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Forest Service Shuts Blocks High Country ATV Business

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A man who runs ATV tours in the high country says he’s being shut down by the U.S. Forest Service.

The Forest Service says it’s just trying to protect public lands.

“The federal government is taking away my business; they’re hurting me,” Scott Wilson said.

For nearly a decade Wilson has been running Colorado Backcountry Rentals that rents snowmobiles and ATVs in Summit County. Earlier this month he and one other company received cease-and-desist letters from the Forest Service.

“We started the business in 2004, went to the Forest Service, got their permission. The Forest Service said the Vail Pass rest area was not their property,” Wilson said.

“This year we saw a significant increase in that delivery activity, so I felt that I needed to act and communicate that they needed to stop,” Dillon Ranger District Supervisor Jan Cutts said.

The heart of the controversy at the top of Vail Pass is about who has authority. Wilson says he’s had permission from the Colorado Department of Transportation, who leases and maintains the roads and rest area, which he and other companies have used to unload rented equipment.

“We’ve been working through some confusion about what authority does the Forest Service have on a CDOT right-of-way on Vail Pass,” Cutts said.

The Forest Service says the companies have been operating without the proper permit, which they admit is not available right now.

“Is this the right thing to do at the right spot? And after we determine that, then we open it up to the competitive process,” Cutts said.

“I’ve asked for a permit for years, and they’ve continually said, ‘Well, we haven’t done the studies, we haven’t done the studies, we haven’t done the studies,’ ” Wilson said.

The Forest Service told CBS4 they hope to have a permit completed with at least one company by this winter.

Wilson says he doesn’t know if his company can wait any longer.

“I just don’t want to lose my business. I don’t want to put five guys on unemployment,” he said.

Wilson also says he’s being unfairly targeted because the Forest Service hasn’t stopped bike tour companies who also utilize the Vail Pass rest area. The Forest Service says it’s taking the new approach to recreation one activity at a time.

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