Annual watershed information hike to take place at Hanging Lake Trail on Sunday

Following the reopening of the Hanging Lake Trail after a large mudslide shut down the popular hiking destination on May 1, the Middle Colorado Watershed Council will take their annual watershed information hike up the trail on Sunday.

This year, the hike will include information regarding the aftermath that left the trail damaged following the 2021 debris flows, as well current usage of the trail and the U.S. Forest Service and National Forest foundation’s plans to rebuild the iconic trail.

A hike with over 1,000 feet in elevation gain — leading to the National Natural Landmark that is Hanging Lake — the trail has seen its fair share of damage in recent years due to a number of natural causes.

The improvements, which are set to begin this fall, include reengineering six of the trail’s seven bridges to better accommodate high water and debris flows.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, improvements taking place will also include:

  • A boardwalk at Spouting Rock to reduce erosion and other impacts by guiding visitors
  • Rock work and flood debris removal
  • Seeding and planting by hand along the trail to stabilize stream banks and reduce erosion
  • Removal of debris and reconstruction of the stream channel
  • Construction of an accessible plaza with seating and shade.

For those looking to participate in the hike, 25 spots are available for reservation. A permit to take part in the hike will be included for those who sign up.

For those who do sign up to participate, attendees will meet at the Glenwood Springs Community Center at 8 a.m. on Sunday, where a shuttle will transport participants to the popular trail. With limited reservations available, visit to reserve your spot. Reservations must be made by Friday.

2023 rafting season shining following record winter in Roaring Fork Valley

Following a record winter in the Roaring Fork Valley, the 2023 rafting season has shaped into prime condition for those looking to get out onto the water.

A season that has allowed for those looking for different types of adventure to have the opportunity to do so, the spring season’s runoff has been one that has been unheard of in recent years.

With the Roaring Fork Valley experiencing water levels that have seemed ageless in recent memory, this year’s rivers have provided raft-goers the experience of both soothing waters and the fierce rapids that have made Glenwood Springs and the rest of the Roaring Fork Valley a staple for thrill-seekers and even-tempered explorers alike.

A winter season that produced a record-breaking snowpack in the western region, where those living in the valley saw a 200% increase in median snowpack, according to the United States Natural Resources Conservation Service, Defiance Rafting Owner Gregory Cowan said this year’s conditions are more than he could ask for. 

“It’s been a wonderful start to the season,” e said. “The weather broke at the right time when we started at the beginning of May, and it has made it possible for any level rafter to have the opportunity to enjoy the waters.”

Dealing with a state-wide drought that has lasted a number of years, Middle Colorado Watershed Council Executive Director Paula Stepp said this year’s water levels could very well be considered an anomaly.

“I have lived in this valley a long time, and I haven’t seen these types of water levels since the ’80s,” she said. “Having a great year is amazing to see but by no means does it mean that this drought is over.”

With the high waters surrounding the Roaring Fork Valley, Glenwood Adventure Company CEO Ken Murphy said that this year’s water levels will make for a long season for those looking to indulge in whitewater rafting to have the chance to do so.

“What has made Glenwood Springs so popular for white water rafting is the variety that those looking to participate have been given,” he said. “With these high water levels, we are looking at having a good chance at having a longer season for people to enjoy this community’s waters, but it really depends on how the rest of the summer season shapes out.”

While this season’s high waters continue to look promising for the industry, he says it’s not up to those in control of booking trips.

“It’s a contemplating industry,” he said. “Mother Nature is our boss during the summer season, and so we have to hope everything goes in our favor for the continuation of this season.”

For those looking to find themselves on the river this season, you can learn more by exploring the number of rafting options available at, or

Gov. Polis pays a visit to Glenwood Springs to sign river task force, wolf license plate bills

With the runoff-swollen Colorado River serving as the backdrop in Glenwood Springs on Saturday afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis signed two bills into law, including one related to the river itself.

“How wonderful it is to see the river so healthy behind us today, but all too often, that’s not the case with changing climate and drought,” Polis said during the ceremony at Two Rivers Park before signing Senate Bill 295, which creates the Colorado River Drought Task Force.

The new task force is charged with meeting over the next several months before the 2024 legislative session to determine Colorado’s water needs as it continues negotiations with the Colorado River Basin users over a dwindling water supply caused by a decades-long drought.

“The task force created by 295 will bring together stakeholders with a cohesive voice, so that Colorado can maintain a very strong, united position in the interstate negotiations,” he said, acknowledging that the Ute tribes are also to be represented on the task force.

Co-sponsoring the bill were Sens. Perry Will, R-New Castle, and Dylan Roberts, D-Avon.

“Every year we’ll pray for rain, or better snowpack, but that doesn’t always work,” Will said. “This is going to be something that we can truly address with this task force and get ahead of the curve.”

Roberts noted that, with the Colorado River providing water for 40 million people across the southwestern states, the stakes are high. 

“We know that this river and its tributaries and the communities that it serves are facing immense challenges in the coming years with this ongoing drought that we are experiencing,” Roberts said. “We must face that challenge head-on, and continue being a leader. That’s what this bill is about, is taking responsible, deliberate but necessary steps to determine what Colorado needs to do next in the face of this immense challenge.”

Polis also signed House Bill 1265 during the Saturday stop in Glenwood Springs, creating the “Born to Be Wild” special license plate in conjunction with Colorado’s plan to reintroduce the gray wolf to parts of the Western Slope.

Sales from the plate, at $50 a pop, will establish a fund available to farmers and ranchers to be able utilize non-lethal means to prevent wolf conflicts with livestock and predation.

Gov. Jared Polis speaks about House Bill 1265,, creating the “Born to Be Wild” special license plate fund to help livestock producers with non-lethal wolf conflict management. Observing are, from left, Gillian Marie of Boulder who created the license plate design, plus bill co-sponsors Sen. Perry Will, Rep. Meghan Lukens, Sen. Janice Marchman and Rep. Elizabeth Velasco.
John Stroud/Post Independent

“With the reintroduction of the gray wolf to its historic range, we want to make sure we support our farmers and ranchers with non-lethal flaggery, range riders, scare devices and guard animals that are already being successfully used in other states that have wolves and have strong ranching sectors,” Polis said.

Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs, and Sen. Will were also co-sponsors of the license plate bill.

“Our ranchers and farmers are the keepers of the valuable resources we enjoy … and we want to make sure that (they) have all the tools in their toolbox for non-lethal management of the gray wolf,” Velasco said.

Will said he’s a “big fan” of the license plate measure to provide resources for livestock producers to help with wolf conflict prevention measures. But he did take the opportunity after the signing ceremony to express his disappointment in Gov. Polis’ veto of Senate Bill 256 earlier this week. The bipartisan bill, which Will co-sponsored with Sen. Roberts, would have established a so-called 10j designation under the federal Endangered Species Act, allowing for the lethal taking of wolves when necessary.

“Some people thought 256 was a delay tactic, and it was not,” Will said. “It was just an insurance policy to make sure we had a 10j in place before paws hit the ground.”

Will said he remains hopeful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will enact the 10j rule before wolves are released in Colorado, which is targeted for the end of this year.

That would make the failed state legislation a moot point. In any case, Will said he is skeptical that Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be able to obtain the wolves intended for release by year’s end, as planned.

Polis, in a brief interview with the Post Independent, explained his decision to veto the measure, saying it was unnecessary and would have undermined the voters’ intent in approving wolf reintroduction.

“Our administration’s focus is maximizing the ability for the state, and our farmers and ranchers, to be able to manage conflicts. And that will continue to be our priority,” the governor said, adding the license plate bill provides important resources to help livestock producers with wolf management. 

The governor’s stop in Glenwood Springs was part of a day-long Western Slope swing, during which he gave the commencement address at Colorado Mesa University, and signed several other bills in Mesa County, Rifle and Edwards.

Post Independent interim managing editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at or at 970-384-9160.

White River National Forest approves improvements to Hanging Lake Trail

On Friday, the White River National Forest approved a handful of improvements to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Hanging Lake Trail in Glenwood Canyon.

With trail improvements and ecological restoration set to begin this fall, the approved project includes reengineering six of the trail’s seven bridges to better accommodate high water and debris flows, a news release states. Two of the bridges will also be slightly relocated to crossing locations that provide better stream clearance.

The improvements are funded by the Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife State Trails Program, the National Forest Foundation, City of Glenwood Springs and the USDA Forest Service. The project will look to increase the Hanging Lake Trail’s long-term sustainability following the significant damage it faced following the 2021 debris flows in Glenwood Canyon.

“This work would not be possible without the support of our partners,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said  in the release. “These repairs and improvements will ensure that we continue to provide a world-class visitor experience at this iconic Colorado location for decades to come.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, improvements taking place will include:

  • A boardwalk at Spouting Rock to reduce erosion and other impacts by guiding visitors
  • Rock work and flood debris removal
  • Seeding and planting by hand along the trail to stabilize stream banks and reduce erosion 
  • Removal of Debris and reconstruction of the stream channel 
  • Construction of an accessible plaza with seating and shade

Work is expected to begin in September 2023 and continue through fall 2024. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says trail closures could be necessary as work progresses.     For further information regarding the improvements to the Hanging Lake Trail, visit

Colorado delegation to reintroduce CORE Act with a few changes in the Vail area

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act gets closer to becoming law with each pass, Colorado lawmakers announced Wednesday that they are again introducing the bill in Congress.

The CORE Act would protect more than 420,000 acres of public land in Colorado, adding 71,000 acres of new wilderness to Colorado including expansions of the Eagles Nest and Holy Cross wilderness areas in Eagle County. The bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives five times but has failed to pass the Senate.

The latest iteration has removed land designations including the Tenmile Recreation Management Area and the Camp Hale National Historic Landscape from the bill, as those areas received new protections when Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range became a national monument in October.

On Wednesday, lawmakers said the Camp Hale/Tenmile Range National Monument designation from President Joe Biden created a new reason to keep pushing for the CORE Act.

“I think the monument designation helps build momentum for the CORE Act,” Bennet said. “Those designations themselves have the support of the vast majority of the people in Colorado, 80 percent of people support the CORE Act throughout Colorado, and want the rest of it done as well.”

During the last Congress, the CORE Act received its first Senate committee vote when the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources offered a 10-10 split decision on the bill.

Bennet, on Wednesday, said the strides made during the last Congress showed progress in getting the CORE Act passed.

“Last Congress, we came closer than we ever have before to passing the bill,” Bennet said, saluting Sen. John Hickenlooper for helping the bill to receive a hearing in Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Bennet also acknowledged Rep. Joe Neguse for his help in seeing the bill passed time and time again in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Neguse, a Democrat who represents Eagle County in the U.S. House of Representatives, also expressed optimism in getting the bill passed again in 2023.

“The bill, as it’s passed through the House on previous occasions, has passed with Republican support,” Neguse said. “Different members of Congress, who caucus with the Republicans, from different parts of the country, who voted in favor of this legislation, I think have been convinced by the depth of local support.”

Neguse pointed to the local county commissioners on hand at the announcement on Wednesday, including Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry, as examples of the support the bill has received at the local level. Chandler-Henry said Eagle County has been working on the CORE Act for more than a decade.

“We’ve engaged diverse groups in our county from anglers and backcountry hikers to snowmobilers and bird watchers,” she said.

Hickenlooper said in addition to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, the bill has received support from all Colorado counties affected by the bill.

“I think every county involved supports the parts of the bill within their boundaries,” Hickenlooper said.

The bill continues to include a provision for permanent withdrawal of 252,000 acres in the Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale from future oil and gas development, while protecting existing leaseholder rights. A pilot program to lease excess methane from coal mines in the area is also included. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are currently conducting an environmental review of an initial 20-year administrative withdrawal of the area from new leasing. The CORE Act seeks permanent withdrawal.

One area of the CORE Act that didn’t receive overwhelming local support was a proposed expansion of the Eagles Nest Wilderness, which was originally planned to be increased by 9,670 acres through the inclusion of two new areas known as the Proposed Freeman Creek Wilderness Addition and the Proposed Spraddle Creek Wilderness Addition.

The Proposed Spraddle Creek Wilderness Addition received pushback from the town of Vail, with Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak urging the Town Council to ask lawmakers to change the part of the CORE Act which expands wilderness into the Spraddle Creek area.

“There are some concerns with our future ability to implement wildfire mitigation programs and projects in wilderness areas,” Novak said in December of 2021.

While the town of Vail voiced its support the CORE Act in a Dec. 2021 letter to Bennet, the letter also expressed concern regarding the Eagles Nest Wilderness expansion around the Spraddle Creek area north of town.

“The Vail community values the ability to continue to address these wildfire concerns, in and around wilderness areas adjacent to our community, particularly in the Spraddle Creek area where new wilderness is being proposed through the CORE Act,” the letter read. “A smooth and quick process of approvals in the case of fire suppression needs, and proactive wildfire mitigation projects in this area will be critical to maintain the safety of the town’s residents, visitors and property, as well as the recreational opportunities, watershed health and water quality, wildlife habitat and natural resources.”

The new CORE Act bill text shows a reduction of the Eagles Nest Wilderness expansion, from 9,670 acres to 7,634 acres, which is a result of an alteration of the Proposed Spraddle Creek Wilderness Addition. The new bill text calls out a new designation, called the “Proposed Spraddle Creek Wildlife Conservation Area,” which is carved out of the former Proposed Spraddle Creek Wilderness Addition in the areas of the former wilderness addition nearest to Interstate 70.

The latest version of the CORE Act would create a new Spraddle Creek Wildlife Conservation Area in an alteration from a previous version of the bill, which aimed to expand the Eagles Nest Wilderness by 9,670 acres. The less restrictive wildlife conservation area shrinks the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area expansion by more than 2,000 acres and would allow the forest service greater flexibility for logging in the name of wildfire safety.| Courtesy image

A wildlife conservation area, unlike wilderness, would allow the U.S. Forest Service to conduct logging projects through the construction of temporary roads used for “carrying out a vegetation management project,” according to the bill text. Once those logging projects are complete, the Forest Service would then be allowed to sell harvested timber from the Proposed Spraddle Creek Wildlife Conservation Area if it is a byproduct of a vegetation management project conducted in the area.

The Secretary of Agriculture “may carry out any activity, in accordance with applicable laws (including regulations), that the Secretary determines to be necessary to manage wildland fire and treat hazardous fuels, insects, and diseases in the Wildlife Conservation Area, subject to such terms and conditions as the Secretary determines to be appropriate,” according to the new bill text.

The new bill also differs from its previous iterations in aiming to honor Sandy Treat Jr., a Vail local and World War II veteran who was a supporter of the CORE Act and died in 2019. The new bill calls for the creation of a new interpretive site to be located beside Highway 24 within the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, designated as “The Sandy Treat Overlook.”

Neguse mentioned Treat in his comments, calling him a great man and a friend. Neguse quoted Treat, saying Treat once wrote “I grew up in an America that valued our wild lands, and this is a value I hope lives on long after I’m gone.”

Find more information about the CORE Act, including the latest bill text, by visiting

Post Independent reporter John Stroud contributed to this report.

Polis vetoes bipartisan bill that could have delayed wolf reintroduction on Colorado’s Western Slope

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday vetoed a bipartisan bill sponsored by Western Slope legislators that could have delayed the reintroduction of wolves, which is set to begin before the end of the year.

The prime sponsors of Senate Bill 256 are Sens. Perry Will and Dylan Roberts and Reps. Meghan Lukens and Matt Soper. Roberts, of Avon, and Lukens, of Steamboat Springs, are both Democrats who represent Eagle County at the state Capitol.

Roberts and Will, a Republican from New Castle, drafted the legislation to give ranchers on Colorado’s Western Slope the ability to lethally manage wolves. The bill would have prevented reintroduction until the federal government designated gray wolves as a “nonessential experimental population.”

Roberts, in a statement, said he was “deeply disappointed” with the governor’s veto.

“It is discouraging to see a bill that passed the legislature with such large bipartisan margins (29-6 in the Senate and 44-21 in the House) not become law,” he said. “Sen. Perry Will and I wrote, introduced, and passed SB23-256 to do one simple thing: ensure that a 10(j) rule is in place before wolves are reintroduced in Western Colorado. A 10(j) designation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows states to treat wolves as ‘experimental’ rather than ‘endangered,’ which offers the state and livestock owners greater flexibility in managing the species. Without a 10(j) designation, any farmer or rancher who interacts with a wolf (even for purposes of legitimate mitigation) could be charged with a federal felony and face prison time.”

Polis wrote in a letter that the bill was “unnecessary and undermines the voters’ intent” and said it could actually interfere with wolves being named as an experimental population.

“If signed into law, this bill impedes the coordination that has been underway for over two years by the US. Fish and Wildlife Service, (Colorado) Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife that includes a $1 million commitment from the state of Colorado to complete the 10(j) draft rule and draft environmental impacts statement,” the letter said. “The management of the reintroduction of gray wolves into Colorado is best left to the Parks and Wildlife Commission, as the voters explicitly mandated.” 

Proposition 114 was narrowly approved by voters in 2020, despite being unpopular among the state’s rural districts on the Western Slope where wolves would be reintroduced. The legislation required the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create a plan to reintroduce gray wolves in the state.

After a process of more than two years, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approved the final Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan on May 3, clearing the way for biologists to introduce wolves this winter.

The I-70 corridor between Glenwood Springs and Vail, along with the Highway 82 corridor from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, is likely to be the first area where wolves are introduced as CPW has concluded that large, contiguous areas of public lands with a high abundance of prey and low livestock densities will be the best sites for reintroduction.

CPW plans to release wolves during winter months, from November to March, as cold temperatures create less stress for the reintroduced wolves, and fall presents conflicts with hunting season.

Wolves will be released on state or private lands, not federal lands, because CPW does not have the staffing or financial resources to undertake the required National Environmental Policy Act analysis prior to any federal land management agency authorizing releases on federal lands, according to the plan approved Wednesday.

“Specific release locations will not be made public in this Plan in order to protect private landowner information and sensitive species locations, but targeted outreach will occur with potentially affected stakeholders prior to release,” according to the approved plan.

Roberts said the bipartisan bill “was not a delay tactic nor an attempt to alter the public’s wishes but, instead, a safeguard to ensure we introduce wolves responsibly.”

“As a legislator, I have rarely witnessed as broad grassroots support from a variety of communities and groups as we did with SB23-256,” he said. “The constituents that I, my co-sponsors, and the governor represent deserve leadership that hears and responds to their legitimate concerns. That is why this bill had the co-sponsorship of every legislator from Western Colorado, where the wolves will soon be introduced.”

Lukens, in a statement, said she was “extremely disappointed” by the veto.

“I have heard from ranchers and farmers consistently that it is absolutely imperative we have the 10(j) rule in place prior to state-orchestrated wolf reintroduction, and this bill was a direct request from Western Slope constituents who will be impacted most by wolf reintroduction,” she said. “This legislation would have provided the time necessary to ensure that the reintroduction of wolves into Colorado happens under a 10(j) rule, which is essential for the state to have co-management authority of the reintroduced population to protect our agricultural producers across the state.”

— Vail Daily reporter John LaConte contributed reporting

New upper parking lot approved for Spring Gulch Nordic ski area near Carbondale

Operators of the popular Spring Gulch Nordic ski trail system west of Carbondale won approval Monday from Garfield County to build a new parking lot.

Prompted by the impacts of a noticeably shorter snow season in recent years that can impact the main parking lot and lower trails off of Thompson Creek Road, the Mount Sopris Nordic Council (MSNC) has been looking at some solutions.

Among them is a plan to build a second parking lot that’s a little bit higher in elevation and in a more shaded area off the Marion Cemetery Road on the north side of the ski trails network.

This past season, 3.75 miles of new ski trails opened on the northwest side of the trail system. The new lot will access the Lariat loop trail, with access back into the main trail system at the base of Little Dipper and up to Finlandia. 

MSNC board member Matt Anabel said during the Monday Garfield Board of County Commissioners meeting that the new, 60-space lot should open earlier in December and stay open later into the season as the snow melts near the existing lot.

Commissioners unanimously approved the plan.

Both parking lots will be open during peak ski season, Annabel said in a followup interview.

“The idea is that they would both be open when we have good snow conditions,” he said. “But the new one will allow us an option when there is no snow at the base.”

Plans are to construct the new parking lot later this summer and into the fall before next ski season. It will be located to the south of the Marion Road, before arriving at two other parking areas, one of them private, that are intended for access to the Marion Gulch snowmobile and hiking trails in the winter.

The new parking lot will also keep Spring Gulch trail users out of those lots, as well as from parking along the Marion Road, which can happen on busy days when the main lot is full, said Jennifer DiCuollo of DHM Design, the landscape architect on the project. 

Construction will require a Garfield County Road and Bridge access permit, and be limited to the period between July 1 and Oct. 1, so as not to disrupt wildlife during the more sensitive times of the year. 

MSNC operates 18 miles of groomed ski trails in the winter in partnership with the private owners of the land, the North Thompson Cattlemen’s Association. The area is not open to the public when the ski trails are closed during the warmer months.

Spring Gulch opened in 1986, with a typical ski season from mid-December to mid-March.

However, in recent years, the area was unable to open during the low snow and unusually warm winters of 2017-18 and 2020-21 until Christmas week and even after the new year in that latter winter, Annabel said.

“We’ve had several years where the parking lot is muddy in January and February,” he said. “That’s just the world we live in now.” 

This past winter was an exception. After a later start to the season in late December, heavy snow throughout the winter kept Spring Gulch open into April this year.

Annabel said to “stay tuned” for a capital campaign coming later this year to help pay for the new parking lot and other improvements.

Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at or at 970-384-9160.

Formal comments sought for Thompson Divide mineral withdrawal proposal

The time has come for comments to be taken for the formal environmental review of a proposal to implement a 20-year withdrawal of a large swath of public land west and south of Carbondale, encompassing three different counties from future oil and gas and other mineral leasing.

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are seeking public scoping comments and will be hosting two public meetings in Delta and Gunnison counties on the requested withdrawal of federal lands in Garfield, Gunnison and Pitkin counties.

“This public scoping period is a first step as we begin our analysis of the requested withdrawal under the National Environmental Policy Act,” Anthony Edwards, Deputy Forest Supervisor for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, said in a Wednesday news release.

On Oct. 12, 2022, the Department of the Interior announced steps to conserve the Thompson Divide area in response to broad concerns about its important wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, grazing lands and clean air and water, the release states.

If approved, the requested action would withdraw 220,704 acres of U.S. Forest and BLM lands from “settlement, sale, location or entry under the public land laws, location and entry under the United States mining laws, and leasing under the mineral leasing and geothermal leasing laws for up to 20 years, subject to valid existing rights,” the news release states.

To aid in the process, the Forest Service and BLM have scheduled two public meetings to provide additional information and answer questions. The first will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9 in Delta, at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center, 531 N. Palmer St.

The second will be open to both in-person and virtual attendance via Zoom, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 11, in Gunnison at the Western Colorado University Ballroom, 1 Western Way.

The Gunnison meeting will be available virtually by registering in advance at: The 6:30 p.m. session will include Spanish interpretation virtually.

Both meetings are to include two sessions of up to one-hour, beginning at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The sessions will consist of a short presentation explaining the requested withdrawal, followed by a question-and-answer session. Information about how to submit comments will also be provided, the release states.

For more information about the requested withdrawal and how to submit comments, visit Comments on the requested withdrawal will be accepted through June 16. 

El Servicio Forestal y la BLM buscan comentarios públicos sobre la retirada de tierras de Thompson Divide

El Servicio Forestal del USDA y la Oficina de Gestión de Tierras buscan comentarios públicos y organizan dos reuniones públicas sobre una retirada solicitada de tierras del Sistema Forestal Nacional y de la Oficina de Gestión de Tierras en los condados de Garfield, Gunnison y Pitkin.

“Este período de alcance público es un primer paso a medida que comenzamos nuestro análisis de la retirada solicitada en virtud de la Ley Nacional de Política Ambiental”, dijo Anthony Edwards, Supervisor Forestal Adjunto de los Bosques Nacionales de Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre y Gunnison.

El 12 de octubre de 2022, el Departamento del Interior anunció medidas para conservar la zona de la Thompson Divide en respuesta a la amplia preocupación por su importante hábitat de fauna salvaje, oportunidades de recreo, tierras de pastoreo y aire y agua limpios. Si se aprueba, la acción solicitada retiraría 220,704 acres del Sistema Forestal Nacional y de las Tierras de la Oficina de Gestión de Tierras de la colonización, venta, ubicación o entrada bajo las leyes de tierras públicas, ubicación y entrada bajo las leyes de minería de los Estados Unidos, y arrendamiento bajo las leyes de arrendamiento de minerales y arrendamiento geotérmico por hasta 20 años, sujeto a los derechos válidos existentes.

El Servicio Forestal y la Oficina de Gestión de Tierras organizarán reuniones públicas para proporcionar información adicional y responder a preguntas el 9 de mayo en Delta de 5:30 a 7:30 p.m. en el Centro Recreativo Bill Heddles, 531 N. Palmer St., y el 11 de mayo en Gunnison de 5:30 a 7:30 p.m. en el Salón de Baile de la Western Colorado University, 1 Western Way.

Ambas reuniones incluirán dos sesiones de hasta una hora de duración, que comenzarán a las 17:30 y a las 18:30. Las sesiones consistirán en una breve presentación en la que se explicará la retirada solicitada, seguida de una sesión de preguntas y respuestas. Se facilitará información sobre cómo presentar comentarios.

La reunión del 11 de mayo en Gunnison podrá seguirse virtualmente inscribiéndose con antelación en: La sesión de las 18:30 incluirá interpretación al español de forma virtual.

Encontrará más información sobre la retirada solicitada y sobre cómo presentar comentarios en Se aceptarán comentarios sobre la retirada solicitada hasta el 16 de junio de 2023.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission gives final approval to wolf plan in Glenwood Springs

The picturesque Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus setting just outside of Glenwood Springs played host to a historic vote Wednesday approving the state’s gray wolf reintroduction plan.

Meeting at the CMC-Spring Valley Outdoor Leadership Center and Field House, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, chaired by CMC President Carrie Besnette Hauser, voted unanimously, 11-0, to OK the plan.

The decision came after more than two years of meetings with stakeholders and a series of public hearings that followed voter approval of Proposition 114 in November 2020. 

That decision — with 50.9% of voters statewide in favor but much of the Western Slope where the wolves are to be reintroduced opposed — directed the CPW to come up with a plan to reintroduce wolves to parts of Colorado where the habitat was deemed suitable.

After that extensive process, including an April 6 meeting in Steamboat Springs where the final details of the plan were hashed out by the commission, Vice Chair Dallas May said it’s time to turn the reintroduction program over to the experts at CPW.

“Is it a perfect plan? Probably not,” May said. “If any group of stakeholders thought it was the perfect plan, it probably wouldn’t be as fair and balanced as I think it is.”

Arriving at the final plan required give and take, he said, just as its implementation will require some compromises along the way.

Hauser applauded the work of the commission and the more than 3,400 people who participated in the process and acknowledged the nearly 4,000 verbal and written comments received, which she said were factored into the development of the plan.

When that process started in December of 2020, Hauser said she never would have anticipated a unanimous vote to approve the plan. That speaks to the collaborative process, she said.

The final approval clears the way for CPW biologists to introduce wolves in the Western Slope area, including vicinities around Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Vail and Gunnison, and meet the voter-approved deadline of reintroduction by Dec. 31 of this year.

However, Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, speaking on behalf of the Board of County Commissioners, took issue with that deadline.

“There’s nothing in the law that says wolves need to be on the ground by the end of 2023,” Samson said in comments before the commission on Wednesday. “That was a choice made by CPW.”

Samson noted that 63% of Garfield County voters were against Prop 114, and reiterated a joint stance by several Western Slope counties that a so-called 10(j) rule under the National Environmental Policy Act be implemented before wolves are set loose.

Such a rule would allow wolves to be hunted by license under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules as a means to control the wolf population.

Without that, critics say, management of wolf populations would be left to state and federal agencies that they say don’t have the resources to adequately do the job.

“The state’s reintroduction plan must provide our citizens, grazers, outfitters, etc., with adequate tools to manage an apex predator being forced upon them,” Samson said. “The 10(j) rule must be in place before wolves are reintroduced.”

“… Wolves need to be legally hunted and trapped to keep their numbers in check,” he said.

Several other speakers representing ranching and landowner interests agreed that the 10(j) rule should be in place first. 

The bipartisan Colorado Senate Bill 256 would require the state to obtain a 10(j) rule. It was approved in the Colorado House, also on Wednesday, and was co-sponsored by state Sens. Perry Will, R-New Castle, and Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and state Reps. Megan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, and Matt Soper, R-Delta.  

Ginny Harrington, speaking on behalf of the Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association, said ranchers face many challenges, and dealing with the threat of livestock predation from wolves is just another challenge.

“If we’re not fairly compensated, we are at risk of losing these lands that provide important wildlife habitat,” she said in reference to deer, elk and other species.

Matthew Collins, speaking for the Western Landowners Alliance, referred to the “four C’s” — compensation, conflict prevention, control and cooperation — in achieving wolf management. 

“Take one of these c’s out, and the system can fall out of balance,” he said. “A resilient, productive and diverse Colorado in which we can all share spaces depends on all four c’s being included in our approach to wolf management.”

Wolf-livestock depredation compensation rules contained in the reintroduction plan includes, in part:

  • Raising the cap on livestock compensation, as well as guard and herding animal compensation, to $15,000 per animal.
  • Excluding veterinary expenses from the compensation cap for livestock, as well as guard and herding animals, up to $15,000 or the fair market value of the livestock at issue, whichever is lower.

This means claimants can get paid for injury and death to livestock and related veterinary expenses, up to a potential maximum of $30,000 per animal, according to CPW officials.

Other provisions account for losses associated with future breeding potential of cows lost, and missing yearlings.

Numerous edits to the plan were adopted by the commission on the final vote, including regulations authorizing livestock owners to file applications with CPW seeking to lethally take wolves caught in the act of attacking livestock or working dogs.

Several conservation groups have opposed the provision allowing for wolves to be killed if they’re caught “chasing, harassing or molesting” livestock, as defined in the reintroduction plan.

Some wildlife advocates worry that too much discretion in the plan and rules will lead to significant wolf-killing.

“The devil is in the details and in the discretion allowed to CPW staff who determine when wolves can be killed,” Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, said during Wednesday’s final hearing. “If caution and coexistence are emphasized in those determinations, wolves stand a chance to thrive. If not, there will likely be more conflict than there needs to be.”

In a news release issued after the CPW vote, the group noted that the law designates wolves as a “non-game” species, which precludes recreational trophy hunting and trapping.

Joining the meeting via video conference after the vote was Gov. Jared Polis, who acknowledged the work of the commission to arrive at the final wolf reintroduction plan.

“This plan is better because of the thousands of Coloradans who provided thoughtful input, and I thank the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for their comprehensive work to develop this thoughtful plan,” Polis said. “This science-based plan is the result of months of planning, convening stakeholder and expert working groups and offering live and public comment opportunities, while factoring in the biological needs of the species, and creating the best possible chance for these amazing animals to be successfully restored to our state.”

The CPW Commission’s monthly meeting was set to continue Thursday at Spring Valley, with additional agenda items including a Wildlife Habitat Program overview and final approval.

Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at or at 970-384-9160.

Writers on the Range: Land exchanges serve the wealthy

Erica Rosenberg

In 2017, the public lost 1,470 acres of wilderness-quality land at the base of Mount Sopris near Aspen, Colorado.

For decades, people had hiked and hunted on the Sopris land, yet the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) handed it over to Leslie Wexner, former CEO of Victoria’s Secret and other corporations, at his request. The so-called “equivalent terrain” he offered in return was no match for access to trails at the base of the 13,000-foot mountain.

This ill-considered trade reveals how land management agencies pander to wealthy interests, do not properly value public land and restrict opportunities for public involvement. It’s an ongoing scandal in Colorado that receives little attention.

Since 2000, the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service have proposed over 150 land exchanges in Colorado. Last year alone, the agencies proposed to trade more than 4,500 acres of public lands, worth over $9 million, in three major Colorado land exchanges.

Land to be traded away includes precious riverfront, lands recommended for Wild and Scenic River designation and hundreds of acres of prime hunting and recreation territory.

Public land exchanges can be a useful tool. Federal agencies use them to consolidate land holdings, improve public access, reduce management costs and protect watersheds.

By law, the trades must serve the public interest, and the land exchanged must be of equal value. The agencies are supposed to analyze, disclose and mitigate the impacts of relinquishing public lands in exchanges, and also solicit public input on whether a trade makes sense.

But here in Colorado — and elsewhere around the country — this management tool has been usurped by powerful players who aim to turn valuable public lands into private playgrounds.

Often, the deals proposed sound good in terms of acreage. In the Valle Seco Exchange, for example, the San Juan National Forest in southern Colorado would trade 380 acres for 880 acres of prime game-wintering habitat. But the trade mostly benefits the landowners pushing the exchange.

Public lands for trade in the Valle Seco Exchange include river access, corridors considered for Wild and Scenic River designation, wetlands, sensitive species habitat and significant cultural sites.

Alarmingly, the Valle Seco Exchange also includes more than 175 acres of a Colorado Roadless Area, a designation meant to block development of high-quality land. The exchange would allow a neighboring landowner to consolidate those 380 acres with his 3,000-plus acre ranch, opening the door to development.

The Valle Seco Exchange follows a long-standing pattern. “Exchange facilitators,” people familiar with the land-acquisition wish lists of agencies, help private landowners buy lands the agencies want. The landowners then threaten to manage and develop those lands in ways that undermine their integrity.

The Valle Seco proponents did this by closing formerly open gates and threatening to fence the 880 acres for a domestic elk farm and hunting lodge. This is blackmail on the range.

While catering to these private interests, the agencies suppress public scrutiny by refusing to share land appraisals and other documents with the public until after the public process has closed — or too late in the process to make it meaningful.

The proponents and their consultants have ready access to these documents, yet the public, which owns the land, does not. In Valle Seco, appraisals were completed in August 2020, but they weren’t released to the public until December 2021, just a few weeks before the scheduled decision date for the exchange. Advocates managed to pry the appraisals out of the agency only after submitting multiple Freedom of Information Act requests and taking legal action.

In another deal, the Blue Valley Exchange, the BLM also withheld drafts of the management agreements until just before releasing the final decision. This is hardly an open and fair public process.

The federal government presents what are, in effect, done deals. Development plans and appraisals are undisclosed and comment periods hindered. By prioritizing the proponents’ desires over public interests and process, the land management agencies abdicate their responsibilities.

The result is that too many land trades are nothing less than a betrayal of the public trust as the public loses access to its land as well as the land itself.

Erica Rosenberg is a contributor to Writers on the Range,, an independent nonprofit that works to spur lively conversation about Western issues. She is on the board of Colorado Wild Public Lands, a nonprofit in the town of Basalt that monitors land exchanges around the state.