Last day to comment on USFS findings is December 6
By Aimee Eaton
For the last several months, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests have been revising the Forest Plan through the use of research and public comment.
The bulk of the revisions and compiled comments were published on November 6, and once again, the U.S. Forest Service has allotted 30 days for public comment.
The assessments are available online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/gmug/landmanagement/planning/ and while reading each one is an investment in time—they range in length from 10 pages to nearly 80—there are areas that may have specific concern for the upper valley.
In the assessment focused on recreation, the conclusion is drawn that, “Mountain biking, born in Crested Butte, is slowly losing ground in popularity to dirt bike use (where such use is allowed). Mountain bikes and dirt bikes often seek similar trail experiences.
“The popularity of this area for dirt bike riding can be attributed to the numerous single-track trails that are available, particularly in the Cement Creek area. The multitude of single-track motorcycle/dirt bike opportunities draws several annual special events, drawing participants from all over the country. Mountain bike and dirt bike users who seek areas of greater solitude are relocating to areas of less congestion, most notable the southern portion of the Gunnison Ranger District.”
The assessment also identified areas of heavy use and cited “The area around Crested Butte and Taylor River/Taylor Park is among the most highly used on the Forest.”
Based on that, the authors suspect that changes in the management of recreation in those areas will likely become necessary within a few years.
Management will also need to shift in the Slate River and Washington Gulch drainages to better deal with the impact of heavy use.
One recommendation that came straight from public input was a request for new toilets in heavy use areas surrounding Crested Butte and Taylor Park. In addition, the assessment stated, “There may be a need for expanded trailhead parking facilities in these two areas to accommodate the current level of visitation. Specific trailheads that may need new facilities include the Kebler Pass winter trailhead and the Judd Falls/Copper Creek trailhead.”
All of these recommendations and observations, should they move forward, will be used in the future planning of public forestlands. Potentially they could be used to change trail designations, alter land use and access, and shift how management decisions are made.
The Forest Service has requested that readers of the draft assessments consider providing feedback on the following: Are we on the right track with the information highlighted? Did we capture what’s gong on well and what’s not going well, or are we missing any critical pieces? And most important, do the potential needs for change reflect the major issues that we should concentrate on in plan revision?
The Forest Plan is a nationally mandated tool used by forest districts to manage different uses and goals on forestland. The draft assessments for the plan are available for a 30-day comment period ending December 6, 2017.