Who gets Rio Grande National Forest?

Letter from Roz Mcclellan

Forestry – September 1995 – Colorado Central Magazine


The future of the Rio Grande National Forest is now up for public review following the August release of its draft management plan. At stake are 1.8 million acres of highly diverse ecosystems in the eastern part of the San Juan Mountains. These ecosystems — many still roadless — are habitat for rare species such as lynx, wolverine, boreal toad, boreal owls and others.

The Rio Grande Forest is under pressure from the multi-national corporation, Stone Container, and its battalions of lawyers to increase the timber cut. The Forest is also under pressure by local — and vocal — Wise Use groups to open up the forest for more recreation and motorized use. Public input will help to determine the balance the Forest Service strikes between commercial and ecological uses of the forest.

Right now, the Rio Grande Forest is seriously fragmented by 616 miles of motorized trails and 2200 miles of roads (2200 miles is the distance between Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.). To maintain biodiversity, we feel that the Forest Service needs to establish wildlife corridors for wide-ranging species such as lynx, wolverine, elk, black bear and mountain lion. Instead, however, faced with demands from off-road vehicle interests, the Forest Service is considering upgrading and even paving some dirt roads, establishing popular loop trails (fun for people, not fun for wildlife), and otherwise drawing more people into the back country.

To demonstrate what biological management would look like, The Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project (SREP), The Sierra Club, the Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC) and other groups have developed a conservation plan for the Rio Grande Forest.

Public lands such as Rio Grande National Forest are the last places where ecosystems can be saved on a grand scale. Biodiversity protection on private lands is generally confined to small, available parcels. Only in the large blocks of roadless habitat found (mainly) on public lands can the needs of wildlife be met and the processes of nature be restored.

To have a say in how the Rio Grande Forest is managed, get a copy of the Draft Forest Plan from: Rio Grande National Forest, 1803 West Highway 160, Monte Vista CO 81144, 719-852-5941. Or contact the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project (SREP) at 303-447-9409 or the Colorado Environmental Coalition at 303-837-8704.

Roz McClellan

Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project