The Rio Grande National Forest, located in southwest Colorado, is one of the wildest and remote forests in the lower 48 states. With over 1.8 million acres, it boasts multiple peaks over 14,000 feet, and headwaters areas critical to the United States’ major river systems. Half of the forest includes portions of four Wilderness areas, (South San Juan, Weminuche, La Garita and Sangre de Cristo) that make up almost one-quarter of the Forest, the other one-quarter is made up of roadless or “Backcountry Prescription” areas.
Using the new Forest Service 2012 Planning Rules, the Rio Grande National Forest is in the beginning of their “Scoping phase”, which is part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirement to review their current Management Plan and make appropriate changes, which will determine how the forest will be managed over the next twenty years. The Rio Grande Forest is the first forest to go through this revision in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, Region 2.
SLVEC’s and Partners have been involved with this planning process and have submitted a Conservative Alternative (CA), see below, which recommends protections surrounding core Wilderness areas and non-motorized lands, and will contribute to elevating their importance and ecological functionality.
The CA also includes research for the maintenance of wildlife corridors, to protect them from further fragmentation. By securing administrative designations for important lands and waters in the revision of the Rio Grande National Forest’s land management plan, we as American citizens are securing an ecological legacy for future generations.
The Conservation Alternative (CA), includes a narrative and a map, that calls for expansion of non-motorized areas including Roadless Areas, Wildlife Protection Areas (WPA’s), Research Natural Areas, and other special designated areas on the Rio Grande National Forest. We submitted this CA proposal in October 2016 as part of our engagement in the Rio Grande National Forest Land Management Plan revision, which started in 2015 and is anticipated to continue for two more years. We will continue to engage with citizens who have local land use knowledge to advise us and interface with key local constituencies.
Final SLVEC recommendations
(links in red)
1. First, our scoping comments which kick off the official NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process and goes through forest regulations and explains to forest managers why we are making these recommendations according to the 2012 Forest Planning Rule.
2. The Alternative Narrative that explains the compilation of research and baseline data collection work we did to justify our recommendations.
3. Our Special Interest Area (SIA) recommendations, including the science gathered on-site to reinforce the uniqueness of the area and exemplify it’s highest qualities, including site specific maps showing clear boundaries.
4. Our Wilderness Area recommendations, also containing site specific maps and emphasizing areas with high quality Wilderness characteristics.
5. Spreadsheet of Rio Grande National Forest Target Species.
6. Rio Grande National Forest Roadless Area descriptions
8. Sensitive Species Screen in Roadless Areas
9. Connectivity report between Colorado and New Mexico
10. Two maps containing all of our recommendations throughout the entire Forest so you can see how we are trying to protect CORE areas, wildlife corridors and prime watersheds. We are working to maintain ecological health and connectivity, which makes Forests much more adaptable to Climate Change and prime values of biodiversity. Map #1: Areas Recommended for Conservation Designation and Map #2: Recommended Wilderness Areas.