Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
April / May 1999

 

Habitat Reserves and Forest Plans: From Paper to Reality

by Jean Smith,

Chapter Ecosystem Mapping Chair

Protecting natural habitat requires action. We have to go from paper to reality, from concept to actual management: the design has to be implemented.

One mode of implementation is Citizens’ Management Alternatives (CMAs) for our national forests. Each national forest has a management plan which provides the framework for all activities, and by law each management plan must be revised every 15 years. We can help decide the future management of Colorado forests, if we are willing to get involved in the revision process.

After public notice that the plan will be revised, there is a scoping period where citizens may submit concerns. Then several management alternatives are crafted, ranging from environmentally friendly to resource extraction friendly, and the impact on the forest is analyzed. This is presented for public comment in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which includes a preferred alternative—the one the Forest Service thinks will work best. After the comment period, the draft plan is revised and eventually a Final Environmental Impact issued. All of this theoretically takes two years.

Front Range Groups Take Notice

The Pike and San Isabel National Forest (PSI), which encompasses the Upper Arkansas and South Platte headwaters, will begin its forest plan revision in 1999. The Sierra Club and others helped create CMAs for all previous plan revisions in Colorado. The Mt. Evans, Pikes Peak, Sangre de Cristo, Enos Mills, South Platte, Rachel Carson and High Plains Groups will have great interest in the PSI revision. These groups can affect future management of roadless areas, promote wilderness designation and protect vital wildlife habitat in the Front Range forests of central Colorado.

What’s Involved?

CMAs are crafted from the perspective of conservation biology and emphasize the protection of habitat for all of Colorado’s native species, restoring natural disturbance regimes and reducing the impacts of human activities. The core reserve design that ecosystem mappers have been working on for the last four years will help decide management recommendations for each part of the forest.

Decisions must be made about wilderness recommendations, back country and motorized recreation, timber harvest and other facets. The decisions have to be written as USFS "management prescriptions" which define intent and allowed activities. Groups and individuals must be organized to ensure their input gets into the CMA and they are equipped to defend it.

Enos Mills Group has applied for a national Sierra Club grant to help with the PSI CMA in conjunction with the Upper Arkansas and South Platte Project. A steering committee of six to eight people will guide CMA production. Sierra Club groups and other conservation organizations will be asked for their input via meetings and workshops.

What’s Needed?

Volunteer for the PSI CMA committee. Expect to meet monthly for the next year.

Host a meeting with your area’s Audobon Society, Mountain Club, Trout Unlimited chapter or other groups. Introduce the CMA process and get input on forest management.

Volunteer to write the CMA. This probably will be done geographically and with help from the steering committee. Volunteer for working groups that the USFS establishes. This requires an understanding of the CMA.

Conduct research. We hope to think across land ownership boundaries, and it would be useful to know the location of private conservation easements and county protected open spaces.

Help with mapping. This will involve a minimum of two training sessions in the spring, but the field work can be done at your convenience.

Reach out to the public. People must understand the CMA, why it is valuable and how it will protect our public lands. Writing newsletter articles and letters to the editor, organizing slide shows and meetings are possible activities.

Help shape the future of the PSI national forest. Activities start now, with a draft projected for January 2000. Work with the Forest Service will vary in timing and intensity. For more information or to volunteer, contact Jean Smith at 303-388-3378, or jeanc-smith@ earthlink.net.

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