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By Ann Bond
Special to The SUN
On Friday, Sept. 20, the San Juan National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Tres Rios Field Office released a joint Land and Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) to address long-term management of 2.4 million acres of National Forest and BLM lands in southwestern Colorado, and an additional 700,000 acres of federal minerals.
The San Juan National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan will guide the management of 1.8 million acres of National Forest System lands in southwestern Colorado.
Extensive public, tribal and local government involvement has been ongoing since 2004 in the joint effort to update the San Juan National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan of 1983. The new plan represents a final decision by the Forest Service.
“This has been a long process that has required a great deal of effort on the part of agency personnel, the public and others,” said Mark Stiles, San Juan National Forest Supervisor. “Through the years we held dozens of public meetings, received more than 50,000 comment letters, consulted with 26 tribes, and met with local governments, other agencies and cooperators. The San Juan National Forest and its tremendous resources are dear to all of those who provided input, and we did our best to listen and address what we heard through this plan and FEIS.”
Some of the major issues addressed in the Land and Resource Management Plan include maintaining functional wildlife habitat, managing lands with wilderness characteristics, establishment of standards and guidelines for energy and mineral development and other uses, management of special areas such as Wild and Scenic Rivers and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, transportation and travel management issues, and protection of air and water quality.
The plan identifies new areas on the San Juan National Forest as unsuitable for over-ground motorized travel; however, the vast majority of this acreage is located in areas where no current roads or motorized trails exist. Those areas identified in the plan as unsuitable for over-snow motorized travel will require additional analysis prior to implementation of the new over-snow motorized use restrictions.
About 55,000 acres in four separate areas of the San Juan National Forest are recommended for wilderness area designation. All are within Colorado Roadless Areas. The plan also includes a strategic framework for dealing with climate change through adaptive management and mitigation.
In addition to the plan, the analysis includes an oil and gas leasing availability decision on San Juan National Forest lands. The acreage available for oil and gas leasing on the San Juan National Forest does not significantly change from the old plan, but the new plan does institute new stipulations, which will affect future oil and gas development.
The new San Juan National Forest planning documents were posted online Sept. 20 at www.fs.usda.gov/main/sanjuan/landmanagement/planning.
Electronic versions are also available on CD by calling the San Juan Public Lands Center at 247-4874.