Mohave County wants more time on BLM plan that could close 1,600 miles of offroad trails
A travel management plan proposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management could close more than 1,600 miles of Mohave County’s desert trails, according to an August 18 draft of the plan. The county will request a six-month extension for residents to comment.
In September 2017, BLM officials said they were working closely with Havasu off-roading organizations in designating trails throughout the region. The mood was optimistic as groups such as the Havasu Side-by-Side Trails Association and the Havasu 4 Wheelers mapped Mohave County’s trail system. The BLM’s August proposal, however, left off-roading enthusiasts irate.
County residents appeared at the Board’s Monday meeting with criticism about the planned closure. Under the travel management plan, BLM officials assessed 5,502 miles of county roads to determine which should remain open. Members of the county’s off-roading community voiced their objection the proposed trail closures.
“In Mohave County, the off-roading industry produces $1.76 billion per year,” said Golden Valley resident Ric Swats. “It has a significant impact on our economy. Closing our trails means losing income and losing jobs … the county’s resources are too valuable to be placed in the hands of Washington-appointed bureaucrats.”
Swats recommended the Board of Supervisors establish a commission of trail-users to advise the Board on future trails-related issues. While no such commission was established this week, it was a suggestion that County Supervisor Hildy Angius found appealing. Swats was only the first member of the public to speak on the topic, however, but others were equally opposed to the proposed closure of Mohave County trails.
“It’s very sad to see what the BLM is doing, and the number of closures that are planned for this area,” said Havasu Side-by-Side Trail Association founding member John Geyer. “I hope we can open their eyes a little wider to the problem.”
According to Geyer, there is vast interest in Mohave County’s trails both nationwide and internationally. As a promoter of the Arizona Peace Trail, Geyer says about 70 percent of all visitors to the Peace Trail’s website are from outside the U.S.
“There’s great interest in off-roading in Western Arizona,” Geyer said. “Off-roading is ultimately important here, and closing these trails is troublesome to many people. We have to fight to keep these trails open, and it should be the other way around – the BLM should be giving facts and evidence to show why they should be closed.”
According to Geyer, the BLM’s website, where the public has had opportunity to voice their opinions on the topic, has been unnavigable. “It’s virtually impossible for them to get input on the trails system,” he said. “I don’t know how they can come to an educated decision without hearing from people who use the trails.”
Mohave County Supervisor Jean Bishop submitted a motion to request a 180-day extension for the Travel Management Plan’s comment period, which was scheduled to end today.
“I’m supportive of off-roaders, and I’m supportive of the trails,” Bishop said. “Everyone can agree that the BLM is tasked with managing them, not closing them off. Some of our roads might need to be closed, but people should have more time to speak about the issue.”
Mohave County officials were expected to draft the county’s proposal and submit it to the BLM’s Colorado River District office by Monday afternoon.
“We’ve received many, many, many comments on this issue,” said BLM Colorado District Public Affairs Officer Valerie Gohlke. “We’re in the process of reviewing them. No final decision has been made on the travel management plan … it’s been in the works for a number of years. It’s a way of taking inventory to see what’s out there, and we accept and consider any public comment before a decision is made.”
According to Gohlke, the decision of whether to approve the extension of time for public comment will be discussed at the BLM’s Colorado River District office in the near future.
For more information about the BLM’s Travel Management Plan, visit www.blm.gov/az/st/en/fo/lake_havasu_field.html.