Your forest roads

All these photos were taken in the upper Sandoval Canyon area and are examples of rutting, the erosion caused, and the sediment settling in low areas.
Courtesy Bureau of Indian Affairs
Courtesy Bureau of Indian Affairs
Courtesy Bureau of Indian Affairs
Courtesy Bureau of Indian Affairs


It is the time of year when spring snows/rains combined with thawing cause forest roads to become unstable and subject to severe damage from vehicle traffic.  We would like to enlist the aid of all forest road users in reducing the damage done to fragile forest roads.  Eastside forest roads are the responsibility of the BIA, Southern Ute Agency (BIA) to maintain; along with the US Forest Service (FS) on a few small sections.  Occasionally during timber sales or other forest management activities the contractors are responsible for keeping roads on their treatment units in good condition.  Unfortunately the funding provided to the BIA Branch of Roads is entirely inadequate to address even a small portion of the needs.  They are lacking in funding, personnel and equipment.  At this time BIA roads has no bulldozer or road grader, and no operators.  Operators are borrowed from Irrigation, which is also short on personnel.  This situation results in the BIA Branch of Forestry doing most of the forest road work with only one operator, a small dump truck and a small bulldozer owned by Fire Management.  As you can see this is an unfortunate situation, but one we have been living with for many years.  This results in only a small portion of road work needed actually being performed each year.  Unfortunately we are forced to prioritize.

Although progress is slow, we have done extensive work repairing/upgrading roads damaged by flooding over the past couple of years.  We have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars re-shaping, graveling, cleaning and/or adding culverts and grading many forest roads.  Presently we have been working hard on Sambrito and Deep Canyon roads, only to find them severely damaged shortly after the work is completed.

Water is the number one enemy of all forest roads so they are designed to drain water off the roads as quickly as possible.  This is done primarily by proper road placement, ditching and crowning of the roads, proper culvert placement and maintenance, and in some cases graveling.  A large portion of your forest roads are not graveled and therefore are more susceptible to rutting and eroding.  THESE ROADS SHOULD BE AVOIDED WHEN WET, ESPECIALLY AFTER RECENT ROAD WORK/MAINTENANCE.  When a vehicle drives on wet/unstable forest roads the first thing that happens is rutting.  Rutting causes water to not drain off the road as designed, and flow down the road rather than into the ditches.  This causes erosion, making the ruts deeper.  Water, mud and gravel then flow down the ruts and settle into low areas on the road, forming the giant puddles and mud holes you have all seen.  This, in turn, makes it take longer for the road to dry out, causing additional damage.  One set of ruts can ruin thousands of dollars of work.

Forest roads are for transporting Tribal members and employees, resource management personnel, range and forestry permittees, and other members of the public through the forest for purposes of recreation, forest management activities including fire suppression and management, hunting and gathering, and livestock and energy related activities.  All users need to be aware of the fact that damaging the roads is not serving anyone’s purpose and causes diversion of already insufficient funding and resources.

In the near future, we will begin placing gates and closing some forest roads during winter/spring months to avoid further damage.

Also please be advised that people with woodcutting or other forest permits will be held responsible for using common sense when entering areas to cut wood, etc.  If you are found destroying roads while in possession of a permit, your permit may be revoked and you may not be issued another.  Please act responsibly.

We ask that you please help us by doing the following:

Before entering any forest road that may be unstable, ask yourself if the trip is really necessary and/or if there is a better route that can be taken.

Avoid driving on non-graveled forest roads when they are wet and/or unstable.  The minute your wheels start to spin or you hear mud splattering on the underside of your vehicle, stop, turn around as soon as possible, and leave the area.  Wait for the road to dry out before re-entering or seek another route to your destination.

Drive along the side of ruts, not in them.  This helps to flatten out the ruts rather than make them deeper.

When roads are dry and you have good visibility, use the full width of the road, not always driving down the middle, so the entire road gets packed down evenly.

Do not enter forest roads when it appears a thunderstorm is imminent, and if you are already in the woods, leave with enough time to get down before thunderstorms strike.

Try to do your firewood cutting from mid-September through October when roads are normally dry.

Report violators that are destroying roads to one of the following:

SUIT Tribal Rangers or SUPD, 563-0246 or 563-0133

BIA or SUIT Forestry, 563-4571 or 563-4780

Thank you for your cooperation,

BIA Branch of Forestry and SUIT Forestry Division.

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