Residents urged to speak up about trails, recreation issues
BRECKENRIDGE – Meetings will begin next month to address the Travel Management portion of the newly released White River National Forest Plan, and Clare Bastable wants citizens to show up en masse.
Bastable is the Western Slope conservation coordinator for the Colorado Mountain Club, a 90-year-old nonprofit organization that represents recreational interests throughout the state. She spoke at the Breckenridge Recreation Center Monday night, where she encouraged about a dozen people to get involved with local environmental issues.
The White River National Forest Plan, which governs uses throughout the forest, is updated every 15 years. The most recent update was released June 4 after more than two years of public input and analysis. The deadline to appeal the plan is Sept. 5.
The next step is to develop the Travel Management Plan, which outlines specific uses allowed on the forest – from snowmobiles and logging to skiing and hiking.
“What’s going on with the White River plan really affects Summit County,” Bastable said. “Alternative K (the preferred plan presented by the U.S. Forest Service) is a lot different from Alternative D (the original preferred plan). It’s hard to say it’s good or bad. Some things in it are really great; some things aren’t so good.”
Some of the positives, she said, include the proposed designation of 82,000 acres of land as wilderness area – double the amount proposed in Alternative D. Bastable said club members like the part of the plan that removes old growth spruce forests from timber harvests, increases acreage for non-motorized uses and provides linkages for wildlife between wilderness areas.
The downsides, she said, include the new prescription that increases the amount of forest eligible for logging and ski area permit expansions.
“Alternative D’s theme was based on biological diversity and wildlife habitat,” she said. “Alternative K is more geared toward recreation.”
That’s OK with Bastable and mountain club members, as their mission is to promote recreational experiences in the wilderness.
But there are numerous threats to that mission, including ski area expansions, road construction into roadless areas, oil and gas development, drought, fire and development, she said.
Mountain club officials are concerned that the Breckenridge Ski Resort could expand its permit boundary area as far north as Peak 5, and Copper Mountain Resort to Searle Pass, Bastable said. They’re also concerned existing roadless areas might not always remain protected and could be opened up for timber or road construction.
The club also wants to protect an area near the Bookcliffs in Western Colorado that is home to 10 percent of the state’s native cutthroat trout population and provides habitat for big game.
“That area is near and dear to our hearts,” Bastable said. “And it’s one of the biggest targets in Colorado under Bush’s energy plan. We’re going to see this all over Western Colorado.”
The mountain club is working to get 38,000 acres – a little less than half of the land there – legally protected.
Another goal is to develop Quiet Trails groups in Western counties to protect areas for quieter activities such as Nordic skiing, hiking, climbing, mountain biking and horseback riding.
“This would take areas that don’t necessarily qualify for wilderness, but have special values that make it worth some sort of protection, and protect them,” Bastable said.
A few opportunities exist in the next two weeks, including trail work on the Wheeler Trail between Copper Mountain and Hoosier Pass on Sept. 2, and a Lilypad Lake trail project Aug. 24.
For more information about the Wheeler Trail, contact Heide Andersen, open space and trails planner for the town of Breckenridge, at (970) 547-3110; for Lilypad Lake work, call Currie Craven at (970) 453-9056.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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