County completes roadless review
SUMMIT COUNTY ” Planners recently completed a review of all the inventoried roadless areas on national forest lands in Summit County. Listed below are background documents, including a timeline of the controversial national roadless rule that led to the current county planning effort, maps and site-specific draft recommendations for each of the roadless parcels in Summit County.
The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was published in the Federal Register on January 12, 2001, as a discretionary rule that fundamentally changed the Forest Service’s longstanding approach to management of inventoried roadless areas. The current administration replaced the original Roadless Area Conservation Rule last May. The new rule requires a petitioning process that allows Governors an opportunity to seek establishment of or adjustments to management requirements for National Forest System inventoried roadless areas within their States. Colorado is unique among the western states in that a Roadless Area Review Task Force has been set up to make recommendations to the governor.
The Roadless Areas Review Task Force – a bipartisan 13-member group, created under Senate Bill 05-243 – will help determine the future of roadless areas in Colorado, including what uses, if any, will be allowed in the applicable forest areas. Based upon public comment, the task force will make recommendations by the end of the year to Governor Owens regarding how inventoried roadless areas should be managed. The Governor will then submit a petition to the United States Forest Service on behalf of the State of Colorado. The task force has scheduled 11 public comment meetings around the state in order to listen to local citizens’ views on how to best to protect or manage the roadless forest in Colorado. The public comment meeting to gather input on the White River National Forest is scheduled for June 21, 2006 in Glenwood Springs.
The Board of County Commissioners has initiated a public process, through use of respective basin planning commissions, to review the inventoried roadless areas located in the County. The Board of County Commissioners will synthesize public comments and feedback from all basin planning commission meetings and forward recommendations regarding the management and use of roadless areas in the County to the task force at the scheduled June 21 meeting in Glenwood Springs.
The review of inventoried roadless areas located within each county planning basin will be discussed at respective and regularly scheduled March planning commission meetings. Public comments, to be forwarded to the Board of County Commissioners, will be taken at the meetings, dates and locations listed below:
Lower Blue Planning Commission (March 2, 2006): Town of Silverthorne Town Hall
Ten Mile Planning Commission (March 9, 2006): Buffalo Mountain Room, County Commons Building
Snake River Planning Commission (March 16, 2006): Town of Dillon Town Hall
Upper Blue Planning Commission (March 23, 2006): County Courthouse, 208 E. Lincoln Ave., Breckenridge
Note: If necessary, planning commissions will hold additional meetings in April to conclude public comment/testimony.
It is anticipated the BOCC will conduct a work session on May 9, and possibly May 16, to overview the roadless area recommendations. In addition, a public hearing is expected to be held by the BOCC on May 23 to formalize the final recommendations to be forwarded to the State Task Force.
USDA Forest Service Roadless Website: HYPERLINK http://roadless.fs.fed.us/
USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region Website: HYPERLINK http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/
USDA Forest Service Roadless Area Conservation Final Environmental Impact Statement, November 2000: HYPERLINK http://roadless.fs.fed.us/documents/feis/
Senate Bill 05-243: HYPERLINK http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/olls/sl2005a/sl_318.htm
Colorado Roadless Areas Review Task Force: HYPERLINK http://www.keystone.org/html/roadless_areas_task_force.html
It is felt roadless areas represent some of the few remaining undisturbed areas in Summit County, outside of wilderness areas, and should be protected to maintain that character. Because of the lack of roads, these areas can provide unique opportunities and are also important because of the undisturbed visual landscapes that they provide.
It is intended for the recommendations from the Board of County Commissioners on inventoried roadless areas to be representative of the views of the citizens of the County as a whole. The recommendations should support a theme, which reflects and represents a balance of recognizing unique characteristics of the roadless areas and employing sound environmental stewardship practices. For example, the County fully supports timber harvests and vegetative management in roadless areas to improve forest health, and the use or building of roads to effectively respond to and fight fires.
Overall, it is suggested the inventoried roadless areas should maintain the designated management prescriptions per the White River National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. However, the recommendations identified for individual roadless area should also be weighed against the guiding principles of: respect existing rights, need for vegetative/forest management, buffering of wildland urban interface areas, supporting U.S. Forest Service land trades, and correcting U.S. Forest Service edge mapping/mapping errors,
Detailed comments and recommendations are provided for each respective roadless area on individual comment sheets.
The individual comment sheets list evaluation criteria and draft recommendations for each roadless area, and is accompanied by a map. Of the 19 identified and inventoried roadless areas in the County, there is only one (Ryan Gulch) were it is suggested to remove the roadless area designation. Another significant draft recommendation is that it is still suggested the Ptarmigan B and C Roadless Areas follow the USFS Land and Resource Management Plan management prescription and be designated as Wilderness. Lastly, based on further evaluation of existing conditions, it is suggested to investigate expanding the boundary of the Tenmile Roadless Area north and south, and the Tenderfoot Roadless Area west.
Otherwise, all draft recommendation for the individual roadless area maintain that boundaries on the maps should be reconfigured to following existing management prescriptions, and stress the ability to conduct vegetative management to improve forest health in the future.
A number of guiding principles were identified in developing draft recommendations for use and management of the 19 inventoried roadless areas in the County. It is felt these guiding principles are very important to recognize as part of the overall recommendations to be forwarded from the Board of County Commissioners to the Roadless Areas Review Task Force.
Each of the guiding principles outlined below addresses situations or circumstances that are relative, and should be considered in assessing the site characteristic and values of each roadless areas in the County. The principles set a larger framework for the draft recommendations developed and embody the need for sound environmental stewardship practices. Therefore, each of the draft recommendations identified for individual roadless areas in the County should be weighed against the following guiding principles.
RESPECT EXISTING RIGHTS
It is possible that in the review of the individual roadless areas, site-specific details or information on the areas were overlooked (e.g., water rights, head gates, diversion structures, legitimate access to property, established rights-of-way, prescriptive right, utilities, etc.). These recommendations are not intended to supercede or disregard any of the legal rights established and associated with the respective roadless areas. Recognizing legitimate and legal rights, such as the use of mechanized machinery to maintain diversion ditches, needs to be maintained and honored.
VEGETATIVE / FOREST MANAGEMENT
There is a general recognition that the need for forest management in all roadless areas should be stressed. The ability to conduct vegetative management to improve forest health and effectively respond to and fight fires is important to the safety and welfare of the entire County. In the wake of the Pine Beetle Epidemic, it is critical to manage forests to ensure the potential negative effects of severe wildfire, and additional insect and disease activity, are addressed. Management prescriptions for roadless areas should allow for various management directions that react/respond to natural changes in the landscape.
It is understood that there is currently legal uncertainty concerning implementation of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. However, USFS interim directives appear to delegate the authority and the responsibility of the Regional Forester to serve as the Responsible Official for certain decisions on road construction, reconstruction, or timber harvest projects in inventoried roadless areas. Particularly, there seems to be a level of flexibility and discretion to approve proposed timber harvests, road construction or reconstruction projects to respond to extenuating circumstances in roadless areas (i.e. reducing the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire effects).
The County feels it is necessary and critical to have assurance that impediments do not exist to perform common sense or legitimate forest management practices in designated roadless areas. Therefore, the powers, regulations or directives that guide the ability to build roads and manage forest, when necessary, in roadless areas needs to be affirmed at the highest level of the Forest Service or U.S. government.
BUFFERING / WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE AREAS
A number of the inventoried roadless areas in the County (e.g., Boulder, Maryland Creek, Willow and Ryan Gulch) are within close proximity or adjacent to existing subdivisions. These “wildland urban interface” areas create a number of challenging management issues such as: trespassing, establishment of social trails, and impacts from humans. However, a more pronounced issue associated with these interface areas is the ability to alleviate or reduce the wildfire threat to human life and property. In this context, fuel reduction projections along the roadless area/interface boundaries are warranted.
It is emphasized there is a need for reasonable vegetative management between roadless and urban interface areas. If necessary, legitimate buffers should be delineated along wildland interface areas to facilitate effective forest management prescriptions, particularly to restore a fire-adapted ecosystem and reduce the risk of catastrophic fire to protect the community. Thus, the notion to create buffers and allowances to effectively manage these interface areas needs to be recognized in prescriptions, management plans or resource protection regulations developed for individual roadless areas.
USFS LAND TRADES
The Forest Service conducts land trades ” usually to acquire privately owned in-holdings in exchange for publicly owned lands closer to urban cores, developed areas or parcels adjacent to private property. It is understood that lands trades can take years to consummate, involve a range of stakeholders and a great deal of negotiation. In the County there are presumably portions of inventoried roadless areas that could be traded into private ownership in the future (i.e. Hoagland Reservoir area). It is felt that if an area has already been earmarked for a potential land trade, the designation as a roadless area should not preclude or negatively affect the trade.
USFS EDGE MAPPING / MAPPING ERRORS
When roadless areas were first mapped the Forest Service used historical data and the best sources for mapping at the time. Moreover, roadless areas were mapped and finalized prior to the completion of Forest Plans and management area prescriptions. Since the original mapping of roadless areas, technological advances has allowed the Forest Service to improve on mapping techniques.
When examining the Forest Service roadless mapping for the county obvious corrections need to be made to respective boundaries. It is transparent on the maps the original intent was for the roadless areas to follow the boundaries of management prescriptions. Thus, realignment of roadless areas should be changed or corrected during the next Forest Plan revision to accurately reflect and match management area prescriptions boundaries and other evident errors. Some of the roadless areas in the County were there are obvious mapping errors include: Corral Creek, Ptarmigan A, B and C, Tenderfoot Mountain, Tenmile, and Williams Fork
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