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Forest Service seeks to create a list of potential wilderness areas in the GMUG

Inventory creation part of larger forest plan revision 

By Aimee Eaton

Beginning this month, officials from the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests will be identifying forest lands that may be suitable for federal Wilderness designation—and the associated protections—and creating a select list for further review.

This creation of a forest “inventory” is part of the larger Forest Plan Revision process that has been going on in the GMUG since the middle of 2017.

“While the Wilderness process is an important and required step in the plan revision, it also tends to elicit confusion and misunderstandings,” wrote GMUG planners in their December update and newsletter. “Our goal is to avoid those miscommunications and make this process as seamless and transparent as possible, and we hope you’ll be involved every step of the way.”

The development of the inventory falls under the Forest Plan Revision’s Wilderness Process. To be included in the inventory, lands must meet three specific criteria: 1) they are at least 5,000 acres or adjacent to existing wilderness; 2) they do not have roads that are open to motor vehicles; and 3) they do not have other “substantially noticeable” human impacts on the land.

According to the agency, the GMUG has “a lot of areas that qualify at this step.” However, being included in the inventory does not mean an area will be managed in any special way. “It is just the filter, and means that the area’s qualities will be evaluated,” the agency continued.

After the inventory is created, the Wilderness Process requires an evaluation of each area inventoried, which will include a determination by the agency of the “wildness” of each area. Evaluation will be followed by analysis, then recommendation.

A map of the initial inventory will be made public sometime this month. For more information about the Wilderness Process and the Forest Plan Revision, visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/gmug/forestplan.

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