Krassel District Ranger
Good afternoon Scott,
Thank you for your question about the Sugar Creek Road. I understand there is some confusion over the status of this road. I have had lengthy discussions with Valley County Commissioners, Midas Gold and the BCYP Collaborative about the issues surrounding Sugar Creek, the unauthorized use and the deteriorating condition of the road. Unfortunately you missed those discussions and our field trips up there to discuss solutions.
The road is not on our Motor Vehicle Use Map, therefore not open to general public use. The best we can tell, the Sugar Creek Road hasn’t been open for general public use for over 15 years. This is not a recent decision, and by this project, we are not closing this road, we are planning to do maintenance and restoration on the road to prevent impacts to Sugar Creek. Sugar Creek is home to three ESA listed fish species and designated as critical habitat by the ESA. Known unauthorized use of the road is having unacceptable impacts of listed fish and habitat.
Our Forest Service Travel Rule and Forest Plan allows special use of closed road for legal, outstanding rights (mineral, tribal, private land access, etc.) but even authorized use of the road cannot have impact on ESA listed species. This road is not planned for decommissioning or other long term restoration at this point. For legal and authorized access needs, the road will remain drivable with the exception of the ford crossing Sugar Creek after the restoration project. However, we are working with local land owners on the project, and access to Cinnabar can be made from the Thunder Mountain Road #375 which is open to the public.
The Sugar Creek road crosses multiple parcels of private land to which there is no public easement and Cinnabar is private property.
Because of road counters put up last year, we know that there is a fair amount of unauthorized use on the road, and that Cinnabar seems to be the destination of some of that use. Cinnabar is known to have elevated levels of mercury contamination, and EPA, the Forest Service and the landowners discourage use in the area due to known human health risks. As a part of this project we will reinforce our MVUM by installing barriers to prevent unauthorized use across the restored ford.
I understand there has been some confusing information about this project, and appreciate your seeking clarification. I am also in receipt of your email of today asking if private citizens can build a bridge over Sugar Creek at the ford. Please give me a call or lets set up a time when we can meet to discuss all of your questions.