The Saratoga Sun -

Outcry leads to public meetings on Travel Management NPA

Pressure forces District Ranger to schedule three meetings

 

Forest Service Road 210, which is in Ryan Park is on the list to have part of the road considered for decommissioning. According to Appendix A: Road Segments and Proposed Actions of the West Side Snowy Range Notice of Proposed Action, .5 miles and .6 miles of the F.S. 210 is proposed to be decommissioned.

Lack of Notice

There will be three public meetings for the West Side Snowy Range Travel Management Project's Notice of Proposed Action (NPA); it's a good start to improve transparency, but many feel that it's not enough.

There has been outcry from the public that changed the mind of Melanie Fullman, District Ranger for the Brush Creek/Hayden Ranger District and responsible official, to provide a public meeting to discuss the NPA. This is done to educate and inform the public as well as provide constructive comments to the Forest Service.

Although this has been considered a good first step, many believe that in order for the public to generate meaningful, intelligent comments, there needs to be an extension of the public comment period.

Our Voice is Lost

Dan Runner, Vice President of Loans at Rawlins National Bank, was perplexed by the proposal when he first read about it in the Saratoga Sun. He didn't know what it was, or why it was happening. After some research, he began to fully understand the extensive nature of the road decommissioning/closures and felt blindsided. "The comment period is 30 days, and I know that meets the regulatory objective. But unfortunately, it doesn't give us enough time to intelligently comment on this broad array of changes."

It was mentioned by Fullman during the Ryan Park meeting March 29 that previous to the NPA, the Forest Service had time to go and survey the roads, to see for themselves the current conditions.

People such as Runner think that the public deserves that chance as well. If not given that chance, Runner said, "The general public perception becomes, all they're doing is jumping through hoops so they can do what they wanted to originally do anyway. So there's lots of us that are very afraid that our voice is not heard."

Collaboration is Key

Jim States, resident of Saratoga, also believes in a comment period extension - just enough time for the public to have access to the forest to survey road changes for themselves.

"The reason being, that we really need a summer, at least. They had two years we need at least a summer, to get out and take a look at these roads, maybe with the Forest Service, to talk about the reasons for and the reasons against. They do note in their Notice of Intent that this is supposed to be a collaborative process. Well then hey, that means that all parties need access to the appropriate information."

Forest Service Road 261.1D is also on the proposed decommission list. The road, also known as Elk Camp proposes to remove 1.7 and .1 miles of road.

States has dealt with his fair share of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents. He worked as an environmental consultant for 30 years, preparing environmental assessments, environmental impact statements, and analyzing them. According to States, "I think their intentions are right. But they don't have the information that they need from the public. They don't even realize that the public has that information. And that's what I want to see fixed."

If the public doesn't feel the Forest Service is being reasonable and transparent, Jerry Paxton, Wyoming House District 47 Representative, believes the public will make their sentiments known. "Any attempt to circumvent this process is bound to be met by strong resistance from citizens," said Paxton.

States stresses that the public has to get involved for this Travel Management Plan. "If there was any subject that people in the Valley could get involved in, this is it. Cause I don't know many who don't make use of the forest one way or another."

 

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