Blue Lakes. Kebler Pass. Uncompahgre Peak. Fossil Ridge. These remarkable, wild places might not be as well-known as Colorado’s famed Maroon Bells or Pike’s Peak, but if you’ve visited the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest in Western Colorado, chances are you’ve come to appreciate and love them just as much.
National Forests are managed by Forest Plans – complex documents that guide the management of a national forest regarding its resources, goods and services. They shape decisions and on-the-ground conditions for decades to come, making them incredibly important tools for addressing climate change and conservation priorities. Plans are rarely revised – usually every 15-20 years – and the GMUG’s current plan is nearly 38 years old!
Wilderness Workshop and our Defiende Nuesta Tierra program got to know Tracy Gallegos through his work in education, though you might also recognize him from the trails or the slopes. Tracy — along with his wife and two sons — likes to hike, bike, ski, and enjoy the beautiful public lands of Western Colorado. When the GMUG announced a Forest Plan revision, we asked Tracy to write into the Delta County Independent about why individuals should be concerned with the draft plan and how they can ensure their voices are heard. You can read his letter, and learn more about the GMUG Plan Revision, below.
Your voice can make a lasting impact!
As a native of Delta, I have always had a deep respect for Mother Earth. My favorite pastime was playing in the Gunnison River, and today I enjoy sharing my love of Western Colorado’s public lands with my kids. This is why I ’m asking for your help. Protecting public lands is essential to a healthy climate. As a member of Senator Bennet’s Western Climate Resilience Roundtable, I helped develop locally-driven priorities for ensuring our communities are resilient to climate change. We recommended a policy framework that includes a science-based approach to management of our national forests and watersheds to restore damaged landscapes and prevent additional degradation.
Tracy hiking with his family.
Our local national forest now has the opportunity to do just that with the revision of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) Forest Plan. In August, the Forest Service released a draft plan that will shape decisions for over 3 million acres of public land for years to come. The plan includes some encouraging language that highlights ecological sustainability. However, I was disappointed that despite broad local support for new protective land designations, the plan significantly increased the amount of land for logging. Protected lands can contribute significantly to climate resiliency by safeguarding wildlife habitat needed for refuge and adaptation, by preventing pollution f rom industrial uses, and by storing carbon. The current draft of this plan fails to address the negative consequences to our community.
The good news is, there is still time to act. Through Thursday, November 11, the Forest Service is taking comments on the Forest Plan on their website. Anyone can comment. Please help ensure that the revised Forest Plan benefits our local communities for generations to come by expanding wilderness recommendations, conserving wildlife habitat, and protecting the rivers that sustain our farms, ranches, families and western way of life.
– Tracy Gallegos
Additional information about Tracy Gallegos:
Tracy Gallegos is a name well-known throughout Delta County and the Western Slope. He grew up and graduated from high school in the area, then headed to the University of Northern Colorado for a degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Bilingual & Bicultural Education. Following graduation, he worked at Fletcher Elementary School in Aurora for 8 years, then moved back to the Western Slope to be an Assistant Principal at West Middle School in Mesa County for 9 years; he then served 4 years as the Regional Director for the Colorado Migrant Education Program. Most recently, in the summer of 2021, he took a new role as Mesa County School District 51’s new Director of Equity and Inclusion.
Additional information about the GMUG Forest Plan Revision:
On August 13, 2021 the U.S. Forest Service released its draft revised forest plan and draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the GMUG National Forest. This initiated a 90-day comment period that will conclude on November 11, 2021. This is a critical opportunity for YOU to submit comments to the Forest Service to help ensure that the revised forest plan contains expanded wilderness recommendations, strong protections for wildlife and other important resources, addresses climate change, and much, much more. Learn more from:
– High Country Conservation Advocates & the Western Slope Conservation Center, both of which include guidance on how to submit comments.
– The GMUG National Forest Website