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GMUG Forest plan revision proposes large increase in logging, shortchanges mature and old growth forest

August 30, 2023
Chris Krupp, WildEarth Guardians, (206) 417-6363, ckrupp@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Public Lands   Bighorn Sheep
#ProtectWhatYouLove, #Rewilding
 DELTA, Colo. — The U.S. Forest Service today released the proposed forest plan and final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest. The GMUG National Forest began revising its forest plan in 2017, and the new plan will shape on-the-ground decisions on about 3 million acres of public land throughout the western slope of Colorado for the next 20-30 years. Today’s release will launch a 60-day objection period on the final plan and EIS, concluding on October 30, 2023.

In response, a coalition of conservation organizations from across Colorado, including WildEarth Guardians, has issued the following reaction:

“Our community has advocated for conservation goals to be reflected in the GMUG Forest Plan since the beginning of the planning process. Yet, the Forest Service seems to have sidelined the voices of our community in creating this plan and misses the mark in regards to wilderness, timber production, and protections for mature and old growth forests. Western Colorado residents and community-supported proposals recommended 324,000 acres of new Wilderness during the draft phase of the plan; however, the forest’s plan only recommends 46,000 acres. Instead of emphasizing the protection of old-growth forests and forest health, the Forest Service also allocates 772,000 acres as suitable for timber production, which means managing the forest for ‘the purposeful growing, tending, harvesting, and regeneration of regulated crops of trees.’ Finally, the forest plan takes a major step backwards on protecting mature and old growth forests, despite the Biden Administration’s recent executive order to identify, protect and conserve old growth and mature forests.

The proposed final forest plan does indicate an increase in Wildlife Management Areas aimed at safeguarding wildlife habitat, which would restrict the construction of trails and roads within these areas. While this shift is positive, it could be considerably reinforced, and it falls short of compensating for the lack of robust conservation measures elsewhere in the plan.

In the proposed final plan, the Forest Service found 22 segments of river eligible for designation as wild and scenic rivers, however major segments are still missing, seemingly removed only due to overlap with designated Wilderness areas. The plan also fails to identify several Species of Conservation Concern, including marten, goshawk, boreal owl and Bighorn Sheep.

As our organizations continue to analyze the Forest Plan in more detail, we expect to release additional information over the coming weeks.