By Lyndsie Ferrell
CREEDE— As part of several community meetings held by the Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF) for the forest revision plan, the RGNF held a meeting in Creede on Tuesday, Sept. 10 to discuss the next steps in the revision process. Forest Planner Judi Perez opened the discussion with a brief history of the plan revision process, stating that they are now in the final stages and will be implementing the plan by early spring next year.
The RGNF took into consideration several comments made by the public that they received through several meetings held over the course of two years. In 2017, the public was presented with a draft highlighting three alternatives to the current forest plan and then were asked to comment on which alternative would best fit forest needs.
The draft decision that was presented during the meeting will be subject to a 60-day objection period where people who have been involved from the beginning of the revision process will be able to object to any portion of the final draft decision before it is approved through the national office.
In August of this year, the RGNF released a final draft decision that was a combination of alternatives B and C. Some of the major changes that will be implemented once the 60-day objection period is complete will include going from 17 management areas to nine, larger management areas. The purpose of the decrease in management areas is so that the Forest Service can manage areas in a more organized manner.
The plan also altered the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment to include the dead tree habitat. The original amendment only included green and healthy forest. This change would now include the dead and beetle kill tree habitat in the Rio Grande National Forest.
The plan also includes two wildfire management areas, a smaller portion of new recommended wilderness areas near the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and tree harvesting plans that will be spread out over several years to help utilize the beetle kill in the area.
The next step is the 60-day objection period. Objections will be accepted from those who made comments and were involved up to this point. Following the 60-day period, comments will be reviewed, and a final decision will be announced once pertinent changes have been made. The document is available at the Monte Vista office located at 1803 US HWY 160 or online at www.fs.fed.us/riogrande for those who wish to review the document.