Snow rekindles backcountry debate

— In the high country in Routt County, where the National Weather Service reported more than a foot of snow, the snowy surprise brings up backcountry management issues, such as how to deal with recreation uses on the passes of Buffalo and Rabbit Ears.
The Winter Task Force, which is spearheading usage discussions, is a group of people who ski, snowboard and snowmobile in the backcountry.
The members are discussing how the three interests can enjoy the winter in the woods together.
The task force is facilitated by the U.S. Forest Service.
Last year, the group suggested designated areas complete with signs and fences to plot the boundaries for motorized and nonmotorized uses on Rabbit Ears Pass.
While maintaining that effort, this winter the group will turn its energy to similar discussions regarding Buffalo Pass, task force member Jim Linville said.
"There are four or five hard questions to deal with on Buff Pass," he said.
The issue is whether the area should be marked off for suggested motorized and nonmotorized use and, if so, where those markers should be.
"We're discussing it in detail," Linville said.
Another wintry problem on Buffalo Pass that will be re-addressed this year is parking. Last year, complaints came in about not enough parking spots for winter recreation users, forcing visitors to park their vehicles en masse on the side of Routt County 38A, which is illegal.
"I think we're going to have to get that issue resolved," Routt County Sheriff John Werner said.
He said he plans to take a ride up to Buffalo Pass soon to correctly identify where the county road turns into a Forest Service road, marking the jurisdiction of the Routt County Sheriff's Office.
And while the snow might have surprised some, it wasn't a surprise for local ranchers, Carpenter Ranch Manager Geoff Blakeslee said.
"We know it's coming," Blakeslee said. "That's the beautiful thing about living in Routt County. You can count on the snow. We expect it and we prepare for it."
One main change that winter on the ranch demands is the livestock's dinner. Once the grazing fields are covered with snow, ranchers have to feed the herd hay that was bought to make it through the winter.
However, that won't come for a few more weeks.
"We don't start feeding in a little storm like this," Blakeslee said. "There's plenty of pasture out there still."
Besides, spoiling the cattle on hay early in the season can cause problems when the animals think they have a choice for dinner.
"They get pretty demanding for hay," he said.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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