Today is the final day to submit input during the public scoping period for Jackson Mountain area projects proposed by Pagosa Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest.
The initial proposal considers trail system development, fuels and vegetation management, and a gravel pit.
The gravel pit has received quite a bit of pushback in letters to the editor, but those concerned should file any comments at https://cara.fs2c.usda.gov/Public//CommentInput?Project=61809.
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) issued the following press release titled “Protect quality trail experiences in Pagosa Springs: Submit your comments on the Jackson Mountain Landscape Project” by Communications and Advocacy Specialist Jali Fernando:
“New mountain biking trails have been proposed on Jackson Mountain in Pagosa Springs, but a proposed gravel mine is threatening the trail project as well as the health and safety of trail users. We need your help to get these trails approved.
“IMBA Trail Solutions worked with local mountain bikers on a proposal to bring new trail experiences to Jackson Mountain. The proposed trails will cater to a variety of skills and riding styles; provide trail experiences not currently offered regionally to the rapidly growing cycling community in Pagosa Springs; and expand formalized access to public lands adjacent to town. Archuleta County and the City of Pagosa Springs have invested in this trails plan with taxpayer dollars, and the U.S. Forest Service has included this trail proposal in the greater Jackson Mountain Landscape Project.
“A gravel mine and rock crushing operation that will overlap with the proposed mountain bike trail system is a late addition to the Jackson Mountain Landscape Project, and therefore was not factored into the trail planning process. The proposed gravel pit requires large trucks to share a small forest road with trail users. The mining operation will take away from the outdoor experience in Jackson Mountain and may create severe health and safety issues for mountain bikers and other trail users. Before the mine is approved, it is essential that a thorough analysis of potential impacts be conducted.
“The Forest Service is gathering input on the Jackson Mountain Landscape Project until Feb. 23. Let the Forest Service know the mountain biking community has serious concerns regarding the proposed open pit gravel mine on Jackson Mountain. Below is a sample letter you can copy and paste or personalize for greater impact.
“Dear Forest Service Staff,
“I am writing to express:
“1. Support for the multi-use trail system being planned and proposed at Jackson Mountain outside Pagosa Springs, Colorado on National Forest Service lands, and
“2. Serious concerns regarding the proposed open pit hard rock gravel mine at the same location.
“The proposed trails are a much needed recreational system on the east side of Pagosa Springs and the USFS originally reached out to the local mountain bike community to explore opportunities and provide input. The proposed trail offerings are not being offered elsewhere in the district.
“The proposed gravel mine, however, is a very recent proposal and has the potential to cause significant noise and air quality issues, as well as safety concerns for the planned and proposed mountain bike trail system that would overlap with. The ‘non-commercial’ mine has potential to waste public tax dollars already invested in the proposed trail system by the City of Pagosa Springs, Archuleta County and the USFS, as well as local foundation grants that went into the trail planning.
“I am asking the USFS to thoroughly analyze the impacts of this proposed gravel pit to see if it needs to be located elsewhere. Some key questions that should be addressed include:
“1. What will be the impact of the noise from the mine on trail users, local residents, and wildlife? What are immediate and long term impacts of mine activities for the lifespan of the mine on human and animal populations?
“2. The Environmental Assessment should explore if and how a gravel mine might degrade the trail experience of all users and create safety concerns. What measures will be taken to ensure the safety of mountain bikers on the trail system in the vicinity of the mine and the Jackson Mountain access road leading to trailheads?
“3. What measures will be taken to minimize air quality impacts from dust and other pollutants associated with proposed mining operations? The EA should explore any potential negative impacts from the gravel mine such as fugitive dust and other inhalable particulate matter, carcinogenic gasses, toxic elements and minerals such as rock released radon, arsenic, etc., and the impact of land degradation, down slope erosion, as there is a trail proposed immediately downslope of the pit.
“4. What will be the impact of the proposed mine on the scenic value of the area and its potential as a tourist destination for outdoor recreation? The USFS needs to analyze the potential concerns around the short-term economic benefits of a mine vs. long-term economic and social benefits of sustainable outdoor recreation.
“5. The USFS needs to analyze the destination of the gravel extracted for how this will affect truck traffic patterns for local residents. Will the proposed pit location lead to increased heavy truck traffic through town or will the destination be reliably eastward? How will that affect other towns? The USFS needs to analyze for requiring stipulations of operations to be more conducive to local residents and multi-use trail users.
“6. How will the use of public tax dollars and foundation grants that went into the trail planning to-date be addressed if the mine is approved?
“I strongly support the proposed mountain bike trail plan and of course it too must be analyzed. I also believe the National Forest Service has a responsibility to protect the public investment in the trails project which has already been made. I encourage you to carefully consider the potential impacts of the mine and take all necessary steps to minimize the negative effects on the environment, local residents, and recreational users of the area.
“Thank you for considering my comments. I look forward to hearing the outcome of your analysis.”
We have heard valid concerns on various aspects of the project. Your comments will be used to help identify issues with the Jackson Mountain Project and develop alternatives, if necessary.
The biggest sticking point seems to be the proposed gravel pit that the county says is essential for roads. If the pit gets kicked to the curb in this project, we believe the county should open up a more public process in chosing a location for gravel operations.
This is your opportunity to speak out, whatever your position might be.
Terri Lynn Oldham House