If someone is caught camping in a restricted area of Montezuma County’s national forests, he doesn’t need to worry. Sheriff Spruell has told his deputies not to cite citizens for violating this or other regulations which he views as illegitimate.
As part of a 2005 federal mandate for travel management, the Forest Service is closing roads and trails in the San Juan National Forest. But local conservatives—the sheriff included— are fighting the closures, saying the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction over forest lands.
Many of the roads being closed were originally built for logging or mining. Others are the result of ATV’s veering off established trails. These now-popular r have seen significant use since then.
Dissenters have been protesting at the local Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management offices over the past few weeks. Many cite an 1866 law, which they say gives local authorities jurisdiction over roadways. Others say the protesters are misinformed.
The road closure issue is one part of a larger debate about local versus federal jurisdiction of forest lands in the southwestern corner of Colorado.