Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
April / May 1998

Continental Divide Trail Alert - Your Letters Needed Now
by Anne Vickery and Kirk Cunningham

The Issue:

The Copper Mountain to Rollins Pass section of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), approved by the Forest Service, has significant safety, ecosystem fragmentation and financial issues. Letters are needed to the new Regional Forester in Colorado requesting him to use a lower elevation, less environmentally damaging, less dangerous and much less expensive alternative.

The CDT through Colorado and Wyoming was approved after an environmental analysis in 1993, but the Copper Mt. to Rollins Pass segment was excluded due to the difficulty of finding a safe and environmentally benign route. An environmental assessment of the Copper Mt.-Rollins Pass segment was approved by the Forest Service in 1997 and appealed by 5 conservation groups. The appeal was denied, but the damaging aspects of the approved trail corridor remain.

Some points to make in your letter are:

aredball.gif (515 bytes) 1) The 23 miles of new trail construction will fragment wildlife habitat and bring long-term human impacts to some of the few pristine alpine tundra and timberline areas left in Colorado. Our experience with severe soil and plant erosion, often irreparable, on the Colorado fourteener trails indicate that new alpine trails should be rigorously avoided.
aredball.gif (515 bytes) 2) The trail segment requires miles of new construction in timberline and alpine areas the length of the James Peak roadless area under discussion for wilderness designation. Alternative routes on existing trails and roads not on the Divide are available. The Congressional legislation establishing the Continental Divide Trail does not require the trail to actually coincide with the Divide.
aredball.gif (515 bytes) 3) The trail segment has long sections 15 miles or more along the Continental Divide above timberline with no water available and no available descent routes in case of bad weather. Experienced hikers feel the ridge from Argentine Pass to Gray's Peak (a fourteener) is extremely dangerous and should be avoided. Experienced hikers have been weathered off the steep climb from Herman Gulch up through pristine tundra to the long ridge leading to Jones Pass. Scenic alternative routes are available.
aredball.gif (515 bytes) 4) The 23 miles of new trail construction cost $575,000. The rest of the Colorado and Wyoming portions of the CDT, with only 10 miles of new construction, cost only $250,000 in 1993 dollars.

Please write now and request the trail be moved to the safer and less environmentally damaging alternative route. 

Write to: Lyle Laverty, Regional Forester, Rocky Mountain Region, P.O. Box 25127, Lakewood, CO 80225. For additional information, contact Kirk Cunningham, (303) 939-8519.