BMA has recently joined a group of trail organizations from across the state in urging the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to move forward with the Mad Rabbit Trails Project. You might be wondering why BMA is extending its support beyond Boulder County, and we’re here to provide some insight.
The Mad Rabbit Trails Project took root over a decade ago, driven by passionate trail enthusiasts in Steamboat Springs. Their vision aimed to expand the local trail network, benefitting both residents and visitors. Through a dedicated tax approved by nearly 70% of Steamboat Springs voters and more than $5,000,000 raised in the last decade, the project gained momentum and community support. The name “Mad Rabbit” reflects the project’s initial concept of connecting trails on Rabbit Ears Pass and Mad Creek and all the way to Buffalo Pass.
Beginning in 2018, the U.S. Forest Service initiated the NEPA process to assess the proposed trail system in its final phase. Following extensive feedback from various stakeholders, the USFS made many compromises, scaling down the project to 60% of the originally approved trail network and no longer connecting Rabbit Ears to Mad Creek.The proposed plan involves closing 36 miles of user-created trails while introducing 42 miles of new trails. Despite an Environmental Assessment resulting in a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), a stakeholder group – primarily elk hunters – is advocating for more costly studies and a further reduction in trail mileage.
Limited resources hinder the USFS from updating the forest plan or conducting an Environmental Impact Study (EIS), typically reserved for projects with major human impacts, such as coal mines, interstate gas pipelines, or oilfields. The USFS faces choices: approve the current plan, opt for a “no-action” stance, or delay the project indefinitely for further study – likely resulting in total abandonment of the project..
A “no-action” or EIS decision could set an extremely bad precedent, allowing special interest groups to halt new trail projects completely. Recognizing the need for a balance between conservation and recreation, a “no-action” decision wouldn’t represent that equilibrium.
If you stand behind the US Forest Service’s draft proposal to proceed with the well-planned Mad Rabbit Trails Project, we encourage you to voice your support. Consider sending a quick note to the USFS through IMBA’s advocacy alert form. Together, let’s ensure a balanced and responsible approach to trail development in Colorado and beyond.