Those of you who ski down south may have already heard about the Bear Creek debacle in Telluride. Seems an enterprising gent by the name of Thomas Chapman purchased several mining claims and convinced the Forest Service to close the backcountry gates out of Telluride because skiers might cross his property. I’m not up-to-speed with the history, but it sounds like he’s pulled off this maneuver before–buying property, then convincing the resort to pay an inflated price to reestablish access. Locals are outraged, visitors are bummin’…and Thomas Chapman and his Gold Hill Development Corporation are hoping to turn a quick buck.
You can help by offering public comment to the Forest Service. Below, you’ll find info on how to get involved and more on the land acquisition and fight. The Colorado Mountain Club and Backcountry Snowsports Inititative are leading the charge…so help ’em out!
I’ll leave you with this telling quote from Chapman. In an interview with a local mag, he explained he hopes to “to serve as a ‘check’ against the over-zealous portion of the environmental community and the sycophant politicians that pander to them for political gain.”
Uh…I guess that’s us, folks. Let’s have at it.
The landowners of the specified mining claims have been accused of attempting to create greater potential sale value for their properties by advocating for this closure, advocacy some locals view as extortive. Chapman told Telluride Magazine in an interview published this winter that one of his professional goals is “to serve as a ‘check’ against the over-zealous portion of the environmental community and the sycophant politicians that pander to them for political gain.” We don’t see what’s over-zealous about protecting historical backcountry ski access to public land. This situation needs to be corrected, and to do that, we need your help.Robert, please help us in our attempt to regain access to public land in a constructive and respectful manner. The Forest Service needs to hear from as many of us as possible in order to better understand the highest and best use of our high-country environments. If we can educate our government and other establishments on backcountry usage in this case, our work may have impacts far beyond the current issue in Telluride.
The CMC, with Telluride’s Sheep Mountain Alliance, has filed a FOIA request with the Forest Service to discover the details behind these closures. In the meantime, it is my hope—on behalf of the Colorado Mountain Club, the American Alpine Club, Telluride recreationalists, Winter Wildlands Alliance, and The Access Fund—that you might take a few minutes of your time to help protect access to our many spectacular mountain environments.
2250 Highway 50, Delta, CO 81416
P.O. Box 388, Norwood, CO 81423
- Please reopen the Upper Bear Creek backcountry access gates immediately and involve the public in future decisions about this area.
- The hasty decision to close access to this area did not adequately take into account the economic and social impacts on the region’s people and businesses.
- It is problematic, and potentially illegal, when a federal agency closes public land that has been open to public use for over 10 years without any public input.
- The closed gates provide access to public lands that do not necessarily cross the involved private mining claims. There are many other areas that can be accessed via these access points that do not conflict with or trespass on private land.
- In the previous decades, there was never any concern about public access in the Bear Creek drainage. There have been documented ski descents in this area as early as the 1960s or earlier.
- Part of the USFS’s mission is to provide the public with reasonable access to public land.
- The Wasatch Trail is an USFS-recognized trail that has been used by the public for decades without any contested use.