Colorado US Forest Service - Leadville and Salida Ranger Districts - Request for comment

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The part you want to look at is the DCM_NOPA PDF. That lays out what's happening. I didn't finish reading it all, but here's a super quick overview.

There are areas along particular roads that are frequently used for dispersed camping. Periodically they have to do assessments and see if they need to do anything regarding these areas. Here is an excerpt

"In recent years, visitation to the PSICC has increased and so has the demand for access to dispersed
recreation and camping opportunities. With the increase in demand there has also been an increase in
impacts to forest resources from VBDC activities. In popular VBDC areas, there have been more
observations of soil and vegetation loss, impacts to cultural resources, riparian areas and streambanks, and
an increase in the development of unauthorized motorized routes. There have also been more reported
conflicts between other forest users (such as livestock permittees and outfitters and guides) and an
increase in improper disposal of human waste and trash on the National Forest. Federal and local
firefighters have noted unattended or escaped campfires associated with VBDC activities, which may
increase the potential for human-caused wildfires"

They are doing assessments to see what action(s), if any, need to be taken. And what changes they might make to address the results of the assessment.

That's the quick and simple version from me reading about half of that PDF.

I hope this helps. If you go to the linked website and get to the PDFs, start with the last ones first.
It is situation normal for there to be annual inspections followed by reports of that information and subsequent reviews by committees of that information for lands, buildings, highways, bridges, etc that are under control of county, state and federal authorities. Of course all such conclusions regarding necessary actions for improvements or changes that require any funding then go to budget committees to see what if any actions can or will be taken.

In the desert areas damage to vegetation can be so slow to recover that it can mean some areas will not reopen for many decadesbefore soil stabilization is repaired. Trash cleanup is quicker but plant growth is not. The desert pavement loss and vegetation loss on unauthorized trails that leads to possible erosion is not going to repair on its own in our lifespans.
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They might be considering going to designated dispersed sites. The sites would be defined, sometimes with numbers.
I spent from early June '22 thru mid August in the Leadville to Salida corridor.

What I found was that nomads and campers were very well behaved in most every way.

The locals trashed the places they spent time in.
They might be considering going to designated dispersed sites. The sites would be defined, sometimes with numbers.
I think this is what the FS and BLM will be going to in popular areas. See Alabama Hills as an example.
I don’t think it will matter to them who is using the land but the overall condition of the land and how much work and money it will take to restore it to a natural state and prevent more damage from people using it with restrictions and enforcement. Establishing a restricted number of maintained campsites with a fee system may be one of the options considered I would hope, although they have been known to completely close areas that have been abused to allow reforestation to occur. Just saying you should voice an opinion if you regularly camp in those areas.
Colorado may end up like Arizona, with severe restrictions on dispersed camping in popular areas.

In Utah, Yankee Meadows Dispersed Camping (USFS), near Parowan, consists of dispersed clusters of two to three sites in very close proximity. Somewhat takes the "dispersed" element out of dispersed camping.
At least they reforestation in an actual timber forest will happen at a much faster rate than desert vegetation regrows.

But of course the NFS itself sells off logging rights for cutting down trees and doing some essential thinning as well. The forest fires (including natural causes) are closing many recreational designated acres of lands throughout the Western states.
Of course expanding population density is also a factor. So inevitably it is going to keep right on on being an issue of having more people for fewer dispersed campsites unless more lands are opened to compensate for areas being closed. Which is going to be a tough fight to achieve.

Public input is important from those who want and need the dispersed camping and access to public wilderness lands and those who want and need protection of the wilderness. Both segments will be voicing their concerns. Rather unfortunately I see the validity of both points of views. Which means I cancel out my own voice as you can’t do both things really well at the same time.
If they really study this issue in depth, I'd think it might be possible to ascertain whether it's true, as some observe, that actual campers treat the place well, while "locals" trash the area. They might also be able to ascertain more details about the whole picture of "heavy use". Eg, is "heavy use" primarily caused by an ever-changing flood of travelers staying a few days each, or is "heavy use" caused in heavy part, by a less frequently changing group of campers who stay a long time in the same area, such as moving from site to site within one small region, for an entire season or more. And based on the use of different types of campers, how can their needs/interests in the area be best accommodated in relation to each other.
My experience is they are looking for the cheapest way with the least man power to preserve the forest. Unless they get an overwhelming response from the public closure is usually the result.

I have been a resident of Chaffee County, CO for 14 years, and during that time have been an active volunteer with USFS, participating in trail maintenance, campsite remediation, and user-impact surveys. A couple of years ago our county voted to tax ourselves to support a county-wide comprehensive environmental commission to study and act on issues and problems in our mountain landscape, and it has had some notable successes so far. I would like to correct some misconceptions that I read in some of the posts so far.

The DCM_NOPA (Dispersed Camping Management on the Leadville and Salida Ranger Districts Notice of Proposed Action (NOPA) ) is 25 pages (see attachment) but the gist of it can be gathered by reading fewer than that. As it states, our county has seen increasing numbers of dispersed campers for more than 10 years, but the last 3-4 have seen even more visitors. Something needs to be done, and this document is the precursor to a NEPA evaluation. Note that projected actions are over the next 10 years and most actions are intended to be flexible over that period to bend with observations, requirements, and budget.

1. maki2's first comment is not relevant to our situation here. Please read the report. I don't think your second comment is very constructive to getting something done here on the ground, which is what our county is coming together to do.

2. LoupGarou: Yes, that's exactly the plan for most of the camping areas in Chaffee Co covered by this report. In the past, such areas have had their dispersed of sites reduced by about 80%, depending on resource damage and visitor numbers.

3. RvNaut, where is your evidence for this statement? My own observations, combined with those of hundreds of volunteers here, as well as FS staff, indicate that almost all resource damage over the years comes from out-of-county visitors. That is a fact. Not all damage is intentional, some comes from ignorance or laziness. Just a couple of examples from the past 2 summer seasons: campfires left unattended or not put out properly, or fires lit during a fire ban; dozens of huge fifth-wheel campers pulling into an unused meadow and permanently scarring the grass while imposing numerous new firerings; cutting live trees for firewood; motorized vehicles creating new tracks offroad.

4. bullfrog: Yes, the proposed plan includes built-out campgrounds as well as numbered, designated-dispersed areas along the backroads. This is an established solution for many places around the West, and it works well when camper pressure becomes too much for a popular place. Many of us locals (including myself) have adopted sections of Forest Road to monitor for cleanup. I do a LOT of firering removal and existing-ash takeout. A fee system is appropriate for the more heavily used areas closer to the Front Range (Denver, CO Springs, etc.) BTW it certainly does matter to FS (and our area BLM) who is "using the land", that's what our amazing amount of data will be used for during the planning and implementation phases. You say "My experience is they are looking for the cheapest way with the least man power to preserve the forest. Unless they get an overwhelming response from the public closure is usually the result" - That is so far from the truth. Come stay here a while and you'll see how wrong that statement is. Again, please read the report.

5. wayne49: Unfortunately your statement is too broad to be meaningful. I travel and camp in AZ, and there are many many locations where dispersed camping is still a workable and uncrowded experience. Yes, some areas in AZ, as in CO, have had to be restricted because of crowding. This is the case for every Western state, as I have seen both firsthand and otherwise. Unfortunately when areas get crowded, land managers need to survey for appropriate campsites and put them there; sometimes they are closer together, sometimes further apart.

6. WayOutWest: Exactly! Thank you for your perceptive comments; that is what we (volunteers, county officials and representatives, land managers) have been and are trying to do in Chaffee County.


  • DCM_NOPA.pdf
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I don't think it matters to them if it's locals or non locals doing the damage. It has to be managed the same regardless in their eyes.
2. LoupGarou: Yes, that's exactly the plan for most of the camping areas in Chaffee Co covered by this report. In the past, such areas have had their dispersed of sites reduced by about 80%, depending on resource damage and visitor numbers.
Hate to suggest it, as there's already enough restrictions, and that's to only permit vehicle camping if the vehicle is self contained. The exception being walk-in/hike-in and boat-in sites. Compost and cassette toilets have come a long way in their form, fit, function and affordability.

I've stopped counting the number of times I've seen fire pits full of beer cans and alcohol bottles. States need to look into revamping their open container laws. Speaking for myself, I'm willing to pick up after others, just not willing to haul it away only to find a nearby dumpster with padlocked lids. Been there, experienced that.
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HappyCamper - you are correct, in the end it's the same. However, visitors often don't have enough education about how to disperse camp lightly and safely. To that end, we are setting up a system of "camp ambassadors" (volunteer and maybe paid) to inform campers in a friendly manner of local rules and good practices. So far it has been well received.

LoupGarou - "self contained vehicles" is certainly a possibility. However, I think FS (and BLM) would prefer to implement solutions that don't require too much surveillance of visitors + extra staff. They have enough problems just getting funds to do the basic area maintenance. Adding composting portapotties run tens of thousands each (so I hear), so our local organizations have arranged for outhouses to be places at a couple of strategic locations for now.
This might sound much too simple, and unrealistic. Or maybe it's been done and I haven't seen.

But if you do a sign campaign on the roads and even off road where you notice a trail might be used more than others.

"Please leave this area like you found it." With a few tips below on how to do that.
Thank you very much for the individual responses that you took the time to write. Too often, responses are generally nature with little either experience or knowledge to support them.
Your post was very valuable
One thing I wanted to add to the sign suggestion is this.

Most people respond better to suggestion, rather than being told what to do.

After a few drinks or whatever someone might feel a bit rebellious bring told you can't do this or that.

Or they might feel proud of themselves doing something that sounds reasonable, but the "others" aren't doing.

It's almost always about the messaging.
One thing I wanted to add to the sign suggestion is this.....
It's almost always about the messaging.
It just doesn't work like that. Drunk driving, texting while driving, littering, People don't listen unless they can legitimately expect to be punished for disobedience.
But if everyone knows that person isn't coming to enforce the rules because there's no money for that, it's just an empty threat.

That's when people really seem to embrace their inner rebel lol