The U.S. Forest Service is taking some heat from residents in Grand and San Juan counties due to its ongoing “obliteration” of roads in north and south Elk Ridge, as well as in the Woodenshoe Area, which is located in Monticello District of the Manti La Sal National Forest.
According to the San Juan County webpage (sanjuancounty.org/index.php/forest-service-to-obliterate-roads), the county is concerned with multiple aspects of the road removal — namely that the public has not been properly notified — and that the project has been made public by word of mouth only after locals saw signed posted by the USFS stating the roads would be blocked.
Another concern is that the roads are being blocked for no good reason, as they “serve multiple useful purposes with no observable resource damage” and should be “added to the Forest travel plan.” The site continues to say that San Juan County agrees with the closing of “some of these roads, but would like others to be considered to be included in the current travel plan for their potential “multiple important uses.”
USFS Recreation Manager Brian Murdock maintains that these closures are all a part of routine resource management. Murdock explained that these roads were closed during the 1991 travel plan. Murdock also emphasized that much of the public misconception about these closures is based in the idea that they are connected to President Trump’s rolling back of monument lands. Murdock stated that these closures have been on the USFS docket for quite some time, and that “we don’t close or open roads without going through the public process.”
The USFS will be blocking off several of these routes in coming weeks, but mainly “user-created” ATV paths. People will still have access to the area, but vehicle access will be restricted. Murdock illustrated the need to keep vehicles out of certain areas because they could cause potential damage to wildlife habitat.
The roads themselves won’t be “obliterated” so much as they will have large rocks placed in front to keep unauthorized vehicles out. Visitors to the forest will still be able to traverse the area on foot or on horseback.