Letter: Forest Service has lost public trust | VailDaily.com

Letter: Forest Service has lost public trust

Berlaimont Estates is ludicrous. Everyone seems to agree except the U.S. Forest Service.

It seems like the Forest Service officials (at least the White River National Forest ones) are doing business as usual and not owning up to their part in causing the local wildlife decline. The agency says that this project will have significant impacts on wildlife, including leading to direct mortality. But Forest Service officials say they’ll try to mitigate as best they can.

The track record for the Holy Cross Ranger District on following up on mitigation measures required in several environmental assessments and environmental impact statements is abominable. Frankly they can’t be trusted to follow through with mitigation or taking action against projects that fail to complete the mitigation.

But as importantly, the agency is doing nothing at all to protect wildlife habitat, much less trying to improve wildlife habitat. They could be focused on protecting migration corridors and critical habitats, but instead they’re just approving more development.

When you look across the Western states, almost every federal and state agency is trying to maintain and/or improve wildlife migration corridors and critical habitat except for the local Forst Service ranger districts.

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In this case, they’re completely changing the Forest Plan to eliminate wildlife protections. They’ve proposed some mitigation, but it won’t eliminate the impacts. It might reduce some impacts, but such mitigation is still a net loss for wildlife. And, frankly folks, local wildlife populations cannot sustain much more net loss. The net is so thin at this point that there isn’t much left to catch them as they fall.

The White River’s lack of wildlife protection flies in the face of the public interest, or community needs, and what the environmental policy the new administration has outlined. Denying Berlaimont Estates is imperative if the Forest Service wants to restore some public trust.

Bill Andree, Retired District Wildlife Manager

Eagle County

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