Forest Service may study nearby land for wilderness area

Green Lake could end up in wilderness area

While nothing is likely to happen anytime soon, the most recent Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National (GMUG) Forest Service plan is recommending that Congress designate the land behind Whetstone, Axtel and Carbon Mountains a Wilderness Area.



The area would encompass approximately 13,000 acres and take in the area behind Whetstone, south of Splains Gulch up to Axtel, including Green Lake and the area around Carbon Peak.
If that were to happen, motorized and mechanized activity in the area, including motorcycles, snowmobiles and mountain bikes, would be prohibited. Community stakeholders, including the Gunnison County commissioners, are keeping an eye on the proposal in part because of the idea of putting in a new Baxter Gulch trail that would lead to the area from just outside Crested Butte.
Nothing is official yet, but “some areas around Crested Butte have been recommended for wilderness by the Forest Service in the March 2007 Forest Plan,” said Carmine Lockwood, Forest Service planning staff officer in the Delta office. “But we are in limbo and I am sure we’ll be doing the plan for a third time. We are a long way from a plan decision, so we have plenty of time to add or subtract from the plan.”
According to a GMUG letter dated last month and signed by Forest supervisor Charlie Richmond, “I have chosen to delay formal resumption of the forest plan revision effort until the Region completes the analysis and a decision is made on how Colorado’s Roadless Areas will be managed.”
Lockwood said the Forest Plan currently in limbo is very comprehensive and based on a lot of community input. “We spent many hours in nearly 85 public meetings, workshops and open houses talking with as many as 2,000 stakeholders about issues, desired conditions, suitable uses, and other plan components. We also discussed management challenges and key findings from the technical resource assessments,” said Lockwood. “Our efforts to bring diverse interests together have allowed us to build relationships with stakeholders and identify some common ground on some tough issues.”
What eventually becomes of the plan, which recommends the wilderness designation, depends on many things. “A lot even depends of the presidential election,” Lockwood said. “I’ve given up speculating on time frames.”
The recommended wilderness area is currently a roadless area, but designating land wilderness puts much stricter limitations on the land. As Lockwood said, “Whatever decision is ultimately made, it is a long way out.”

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