Forest Service to unveil White River plan June 4
The new plan will be made public on June 4, forest supervisor Martha Ketelle has announced.
“It has been a long time coming, but it is finally here,” Ketelle said in a letter to individuals and organizations who have been tracking the controversial plan update.
The plan was originally due out by the end of 2000. But the U.S. Forest Service encountered numerous delays, in part because of the thousands of comments received on its draft proposal.
The agency’s preferred alternative proposed putting a higher priority on protecting the forest’s physical and biological resources than on human uses such as recreation and resource extraction.
Even after Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Rick Cables signed a record of decision on the plan earlier this spring, officials still were uncertain when it would be released because it still had to be printed. Cables’ decision remains top secret.
White River forest planner Carolyn Upton said the agency is now confident about the June 4 release.
“That’s our plan. Barring some horrible national disaster or some other thing which I don’t even want to think about, this is our plan,” Upton said. “Everybody’s geared, everybody’s praying.”
The agency is planning to hand-deliver the plan to some parties, and send it via either overnight or regular mail to others. It also is scheduled for posting on June 4 at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver, the WRNF’s Web site.
“The Web site really is going to be one of our first lines of information distribution, so it’s going to be important to do it that day.”
Also, public meetings regarding the plan will be scheduled later.
Appeals of the plan will be permitted for 90 days after publication of a legal notice regarding the plan, which probably will occur on June 7, Upton said. That publication will occur in the Denver Post, which is the official paper of record for the Forest Service’s Lakewood-based regional headquarters.
Officials have indicated that the final plan probably will include some mix of the preferred plan that was identified, and other alternatives that were considered. However, the contents of the final document remain a well-kept secret.
Steve Smith, a Glenwood Springs resident and regional staff member for the Sierra Club, said it has been “amazing” how the plan has been kept under wraps.
“I’ve not heard any hint that anybody’s seen anything in it other than the Forest Service itself,” he said.
While he remains as in the dark as most people about the plan’s contents, he is hopeful that it will continue to contain elements of its conservation-oriented preferred draft plan, known as Alternative D.
“I think they’re going to make some important changes in how the forest is managed,” he said. “I just feel a confidence that they really believe in the direction they were headed.”
Smith said he thinks the plan will reflect a recognition by forest officials that the WRNF is immensely popular when it comes to recreation and resource extraction, “and that the forest just can’t stand unlimited use and extraction without coming apart at the seams.”
“We’re sure hoping that that is where the final (plan) ends up – and the sooner that happens the better.”
While it’s been a long wait for environmentalists like Smith, as well as the many other interests that have been involved in the planning process, Smith said he never gave up on it eventually being released.
“We knew they wanted badly to get it out because it’s been an awful lot of work on the Forest Service’s part,” he said.