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Council comments on Forest Plan

CB granted cooperating agency status

By Mark Reaman

The town of Crested Butte will be considered a “cooperating agency” in the local Forest Service plan revision process. The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forest is revising its guiding plan that sets priorities and goal for at least the next 15 years. The town requested, and the Forest Service planning team agreed, that Crested Butte be given “cooperating agency” status that in essence recognizes government partners like the town as official collaborators in the Forest Revision process.

The council agreed on Monday to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Forest Service that allows the town to provide the agency with “relevant ecological, social and economic resource information” for the process. The town agreed that its primary “area of interest is the land in direct proximity to Crested Butte.” That will basically include the Coal Creek, Slate River, Washington Gulch, East River, Brush Creek, Cement Creek and Carbon Creek watersheds.

The forest plan revision is in the first of three phases: assessment. The assessment begins the process for the agency to evaluate current conditions on the forest and develop a “Need to Change” document. That document will guide the second phase of the process, the official planning stage.

The GMUG Forest Planning Team released a draft assessment last month with a public comment period ending December 8. The town will send a letter addressing concerns with the draft. The town emphasized the need for increased recreation infrastructure and management, the continued protection and cleanup of the Coal Creek and Slate River watersheds, and the preservation of historical resources. “The potential for climate change to detrimentally affect the town’s surrounding ecosystems and subsequently, the town’s social and economic wellbeing,” is a primary concern as well.

In the letter to the agency’s plan revision team, the town said it was a “willing partner in backcountry management issues” and would like to see specific language in the plan addressing partnerships. “If infrastructure is in disrepair but needed for recreation management, the Forest Service should look to partners and outside funding sources to maintain or rebuild the infrastructure, if internal funding is not available,” the letter states.

The town suggested the plan also include how the forest conditions will change in the next 15 years and impact the area. “Climate change, population growth, improved technology, and increased recreational use will likely have significant effects on our local economy,” the town wrote. “…we expect to see shorter ski seasons, less wildflowers, more location-neutral businesses, increased visitation from Colorado’s Front Range and more demand for recreational facilities in the coming years.”

The letter also asks the Forest Service to take into consideration greenhouse gas emissions in decision making related to energy resources.

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