Forest Service’s plan to thin forest near Muddy Pass would also amend the 2011 Travel Management Plan
After taking a close look at National Forest lands in the Muddy Pass and Sheephorn areas of Eagle County in 2017, the White River National Forest on Nov. 1 issued a notice of proposed action for the areas, with a goal to benefit forest health, wildlife habitat and recreation access.
The Muddy Pass and Sheephorn areas are located between I-70 and Trough Road, east of Highway 131 near the Forest Service Road commonly known as Red and White in Eagle County.
Portions of the Berry Creek, Buffer Mountain and Lower Piney Colorado Roadless Areas are within the project area, which encompasses approximately 10,000 acres of land withing the Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District.
A public open-house meeting will be held Nov. 29 at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend to ask questions and learn about the project.
REDUCE RISK OF CROWN FIRE
According to the notice of proposed action, the project would “increase tree age/size class diversity at the stand and landscape scales, thereby increasing forest resistance and resilience to disturbances, such as future bark beetle outbreaks, fires and other climate-related mortality events.”
It would also manage density in young stands of lodgepole pine, reduce potential crown fire spread, accelerate tree growth rates, increase tree vigor, increase forage productivity for wildlife, such as elk and deer, according to the Forest Service.
The project would also provide forest products and/or biomass to local businesses, the Forest Service wrote in a release.
“Other benefits of this project include maintenance and improvement of open Forest System Roads, decommissioning of existing non-system roads, more effective management of livestock, fisheries habitat improvement and adopting a short segment of road for additional recreation access,” according to the release.
AMEND TRAVEL MANAGEMENT PLAN
The Muddy Pass/Sheephorn project would also amend the Forest Service’s controversial Travel Management Plan of 2011, which closed several roads in the area to motorized vehicles.
Among the roads that was set to be limited was 993.W1, a spur road that heads south from Red and White (NFSR 700) and visits a destination overlook known as Windy Point.
“Motorized use of 993.W1 is authorized under an existing range permit for the placement of herder camps and weekly motorized vehicle supply trips,” according to the notice of proposed action. “Together, range and recreation staff have tried to prohibit public motorized use of this permitted route, however enforcement has proven ineffective and unmanageable due to its popularity. Designating 993.W1 for all motorized use, which includes non-motorized access, provides a desired recreation opportunity that people seek … The Muddy Pass/Sheephorn Project’s Proposed Action includes an amendment to the Travel Management Plan to designate 993.W1 as level II road open to all motorized wheeled use following the Motor Vehicle Use Map season of dates for the surrounding area.”