More comment time, economic study requested for BLM trail closures
KINGMAN – It’s probably asking too much for the Bureau of Land Management to extend the comment period on its Travel Management Plan by 90 days, but that’s one of the recommendations from the Mohave County Public Lands and Recreation Commission.
County supervisors voted unanimously Monday to accept three main recommendations from the commission that was formed in October to address concerns over the BLM’s proposed closure of more than 1,600 miles of trails on public lands in Mohave County, or roughly 30 percent of the total.
The commission is also asking the BLM to justify closing the trails, and to revise the Travel Management Plan to address the economic impact of off-highway vehicle recreation in Mohave County, which was estimated at $182 million in a 2002 Arizona State University study.
Supervisor Hildy Angius spoke with a top state official from BLM and was told he would do “everything in his power” to get the 90-day comment extension, but they would be lucky to get 45 days.
The proposed Travel Management Plan is just the first step in the process, and it has to be completed to go on to the next step, Angius explained. Nothing is set in concrete, and there’s still time to comment on the proposed closures.
“Again, they said the 1,600 miles is just a proposal,” Angius added.
Angius wants BLM to wait for an updated economic study from the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Government agencies rarely take into consideration economic impact to a community, she said.
Robert Smith, a Bullhead City off-road club leader who was appointed to the commission by Angius, said they’re asking the BLM for more time to review the plan and notify the public, which was not aware of the proposed 30 percent trail closure in Mohave County.
Also, BLM needs to reach out to other user groups, not just off-road vehicles. Hikers, ranchers and hunters also use the trails, Smith noted.
Hal Barton, Mohave County Parks administrator, said he was surprised that BLM was using an outdated study of off-road recreation’s economic impact on Mohave County.
The side-by-side Razor wasn’t even built until 2004, and its use has increased dramatically since then, Barton said. He sees snowbirds riding them every day at Davis Camp.
Board Chairman Gary Watson inquired about four alternatives to the Travel Management Plan, but Barton said the commission really wanted to focus on the proposed closures.
The four alternatives discussed were no change to the current trails; some change; closing 30 percent of the trails; and closing even more trails, Barton said.
“They felt the BLM would go through with the closure and we want to go in the direction of keeping the routes open, and also focus on the economics, the number of businesses that thrive on OHVs,” Barton said.
Smith said several clubs, including Arizona Peace Trail, are working with BLM, bringing in GPS maps of trails and laying them over BLM maps to give the agency the best information.
“We realize there are certain roads that need to be closed, where there are roads to open mines,” he said.