Kelly Northcutt: Public must participate in NEPA process
October 29, 2018
The recent conversations regarding the current trail development process and the allocation of accommodations tax funds show that the history of the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance proposal, and how we got to where we are today, is highly misunderstood.
The trails alliance was originally a collaboration between four local nonprofits. All user groups and individuals of the public were invited to over 20 public planning meetings to collaborate in the development of the proposal. The proposal was deliberately designed to meet the five objectives as stated within the language of the accommodations tax requirements.
There were 38 competing proposals that were vetted by a steering committee selected by City Council. The committee overwhelmingly choose the Trails Alliance proposal, which then passed with a 71 percent vote.
The goal of the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance is to create a more sustainable, diverse and connected trail system in and around Steamboat Springs. Proper planning will direct visitors to areas that have minimal negative impacts yet still provide the desired economic benefits.
Routt County Riders has worked hard to get all trail users to the continuing Trails Alliance meetings to discuss trail projects, the current U.S. Forest Service NEPA — National Environmental Policy Act — analysis and venues for providing public comments. At this point, the Forest Service is finishing the NEPA for the next phase of trail planning.
It is critical for the public to participate in the NEPA process in order to help the land managers make well-rounded decisions. It is the land managers' role to receive and address both public input that applies to the proposed project and the concerns of their staff.
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If the public and the land managers focus on their roles, the NEPA process works. The public should trust the NEPA process but also verify land managers' decisions.
Routt County Riders Vice-President Holly Weik states, "We are confident that the trail-approval process is effective, that the land managers are fully capable of making decisions that address wildlife habitat as well as recreational uses."
The Forest Service will have two more public comment periods before submitting a final record of decision. Please respectfully participate in the discussion and ensure your role in the NEPA process. Our community does not need to re-write 2A language and vote again in order to influence the process.
Routt County Riders executive director