In August, the U.S. Forest Service released the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) Draft Revised Forest Plan, which will provide a framework for how the 2.9 million acres of forest land and its resources will be managed for the next 15+ years. As the November 12 deadline for public input on the draft forest plan approaches, Outdoor Alliance is asking the public to voice their support for a number of recommendations to ensure that the GMUG manages outdoor recreation sustainably, while also prioritizing the long-term ecological health of public lands, watersheds, and wildlife.
In collaboration with local and regional partners, Outdoor Alliance submitted a comprehensive proposal to the GMUG Planning Team in August 2019 to help guide the Forest Service in developing a draft forest plan. Though the draft forest plan offers four overarching alternatives, the public is not being asked to ‘vote’ for one of these four alternatives, but rather to consider and take the best parts of all four choices. In that spirit, Outdoor Alliance—a coalition of ten member-based organizations representing the human-powered outdoor recreation community—is not endorsing any one alternative, but is instead offering a number of recommendations to Alternative D, the alternative which most closely aligns with its vision.
Though Alternative D includes many of the Recommended Wilderness Areas and Special Management Areas supported by Outdoor Alliance, it does not include any of the new Recreation Emphasis Areas or Backcountry Areas within the Outdoor Alliance GMUG Vision proposal. Currently, Recreation Emphasis Areas in the draft forest plan focus on areas for dispersed camping, rather than on high-use recreation areas. For example, Outdoor Alliance recommended the proposed Mesa Top Recreation Emphasis Area, which includes the recently developed Palisade Plunge trail that connects the community of Palisade to the Grand Mesa National Forest. Additionally, Outdoor Alliance recommended the proposed Uncompahgre Plateau South Recreation Emphasis Area that connects local communities to the Spring Creek Canyon trail system. Outdoor Alliance is asking the Forest Service to prioritize these high-use recreation areas and others, ensuring they are sustainably managed for future use.
Furthermore, within Wildlife Management Areas, the Forest Service has proposed that there be no net gain in motorized or non-motorized trails where trail density already exceeds one linear mile per square mile, meaning the Forest Service’s current proposal could restrict the addition of new trails. Though Outdoor Alliance supports the use of science to manage outdoor recreation sustainably, the research on the effect of non-motorized, trail-based recreation on wildlife populations remains inconclusive. Therefore, Outdoor Alliance is asking the Forest Service to reconsider the limits on non-motorized, trail-based recreation within Wildlife Management Areas.
Finally, only four percent of the GMUG’s rivers are currently considered eligible for Wild and Scenic River designation, leaving out numerous iconic rivers that deserve protection, including the beloved Taylor River, Uncompahgre River, and East River. As such, Outdoor Alliance is asking the Forest Service to include all free-flowing rivers with at least one outstandingly remarkable value in the Eligible Wild and Scenic River inventory.
“Our recommendations are intended to ensure that the most wild and untouched places remain so, and that the most visited places are sustainably managed to meet user-demand while mitigating impacts to the natural environment,” said Kestrel Kunz, leading member of the Outdoor Alliance GMUG Vision. “We encourage our fellow Coloradans to continue to make their voices heard to ensure our public lands and rivers remain healthy and sustainable for the next generation.”
In summary, Outdoor Alliance is recommending the following:
- Establish new Recreation Emphasis Areas, like Mesa Top and Uncompahgre Plateau South, to ensure that high-use recreation areas are sustainably managed for future use.
- Reconsider the limits on non-motorized, trail-based recreation within Wildlife Management Areas.
- Expand the Eligible Wild and Scenic River inventory to help protect iconic rivers such as the Taylor River, Uncompahgre River, East River, and many others.
The best way to make a difference is to submit your comment(s) supporting a more robust final land management plan. Comments are due by November 12 and can be left at: https://bit.ly/GMUG_Public_Comments
For press inquiries, please contact Ashleigh Sherman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Outdoor Alliance
Outdoor Alliance is a coalition of ten member-based organizations representing the human powered outdoor recreation community. The coalition includes Access Fund, American Canoe Association, American Whitewater, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, The Mountaineers, the American Alpine Club, the Mazamas, Colorado Mountain Club, and Surfrider Foundation and represents the interests of the millions of Americans who climb, paddle, mountain bike, backcountry ski and snowshoe, and enjoy coastal recreation on our nation’s public lands, waters, and snowscapes.