On July 16th, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) partnered with High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) to host a public comment writing workshop in Crested Butte, Colorado. The workshop was in response to the release of a "working draft" Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest Plan. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) specifically asked for public comments that provided feedback on “what direction works and what needs improvement” within the new "working draft". This open comment period provides a great opportunity to help shape the GMUG’s long-term sustainability as part of the ongoing GMUG Forest Plan Revision Process. The comment period closes July 29th.
Forest plans provide overall guidance and management direction for all uses and activities on the forest. The GMUG’s current plan is from 1983; it is in dire need of an update to reflect current science, community values, recreation pressures, and wildlife needs. The "working draft" gives you - the public land owner - an idea of the management direction and priorities the Forest Service is considering for their more comprehensive Draft Forest Plan, which will be released this winter, and which will ultimately inform their final plan. More importantly, the "working draft" gives you - the public land owner - an opportunity to comment and help shape this plan, to ensure important wildlife habitat values and resources are prioritized and emphasized throughout the planning region. You can comment here and ensure your values and knowledge help shape the management direction of the GMUG.
The revised forest plan sets the direction for forest management for at least 15 years. It is critical that it serves as a conservation-prioritized, science-based foundation for future uses. The forest plan makes decisions for where new wilderness areas may be recommended, where commercial logging will and will not be allowed, the intensity of recreation use on the forest, how wildlife will be protected, and so much more. Submitting public comments now is critical because this will shape the direction of the DEIS/Draft Plan, scheduled to be released in early 2020. By that time, much of the plan direction and specifics will already be set in stone.
HCCA’s Public Lands Director Matt Reed wrote eight documents to help workshop attendees identify and define the issues they are interested in for a public comment format. Areas selected to be of interest to attendees included hunting and fishing, logging, the overall management direction, recommended wilderness areas, recreation, watershed health, and wildlife. Reed also created a comment card for attendees to fill out while at the workshop to be photographed and sent to USFS. Altogether, 13 locals attended the workshop, and all of them filled out a comment card. If you would like to submit a comment on the GMUG’s draft forest plan, visit USFS’s website here.