On August 13, 2021, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest released a Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) for its new Forest Plan. The last plan for the GMUG was completed in 1983, nearly 40 years ago! This is a rare opportunity to make changes to this Forest Plan that are more suited to the present time. With your input, we can protect wildlife, natural/cultural resources, motorized and all types of recreation in the GMUG National Forest for generations to come.
So what is a Forest Plan?
A Forest Plan provides a general framework to guide the management of a national forest regarding its resources, goods, and services, much like City and County zoning plans. The United States Forest Service (USFS) is identifying and categorizing large areas of the forest to guide future processes such as Travel Management. It’s important to make the distinction that this process is about developing a big picture plan and does not make any determination about the opening or closing of routes. However, it could affect existing routes or the creation of new routes in the future during more detailed processes such as Travel Management Planning.
The GMUG Forest Planning process began in 2017. Throughout this time, and during scoping conducted in 2019, the TPA and motorized community offered comments and suggestions regarding what we would like to see in this plan (See the GMUG Forest Plan documents in GMUG folder). Simply put the suggestions were: keep it simple, keep it flexible, and keep it accessible. The motorized recreation community’s participation has resulted in two reasonable draft alternatives being presented in the DEIS – but we are not done yet!
What are the Draft Alternatives?
The Forest Plan offers four alternatives for the public to comment on – A, B, C, and D. The TPA is currently reviewing the options, and here are our initial thoughts:
- Alternative A keeps everything as is. This option is required by law but we do not think that this option will be considered.
- Alternative B is the most balanced for all interests. The USFS has yet to identify a preferred alternative but we anticipate that it will be this one. It has a small increase in Wilderness designation with minimal to no impact on current motorized usage. This option was produced from the 2019 scoping feedback.
- Alternative C is the most flexible and simple option with limited special use areas and no new Wilderness designated areas. We see many positive aspects within this option.
- Alternative D suggests increasing Wilderness or Roadless land designations by 25%. Currently, the GMUG is 50% Wilderness or Roadless so this option would make 75% of the GMUG unavailable for motorized recreation. This is a clear loser for motorized recreation and can not be supported.
Where are we now?
Currently, we are in a 90 day public comment period where the USFS is seeking more input before they make a final decision for the new Forest Plan. This comment period will end on November 11, 2021.
What do we need from you?
- Local knowledge! We need to hear from all those familiar with the GMUG. We suggest that you focus your attention on Alternatives B and C.
- Attend a meeting! The USFS has a number of virtual meetings scheduled throughout the next month and we highly recommend that you sit in on one to learn more about the plan.
- Share! Send us your thoughts and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the TPA proceeds through this process we will communicate a preferred alternative (or combination of alternatives) that we recommend supporting and outline why we feel it is the preferred alternative. We are hoping that you will use this information to make your own unique comments. If you would like to make comments now, please watch this video from CORE – it will walk you through how to make good substantive comments. Making good comments is a key part of how we can help achieve the most desirable outcome for motorized recreation.