New Mexico trail clash echoes culture war across US West

new-mexico-trail-clash-echoes-culture-war-across-us-west
New Mexico trail clash echoes culture war across US West

Physiotherapist Spencer Bushnell and farmer Carlos Arguello have differing opinions on the proposal to create up to 71 miles of mountain bike and hiking trails in Taos, New Mexico. Both individuals joined a U.S. Forest Service working group to address the increasing demand for trails and the diminishing public access to the foothills. This issue has sparked a culture war between multi-generational families, conservationists, and recreationist locals who support the trail systems, and opponents who believe the trails will have negative impacts on water supply, wildlife, wildfire risk, and gentrification. Similar trail projects have been canceled in Oregon and Colorado, and the debate has divided the community of Taos. Arguello and other locals withdrew their trail proposals due to opposition from their community, leaving mainly pro-trails proposals on the table. Arguello is concerned about the potential negative effects on the watershed and fears the creation of an international mountain-bike destination. On the other hand, Bushnell, who grew up biking on trails in Bend, Oregon, believes that the community is losing access to its own public lands. The pandemic has led to a significant increase in trail use on public land, attracting new residents and entrepreneurs. However, this influx can also lead to less affordable housing and the displacement of long-time residents. Taos, known for its diverse cultural heritage, has seen a 69% increase in the average price of a condo since 2019, making it unaffordable for most working households. The Hispano population, which includes Arguello, has experienced a decline in their share of the county population. The debate over trail development also involves conflicts over the historical and cultural significance of the land. Despite the disagreements, the U.S. Forest Service plans to continue engaging with the community to address user conflicts and forest damage.

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