Redrock canyons to get hard look at roadless meeting
Redrock canyons and the Flat Tops aren’t always discussed in the same breath, but they will be when the Colorado Roadless Area Task Force visits the Roaring Fork Valley in June. The public’s two cents on how roadless areas in the White River National Forest should be managed will be the task force’s focus at its June 21 meeting in Glenwood Springs, but Colorado’s tiny portion of the Utah-based Manti-La Sal National Forest will get some attention, too. As the crow flies, it’s about 120 miles from Glenwood to the Manti-La Sal, of which Colorado hosts 27,100 acres of rarely-visited roadless redrock canyon country east of the Utah border near Paradox in Montrose and San Miguel counties. Of Colorado’s portion of the forest, 7,700 acres are roadless and could be recommended for wilderness designation in the Manti-La Sal’s draft revised forest management plan, scheduled for release in June, said Manti-La Sal public affairs officer Ann King. Colorado’s Manti-La Sal land is dramatic and isolated, and includes Sinbad Ridge and Roc Creek Canyon, with geology similar to the Dolores River gorge a few miles to the east, said Pete Kilborn, a Manti-La Sal geographic information systems specialist. It’s a “seldom-visited kind of place,” Kilborn said. Dan Kent, director of the Moab, Utah-based Redrock Forests, which is fighting to protect Colorado’s portion of the Manti-La Sal, called the Sinbad Ridge area one of the most valuable roadless areas in the region, with a virgin stand of ponderosa pines hundreds of years old. “It’s like Moab Valley, except this one is like a big egg-shaped valley and drains out Roc Creek,” he said. “It’s a phenomenal forest.”Kent said Redrock Forests wants the roadless area called the “Sinbad Unit,” – 65,000 acres of sandstone and pines lying on the Manti-La Sal and Bureau of Land Management land in both Colorado and Utah – designated as wilderness. That’s not likely, he said, in part because Forest Service personnel who become acquainted with the Sinbad Ridge area transfer to other forests before progress on protecting the area is be made. Though a possible Forest Service recommendation for designating the area as wilderness is a hit with environmentalists, “I don’t think it would be a popular idea in the majority of people we’ve talked to,” King said. Roadless Area Task Force members don’t quite agree on why the group chose to hear Manti-La Sal roadless issues with those of the WRNF. Colorado’s portion of the Manti-La Sal is much closer to the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests – they’re managed together and known collectively as “GMUG” – than it is to the WRNF.”I don’t think there’s anything logical about it at all,” said Russell George, of Rifle, task force chairman and executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “It should have happened at one of those earlier meetings.”He said roadless areas in the Manti-La Sal should be given a hearing just like those in other Colorado national forests. Clearly, he said, “somebody has an interest in it.”But task force member Steve Smith, a Glenwood resident and Wilderness Society assistant regional director, said the task force will be addressing the Manti-La Sal in Glenwood because of its proximity to the WRNF.The task force didn’t want to discuss the Manti-La Sal with the geographically closer GMUG forests at its first meeting in Delta on Nov. 9 because those forests were at a “crucial” stage in their forest planning process, he said. That meeting didn’t go as planned, and public comment on those forests will be heard again on June 22 in Grand Junction, Smith said. The task force “arrived to a crowd of 400 people in a room that would hold 200,” he said. “Lots of people who tried to speak that night didn’t get a very good chance. It was worth doing a second round.”The task force is also willing to hear about any roadless area in any national forest in the state at any of its meetings, he said, so Manti-La Sal or even WRNF roadless issues can be discussed at the Grand Junction meeting, too. King said she doesn’t know if Manti-La Sal representatives will attend the Glenwood meeting partly because she wasn’t even aware of the existence of the task force or the controversy over roadless areas in Colorado. “We’ve not heard one single thing,” she said. Claire Bastable, of the Colorado Mountain Club in Carbondale, called it “odd” that the Manti-La Sal is being discussed at a task force meeting focusing on the WRNF because each forest has unique management issues. “I’m not sure how they’re planning to structure public comment on each of those areas,” she said, adding that she expects the Glenwood meeting to be the most well-attended of the 10 task force meetings because so many people use the WRNF. The state Legislature created the Roadless Area Task Force after the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year rescinded a Clinton-era rule that required the Forest Service to protect more than 58 million acres that were deemed roadless. A new Bush administration rule leaves it up to states to recommend whether the Forest Service should open roadless areas.Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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