Letter: US Forest Service must follow its own regulations
We’ve been longtime followers of the controversy surrounding the Forest Service’s proposed Mad Rabbit Trails Project.
We strongly agree with the thoughtful and insightful letter submitted by the Routt County Commissioners to the Forest Service as reported recently in the Steamboat Pilot. In that letter the commissioners express “growing concern about the cumulative impacts of increased recreation … in Routt County” and asked that the Forest Service conduct an EIS for the Mad Rabbit project. An EIS, or Environmental Impact Statement, is a much more comprehensive evaluation, with more in-depth analysis and evaluations of multiple alternatives. The current Environmental Assessment process evaluates the project in a more limited way. As the commissioners pointed out, an EIS is needed to evaluate the cumulative impacts of the project.
In our own comments to the Forest Service in 2022, we stated, “We believe the current Mad Rabbit proposal violates the numerous NEPA and Colorado Roadless Area processes and think a full EIS should be performed. We understand that this project is designed to attract tens of thousands of new summer visitors, leading to deleterious impacts to wildlife and pristine lands. The Colorado Roadless Rule is clear, “Proposed actions that would significantly alter the undeveloped character of a Colorado Roadless Area require an Environmental Impact Statement.”
In spite of this very specific citation of the Colorado Roadless Rule, The Mad Rabbit EA doesn’t address this issue anywhere in the document. With this in mind, we are further disappointed to read Forest Service public affairs specialist Aaron Voos’ dismissive comments in the article, saying the topic of an EIS “is not new, and we have already addressed this and many other comments.” This is incorrect. The Forest Service has not addressed this issue, they have ignored it, as they have ignored other clear NEPA requirements. This is clear if you read the submitted comments.
The public objection period is open until Sept. 25 for those who have previously submitted opinions on this topic. We encourage all who submitted comments to write their objection by that date. They can go to the project website, or to KeepRouttWild.com, which has a link to the objection portal. The Forest Service must follow its own regulations.
Mark and Marilyn McCaulley
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