New management guidelines address some priorities for hunters and anglers, while other important areas were excluded from needed management direction
Yesterday, the Rio Grande National Forest released its Final Environmental Impact Statement and final Land Management Plan for the forest. The planning process involved nearly five years of engagement by hunters and anglers and provides high-level direction for management of these crucial resources over the next 20 years. The final Rio Grande National Forest plan will be the first to be finalized under the new planning direction and will serve as an example for future forest plans.
Overall, sportsmen and women are considering the pluses and minuses regarding a new plan for the management of 1.86 million acres in southwestern Colorado that includes important big game winter and migratory habitats, vital riparian and aquatic areas, a stronghold for Rio Grande cutthroat trout, and thousands of acres of excellent backcountry hunting and fishing opportunities.
Some important aspects of the new planning rule will have big impacts on hunting and fishing. The Forest Service will be placing greater focus on landscape-level management, social and economic sustainability, ecological sustainability, plant and animal diversity, and the use of the best available scientific information. The Rio Grande plan addresses these areas of focus, but also lacks sufficient management direction for some areas that are crucial for fish and wildlife in the field office.
“This plan does well to ensure quality hunting and fishing opportunities over the life of the plan in some regards, while other areas need improvement” said Nick Payne, Colorado representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We’re glad that that the Forest Service took our community’s input throughout this process and incorporated some of it into the final plan. This includes the addition of bighorn sheep to the list of species of conservation concern, and the clear direction from the planning rule.”
“While the positive changes are appreciated,” Payne said, “it’s also important that the Forest Service take steps during the objection period to address ‘Special Interest Areas’ so they’re managed as needed to help maintain our outdoor traditions on the Rio Grande National Forest and surrounding lands. This 60-day objection period is our last chance to get this right.”
The release of the draft plan starts a 60-day objection period, ending October 1st, during which members of the public can raise objections to specific parts of the proposed plan.
Details on how to comment can be found here: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=46078