Thursday, October 24, 2002
Steamboat Springs Members of two conservation groups said progress was made Thursday in a meeting with the U.S. Forest Service about a permit renewal the Forest Service issued for ski tours on Buffalo Pass.
On Oct. 7, Colorado Wild and Friends of the Routt Backcountry appealed a five-year permit renewal that allows Steamboat Powder Cats/Blue Sky West to operate backcountry ski tours. Group members met Thursday with Kim Vogel, Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears District ranger, to discuss possible compromises to the appeal.
"I'm pretty happy," said Leslie Lovejoy, executive director for Friends of the Routt Backcountry. "I think there is some potential."
Vogel couldn't be reach for comment.
While group representatives indicated progress was made, they would not discuss specifics. "We're still working on it," said Rocky Smith of Colorado Wild. "It would be inappropriate of me to divulge any details."
The groups will meet with the Forest Service again to try to finalize a compromise, Smith said. A date for that meeting has not been set.
The appeal concerns a mile-long snow road the permit allows the company to build off its primary access road. It would pass by a suggested nonmotorized area called Bear Tree Ridge and could encourage snowmobilers to access the area.
The appeal also opposes allowing the company to bring 2,200 people to the pass in a season, compared to its last five-year permit that allowed only 1,200.
"We talked about everything," Smith said. "It's all on the table."
Steamboat Powder Cats/Blue Sky West uses tracked snow machines to carry skiers up and down Buffalo Pass. It worked on a temporary permit for the past two years as the company changed owners. During that time, the Forest Service allowed the company to explore new routes and apply to bring more guests to the area. The new permit, signed in August, reflects the company's growth, said Ed Patalik, recreational planner for the Forest Service.
If a compromise isn't met, the appeal will go to the regional Forest Service office for final decision, to be made by Nov. 25. If the groups are not satisfied with the decision, they have the option of suing the Forest Service.
The Friends of the Routt Backcountry is a Steamboat Springs chapter of the Backcountry Skiers Alliance. It seeks to keep portions of backcountry free of motorized users, Lovejoy said.
The group joined with the state conservation group Colorado Wild to appeal the permit.