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Opportunity to Comment on Pitkin Travel Proposal Draft Environmental Assessment

Contact(s): Matthew McCombs, District Ranger, 970-642-4404, Pamela King, NEPA Specialist 970-641-0471

 March 5, 2018 – The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) has prepared a Draft Environmental Assessment (Draft EA) for the Pitkin Travel Proposal, which is now available for review and comment online at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=47149  

With this Draft EA, the GMUG is responding to a proposal submitted by the Pitkin Trail Advocates to reconsider travel designations made through implementation of the 2010 Gunnison Basin Federal Lands Travel Management Plan (2010 TMP). 

“We’re glad to have this draft decision out for public comment as it represents a good deal of hard work from staff as well as the District’s commitment to responsiveness,” said Matt McCombs, District Ranger for the Gunnison Ranger District. “Residents of Pitkin asked us to take a second look at a handful of routes that were closed in 2010 under the TMP and we were happy to oblige.” McCombs continued, “I am hopeful that the proposed changes will go a long way to building deeper trust and further partnerships with Pitkin area residents recognizing travel management is an ongoing process and we need the support and assistance of our communities for long-term success”.   

Three alternatives are analyzed in the Draft EA:

The No Action Alternative which represents the 2010 TMP and the existing condition.

The Proposed Action Alternative, which includes the following elements:

Re-open Powderhouse - National Forest Service Road (NFSR) 763.1C, 4.96 miles of road

Re-open Tollgate Gulch (NFSR 802.2A), 3.34 miles of road

Change the designation for the South Quartz Creek Trail (NFSR 769.2C/National Forest Service Trail (NFST) 483 from open to motorized vehicles to 50” or less to open to motorized vehicles 50” or greater, 2.58 miles of trail.

The Agency Preferred Alternative which includes the following elements:

Re-open Powderhouse (NFSR 763.1C), 4.96 miles of road

Change the designation for the South Quartz Creek Trail (NFSR 769.2C/NFST 483) from open to motorized vehicles to 50” or less to open to motorized vehicles 50” or greater, 2.58 miles of trail

Close and reclaim the North Bald Pitkin Cutoff Trail (NFST 649), 1.4 miles of trail.

The difference between the Agency Preferred and Proposed Action alternatives is the Tollgate Gulch road which has been successfully closed for over five years. The Deciding Official, District Ranger McCombs, prefers to keep the road closed as it increases positive impacts to wildlife habitat, reduces overall road density in the area, and does not offer a through route as the road dead-ends at private property. Yet, the analysis suggested that the road could be opened with nominal resource impacts. Thus, the District wanted to hear from the public on this issue in particular before making a decision to include or remove the Tollgate Gulch Road from further consideration.

A further difference between the two alternatives is the closure of NFST 649. This route parallels the Powderhouse Road and has numerous resource concerns due to poor alignment and steep slopes. With the opening of Powderhouse Road, the Forest Service finds it appropriate to close NFST 649 to reduce road density and address resource concerns.

All alternatives would include physically closing and reclaiming routes determined to be closed during the 2010 TMP or though the decisions related to this project and any illegal user-created spur routes in the project area.

In order to increase opportunities for the public to interact with Forest Service staff on this draft decision, the Forest Service will be holding a public meeting to discuss the project on March 15th, from 6:00 to 7:30 P.M., at the Newcomb Community Center (801 State Street) in Pitkin, CO.

Comments on the Draft EA will be accepted for 30 days following the publication date of the opportunity to comment legal notice in the Gunnison Country Times which is the newspaper of record, or by April 7, 2018, whichever date occurs later.  For more information of how to comment see the “Interested Party Letter” located online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=47149

For additional information concerning the Draft EA, contact: Pamela King, NEPA Specialist, at 970-641-0471 or prking@fs.fed.us.


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