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Forest Service settles with environmental group, agrees to ban dirt bikes
Litigation was filed to protect endangered trout
Bowing to a lawsuit by an environmental group, the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday agreed to ban dirt bikes on a popular trail system in Colorado Springs to protect an endangered fish.
The Center for Biological Diversity sued the agency in spring, claiming erosion from dirt bikes was damaging greenback cutthroat trout habitat. The fish is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, its numbers decimated by disease and competition from imported trout.
The future of the Bear Creek fish took on new importance in summer when research revealed they are the only genetically pure greenback cutthroat trout left anywhere, about 750 living in a four-mile stretch.
The settlement gives the Forest Service 10 days to install signs and barriers on trails 665, 668, 701 and 720. Trail No. 667, also known as the Buckhorn Trail, will be open to dirt bikes only from High Drive to a saddle above the Bear Creek drainage.
“We’re so glad the Forest Service agreed to do the right thing and protect the only place in the world where greenback cutthroat trout still live in the wild,” said Tim Ream, attorney for the environmental group. “This endangered fish has been hanging on by a thread for decades. The last thing it needs is motorcycles tearing through its only home and filling the creek with sediment.”
The Forest Service would have to get approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before reopening the trails to vehicles.
Colorado Springs dirt bike rider Don Riggle, president of the Trails Preservation Alliance, slammed the settlement.
Dirt bike groups have ridden and maintained the trails for decades, and Riggle questioned why only they are being excluded.
“Why wasn’t the whole thing closed? Because the entire trail system is the problem,” he said. “Now they’re going to let mountain bikes, horses, hikers and others continue to use that trail and cause more damage than motorcycles ever caused.”
“Here’s another example of the Forest Service and government bending over to another threat just to alleviate a lawsuit,” he said.
A Forest Service spokesman said Wednesday nobody from the agency was available to address the settlement because of the Thanksgiving holiday.