Forest Service releases draft Environmental Assessment for Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness overnight visitor use management plan

Media Contact: Kate Jerman 970-948-1894

Forest Service releases draft Environmental Assessment for Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness overnight visitor use management plan

Carbondale, Colo. – March 29, 2017 – The White River National Forest is seeking public comment on the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Overnight Visitor Use Management Plan (proposed Plan). The draft EA analyzes the effects of the proposed Plan on the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

The analysis demonstrates there would be no significant impact of the proposed Plan on the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness. The analysis also demonstrates the need for action to protect the natural resources from increasing degradation from overnight use. Forest Service specialists reviewed the proposed Plan’s impacts on resource areas such as wildlife, soils, botany. Public input received from the initial scoping period also helped clarify and refine aspects of the proposed Plan.

“We saw a lot of comments in support of the proposed plan and in support of protecting the natural resources from impacts of overnight use,” stated Kay Hopkins, Recreation Planner.

The analysis revealed that five zones within the proposed Plan are currently exceeding the Groups At One Time (overnight use capacity) threshold: Capitol Lake, Crater Lake, Conundrum Hot Springs, Maroon and Snowmass Lake.

“It’s not surprising that more than one zone in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is exceeding its overnight capacity based on our data trends,” stated Karen Schroyer. “What the analysis revealed will be useful as we continue to collect public comment and identify our decision space when it comes to potential implementation options.”

After the 30-day public comment period on the draft EA, the Forest Service will take into account additional pertinent comments and may make adjustments to the proposed Plan or the EA. The Forest aims to release a final EA and draft Decision Notice in mid-May. At that time, the responsible official will decide whether to:

  1. implement the proposed action ( Plan);
  2. modify the proposed action;  or
  3. not implement this project at this time. 

An affirmative decision on the proposed Plan authorizes implementation of the management tools contained within the Plan, but does not dictate implementation methods or associated fees if a permit system is triggered. The responsible official will consider implementation methods based on legal authorities, feasibility, technical logistics and Forest Service resources. 

“There are a variety of implementation options once we reach a decision point,” stated Karen Schroyer. “A limited-use camping permit system could be implemented in phases starting with zones that are already exceeding the overnight Groups At One Time use threshold and apply later to other zones if they exceed their prescribed overnight use threshold over time.”

There is a suite of tools and methods that the Forest Service can utilize to implement a limited use camping permit. One option may be to utilize https://www.recreation.gov/ to issue reservations for limited campsites through the National Recreation Reservation Service. Another option may be to manage allocation and issue permits out of local Forest Service or partner offices for no charge.

A third option may be to implement an overnight limited use camping permit fee as a Special Recreation Permit under authority of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) that would result in revenue available for on-site program management. This option would require a separate public participation process and reviews at national and regional levels.

Other phased management actions could be implemented as threshold indicators (ex: campsite impacts) are exceeded, including but not limited to length of stay limits, restricting camping to designated sites, dog prohibitions, and requirements for packing out human waste.

The public is invited to attend one or both of the public meetings during this public comment period to ask additional questions:

  • April 5, Rocky Mountain Institute, Conference Room 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

22830 Two Rivers Road Basalt, Colorado, 81621

  • April 6, Gunnison Community Center, Senior Addition Room, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

200 E. Spencer Avenue Gunnison, Colorado, 81230

How to Comment and Timeframe

Specific written comments concerning this action will be accepted for 30 calendar days following publication of this notice in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. The publication date in the newspaper of record is the exclusive means for calculating the comment period. The regulations prohibit extending the length of the comment period.  The expected publication date is March 29, 2017.

Written comments must be submitted via mail, fax, electronically, or in person by April 28, 2017 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding holidays) to: Scott Fitzwilliams, c/o Erin Carey, Project Leader, 620 Main Street, Carbondale, CO 81623, FAX: (970)404-3163. Electronic comments including attachments can be submitted to https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?Project=49388.

Find the EA and other project documents here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=49388

It is the responsibility of persons providing comments to submit them by the close of the comment period. Only those who submitted timely and specific written comments during scoping or during this comment period will have eligibility to file an objection under §218.8. For objection eligibility, each individual or representative from each entity submitting timely and specific written comments must either sign the comment or verify identity upon request. Individuals and organizations wishing to be eligible to object must meet the information requirements in §218.25(a)(3). Names and contact information submitted with comments will become part of the public record and may be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/whiteriver/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD537091