Recently a working draft preview came out for the revised forest plan for three major National Forests in southwest Colorado: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison.
What we learned:
– The working plan is currently in pre-draft stage, which means we have a chance to change it before the official objection process begins. The Forest Service is not required to release the plan or take comments during this stage, and I believe the GMUG FS may be the first to ever put a plan out for public input before the official release. This is a rare opportunity!
– The proposed packgoat ban is coded FW-STND, which is a forest-wide standard. This means packgoats would be banned from anything deemed “bighorn sheep habitat” (which is a huge part of the GMUG) with no flexibility, wiggle-room, or exceptions. Exact wording on page 27:
FW-STND-SPEC-16: To maintain effective separation among species in habitat occupied by bighorn sheep, the use of recreational pack goats and the use of goats and sheep for invasives and/or noxious weed management is prohibited.
– We have until July 29th to comment on the GMUG plan. These comments provide no standing for the later objection period, however what I think the GMUG folks are trying to do is edit the plan now so they can deal with fewer official objections later on. When the document goes into the objection phase, the FS is required to answer each and every objection. I believe they are trying to avoid some hassle by drafting a plan using public input now to avoid facing backlash later on. We don’t want hassle either, so let’s not miss this chance!
– The GMUG plan includes many allotments for grazing domestic sheep. As much as 2/3rds (1.9 million acres) of the GMUG is designated grazing area. Since grazing sheep continue to be allowed in the proposed plan, there is no logical reason why packgoats should be banned as a way to protect bighorn sheep.
What to do next:
– If you live in Colorado (or you really feel like traveling), consider attending one of these open houses to make sure goat packers are represented:
July 9- Hotchkiss, Heritage Hall, 403 East Bridge Street
July 10- Palisade, Community Center, 120 West 8th Street
July 11- Montrose, Event Center, 1036 North 7th Street
July 16- Norwood, Lone Cone Library, 1455 Pinion St.
July 17- Ridgway, 4H Center and Fairgrounds, 22739 US-550
July 18- Gunnison, Fred Field Western Heritage Center, Van Tuyl Room, 275 South Spruce Street
All open houses are from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
– Write a letter 1.) requesting that goat packing be included in the activities important to the GMUG NF which are listed on page8, 2.) that the ban on page 27 be removed, and 3.) that the reference to packgoats on page 143 be removed since packgoats are NOT an example of disease transmission to bighorn sheep (there is not one documented case of a packgoat giving disease to bighorns). Exact wording on page 143:
To increase awareness, educate partners and visitors of the potential for pathogen transmission affecting native plants and animals (e.g., recreation pack goats and bighorn sheep, the need to decontaminate wading boots to reduce spread of chytrid fungus, or whirling disease, etc.).
The Forest Service is looking for reasonable, substantive, and unique comments on this forest plan. If you ever visit Colorado, be sure to mention it in your letter since tourism has economic value to the state. Keep in mind that NAPgA sometimes holds Rendevous in Colorado (our 2017 Rendy was held in the Uncompahgre NF).
Comments can be submitted to:
Or to the online comment form here:
Or by old-fashioned paper letter to this mailing address:
Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests
Attn: Plan Revision Team
2250 South Main Street
Delta, CO 81416
Previously submitted comments can be read here:
Let’s work together to maintain access to this amazing piece of public land. This is our future!