Officers’ comments slip through the cracks | PostIndependent.com
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Officers’ comments slip through the cracks

State officials couldn’t fully explain why detailed comments from the Colorado Division of Wildlife on travel management for the White River National Forest weren’t forwarded to the U.S. Forest Service.

In October 2002, district wildlife officers compiled draft comments on the Forest Service’s efforts to create a plan for managing recreational travel on the 2.3-million-acre national forest.

But Forest Service staff say the comments never arrived. The federal agency did, however, receive travel comments from Greg Walcher, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the Division of Wildlife.



In that letter, Walcher wrote that the state “opposes any road closures on the WRNF at this point in time.”

In contrast, state wildlife officers called for closing many roads created by casual travel, citing concerns about impacts on wildlife habitat. (See related story)



Despite the difference of opinion, DNR spokeswoman Dawn Taylor said the department never saw the wildlife officers’ comments.

DNR officials only saw the comments after the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, an environmental legal defense group, submitted an open records request and the DOW produced the comments.

DNR’s handling of DOW comments on Forest Service policies first came under scrutiny in 1999, during the comment period for the White River National Forest’s 15-year plan. DNR watered down or dropped concerns raised by the DOW about overall forest management, particularly regarding road closures and wildlife conflicts.

Previously, the DOW submitted comments directly to the Forest Service. But Walcher instituted a policy requiring that comments first go to his office.

Todd Malmsbury, DOW spokesman, said he can’t figure out what happened to the draft comments.

“If Dawn (Taylor) says they didn’t get them, they didn’t get them,” he said.

“It’s standard operating procedure for our guys to make draft comments and at some stage for them to be considered,” Malmsbury said. “Why they didn’t review those, I don’t know, but that’s probably not that unusual either.”

DOW director Russell George said, “I don’t think there’s a real issue there because we are division under a department and under an executive, so everything has its hierarchy.”

“People do the work and it passes through the system. Everything’s that way. It’s the system. I don’t think there’s anybody in the system that doesn’t recognize that,” George added.


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