Until I moved to Western Colorado from Texas, I had never seen public lands being abused the way they are now. So much of the land is blockaded by cut and dragged down trees that it is almost impossible on foot, much less machine. I have never seen US Forest land treated so poorly and it is being done on purpose to keep people out.

Blockaded, unmaintained trails on public lands prove dangerous for one outdoorsman

Benjamin Crain, the president of the Western Colorado chapter of Gold Prospectors Association of America (WSGPAA), wrote the following account of his experiences on the trails in recent weeks. A prospector and hunter living in Western Colorado, where nearly all public lands are under the control of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service, Crain has become acquainted with the many hurdles placed between Coloradoans and their public lands. In his more recent experiences, those hurdles have been tangible, and perhaps intentionally, dangerous to folks using trails through these federally-controlled areas.

Until I moved to Western Colorado from Texas, I had never seen public lands being abused the way they are now. So much of the land is blockaded by cut and dragged down trees that it is almost impossible on foot, much less machine. I have never seen US Forest land treated so poorly and it is being done on purpose to keep people out.

The Uncompahgre Plateau in Western Colorado is a beautiful and remote region that off-roaders and hunters love and seek out, especially during the fall months. This hunting season really broke my heart. OHV (off-highway vehicle) trails on public lands have been so shut down by activists that not only are they not accessible, they are dangerous. Those trails designated for use by motorized vehicles which have not been blockaded, are suicidal at best, and cannot be safely used even by experienced riders. In the forested areas you have miles and miles of woodlands where trees have been cut and dragged to rot on the side of the road.

If people want to see how the Forest Service is managing our forests, just take a drive down Divide Road. Miles and miles of trees have been cut down only to be piled up on the side of the road so that people cannot get access to the land (see photographs below).

At a BLM meeting in Delta Colorado there was a Sierra Club Activist there asking for volunteers to come out and help in cutting down trees to block trails. Although it sounds strange, these kinds of tactics have become the norm for Colorado, and thanks to these underhanded activities, I was seriously injured while traveling down a designated trail.

The designated OHV trail had large loose rocks in the path through a narrow valley cut. The trail itself would be safe if the loose rocks that filled the cuts had been cleared, but there were an overwhelming number of jagged rocks the size of cantaloupes and the trail looked like it hasn’t been groomed in a long time.

I was in the lowest gear possible doing about 1/2mph fighting the rocks and bumps when my right tire grabbed a rut and took me straight up the side of the hill. Because I am a motorcycle rider my instinct told me to put my leg down to stop it from flipping but if you do that with a 4 wheeler you are going to snap a leg. So my vehicle rolled and as it did, I stood up and tried to prepare for the blow. I came down on my left hip, my pelvic rim, left arm and shoulder. I then remember the back of my head hitting the ground hard. When I woke up, the 4 wheeler was still running and I could smell the gas leaking out. I reached up and turned off the “RUN” switch to kill the engine and then started to figure out how bad I was injured and whether or not I could get free. I was by myself, so I had no way out but to get out on my own. I used my right leg to push on the seat to get my left knee unpinned and then crawled out. I wasn’t sure if my previous back or neck fusions had been broken, so I spent a some time assessing my back and neck to see how bad I was hurt. I then had to figure a way to right the vehicle and then had to restart it and continue down the trail because there was no turning around.

Once I got to the bottom I began looking for power lines along the trail because they usually have a service road along side them, and headed down the trail in that direction. From there I found my way back to the main road, “Divide Road” and made my way back to camp.

From that point I laid up and tried to rest. The next day I had hoped I was well enough to stay out, but was actually in pretty bad shape, and the next day I headed home to see my Doctor.

I was plenty bruised up, my neck and back were torqued and very painful, and I did indeed have a concussion. 

My doctor changed my meds a bit and gave me steroid injections in my SI joints because that is where the majority of the pain was coming from, besides my headache.

Benjamin Crain’s struggles resonate with off-roaders, hunters, ranchers, and other recreationists in western states who seek access to public lands controlled by federal agencies. The culture of the federal government has grown more hostile to citizens in recent years. And cozy relationships between agency bureaucrats and officials and powerful environmentalist special interest groups, have resulted in less-access, increased fees, escalating conflicts, and shrinking freedoms for outdoorsmen and women in the West.

The following series of photos were taken by Benjamin Crain while off-roading on the Uncompahgre Plateau, where trails have been intentionally blockaded and made more dangerous by anti-OHV activists.

photos courtesy Benjamin Crain

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Free Range Report

Comments

  1. Yes it’s been going on for over 40 years where closers have been implemented to serve there purpose to close access to all motorizes. You pay to play but if you walk ride a mountain bike or ride horse back know pay to play. A lot off these areas are closed when they have know right to under state and federal laws. Been fighting this battle for year. You will find that not many will jion in the fight with you on these issues. They will talk but not put in there time and money but that is what is needed to regain our public right of ways back. Get in the fight. Let’s take our public right of ways back and restore our rights to use the lands with access for all. Check out the plaa public land access association we need pledges of money to fight to regain our rights. To these lands

  2. I have often encountered these types of log road blocks. I asked a BLM worker about them and he said they are not a legal road block. They have been placed there by people that went in and saw the area and then they do not want to share it. Its like they take ownership of it. Cutting logs to make a road block seems counter productive. Environentlist like trees too but they feel that is an acceptable loss to keep others out. I remove these “road blocks” even i it takes me hours. I wish that we could all be good stewards of the land and share it without conflict but sometimes that seems impossible.

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