The Bureau of Land Management has announced the annual closure of a slate of trails and public lands surrounding Durango.
The closures go into effect Friday and will last through April 30.
Each year, the City of Durango, the BLM and Colorado Parks and Wildlife partner to enforce the closures for the benefit of wintering wildlife. The closures apply to hikers, bicyclists and other users.
Derek Padilla, field manager of the BLM’s Tres Rios Field Office, said that violating the closures can lead to higher animal mortality rates.
“Winter is a critical time for wildlife, when resources are scarce as far as forage and water,” Padilla said. “Due to that, the body conditions of wildlife, especially larger animals like elk and deer, aren't at their optimum. So, any energy that they have to expend in order to move away from disturbance, which in this case would be human disturbance, puts them at a disadvantage.”
Law enforcement officers from the city, the BLM and CPW will enforce the closures with patrols, and some lands are equipped with hidden cameras. Anyone caught violating the closures on BLM land risks a $150 fine. The fine for violating a CPW closure is $140.
As development has continued to sprawl, CPW Spokesman John Livingston said the closures have become increasingly important.
“There’s just fewer and fewer places for these animals to go for winter habitat on a yearly basis,” he said. “If you were to look, not too many decades ago, all of Three Springs would have been full of elk and deer on winter range, and they’ve lost that. Now with … Durango Mesa Park, no seasonal closures at all in Horse Gulch or any of those (spots), there’s just fewer and fewer areas where historically these animals would have been.”
Each year, CPW hands out about a dozen tickets to people who have obviously bypassed the closure signs. Livingston said violations are common in the spring, as snow begins to melt and people are anxious to get outside.
“Just because it’s dry down here in the lower elevation areas doesn’t mean the animals have access to the high country yet – they haven’t started that summer migration to the high country,” he said.
The following areas will close effective Friday:
- Big Canyon and Sale Barn trailheads (access located east of U.S. Highway 160)
- South Rim Trail, portions of Sidewinder and Cowboy trails on BLM accessed from Carbon Junction Trail or Crites Connect
- Grandview BLM trails (access from Three Springs)
- BLM lands above the lower loops (approximately 1.5 miles above the 32nd Street trailhead)
- All upper trails as marked
- Exception: Smelter Mountain Trail is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dogs are prohibited
- Small game hunting is allowed in the area south of La Plata County Road 210
- The area east of County Road 208 and west of Hogs back. Note: this area is closed through July 31 to protect nesting peregrine falcons.
Durango Mesa Park Flow Trails will also be closed to minimize damage and erosion to the new flow trails. The Mesa Connector, Telegraph Connector and Meadow Knob Connector trails will remain open.