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Our View: The economic impact of closing 1,600 miles of public trails

November 26, 2018

Mohave County is home to some of the best off-roading trails in the nation. That’s not hyperbole — this area, thanks to its rugged yet accessible landscape, attracts some of the top names and events in off-roading and has been highlighted repeatedly in some of the top trade publications.

We’re home to more than 5,000 miles of off-road trails, which have helped create a $182 million industry within the county, according to a 2002 Arizona State University study.

This area attracts interest from far and wide, much of it international, and that is likely to only increase with the development of the Arizona Peace Trail, a 700-mile loop trail that winds through Mohave County.

What’s the appeal? It’s our wide open spaces, pure and simple. Off-roaders love that they can explore Havasu’s backyard at their own pace thanks to its vast network of trails.

So it’s no wonder that skeptical eyebrows are being raised about the Bureau of Land Management’s efforts to create a travel management plan that would close nearly a third of existing trails in the county. The plan is just a plan for now, but without a public outcry, these things have a way of becoming reality.

Fortunately, we’re now seeing some of the grassroots conversations that need to happen to convince the BLM that closing 1,600 miles of trails is a bad idea.

So far, those conversations are mere whispers, happening in the halls of local government and not getting much traction elsewhere. The federal government likes to pretend its listening, but it often needs to hear more than a whisper.

The BLM should make a better effort to be responsive to local concerns, conducting outreach to communities and stakeholders. If nothing else, the BLM needs to wait for an updated economic study from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, as county supervisor Hildy Angius suggests.

Meanwhile, you can help by speaking up. Tell the BLM how you feel about the proposed closures. The agency was kind enough to extend the orignal comment period, but that ends in four days, on Nov. 30.

You can read more about and submit your comments here: https://tinyurl.com/kingmanoffroadplan.

— Today’s News-Herald

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