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):
Other roads have been identified as passable only with 4×4 vehicles. These include the following (west to east):
The following roads have been assessed and deemed safe for travel (west to east):
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.