Reservation forest roads closed due to rain damage


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The Southern Ute Agency of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, with the concurrence of tribal leaders, has closed several forest roads on the Southern Ute Reservation pending repairs to damage caused by heavy rains this month.

In a meeting Monday, Sept. 23 at the Southern Ute Multi-purpose Facility, Superintendent John Waconda and staff met with Southern Ute Executive Officer Steve R. Herrera Sr. and members of the tribe’s Natural Resources Department to discuss closing roads deemed unsafe for vehicle travel.

The roads identified are primarily on the east side of the reservation and include several frequented by hunters. Boulders, large sinkholes, washouts and exposed culverts are among the problems caused by the rains, according to Ken Van Zee of the agency’s Forestry Branch.

“We’ve got culverts washed out. We’ve got roads washed out,” Van Zee said. “What got us into this mess is lack of ditches and maintenance over the years.”

Lena Atencio, director of the tribal Natural Resources Department, said that while some could be upset over the closures, safety is paramount.

“We don’t want hunters going out there and getting stuck, especially where there’s no cell phone reception,” she said.

In the days following the meeting, the tribe’s Forestry Division and others assessed road conditions before a final closure list was determined.

The closed roads are as follows (west to east):

  • Upper Sandoval Canyon Road (SU 166)
  • East Sandoval Canyon Road (SU 156)
  • Northern section of Escondido Road (SU 165)
  • Northern section of Seguro Canyon Road

Other roads have been identified as passable only with 4×4 vehicles. These include the following (west to east):

  • Sambrito Canyon Road (SU 159)
  • Upper and lower Harrion Canyon Road (SU 167)
  • Payan Canyon Road (SU 168)
  • Southern section of Swede Canyon Road
  • Southern section of Escondido Road (SU 165)
  • Archuleta Creek Road
  • Garcia Canyon Road
  • Cabin Road (SU 161)
  • Western section of Madrid Canyon Road (SU 153)
  • Southern section of Seguro Canyon Road

The following roads have been assessed and deemed safe for travel (west to east):

  • Upper Sheep Canyon Road
  • Pine Tree Canyon Road
  • Ignacio Creek Road off of Fosset Gulch Road
  • Deep Canyon Road
  • Northern section of Swede Canyon Road
  • Round Meadow Road
  • Gomez Canyon/Trail Canyon Road (SU 152)
  • Eastern section of Madrid Canyon Road (SU 153)
  • Jefferson Canyon Road (SU 154)
  • Archuleta Mesa Road (SU 139)

Tribal and BIA officials are currently drawing up a priority list for short-term repairs, which they hope to begin immediately – provided the weather clears up long enough to allow it.

“The bottom line is just get them passable,” Atencio said.

Waconda said long-term solutions, including culvert replacement, could be implemented in coming years as funding is available.

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