Letter: Mad Rabbit project needs an environmental impact statement

My hopes for a healthy and happy life for future generation diminish each day as I read about our trajectory toward fossil-fueled climate catastrophe and watch public officials and others make decisions that feed that outcome.

Although the Biden administration is implementing a range of actions to temper climate disaster, it is approving the Willow oil and gas project in Alaska that will make huge contributions to climate disruption. Major banks, such as Wells Fargo, are continuing to fund large-scale, long-term fossil fuel projects. What’s really depressing is seeing decisions locally that ignore climate catastrophe. I’m thinking of the decision made by four of seven members of City Council to allow continued use of fossil fuel powered snowmelt within the city. Council member Dakotah McGinlay spoke truth when she said: “You’re forcing the issue of climate action to become bigger and worse, and that’s the legacy that you’re leaving behind for the next generation.”

We know that climate related impacts on wildlife and natural ecosystems are accelerating. This is due not just to burning of fossil fuels, but also to the widespread human perception that we are entitled to consume nature as if it were there to serve our desires — read recreational uses — regardless of the impacts on ecosystems. Wouldn’t you think that an organization like Routt County Riders would take care not to promote development that will harm the environment? Apparently not so.

The USFS Mad Rabbit proposal includes a densely trailed downhill mountain bike park to be developed at the Ferndale picnic area on U.S. Highway 40. It’s within the Long Park Roadless Area and includes High Priority Habitat for elk calving. A presentation by Dr. Lee Cerveny to the Routt Recreation and Conservation Roundtable encouraged concentrating new recreational development in already developed areas. That’s not what’s proposed in the Mad Rabbit project.

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources’ letter on Mad Rabbit stated that the USFS needs to use better, more current research in making decisions than it has with the Mad Rabbit project. The DNR also wrote: “… there is also a strong case to be made for pursuing a more holistic, landscape-level environmental analysis to take stock of the outdoor recreation outlook in the wider Routt National Forest.” That would be the Environmental Impact Statement, that the USFS is not considering.

Diane Brower
Steamboat Springs

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