Forest Service “carpet bombs” public trails in Colorado

July 10, 2015

By Clay Greathouse

As published on Alpine Paradise  

Gold Rush Expeditions, Inc.'s photo.

Forest Service caught Red Handed in Pitkin, Colorado

The old historic mining town of Pitkin, Colorado is home to some amazing 4×4 roads such as the Tin Cup/ St. Elmo/Pitkin Loop, and Hancock Pass/Alpine Tunnel 4×4 road. It’s also home to hardy group of citizens who won’t let the Forest Service trample all over their rights.

Over the past few years the United States Forest Service has been attempting to close many roads around Pitkin, as well as all over Colorado.

The roads were not merely being closed, they were being obliterated. A local Vietnam vet said, “It looks like carpet bombing to me!” The Forest Service was using a Deere 650 dozer to do the damage. The Forest Service had overstepped their bounds, the people of Pitkin knew it and they decided enough was enough. The formed a work party and set off on their own to restore the Powderhouse Gulch Road.

However, word leaked out to District Ranger John Murphy, who met the work party accompanied by USFS law enforcement personnel. Murphy tried to discourage the men from reopening the road, arguing that, “this is not the right way to go about it,” that “there are proper channels to go through,” and “hoops that you need to jump through,” and that “it is not possible to reopen the road.” But not even the threat of arrest would stop the men from reopening the road.

The men knew the Forest Service had overstepped their bounds, this was a county road. The District Ranger, John Murphy, was powerless to arrest the men and his threats were merely an attempt to prevent being caught with his hand in the cookie jar. When Murphy came to realize that he could not talk the men out of reopening the road, he did what he had just said was not possible. He guaranteed that he would reopen the road, and have it done in a week.

It was the best possible outcome. Not only were we the people of Pitkin not arrested, the road crews destroying the roads around Pitkin were pulled, and the Powderhouse Gulch Road was reconstructed. Had Murphy ordered the men arrested rather than ordering the road restored, federal prosecutors would not have been able to obtain a conviction, and instead the Forest Service’s usurpation and destruction would have been spotlighted.

It took more than 40 hours to restore the road the dozer had previously ruined, but true to his word, John Murphy reopened the road.

Understanding the laws:
Although the Powderhouse Gulch road is a right-or-way through the National Forest, the road is not a National Forest System road. It is a county road, belonging to the People of Colorado.


The USFS is an unelected federal agency with limited jurisdiction. Although the USFS may have power to destroy its own “National Forest System roads,” it has no power to close, let alone destroy, “a road which has been authorized by a legally documented right-of-way held by a State, county, or other local public road authority,” that is, a road protected under the principles of RS2477, an old mining statute securing established right-of-ways.

Had the group of men from Pitkin tried to reopen a closed USFS road, there would have likely been legal action taken against them. The key is to know the laws and be smart about protecting your rights.

Special thanks to Dave’s Mountain Tours for bringing this great story, about the great men of Pitkin who stood up for their rights, to our attention.…/


Reposted by  7/10/15

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