Roadless area part of potential WRNF land sale
The U.S.D.A. Forest Service wants to sell land designated as roadless in the White River National Forest, albeit only a small parcel. For Jim Maxwell, the agency’s regional press officer, that’s not much of a surprise. The U.S. Department of Agriculture asked the Forest Service to come up with a list of parcels for potential sale so quickly that the selection process was flawed such that some of the parcels proposed for the auction block included some land designated as roadless, he said. The Bush administration is proposing to sell 1,240 acres of the WRNF and more than 200,000 acres in national forests across the country to raise $800 million to make up for decreasing national forest timber revenues, which helped pay for schools and roads in counties that host national forests. One parcel included a trailhead for a popular fourteener, Maxwell said. One small parcel proposed for sale in the WRNF in Summit County includes part of a roadless area, said WRNF forest planner Wendy Haskins. The parcel is about 1,400 feet wide, 1 mile long and encompasses Elliot Creek about a mile north of the Eagles Nest Wilderness in Summit County. Even though Maxwell says there are flaws in the Forest Service’s selection of parcels for potential sale, he said it’s up to the public to speak out if they would like to see the list modified.”It was a rapid turnaround,” he said. “Nobody bats a thousand, especially when they’re throwing fastballs and curves.”The proposed land sale will be published in the Federal Register on Feb. 28, he said, at which time the public will have 30 days to comment on it. “We’ll get those comments and probably pare down the total number of parcels to a smaller number for (the) final submission that goes before Congress,” he said. The idea that roadless areas could be part of a public lands sell-off has enraged environmentalists, including Sloan Shoemaker, director of the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, which is working to preserve all the WRNF’s roadless areas. “I would hope that Gov. (Bill) Owens would speak out strongly that this administration should not be pre-empting the state’s prerogative,” Shoemaker said. “How duplicitous this administration is.”The fate of roadless areas in the WRNF has impassioned many in the Roaring Fork Valley. Environmental groups have been holding community meetings to devise a strategy to get their voices heard at an important meeting in June. The meeting will influence how the state decides to manage roadless areas in Colorado. Last year, the Bush administration rescinded the Clinton administration’s roadless rule, which protected more than 58 million acres of roadless land in national forests nationwide. The new rule lets the states decide what to do with roadless areas, possibly lifting protection on many of them. In response, Owens formed a bipartisan, 13-member task force designed to determine how the state’s roadless areas will be managed. The task force, which includes three Garfield County residents, will hold six meetings statewide to gather public comments on roadless area management.The panel will meet in Glenwood Springs to discuss roadless areas in the White River and Manti-La Sal national forests on June 21.Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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