Wolf Creek Pass, straddling the Continental Divide between Pagosa and Del Norte along the Rio Grande and San Juan National Forest boundary, is a haven for wildlife – including critical habitat for the endangered Canada lynx and an important migration corridor for elk.
Wolf Creek Pass also provides exceptional winter recreation, hosting Wolf Creek Ski area and providing access to world-class backcountry skiing and riding.
But as recreational use has increased, so have conflicts between user groups, with consequences for our public lands and wildlife. Ever-improving snowmobile and timber sled technology pushes motorized use deeper into the backcountry, impacting human-powered recreation, encroaching on the ski area boundary, and fragmenting wildlife habitat.
The Forest Service has a duty to manage winter travel proactively, setting aside areas that are appropriate for different uses along a “Recreation Opportunity Spectrum” and mapping those areas to inform users. According to federal regulations, areas that aren’t explicitly open to motorized travel are presumed closed. But the Rio Grande and San Juan forests have yet to establish a winter travel plan, abdicating their responsibility to manage winter recreation on the pass. Even well-meaning and respectful users don’t have clear rules to follow. We need a plan, and we need the public to be involved.
The San Juan Citizens Alliance and our partners are working hard to ensure the Forest Service does its job – intentionally managing winter travel so that all users can enjoy the pass, while ensuring intact wildlife habitat and corridors to protect the species that call it home. We’ve partnered with Winter Wildlands Alliance and Wolf Creek Ski Area to push the Forest Service into action, and are helping to organize backcountry recreationists in the San Juan Basin to protect our treasured places.
Interested in Helping?
Calling all backcountry recreationists in the San Juan Basin: let’s play hard and preserve Wolf Creek while we’re doing it. If you’re interested in lending your voice and joining our action group, please reach out to our new Public Lands Program Manager, John Rader by emailing here.