Forest travel plan delayed again | SummitDaily.com
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Forest travel plan delayed again

BOB BERWYNsummit daily news

Summit Co. CO ColoradoSUMMIT COUNTY – After pushing hard for completion of the White River National Forest travel management plan, Forest Service officials recently announced yet another delay, meaning that on-the-ground travel rules won’t be implemented until 2008 at the earliest.For Summit County crosscountry skiers, snowmobilers and other national forest users, that means another winter of potential conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users. It also means nearly another entire year will pass before the agency moves to close unauthorized user-created trails in the area.”It’s another winter of not very good information to the public as to where they can go,” said Ken Waugh, the recreation staff officer on the Dillon Ranger District.The White River National Forest travel management plan has been in the works for about four years, ever since the overall forest land-use plan revision was completed. The plan assigns specific uses on a trail-by-trail basis, for example allowing horseback riding on some trails, closing others to motorized use and setting some areas aside for crosscounty skiing and snowshoe travel.The latest delay results from the agency’s decision to issue a “supplemental draft” study before finalizing the plan. The draft version released last summer featured three alternatives, including an option designed to reduce user conflicts, another that focused on preservation of natural resources and a third that would maximize recreational opportunities.The new step in the process elicited a frustrated response from Summit County officials, who recently were denied when they formally requested an extension to the plan’s comment period.”Do you hear this deep and long sigh?” said Summit County manager Ron Holliday. “I just am perplexed sometimes … I don’t understand. We’re disappointed and irritated. It’s been four years since the White River forest plan revision was put to bed. Then they issued a preliminary plan that was filled with errors and had what we considered to be a relatively short comment period,” Holliday said. “We implored them to extend it by 30, 60 days, and we were astounded when they denied us.”The agency’s reasoning at the time was that no further delays were justifiable since the travel plan had already been in progress for such a long time. Forest Service officials said the delay will result in a better product in the end, and attributed the new step in part to release of a new national off-highway vehicle rule that required additional studies.”At that time, I felt like we should stay the course and then maybe make adjustments along the way,” said White River National Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson. “What changed was an alignment of multiple things,” she continued, singling out release of the national travel management rule.Gustafson explained her change in thinking:”I didn’t feel like I was going to be able to make a comprehensive decision and be compliant with the national rule,” Gustafson said. “Our document wasn’t aligned. This supplemental draft will include information from the mixed-use studies,” she said.Waugh said that national rule required another look at mixed-use routes, where non-licensed dirt bikes and ATVs mingle with full-size four-wheel-drive vehicles. “We may be looking at closing more routes to motorized users than proposed in any of the draft alternatives,” Waugh said. “So we wanted to make sure that motorized users specifically get a chance to look at the whole picture.”The supplemental draft will likely be released in the spring or summer of 2007.For more information on the White River National Forest and the travel plan process, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver/projects/travel_management/index.shtml.


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