Director’s Blog July 12, 2019
By Ian Billick, PhD
You have an opportunity to provide comment to the US Forest Service concerning public lands. You can provide feedback through this portal
<https://cara.ecosystem‐management.org/Public/CommentInput?Project=51806>. You can get more information here <https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/gmug/landmanagement/planning>. Why would commenting matter? RMBL gets scientists access to research sites. We own/manage 1,000 acres on which we provide long‐term security. But, there are a lot of habitats, species, and biological processes outside our bounds. Our USFS permits give you access to millions of acres.
The GMUG is revising their forest plan, which “zones” the forest. The forest plan doesn’t make decisions, but when a particular action is proposed (e.g., logging, road, new trail, etc.), the decision is made within the priorities of the zone. As an example, Mt. CB is “zoned” for a ski area. Proposals to do other things on Mt. CB happen within skiing as a priority. A research project is allowed on the ski area only if it is consistent with ski area operations. There are two zoning types that we wish to avoid in areas where scientists work. Research Natural Areas are managed by the Rocky Mtn Research Station in Fort Collins in a relatively cumbersome and unconnected way. Also, the emphasis is on “Natural”, not “Research”. Even simple manipulations are not allowed. We have asked that RNA status be removed from the Gothic RNA, but that seems unlikely to happen. We don’t want more. We are also wary of wilderness. Several years ago the USFS hauled out several tons of human waste and junk from the Conundrum Hot Springs. In contrast, we have been waiting two years for a decision about a small, non‐visible rain gage. Aldo Leopold is turning over in his grave.
Given that the only standard research zone is one in which most types of research is not allowed, we have requested an SMA (special management area) around Gothic. The USFS has a bunch of “off the shelf” zone types and SMA’s address unusual situations. We don’t want to affect ranching or existing recreation, but we would like new things to be screened for impacts on research. The symbolism of an research‐focused SMA is also important. The USFS doesn’t like SMA’s but this article <http://crestedbuttenews.com/2019/07/us‐forest‐service‐gives‐county‐updates‐on‐myriad‐projects/> puts
them on record as leaning in our direction.
If you do decide to comment, here are a few suggestions:
1. Raise your voice as a scientist! Tell them you are a scientist, how you are connected to the landscape, and that science matters. The research conducted by you and generations of scientists make science in the Gunnison Basin especially important.
2. Tell them what matters to you. The USFS doesn’t expect you to be an expert on USFS process. You can focus on outcomes/priorities. They can figure out how to get there.
3. If you have a research site beyond the vicinity of Gothic, take a look <https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/gmug/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fseprd541791> and see if there is anything that makes you nervous.
We track your research sites everywhere (not just the Gothic vicinity) and do our best to advocate for them. But we can miss things. Let the forest service know what sites matter to you and cc Jennie and I. I am driving to a public hearing in Gunnison (starts at 5 pm) Thursday, July 18th. You are welcome to join me (and bend my ear all the way down and back). Just let me know you want a ride.
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions/comments. And suggestions for the blog are always
welcome. Thanks to Carol Boggs for suggesting this one.