THE RIO GRANDE NATIONAL FOREST NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU! (Comments are Due December 29)

Comments for wildlife and habitat protection on the Rio Grande National Forest

The Rio Grande National Forest is remote, wild, and largely undeveloped. In 2015, monitoring found that hunting and fishing were the second and third primary participation activities for forest visitors. With all major game species present and large areas of primarily undisturbed habitat, this forest is ideal location for a backcountry hunting or angling experience. Your help is needed to keep it that way.  

The Rio Grande National Forest has released a draft revised management plan (view the plan drafts at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/riogrande/landmanagement/projects/?cid=fseprd560334 ). The plan will set the foundation for all actions, including, logging, livestock grazing, and mining, for at least the next 15 years by delineating what management measures will be applied to projects to ensure protection of wildlife habitat and connectivity, water quality, recreation opportunity and more.

Please take a few minutes to send an email or letter. In your e-mail or letter:

--Share any experiences you have of the Rio Grande Forest (hiking, fishing, sightseeing, hiking, etc.).

--Voice support for keeping most of the Rio Grande National Forest in a wild, undeveloped condition. 

--Support all the recommendations for Wilderness in alternative D. Wilderness preserves large areas of habitat for wide ranging species and provides high quality opportunities for solitude and primitive hunting. Specifically support the recommendations for the Sangre de Cristo, Antora Meadows, Adams Fork addition, Three Forks addition and Saguache Creek Wilderness areas.

--Support the special area recommendation in alternative D, including: Carnero and Jim Creek native fish areas (to help preserve populations of imperiled Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout) and the Spruce Hole-Osier-Toltec connectivity area (to preserve intra-state wildlife connectivity and genetic diversity for elk and other species).

--Support the elimination of motorized off road game retrieval proposed in alternative D. This allowance is frequently misunderstood and abused.[1] The current Rio Grande policy permits game retrieval up to 4 miles off designated routes in some areas.[2] This excessively permissive policy is inconsistent with what is permitted on adjacent BLM and other National Forest lands and should be discontinued.

--Insist that management measures be strengthened (emphasizing standards and guidelines instead of approaches) to ensure adequate protection of resources.[3]

--Request that seasonal closure dates of travel routes to protect big game winter range, migration and birthing areas be expanded and fully implemented to ensure survival of these species during these critical periods. Request that seasonal closures for winter range be continued until at least April 15 (or as needed). Seasonal closures should be implemented on routes in elk production areas (from May 15- June 30). Seasonal closures must be implemented in Bighorn Sheep lambing areas (from April 15-June 30). Seasonal closures of certain routes should be considered during the spring and fall migratory time period for identified deer and elk migration corridors (until June 1 in the spring and after October 10 in the fall). These align with CPW direction and other Forest Plans.

--Request that protections for Bighorn sheep that previously existed in over 40,000 acres of Bighorn Sheep management areas be retained. The drafts alternatives propose to eliminate these sheep management areas, which will affect populations in GMU S10, 29, 30, 36, 53 and S55. Over 36,000 acres, supporting an estimated 350 sheep, will potentially be opened to surface occupancy related to oil and gas development, logging, new travel routes in lambing areas, and disturbing recreational activities in this proposed plan.

 

Send your comment letter to: rgnf_forest_plan@fs.fed.us 

Or postal mail your comments to:

Rio Grande National Forest

Forest Plan Revision

1803 US Hwy 160

Monte Vista, CO 81144

Your e-mail or letter must be sent or postmarked no later than December 29.

 

[1] This was tried for a part of the Grand Mesa National Forest in the 1990s, and it was extremely detrimental to public lands wildlife habitat according to documentation of this experiment. In December 1994 they instituted a 3-year trial of motorized game retrieval during hunting seasons (from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.). Ultimately, the Forest Supervisor issued an Administrative Action to revoke motorized game retrieval for (in part) the following reasons:

  • The privilege accorded by this authorization in the 1994 decision has been systematically abused. Under the guise of retrieval of game:

-travel into other areas outside of the game retrieval areas is common, resulting in an extensive law enforcement challenges and disrupting the hunting experience of others;

-travel is not occurring during designated time; disrupting the hunting experience of others;

-additional illegal routes result. One set of tracks attracts use by others who are not paying close attention to restrictions, and new routes continue to be pioneered into areas.

  • Unacceptable environmental effects result with the creation of additional illegal routes on the Forest. The current restriction imposes an unreasonable burden on law enforcement personnel to demonstrate proof that a rider is actually traveling to a downed animal.

[2] As explained by NRA member/American Hunter contributor Sven Wigert: “If you are unable to figure out how to get an elk out of the woods without putting it on a vehicle, then you have no business hunting for one.” (“Travel Management Plans.” American Hunter: September 2009, p. 8).

[3] Also see: David A. Lien. “Motorized game retrieval is an inappropriate indulgence.” The Cortez Journal: 10/29/11.

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