Routt County The question of whether or not to halt road construction in certain areas of national forest land is a difficult one to answer.
"It's confusing because we're dealing with a designation that has been referred to by a number of different names," said Kim Vogel, director of public affairs for the Routt/Medicine Bow Forest.
Officials from the Routt National Forest hope to clear up the issue in an open house Tuesday meant to educate residents on what the new roadless proposal is and what it could mean.
Vogel will take the reins as district ranger for the Routt/Medicine Bow district next month. The roadless proposal, which was inspired by President Clinton, is her first big job.
"The crux of this whole issue is there are a lot of (national forest lands) across the United States that are fairly undeveloped," Vogel said. "This proposal is to say, 'we're going to keep it that way.'"
To do that the Forest Service proposes not to build or maintain roads in areas that are inventoried roadless. A road, according to the U.S. Forest Service, is a motor vehicle travelway more than 50 inches wide.
There are 502,183 acres of land in the Routt National Forest that are inventoried roadless, but that doesn't mean the land is managed any differently. Instead, the roadless designation identifies areas outside of wilderness that are not significantly influenced by man, Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Germann said. That doesn't mean roads haven't been built in those areas.
The designation was first given to public lands in the 1970s when the Forest Service wanted an inventory of more isolated public lands.
Since then, some of those areas have had increased management and roads are maintained in some "roadless" areas.
Most of the Routt National Forest's inventoried roadless areas are backcountry recreation areas with limited motorized use in the winter. Some areas are managed for timber harvests.
The U.S. Forest Service's roadless proposal would only limit road building in those areas. It doesn't say you can't go in and log, graze cattle or recreate, Germann said.
By stopping road construction and maintenance, officials hope to limit access to those areas.
"The impact that would have on us locally is that we might have some management that we might not be able to do," Germann said.
Vogel wouldn't speculate on how big that impact might be until she hears public comment about the issue.
Tuesday's open house is meant to inform people of the issue so they can make educated comments to the Forest Service during its public comment process.
The comment period ends July 17 and Vogel encourages the comments to be directed at the proposal's content itself.
"I urge people to write and comment on the proposal and the criteria that is used, not a specific place" she said. "They're going to set site-specific issues aside."
The open house will run from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Forest Service building at 925 Weiss Drive.
To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org