To the pleasure of Colorado’s outdoor industry, Forest Service promises simpler public lands access

Poplar Gulch Trail,  Salida RD PSICC NF Colorado

Poplar Gulch Trail, Salida RD PSICC NF Colorado

From the Colorado Springs Gazette here:

“We’re moving away from the approach of regulating, and toward an approach of enabling,” said Meryl Harrell, senior adviser to the undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, echoing a June letter of intent from the agriculture secretary and Forest Service chief.

Leading the meeting alongside Forest Service personnel were members of the Outdoor Access Working Group, formed in 2014 for the very purpose of pushing discussions like Wednesday’s – long overdue, outfitters and guides feel as they’ve grappled with a permit application process that they describe as paperwork-heavy, cumbersome and archaic. Last year, in his first months as the first governor-appointed head of Colorado’s Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, Luis Benitez flew to D.C. four times to sit at a table with the Forest Service and the working group.

He considered Wednesday a day of victory.

“This is a big, big deal for Colorado,” he said. “Actually, it’s a big, big deal for the country.”

Benitez is especially giddy about the prospect for rural communities. He brought up the example of an entrepreneurial mountain biker in Kremmling wanting to use the surrounding forest for a guiding service.

“So you write a business plan,” Benitez said, “and you go to the Forest Service to apply for permits and user days, and that requires a NEPA study . and you wait and wait and wait to put your plan to action, and it could take anywhere from 12 months to five years to forever, and the plan never happens.

Ultimately what you’re talking about is limiting economic development.

(Sharon’s boldface ūüėČ ).

2 Comments

  1. That is a great quote, ” We’re moving away from the approach of regulating, and toward an approach of
    enabling”. I hope it is true.
    For years we have been told how tourism is going to replace the economic value of timber harvesting, or at least going to help out our rural counties. I would like to see the FS and BLM do more to promote the use of our forests for recreation.
    Its time to get away from road decommissioning, locked gates, closed campgrounds, rocks placed to discourage dispersed camping, and closed ranger stations on weekends when they could be helping and encouraging visitors to the forest. They could also do more to build and maintain more multi use trails, along with more campgrounds. These are public forests after all. Why does take forever to get a campground opened, but just a few months for them to close one?
    Need more funds for this? How about stewardship timber salvaging?

    • Bob, I was thinking along the same lines last week as I was driving toward a campground and lake fishing area over a “paved” road with many potholes and badly eroded pavement edges — did lots of weaving around the holes while driving slowly. I reckon a small annual green timber sale program with receipts going to a “road maintenance trust fund” would work, or as you suggest, a stewardship contract. But there would be planning and legal costs, no doubt.

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