- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comments on a proposal to close many of the roads and institute a seasonal road closure in a popular recreation area between Cheyenne and Laramie.

The Pole Mountain section of Medicine Bow National Forest draws crowds from Laramie, Cheyenne and the Colorado Front Range. It’s a popular place to camp, climb, hunt, hike and ride off-road vehicles. But vehicles are rutting roads and damaging the landscape in some areas.

A public comment period on the preliminary road plan began Wednesday and ends Dec. 4. Public meetings on the proposal are set for 6 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Laramie Plains Civic Center in Laramie and 6 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne.

Under the plan, the Forest Service would:

- Keep open 121 miles of authorized public roads;

- Decommission 28 miles of authorized public road;

- Close to the public but allow administrative use of nine miles of currently public road;

- Decommission three miles of roads used for administrative access;

- Create a roughly three-mile loop for all-terrain vehicles and other off-highway vehicles.

Meanwhile, roads in the half of Pole Mountain north of Wyoming Highway 210, or Happy Jack Road, would be closed each year from Feb. 1 to June 15.

The seasonal closure would help protect wintering big-game animals and their offspring. The seasonal closure also would avoid the need for emergency road closures to prevent damage during soggy spring weather, Medicine Bow National Forest spokesman Aaron Voos said Thursday.

The draft document also proposes to limit the number of dispersed camping sites in the area of Road 700 in the busy southern end of Pole Mountain, near the Vedauwoo recreation area. The sites would remain free of charge, but forest officials would try to prevent unauthorized campsites from encouraging new unauthorized roads and vice versa, Voos said.

For a Forest Service area, Pole Mountain has an unusually large number of roads packed into its 86 square miles. Many date to the area’s use as a military training area decades ago. “There are a lot of roads that maybe weren’t engineered correctly,” Voos said.

After reviewing the comments on its draft proposal, the Forest Service plans to release an environmental assessment with a range of potential options, including a preferred alternative. Forest officials expect to make a final decision by next fall, Voos said.

“The road system on the national forest is a big part of what we manage. It’s just good practice to take a look at what you have,” he said.

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