Forester signs White River plan |

Forester signs White River plan

Dennis Webb

GLENWOOD SPRINGS<White River National Forest officials and citizens wrote millions of words about the forest1s new long-range plan<but none of them may be as significant as the two written Tuesday.Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Rick Cables signed his name on the long-range plan, helping bring to complete years of intensive work on the project.The plan1s contents remain a closely held secret, however, and won1t be revealed until the documents are printed.In the meantime, however, WRNF officials can take satisfaction in winning Cables1 approval of the plan, required for it to take effect.3There was an e-mail that went out (to WRNF employees) with bold letters saying it was done, said Sue Froeschle, WRNF public affairs officer. 3I would say that is a major milestone.WRNF officials had good reason to expect Cables would go along with the plan.They developed the plan over recent months through extensive consultation with his office and Forest Service national headquarters in Washington, D.C.3We had our fingers crossed. We were pretty sure it was going to be signed … said Froeschle.The WRNF planning process has been followed closely in Colorado and nationally since the release of the draft plan in 1999. That plan set an agency precedent by placing a higher priority on the forest1s physical and biological resources than on human uses.That emphasis drew opposition from motorized vehicle lobbyists, the skiing and timber industries and U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction. The forest is part of McInnis1 3rd Congressional District.Since the draft plan was unveiled, Democrat Bill Clinton has been replaced by Republican George W. Bush in the White House, and McInnis became chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.Given the forest1s world-class skiing and scenery, the direction of the final forest plan will be closely monitored by environmentalists, multiple-use advocates, public lands policymakers and others.For now, interested observers must continue to wait.3We don1t even have copies of everything right now, said Froeschle. 3As soon as the printer can tell us what their schedule is and how they can meet our requirements, we will let people know.The plan1s release is well over a year behind schedule. After so many previous errant projections by the WRNF about when the plan would be released, Froeschle was hesitant to make a prediction now, even with Cables1 signature on it.Josh Penry, staff director for McInnis1 Forests subcommittee, said he had no advance look at the plan.3We1re waiting with baited breath with the rest of the interested public, he said.The Forest Service is 3sort of required to keep it a secret until it is ready for release, he said.That1s kind of ironic, he said. The public was heavily engaged in drafting the plan.Then, 3once the commentary1s done, the Forest Service goes behind closed doors and finishes its plan, Penry said. 3It1s the nature of the beast.

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