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Old 04-17-2006, 03:13 PM
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Red_Chili Red_Chili is offline
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Default Pike-San Isabel Forest Planning: CLOSE TO HOME

Courtesy Gene King. Note the comments about OHV use proliferating with illegal trails (by definition, aren't those already ILLEGAL? So, the solution is to SHUT DOWN OHVs???), with the further impact of wildlife not even crossing the trails and roads. Au contraire. This weekend I came across a pair of wild gobblers (hen and tom) who were not the least bit disturbed by my presence on a dirtbike. Really cool. Turkeys are real shy usually, too! Also, I have observed elk herd tracks using 4x4 roads for migration, even preferring them.

It's enough to make me pretty cynical about ultragreen calls for 'science'- unless it undermines their position, at which time innuendo will do just fine.
Publication:The Gazette; Date:Apr 16, 2006; Section:Section A; Page Number:1
A difficult balancing act Wildlife and humans: Forest plan revision starts


A reappraisal of how the Pike and San Isabel national forests should be managed gets under way this spring, the first such review in 22 years.

Many aspects of the forests could come into play: ranching, recreation, oil and gas development and logging.

For instance: How, or whether, the forests will be thinned where they abut a growing number of rural homes.

But the biggest point of contention likely will be about access for off-road vehicles, a pastime that has exploded in popularity in the past decade.

The new plan might not impose outright bans on activities or open the door on others, but it’s a critical blueprint to guide decisions.

Federal directives require forest plan revisions every 15 years. Although the Pike and San Isabel plan hasn’t been rewritten since 1984, it has been amended 31 times to update uses and requirements, including provisions for timber sales, road construction, utility corridors and fire management standards.

Forest officials blamed the delay on diverting resources to other forest plan revisions, lack of external pressure for change and lack of funding.

That same lack of funding is to blame for the Forest Service limiting public involvement, the Forest Service said.

Forest Service spokeswoman Cass Cairns said public meetings might begin in June, but the public-participation plans aren’t finished.

“This strategy will identify opportunities for the public to be involved in the revision process during key phases,” forest officials said in a written response to questions.

They also said the public phase “has not been nor is expected to be as extensive or detailed when compared with previous and on-going plan revisions projects on nearby forests.”

Cairns said the revision will address recreation, restoration, protection and conservation, and the public’s input will be sought.

“You’re working with these different interests for a common end result — for having a plan for use of the land that will also protect the land,” she said.

Forest plan revisions can be dicey.

The White River Forest revision, finished in 2002, spanned five years. The forest’s 2.3 million acres contain 64 percent of Colorado’s downhill-skiing facilities, including Aspen and Vail, and the state’s largest elk herd.

The revision drew 14,000 written public responses and faced numerous challenges and appeals from off-road vehicle groups who opposed designated off-road routes, environmentalists who lobbied for better protection of ecosystems and ski resorts that alleged protection plans infringed on their operations.

The Pike and San Isabel revision could stir controversy in light of lifestyle changes since the 1984 plan was adopted.

Rural populations in Park and Teller counties, both within the Pike forest, more than doubled from 1980 to 2004.

Some forested areas that have become popular residental enclaves haven’t burned in more than 100 years, creating huge buildups of fuel. While the Forest Service conducts burns and thinning throughout the forest, it should be a priority in populated spots, said John Stansfield, wilderness chairman for the Sierra Club’s Pikes Peak chapter.

“The money we do have available for fuel treatment, forest thinning, controlled burns, it really needs to be spent on the urban interface, the red zones,” he said. “That’s where your threats to human life are.”

Then there’s the off-road vehicle explosion.

Off-roading is one of the top activities promoted by tour companies, along with hiking, fishing and river rafting. Dan Delasantos, a board member for the Littleton-based Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition, said off-roaders hope the new forest plan will allow more space for them.

“Anytime you condense an already large number of people (into the same space), it doesn’t matter if it’s hikers, horse riders or motorized vehicle, you’re creating more of a concern, as far as safety goes,” he said, noting Colorado has become a magnet for outstate off-roaders. “In order to accommodate growing numbers, we need additional areas.”

Delasantos said off-roaders aren’t out to destroy nature. He noted that hundreds of offroaders volunteered their time and vehicles to do reclamation work — even in areas not designed for off-road use — after the Hayman forest fire burned 138,000 acres northeast of Lake George in 2002.

“Do off-roaders have a place in the forest? Yes,” he said. “The off-roading community has evolved into an educated group of individuals with emphasis on staying on the trail, respecting the land, including wildlife. All these organizations are stepping in to educate people to reduce the impact.”

Others oppose expanding off-roaders’ access to preserve wildlife habitat and ecosystems.

“Recreation in general on the Pike-San Isabel is a growing concern. It’s a concern nationally,” said Jean Smith, with the Upper Arkansas/South Platte Project, a conservation group formed in 1995 that focuses on the two watersheds and the surrounding forests.

She said people climbing 14ers, for example, number in the hundreds any given weekend.

“The more footprints you put down on the land, the more damage there is to the habitat,” she said, noting vehicles cause the biggest impact.

“You have networks of trails that are user-created, essentially illegal,” she said. “With an ATV or dirt bike, you can do miles and miles in a few hours. It fragments the habitat. Wild animals are not tolerant of motorized vehicles, nor the tracks left afterwards. Some will not cross motorized tracks. You get this incredible network of use that is very difficult to manage and control.”

Overtreading trails and creating new ones, she said, can impact water supplies that pick up sediment, oil and gasoline as water cascades down mountains into reservoirs and streams.

“We would not support expansion of motorized trails,” she said. “There are many, many places to go now. We would be recommending a few motorized trails be converted to forest and foot trails.”

But Smith realizes the planning process won’t be easy.

“The question is going to be: How are you going to get all the stakeholders to arrive at some consensus about how the forest should be managed?” she said. “There’s not going to be a plan that everyone agrees on, because that’s the nature of forest planning.”

The final plan is scheduled for release in 2009.

CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0238 or pam.zubeck@gazette.com
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