Rio Grande Forest Planning Effort

The Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF) is Revising Its Forest Management Plan

Comments Due: December 28, 2017

CDTC is asking for your help to share your thoughts on the Rio Grande Forest Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Draft Forest Plan. The RGNF Draft Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is now available for public review with comments due December 28, 2017.   The proposed plan would set the foundation for management of uses of the Forest, including the CDNST, for at least the next 15 years.

To review the document please visit this link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/riogrande/landmanagement/projects/?cid=fseprd560334

Background

Congress designated the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) in 1978 as a unit of the National Trails System. The 3,100 mile CDNST traverses the Continental Divide between Mexico and Canada. It travels through 20 National Forests, 21 Wilderness areas, 3 National Parks, 1 National Monument, 8 BLM resource areas and through the states of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The vision for the CDNST is a primitive and challenging backcountry trail for the hiker and horseman on or near the Continental Divide to provide people with the opportunity to experience the unique and incredibly scenic qualities of the area.

National Scenic Trails, like the CDNST, are created to conserve the nationally significant scenic, historic, natural and cultural qualities of the area. In addition, these trails are designed for recreation and the enjoyment of these very special places. There are 152 miles of the CDNST on the Rio Grande National Forest, much of which exist on roads or motorized trails.

The CDNST Experience is defined in the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail Study Report as an “intimate one, where one can walk or ride horseback across vast fields of wildflowers and contemplate a story dating from the dawn of earth’s history…along the way the tranquility of the alpine meadows, verdent forests and semi—desert landscape overwhelms anyone who passes that way. The Trail would provide the traveler his best encounter with the Continental Divide—its serenity and pure air—and would supply for every trail traveler some of the world’s most sublime scenes.” [1]

The Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) is the 501 (c) (3) national nonprofit formed to work with the federal land management agencies in the completion, management and protection of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST). The CDTC has 2000 members nationwide. In May 2014, CDTC signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish our role as a national organization working in partnership with the US Forest Service on behalf of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Since 2012, CDTC has contributed over 114,000 volunteer hours valued at $1.78 Million, in support of the administration and management of the CDNST. This has resulted in coordinating volunteer stewardship to improve and complete the CDNST, building positive relationships with the federal land managers and local trail focused groups, organizing special events to help educate the public about the CDT, implementing an Adopt-A-Trail and Gateway Community Program, providing up to date information to Trail users, and encouraging Congress to continue to appropriate $8 million in funding specific for the CDNST in the Forest Service budget.

CDTC’s comments can be found here

MainTalking Points:

  • Alternative B is the US Forest Service “preferred alternative”, however, Alternative D provides the most protection for the CDNST. Alternative D should be the Plan’s preferred alternative, or at a minimum, Plan Components contained in Alternative D must be incorporated into Alternative B.
  • CDTC strongly urges adoption of Alternative D. This Alternative recommends 285,000 acres as wilderness compared to 59,000 acres in Alternative B. Also, the Plan’s current preferred Alternative B (proposed plan), provides too much flexibility regarding recreational use and over-snow motorized use. Alternative B also provides more room for policy interpretation leaving the door open for proposals and projects not in keeping with the nature and purposes of the CDNST. (DEIS tables 2-5 and analysis)
  • CDTC recommends that all Alternatives include a Special Management Area be created for the CDNST. Alternative D includes a Special Management Area (4.23) designation, providing the “most protective measures” for the CDNST. (DEIS p. 53) Special Management Area designation is needed to comply with the CDNST 2009 Comprehensive Plan and FSM 2353.42 and 2353.44(b).
  • Alternative D’s designation of the CDNST as a “Special Management Area” (SMA 4.23) includes the following protective measures for the Trail:
  • Inclusion of the Trail in the Forest Service’s “Scenic Management System” as a “Concern Level One” maintaining a “high to very high” level of scenic integrity. The Forest Plan recommends scenic value protection as an objective; however, the CDTC urges these paramount scenic resource protections be included as a standard, rather than an objective. This would provide Forest Managers clear and consistent management direction for the Trail’s landscape.
  • Currently, segments of the Trail are on two tracts of open motorized trails and are not in keeping with the nature and purpose for which of the Trail was created. We strongly urge the Forest Service to relocate these segments as a high priority action item.
  • In order to fully adhere to the 2009 CDNST Management Plan and Forest Service Directives, all CDNST Guidelines should be designated as This would help ensure the CDNST Desired Future Conditions are achieved within the life of the Plan.
  • Large and re-occurring special/recreational events, shuttle services, competitive events should not be allowed on the Trail to avoid safety and visitor use conflicts. Once the two segments of the Trail are relocated, these events should also be prohibited.
  • Lastly, we encourage the development of a CDNST “Unit Plan” which could be tiered from the Forest Plan. This would provide clear and consistent management and allow for better coordination with the Gunnison National Forest and adjoining land uses.

For more information on the draft revised plan and accompanying draft environmental impact statement, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/riogrande/landmanagement/projects/?cid=fseprd560334

ACTION NEEDED NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 28, 2017

Email your comment letter to: rgnf_forest_plan@fs.fed.us

Please also send a copy (cc) of your comment letter to the Continental Divide Trail Coalition: e-mail: trailmgmt@continentaldividetrail.org 

Or mail your comments to:

Rio Grande National Forest

Forest Plan Revision

1803 US Hwy 160

Monte Vista, CO 81144

Thank you for your support of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail!

[1] CDNST Study Report Page 18