Forest Service steps closer to camping permit system in Aspen wilderness | AspenTimes.com

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Forest Service steps closer to camping permit system in Aspen wilderness

Conundrum Hot Springs, Snowmass Lake, Capitol Lake and Crater Lake campers may need permits

Backpackers prepare to head into the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

A plan to limit camping by backpackers in some heavily visited hotspots in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is taking shape today.

The White River National Forest Supervisor's office unveiled a draft Environmental Assessment for a proposed Overnight Visitors Use Management Plan. The Environmental Assessment proposes implementing a camping permit system.

The Forest Service said five zones in the 181,535-acre wilderness are exceeding overnight use capacity. They include popular destinations such as Conundrum Hot Springs, Snowmass Lake, Capitol Lake and Crater Lake.

New management practices are needed to ease impacts to wildlife and the landscape, according to the Forest Service.

"It's not surprising that more than one zone in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is exceeding its overnight capacity based on our data trends," said Aspen District Ranger Karen Schroyer. "What the analysis revealed will be useful as we continue to collect public comment and identify our decision space when it comes to potential implementation options."

The Forest Service is looking into various ways to issue permit. One method would be using an online reservation system, which would include an administrative fee on top of a camping fee. An alternative would be issuing permits out of a local office at no fee. A third option would be to create a Special Recreation Permit that would generate revenues that could be used in the wilderness area for management expenses.

The agency said its initial public outreach shows support for managing overnight use.

"We saw a lot of comments in support of the proposed plan and in support of protecting the natural resources from impacts of overnight use," said Kay Hopkins, recreation planner for the White River National Forest.

See Thursday's Aspen Times for more on the overnight use management plan.