Garfield County set to protest Forest Service road rulings
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County is preparing to protest certain portions of the White River National Forest Travel Management Plan, as well as aspects of a proposed revision to the Colorado Roadless Rule, which together would put certain areas off limits to motorized vehicles.But the details underlying the protest will not be ironed out until June 6 at the earliest, when the county commissioners will take another look at the issue.That is because there is some confusion about which roads are in which jurisdiction, and whether certain roads are depicted accurately, depending on whether one is looking at the county’s 2011 map of its roads system, or a Forest Service map.”The map that was used as a base map by the Forest Service doesn’t line up at all with our map,” said Commissioner John Martin said in a special county commissioners’ meeting held Monday.The proposed Colorado Roadless Rule, created through a partnership of federal and state agencies, would provide management direction for 4.2 million roadless acres of national forest lands in Colorado.A roadless area generally is undeveloped public land that, according to the Forest Service, is at least 5,000 acres in size and has unique characteristics, including a lack of existing roads.The travel management plan, which was released in early May for public comment, is part of a broader White River Forest Plan, and is intended to provide a framework for deciding which uses are to be permitted on which roads throughout the forest.”I think there are probably less than half a dozen [road closures or reclassifications] that need your attention,” said the county’s long-range planner, Tamra Allen, at the commissioners’ meeting on Monday.Among the roads that figure in the county’s objections are County Road 30 in the Four Mile Park area; County Road 319 in West Mamm Creek; and county roads 241 and 284 in the Clinetop region.Martin, criticizing both the roadless rule and the travel management plan, specifically mentioned the Coffee Pot and Deep Creek roads in the northern part of Garfield County, among others, as examples where Forest Service maps do not match with the county’s maps.He added that the town of Silt does not even appear on the Forest Service base map meant to lay out the roadless areas, and that the Transfer Trail road, a popular four-wheel-drive road leading north from Glenwood Springs, was included in the roadless area.”All that was a misalignment,” Martin said.He later explained that the Forest Service base map overlay, used to establish the roadless area, initially was not properly aligned with current, accepted maps of the region and had to be corrected.”There seems to be double mapping between county roads and some of our roads,” said Wendy Haskins, a longtime planner with the White River forest administration, at the meeting.But, she added, the agency has been working to rectify any discrepancies, and recent mapping efforts appear to coincide with the county’s own documents.The travel management plan, which proposed changes in the use of the roads in question, in some cases would close roads to motorized traffic that historically have been open for motorized recreation and wood-cutting, according to statements from numerous county residents at Monday’s session.Fred Kuersten of Peach Valley argued against road closures, citing a need to clear beetle-infested trees to reduce fire danger and allow access for a proposed dam for water storage.Peter Hart, an attorney for the Wilderness Workshop, countered that the Roadless Rule specifically allows for temporary roads for “fuel treatment” of damaged forests, and for the construction of “water conveyance structures” with existing water rights.In addition to the protest, the commissioners directed their legal staff to begin working on a legal challenge to the travel management plan’s closure of County Road 241, the East Elk Creek Road, north of New Castle, which residents say they have used for decades as a vehicular access route into the forest.Rifle District Ranger Glenn Adams has agreed to reconsider the closure based on objections from area residents and from the county.On Monday, however, the commissioners directed assistant county attorney Carey Gagnon to begin working on a formal challenge just in case Adams decides the closure should remain in effect.The county also is searching its records, and those of the state of Colorado, for paperwork showing whether East Elk Creek Road was at one time formally declared to be a county road, or not.
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