Pitco wants more time to review new forest plan | AspenTimes.com

Pitco wants more time to review new forest plan

Pitkin County has asked for extra time to evaluate the proposed White River National Forest Management Plan released last week.

The draft plan, a 15-pound box of documents delivered to homes and offices around the area last week, is an intermediate product, assembled only to be revised into a final document by some time next year. The standard public comment period for such a plan is 90 days, but federal rules permit Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Lyle Laverty to extend the input period by 30 days if requested.

County Manager Suzanne Konchan and county commissioners present at Tuesday’s work session requested such an extension. Aspen District Ranger Rob Iwamoto of the U.S. Forest Service told the group the comment period is scheduled to start Aug. 6, but may be held off until the following Friday.

The White River Forest, like other national forests, must have a master plan to guide decisions regarding forest assets. The final plan derived from this draft will replace the current forest plan, in effect since 1984. Work on the new draft plan started in 1991. Public input in 1996 and 1997 was the source of some of the important ideas in the plan.

The draft plan incorporates an environmental impact statement, which evaluates the anticipated effects of various aspects of the plan. Like all environmental impact statements, this one analyzes a number of suggested alternatives and selects a preferred alternative.

Owing to changes that will be made in response to public input, the final plan will no doubt incorporate parts of different alternatives, said Sopris District Ranger Kevin Riordan.

Riordan told the commissioners that, based on that feedback, the plan would emphasize management for health of watersheds, the continued functioning of ecosystems and management of roads and recreation.

Iwamoto said it is important that the forest plan be in line with master plans in use by communities within the jurisdiction. He said he expects the document to change significantly after the comment period. “That’s the idea of a draft document,” he said. “It’s basically getting people something to shoot at.”

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