McInnis blasts preferred plan for forest as `reckless’ |

McInnis blasts preferred plan for forest as `reckless’

U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Grand Junction) has made his strongest attack yet on the White River National Forest Management Plan, calling the preferred alternative “reckless.”

He also said it “threatens to do irreparable harm” to Colorado tourism, recreation and water rights.

The proposed management plan, which will direct the forest for the next 15 years, is currently in an extended public comment period. The U.S. Forest Service has said that of several alternative plans, they favor Alternative D, which “places a low emphasis on new developments for human uses or recreation,” but stresses wildlife habitat and biological diversity.

McInnis, in a statement issued Monday, said that this approach “appears intent on making the forest a museum without visitors.”

He warned that recreation destinations like Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Keystone – all in the forest boundaries – “would be in harm’s way” under Alternative D. Sunlight Mountain Resort, also in the White River, was not mentioned by the congressman.

“The forest,” McInnis’ statement said, “is the fifth-most recreated national forest in the United States. Some 9 million people from all over the world converge on the forest every year to ski, hike, fish, mountain bike, snowmobile, climb and ride ATVs and horses.” Alternative D “would severely inhibit many of these activities, including hiking near Aspen’s world-famous Maroon Bells.”

McInnis said that recreation in the White River National Forest supports 34,000 jobs and pumps $720 million a year into the state’s economy.

He predicted that “western Colorado’s collective economy stands to suffer greatly” if Alternative D becomes reality.

The congressman said that the Forest Service should put aside what he called its “flawed recommendation and instead embrace a balanced solution that recognizes the interests of all those with a legitimate stake in the forest.

“After all, this is not a zero-sum game; we can protect the natural integrity of the forest while reserving every American’s right to experience the beauty of this majestic place. Indeed, with a balanced management solution, the environment, recreation and tourism can all flourish in harmony at the White River National Forest.”

Citizens with comments on the forest management plan can send their concerns in writing to: White River National Forest, P.O. Box 948, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602.

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