Winter rec plans could be out in next couple of weeks

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— The U.S. Forest Service's draft plan to manage snowmobiling, cross country skiing and other winter recreation in the Buffalo Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass areas could be released in the next couple of weeks.
The plans were scheduled for release by mid-June, but that date was pushed back slightly, Forest Service spokeswoman Diann Ritschard said.
"It's still very important to us that we get this done in time to be implemented by next winter," Ritschard said.
Last winter, the Forest Service hosted seven public meetings to discuss winter recreation concerns on Buffalo Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass in response to increasing popularity of the areas and conflicts between nonmotorized and motorized uses.
The Forest Service accepted "hundreds" of letters and e-mails, as well as many phone messages about concerns, Ritschard said.
In March, five alternative plans for each area were released. None of the alternatives increase the number of miles for designated and groomed winter trails, and all except a "no action" alternative separate motorized and nonmotorized uses.
Fees to use the trails will be mandatory if any management plan is put in place, forest officials have said.
Public comments were taken, and since then, a group of specialists has been considering the alternatives and writing a draft plan.
That draft will not be presented in a public meeting, but anyone interested will have 60 days from the time it is released to comment on it, Ritschard said.
"We want to make sure people have plenty of time to study it, ask us questions and provide us written comments," Ritschard said.
Ritschard recommends that people provide written comments to make their concerns very clear. Also, according to federal rules, only people who have documented that they have been involved with the process can appeal a final decision.
Budget constraints forced the Forest Service to postpone its analysis of the North Routt area.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203
or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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