terrain. Our Connie Harvey Environment Desk returned to Marble last week to cover the latest developments, including the approaching conclusion of a stakeholder process likened by its lead facilitator to a “decision-making boot camp.”
The Lead King Loop is a backcountry road system connecting Marble to the ghost town of Crystal and the Lead King Basin, near the boundary of the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness. The loop has become increasingly popular with motorized recreation enthusiasts who have more powerful toys at their disposal than the ATVs of the past. As more road systems have closed off access to this type of use, it has remained available here, with Marble as the primary gateway — drawing users from across the Western Slope and surrounding states.
The stakeholder group represents the most serious effort yet to craft new management strategies to respond to this increase in use. If nothing else, it has provided a thorough roadmap of the competing values and tensions in play. Our story looks at how, based on the way the U.S. Forest Service categorizes its roads, traffic on the Lead King Loop is well below the agency’s safety thresholds. That makes it difficult for Forest Service leaders, who are charged with managing public lands for multiple use, to justify a permit system or other capacity limit for the road. After all, that would mean locals who wish to drive to their favorite trailhead off the loop would have their access restricted, just the same as the OHV-riding tourist. So the stakeholder group is looking at all other potential options — seeking to figure out what difficulties those might entail, or whether there could be a coalition behind any of them that could muster the political will to get something done. The group is expected to finalize recommendations by the end of the month. While there are significant questions about what the outcome will be, one prevailing sentiment I picked up on visiting Marble was that folks are glad the issue is being taken seriously.
Kudos to Water Desk Editor Heather Sackett for her piece last month detailing the demise of proposed legislation that would clamp down on so-called investment water speculation. A bill brought forward by Western Slope representatives is dead for this legislative session, although there is hope it will remain an active issue with more study in the months to come, and perhaps a new proposal before a future legislature. Sackett has been leading the coverage on this critical statewide issue, breaking news about the process at multiple points along the way.
Tracking the Curve has COVID-19 new-case incidence rates holding steady at an elevated-but-plateaued rate both in Pitkin County and across northwestern Colorado.
And, it would be accurate to say I have been waiting for this day — when the line on the graph changes direction as we track water contained in Lake Powell. According to our Data Dashboard, inflows are back in that window where they exceed outflows. By how much and for how long is more important now than it has probably ever been for our water system, and we will keep the numbers updated each week.
And in case you needed a moment of zen, here is what some of that Lake Powell-bound water sounds like as it roars through the Hunter Creek gorge in Aspen, captured on May 3 as the waters rise.
Thank you for reading, and supporting, Aspen Journalism.
– Curtis Wackerle
Editor and executive director
Forest Service official says capping use of road not justified by traffic counts
By Curtis Wackerle | May 2, 2022
A stakeholder group has been working to formulate “consensus-based recommendations” on management strategies that have a high probability of getting the support needed from government agencies to be enacted.
Aspen air quality was ‘moderate’ last week. Streamflows rise and fall with swinging temps.
By Laurine Lassalle | May 4, 2022
• The Crystal River above Avalanche Creek flowed at 495 cfs, or about 134.5% of average, on May 1.
• Lake Powell’s elevation reached 3.522.7 feet on May 1, up from 3,255.4 feet on April 24.
Documenting COVID-19 in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties
By Laurine Lassalle | May 3, 2022
Pitkin County has the highest COVID incidence rate in the state, with an incidence of about 242 per 100,000 on April 18, followed by San Juan County and its incidence of 140.
“Companies that rent e-bikes will be asked to install radio frequency identification stickers on each bike in their fleet. The chip on a bike will be scanned whenever [it] passes through the U.S. Forest Service’s Maroon Bells welcome station… The funds will be used for “managing” e-bike parking at the Maroon Lake parking lot and for “sustaining” the system, according to a staff memo to the commissioners.”
Source: aspentimes.com | Read more
“At MANAUS, a series of “guiding principles” are followed in order to ensure that marginalized populations are at the forefront of the conversation, said Alvarez-Terrazas. Together, these principles — justice, community- and human-centered design, solidarity and allyship — help MANAUS leaders to “listen, imagine and launch” projects tailored to the community’s needs.”
Source: soprissun.com | Read more
A little less zip in Colorado mountains this summer as labor crisis causes resorts to cut back offerings
“The recent labor crisis is seeing most every business in the tourism and service industries trim labor-intensive offerings. And few amenities demand more labor than ziplines.”
Source: coloradosun.com | Read more
“‘When the water is coming, you’ve got one shot at it,’ Upper North Platte Water Users Association Chairman Chris Williams said. Watching spring runoff flow downstream without tapping it is counterintuitive and frustrating for any ag producer, he added. ‘It has the potential to dry acres up.’”
Source: wyofile.com | Read more
“Lee said Prenzlow’s remark was not the only instance of racism she saw at the conference. She points to actions by Dan Gates, chair of the Colorado Wildlife Council, whom she called “a known racist” in a letter to Gibbs and Gov. Jared Polis.”
Source: aspenpublicradio.org | Read more
“The decision will keep more water in Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border, instead of releasing it downstream to Lake Mead. Both reservoirs are at their lowest points.”
Source: nytimes.com | Read more
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