Buried by bureaucracy | AspenTimes.com

Buried by bureaucracy

This letter was originally addressed to Regional Forester Rick Cables.)Dear Editor:Good day, I am writing to you on behalf of PowdertothePeople.org, a Colorado-based nonprofit organization. For two years we have been working to educate the public on inequities of use on its public lands, most specifically on Richmond Ridge near Aspen. We are asking to share equal motorized access on established winter roads in the 7.1 intermix area on Richmond Ridge. Currently the only permit holder is the Aspen Skiing Co. for nonexclusive use. In effect, however, it is being treated as an exclusive permit. We feel that the White River National Forest is giving us the runaround in order to protect commercial interests over public rights. This situation came to a head two years ago when the permit holder began paying for enforcement patrol of the 7.1 intermix area. When we approached our local forest representatives, they recommended we form a group of responsible users and apply for a permit under the noncommercial special use criteria. We did this, but our request was denied without clear explanation.It was suggested that we become more of an “educational outreach organization.” We are now a recognized 501c(3) and are actively promoting responsible backcountry use through our extensive website, special events and public forums at our website, http://www.powdertothepeople.org. We then applied for a third time this spring and met with Area District Ranger Bill Westbrook and a couple of other handpicked White River National Forest representatives. We were given a verbal denial and told we would need to wait 30 days for the official written denial. We are now well beyond the 30-day period and have not received a thing.Through what appears to us to have been “smoke and mirrors” we were asked to wait patiently for the White River National Forest Travel Management Plan, delayed in its release by the National Travel Management Plan. This also appears to have been a stall tactic, as neither the national travel plan nor the White River National Forest travel plan would preclude shared use in the 7.1 intermix area. As you can see, we have been stymied as to how to apply for any sort of institutional permit. We are formally requesting any and all written procedures, regulations and protocols for permitting institutional and/or commercial uses of public lands, particularly as it concerns 7.1 intermix areas. We need to understand the criteria utilized in making these forest-related decisions, who makes these decisions and what the appeal process is. We are also interested to know what happens now that the Forest Service has exceeded the 30-day period in which to issue a written denial. Mike SladdinPresident, PowdertothePeople.orgAspen

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