The Strategic Planning Rule is not a plan for a given forest – our local GMUG forests, for example – but is, rather, part of a national effort to make the rules for FS plans, by setting, as Lockwood put it, “the rules of the game.”
The current efforts represent the third attempt in this century to come up with definitive rules, he said. The 2005 Rule was struck down by a California court, as was the 2008 Rule.
San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes, a veteran in the drafting of all these recent attempts, told the group that the newest version emphasizes more collaboration with local governments, a point which didn’t seem to mollify Montrose Commissioner Ron Henderson, a habitual and vocal critic of top-down federal regulation.
Lockwood said the key themes of the new Rule include greater emphasis on ecological (as well as economic) sustainability, collaboration and the “best available” science, as well as species conservation, stricter standards and environmental justice.
“What is environmental justice?” asked Montrose’s David White.
Goodtimes explained the 20-plus history of NEPA rulemaking that attempts to address inequities such as the building of oil refineries or chemical plants in historically poor and minority neighborhoods.
Ouray Commissioner Heidi Albritton asked: “What’s the sound bite for us?”
San Miguel’s Joan May answered that the FS is currently functioning under its 1983 plan. “It is very very outdated,” she said.
“If this is approved,” Lockwood concluded, and given the failed history of the last two Rules, he didn’t have to say there were no guarantees, “we will kick into the planning process again.”
The comment period on the new Rule ends May 16.
Lockwood then raced through a review of the new Supplemental Draft Roadless Rule for the state of Colorado. The first Roadless Rule, written by the Clinton Administration in 2001, was rescinded when the Bush Administration came in. Now it’s back, with each state required to craft its own plan for roadless areas within the public lands. Of the four alternatives presented with the Draft, some will please motorized recreationists, who oppose the creation of more protected wilderness. Other alternatives will likely please those who want to see more protection for pristine wild lands.
The comment period for the Roadless Rule is relatively generous, extending to July 14. Lockwood said there would be a public information and comment meeting on the Rule Wednesday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Montrose Pavilion.
BLM BUSY IN THE MINERALS REALM
Barbara Sharrow of the Montrose Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management also updated the assembled tri-county commissioners on a laundry list of projects BLM is working on, which is everything from restoration test plots on Dolores River riparian areas to bike trails in Ridgway to the BLM’s own unfinished version of the massive Forest Service Plan.
Montrose County Commissioner Ron Henderson asked, “Who is asking for this [river] restoration? What is the cause?”
“The McPhee Dam,” Sharrow answered succinctly. “Weeds. Tamarisk. Fish.”
“In the minerals realm,” Sharrow continued, “we are busy in the coal realm,” but “zilch in the uranium realm,” a reaction, presumably, to the mid-March nuclear disaster in Japan.
Also in the minerals realm, Montrose County Manager Jesse Hunt described a recent talk by the Colorado state geologist, which painted a dire picture regarding future availability of rare-earth minerals, essential for so many modern electronics. China currently controls about 90 percent of the rare-earth minerals supply, Hunt said. And it would behoove the local counties to encourage exploration and development in our mountains.
Sharrow cautioned, however, that “under the 1872 mining law, you counties won’t get any royalties” from such mining. “You get the impacts of mining, but no royalties.”
The assemblage nevertheless thought it would be good to invite the state geologist back to the area for another presentation, on either June 22 or 23.
BLACK BEAR WATER PROJECT WILL NOT BLOW UP HIKERS
Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton and the Public Works Department's Paul Ruud told the commissioners from Ouray, Montrose and San Miguel counties at Monday's meeting about the plan to pipe water from Blue Lake, in Upper Bridal Veil Basin, three miles to Telluride as a backup to the town’s existing water supplies. The project will involve closing lower Black Bear Pass Road to jeep traffic for brief periods this summer.
Ruud wanted to get the word out to surrounding counties that the contractors would be doing everything possible to not impact jeep traffic on the road. They plan to do most of the work at night, under lights, and to close the road only when absolutely necessary during the day. The closures “won’t impact mountain biker or hiking traffic,” Clifton reassured the gathering.
Ouray Commissioner Lynn Padgett noted helpfully that “the Forest Service says there are two million visitors a year to the Alpine Triangle. This could have a huge impact” on jeep-dependent businesses on both sides of the pass.
Noting that the pipe will be buried in some places nine feet deep in solid rock, Commissioner Art Goodtimes asked, “What about blasting and pedestrians?”
To which Clifton replied, deadpan, “There will be no blasting of pedestrians.”