McInnis’ plan won’t affect the future of forest | AspenTimes.com
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McInnis’ plan won’t affect the future of forest

Jeremy Heiman

The final White River National Forest management plan won’t be unduly influenced by the demands of U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, a forest official says.

Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle and Aspen District Ranger Jim Upchurch met with the Pitkin County Commissioners Tuesday to update the board on the progress of the new forest plan.

U.S. Forest Service planning staffers are now crafting a final plan after categorizing and analyzing 60,000 separate comments submitted in over 14,000 letters.

Ketelle told the commissioners she met with McInnis recently and discussed the parts of the plan that are important to him.

“I think he understands that he was not in touch with all the constituencies that we were in touch with,” Ketelle said. Before writing the plan, the Forest Service organized numerous meetings with many groups interested in how the national forest is going to be managed.

Then, as mandated by Congress, an environmental impact statement with six separate alternatives was created. Each of the alternatives was written with a separate goal, or theme, in mind.

Alternative D, stressing preservation of biological diversity, was the preferred alternative. Unsatisfied with any of the alternatives written by forest planners, McInnis directed his staff in 1999 to create another alternative forest plan.

Commissioners grilled Ketelle as to whether the final plan would bear any resemblance to the preferred alternative.

“I’m just concerned that we’re going to see Alternative D eroded,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield. “I’m concerned that the outcome has been massaged by Washington, D.C.”

Commissioner Dorothea Farris was more explicit, asking if McInnis has had undue influence.

But Ketelle reassured the board that, though McInnis’ alternative had a lot of work in it, it wouldn’t greatly affect the final plan.

“McInnis’ plan was the most extensive comment we received,” Ketelle said. “But we didn’t give it any more weight than any other comments.”

The last round of public involvement in the forest plan will begin next week. Forest officials will meet separately with six invited groups of “stakeholders,” motorized recreationists, nonmotorized recreationists, ski area officials, environmental and conservation groups, second-home owners and local governments.

The meetings will be in Glenwood Springs, Avon and Denver.


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