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Critics plan appeal of Breckenridge Peak 6 expansion

DU Law Clinic may help with administrative or legal challenge

The Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge will very likely be appealed and a legal challenge is not out of the question. Click on the map a couple of times to see the full-size version.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service approval of the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area probably won’t go unchallenged. Longtime critics of the project scrutinizing the the final environmental study say they are likely to appeal several elements of the decision, including, fundamentally, whether the expansion meets the stated purpose and need.

Vail Resorts claimed from the start that the new lifts and terrain will ease congestion at Breckenridge by spreading out skiers on peak visitation days, but at least some of the data in the Final Environmental Impact Statement seem to contradict that conclusion.

Skiers and snowboarders will still have to use the busiest lifts out of the Peak 8 base area to reach the new terrain. At one point in the document the Forest Service appears to flat-out acknowledge that the expansion won’t significantly shorten lift wait times on Peak 7 and Peak 8.

All the documents for the Peak 6 project are at this Forest Service website. Extensive background stories about Peak 6 are online at this Summit Voice page. Some of the ongoing community concerns and criticisms of the Forest Service decision are spelled out on the Save Peak 6 Facebook page.

Continue reading

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Forest Service to cut reviews on restoration projects

Road restoration projects could be approved under a streamlined review process.

Obliteration of old roads, dam removals would be OK’d under categorical exclusions

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service wants to speed restoration of national forest lands by streamlining the approval process for removing dams, and cleaning up debris and sediment and for reclaiming closed roads.

Under the proposal, now open for public comments, projects in those categories could be approved under a categorical exclusion, a type of review that isn’t nearly as extensive as an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement — all outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality recently issued guidance for the use of categorical exclusions. The CEQ concluded:

“Categorical exclusions have become the most frequently employed method of complying with NEPA. The extensive and expanding use of categorical exclusions underscores the need for clarifying guidance. Categorical exclusions are appropriate in many circumstances but should not be relied on if they thwart the purposes of NEPA, compromising the quality and transparency of agency decisionmaking or the opportunity for meaningful public participation. The guidance is designed to ensure that agencies appropriately and transparently establish and use categorical exclusions.”

Under the Obama administration, Forest Chief Chief Tom Tidwell has made restoration a big priority. The agency says the proposed rule change will enable more efficient implementation of projects to improve water flow and restore land and habitat. Continue reading

Breckenridge: Peak 6 comment period winding down

A flow chart shows the timeline of the Peak 6 decision-making process. Click on the image to see a full-size version.

Long-term ski area growth questions linger

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After two extensions, a public comment period on the proposal to add several hundred acres of new lift-served terrain at Breckenridge is coming to an end Aug 26, and the Peak 6 expansion is no less controversial now than when it was first proposed publicly in 2008.

The public debate about the expansion shows how ski communities in general are divided on ski area growth. There is strong support for the expansion plan from part of the town’s business community, including the Breckenridge Restaurant Association and some other ski-related businesses. Other residents feel strongly that the resort is big enough and that additional growth will undermine quality of life in the community.

Resort leaders say the plan to add new terrain served by a six-seat chair will help disperse skiers and riders across Colorado’s busiest ski area, easing congestion on existing lifts and trails. Critics of the plan say it will attract more visitors, ultimately resulting in even more crowding, both on the mountain and in the town.

There’s still time to get informed about the proposal by visiting the official Peak 6 website, which offers great access to information about the project and links for submitting comments. You can also read background stories on Peak 6 and listen to several town council discussions about the project by visiting the Summit Voice Peak 6 page. Continue reading

Breckenridge: Spots still open for Peak 6 site visit

Forest Service taking comments on Breckenridge ski area expansion through Aug. 9

Does Breckenridge Ski Area need more terrain? Visit the proposed Peak 6 expansion area July 14 and learn more about the proposal to build a new lift and cut trails through healthy spruce and fir forests in an alpine zone considered to be important habitat for rare lynx.

SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s not too late to sign up for the July 14 site visit to the proposed Peak 6 expansion area at Breckenridge.

U.S. Forest Service winter sports ranger Shelly Grail said that, after keeping an eye on the snowpack in the area, it appears that the site visit will able to proceed as planned. The general idea is to hike to the proposed project area to get a sense of what the area looks like in the summer.

After a well-attended winter site visit, some people asked the Forest Service to do a similar tour in the summer. The group will meet at the base of the Colorado Superchair at 9 a.m. and hike out to Peak 6. Grail said there is still some snow on the ground, so people should be prepared to hike on snow. Also, be prepared to spend most of the day outside. Continue reading

Breckenridge: More info on the proposed Peak 6 expansion

Breckenridge open house set for June 23; Front Range open house coming up, as well as a Peak 6 site visit on July 14

Healthy spruce and fir forest on Peak 6.

By Summit Voice

BRECKENRIDGE — It’s a common misconception that the trees within the proposed Breckenridge Peak 6 expansion area are lodgepole pines dying from the pine beetle epidemic.

In reality, healthy spruce and fir forest, including ancient legacy trees, dominate the alpine terrain, as described in the U.S. Forest Service draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS): “Spruce-fir within stands average approximately 90 years in age, although some stands may be much older in the Peak 6 area, where individual trees over 300 years of age were observed (legacy trees).”

The Forest Service is providing citizens with the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Forest Service personnel and learn more about all the proposed alternatives in the DEIS at June 23 open house, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Beaver Run Ballroom of the Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center, located at 620 Village Road in Breckenridge, Colorado. Continue reading

Breckenridge: Open house on Peak 6 expansion proposal

Draft environmental study could be released in June

A draft map of a proposed terrain expansion on Peak 6 at Breckenridge. Click on the image for a larger view.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A controversial plan to expand lift-served skiing on to Peak 6 at Breckenridge is nearing a major milestone, as the U.S. Forest Service prepares to release a draft environmental study in June. Read past Summit Voice stories online here for more background.

In preparation for the next phase of Forest Service review process, the resort is holding a June 1 open house on the proposed expansion. The open house is from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Great Divide Lodge in Breckenridge. The open house format includes a project overview presentation at the top of every hour, with informational booths throughout the afternoon and evening. Parking is free. For more information, call 970-754-2712. Continue reading

Colorado: White River NF finalizes new trails plan

After seven years, the White River NF has a new travel management plan, subject to a 45-day appeal period.

Decision subject to 45-day appeal; conservation groups chime in

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —A new travel management plan for the Colorado’s White River National Forest is a sensible compromise between recreational demands and resource preservation, according to White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. Click here to read the Record of Decision.

The plan is subject to a 45-day appeals period. Click here to visit the White River National Forest website with links to all relevant documents and maps.

If finalized in its present form, it will close several hundred miles of trails currently used by ATVs and dirt bikes, but will also legitimize many other illegally created trails on parts of the national forest.

Conservation advocates and public land watchdogs said the travel management plan appears to balance access with resource protection, but expressed concern about several key provisions.

“(T)he plan continues to contain some significant shortcomings that concern us,” said Sloan Shoemaker, director of the Aspen-based Wilderness Workshop.

“Today culminates over seven years of work on the travel plan. This alternative provides a sensible and pragmatic foundation for the transportation system on the White River National Forest while ensuring the natural resources are protected for future generations,” Fitzwilliams said. “This plan has an impact on everything we do. We wanted to get it right. That’s why it took seven years,” he said. “I believe this is an alternative we can reasonably afford to manage over the next 10 years. Continue reading

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