Can ATV riders, bird watchers, skiers and snowmobilers all just get along?

The sprawling 2.5-million-acre White River National Forest in Colorado’s central and northern Rocky Mountains is home to some of the most renowned ski areas in the world, including Vail and Aspen, but other methods of recreating are likely to be the most controversial elements of a revised travel management plan released Thursday.

The public now has until Jan. 6 of next year to comment on the proposal and its various options. The Forest Service’s preferred option acknowledges the explosion in popularity in recent years of off-road vehicles such as ATV’s and actually takes the controversial step of adopting 280 miles of so-called “rogue” roads illegally carved out of the landscape by off-roaders.

Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of Aspen’s Wilderness Workshop, told the Aspen Daily News he is leery of sanctioning such activities.

“That’s the kind of use I don’t feel should be rewarded by bringing an abandoned route into the system and legitimizing it,” Shoemaker said. “We’re looking to make sure there’s big wild spaces left between the roads so that the wildlife who rely on this habitat have the opportunity to continue to persist.”

The White River has become a victim of its own popularity in the last decade, with Colorado’s booming population of outdoor enthusiasts often clashing on skis, snowshoes, ATVs, snowmobiles and horseback. Conflicts between various user groups prompted the lengthy travel management plan process, which seeks to better designate areas of use and types of use.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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