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News in Brief

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are inviting public comments on a plan for the National Speleological Society to conduct tours of caves around the Roaring Fork Valley and western Colorado as part of their national convention in Glenwood Springs July 16-24.

In the White River National Forest, the society is seeking a permit to visit 17 caves with two trips per day and up to eight people per trip, according to the Forest Service. The society wants to conduct up to four trips per day to Fulford Cave.

The BLM said the speleological society has applied to lead tours to three caves on land it manages in Eagle and Garfield counties. The proposal to the BLM requests 12 visits per cave with no more than five people per visit, according to the agency.

The Forest Service currently has a ban on human entry into caves because of concerns over White Nose Syndrome, a deadly fungus that is decimating bat populations in the eastern U.S. It hasn’t been detected yet in Colorado.

The federal agencies say the speleological society must decontaminate gear for all visitors to caves to reduce the risk of spreading White Nose Syndrome. Both agencies are undertaking an environmental assessment of the request for the cave tours. Public comments will be assessed as part of that process.

The Forest Service wants comments by April 8. They can be e-mailed to wrnf_scoping_comments@fs.fed.us or mailed to Scott Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor, c/o Mike Kenealy, 900 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs, CO. 81601.

The BLM will accept comments until April 18. They can be sent to Bureau of Land Management, Colorado River Valley Field Office, ATTN: Recreation Permit Administrator, 2300 River Frontage Road, Silt, CO 81652.

ASPEN – The U.S. Forest Service will hold an open house Tuesday, March 22, to unveil alternative site plans for its Aspen Ranger Station administrative site.

The agency and its architectural design team have created three alternatives for the prominent, 3-acre site in west Aspen. They will be presented in the open-house meeting and the design team will be available for discussions with interested members of the public. The open house will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Rio Grande meeting room, the former Aspen Youth Center.

The Aspen Ranger Station office building was constructed almost 70 years ago as a commercial garage and shop. It was renovated into an administrative office building by the agency.

“The office building is inadequately configured to meet the current and projected staffing needs of the District,” the Forest Service said in a press release. “In addition to the administrative offices, the Forest Service is seeking to replace the warehouse, bunkhouse and Forest Service employee housing units that have outlived their useful life. All buildings on the site have numerous and severe deferred maintenance and accessibility problems that cannot be easily corrected. Repairs and remodeling of the existing structures is neither an economic or feasible option.”

The new buildings would occupy roughly the same amount of space as the existing buildings. The agency said it wants to create a site plan that is compatible with the neighborhood and the community.

Public comments are being sought on the alternatives to help the Forest Service select a preferred alternative and to refine the plan.

ASPEN – The city of Aspen will hold a public meeting on the proposed Smuggler Mountain Open Space 10 Year Forest Management Plan on from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, in the Sister Cities Meeting Room at City Hall.

The plan outlines and defines the management strategy and goals for the Smuggler Mountain Open Space over the next 10 years, according to Chris Forman, city forester.

Following a brief presentation on the proposed management plan, public comment will be accepted. The Smuggler plan is expected to be finalized in April 2011 and implemented beginning this summer.


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