Forest finishing travel plan for roads, trails in Eagle County
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The U.S. Forest Service took a big step Friday toward completing a long delayed plan that will decide who uses what trails and roads around Eagle County, Colorado and elsewhere in the 2.3 million acre White River National Forest.
The forest supervisor’s office released a draft of an environmental study that includes hundreds of comments from hikers, bikers, skiers, equestrians, environmentalists and motor-vehicle users on the agency’s proposal for managing travel.
Those users are sometimes at odds with one another. Off-road vehicle enthusiasts, for example, might be trying to preserve use of trails that conservationists want closed. The potential for conflict, and even litigation, has forced the Forest Service to move slowly and go through an exhaustive process designed to answer concerns and arrive at legally justifiable conclusions.
Resdients who are interested in the process, identified as stakeholders by the Forest Service, received a refined travel management plan in the mail Thursday. The plan also is available for the public on the White River National Forest website at http://www.fs.fed. us/r2/whiteriver/ by following the Travel Management link.
Groups ranging from the Roaring Fork Mountain Biking Association to Powder to the People and Wilderness Workshop to the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition are reviewing the hundreds of pages of new material to see how refinements have affected winter and summer travel on their favorite trails and roads.
The public now has 60 days to comment on the supplemental draft EIS. Those comments will be reviewed, then a final decision will be made in spring or summer 2009, said forest planner Wendy Haskins.
An updated forest management plan released in 1999 set general direction on travel management, but the supervisor’s office decided travel issues needed to be considered separately. The Forest Service took comments on travel issues in fall 2002, then released various alternatives in June 2006. Comments were taken on the alternatives and helped create a new preferred alternative released Friday.
Now comments will be taken again before the agency wraps up the process.