From the Spring 2021 issue of Wild Works

As of printing, here’s the latest on some of our ongoing projects:

Aspen Trees. Photo by Jon Mullen.

Aspen Management Plan ‑ In February, the White River National Forest released a proposed Aspen Management Plan that would authorize cutting and burning of 375,000 acres of aspen habitat, forest-wide, for decades to come. Our team analyzed the project and determined it does not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires site-specific analysis and opportunities for public comment on specific locations and timelines for forest management activities. 

We also made clear that the Forest Service must analyze impacts to our climate from projects like this – a priority for the Biden-Harris administration. Furthermore, it’s not clear at all and the Forest Service has not demonstrated, that the science shows that this type of management will make our aspen forests more resilient in the face of climate change.

As a result, we’ve asked the Forest Service to shelve this project. We rallied our members to submit over 275 comments in opposition, highlighting the concerns outlined above along with the proposed construction of new roads, the potentially significant impacts to the many caves and karst resources within the project area, and effects on roadless areas and wildlife such as lynx.

Buck Berlaimont – Following an Objection Resolution Meeting on the Final EIS in January where community members and Wilderness Workshop again raised wildlife habitat concerns, Forest Service staff were directed to undertake additional analysis and address specific concerns before a final decision is made. While it’s unclear when we’ll know the fate of this deeply unpopular proposal to build a paved road across critical wildlife habitat for 19 new mansions on 680 acres in the middle of the White River National Forest, we remain committed to working with the community to stop this misguided project.

Legal Settlement – We’ve been busy in court protecting our public lands and climate from rampant oil and gas development. In April, we joined a diverse coalition of nonprofits to intervene in defense of the Biden-Harris administration’s pause on federal oil and gas leasing pending the Department of Interior’s comprehensive review of the program (see “New Administration, New Opportunities” piece). With this action, the coalition is seeking to defend the leasing pause against two lawsuits filed by the state of Wyoming and the Western Energy Alliance. The pause is a legal and necessary first step to a long-overdue review of the federal oil and gas leasing and permitting program.

And earlier this year the federal courts resolved our legal challenges to the BLM’s plans for oil and gas leasing in the Grand Junction field office, clearing the way for the BLM to redo land management plans covering 2 million acres of public lands in western Colorado. The BLM’s plans had prioritized fossil fuel production over all other values on our public lands, and now the agency will go back to the drawing board to consider more balanced management. The new plans will be developed with public participation, and we’ll be asking for your help!