Federal official to explain White River forest changes to Coloradans | SummitDaily.com

Federal official to explain White River forest changes to Coloradans

DENVER – The federal official who overturned a part of the White River National Forest management plan aimed at protecting lynx will visit Colorado to explain his decision, Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said Wednesday.Salazar announced the visit, yet to be scheduled, after meeting with David Tenny, the U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary for natural resources. Salazar requested the meeting with Tenny and Rick Cables, head of the regional U.S. Forest Service office, for information on the decision that the senator said disregarded the input of 14,000 individuals and state and federal wildlife biologists.Cody Wertz, Salazar’s spokesman, said Tenny and Cables have agreed to speak during informal public hearings in Colorado.”The senator sees this as a step in the right direction, to explain why they did what they did,” Wertz said.Late last year, the Forest Service approved a new management plan for the 2.3 million-acre White River forest, the state’s largest and in the heart of Colorado’s ski country. In December, Tenny overturned a finding that activities in the forest are likely to adversely affect lynx and their habitat and ordered that a standard protecting lynx be dropped.Since 1999, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has released 166 lynx from Canada and elsewhere in the southwestern part of the state to restore the long-haired cat to the state. The cat is classified as threatened under federal law and endangered under state law.Tenny said stronger lynx protections were unnecessary because no documented evidence exists of lynx in the forest since 1974. State biologists have said electronic tracking shows that nearly one-third of the cats have been roaming through the forest.Tenny has said he also wanted to make the White River plan consistent with a plan being written for managing lynx in all forests in the southern Rockies. Last week, he said that he directed forest managers to consider the impacts of projects on lynx case by case.

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