Forest Service denies request for comment period extension; locals scrambling to study proposal, formulate input
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Summit County officials are scrambling to finalize comments on a Forest Service proposal to build 13 miles of new dirt bike trails on Tenderfoot Mountain after their request to extend the comment period was rejected.
At issue is a controversial plan to add a motorized trail system in the hills east of Highway 6 between Dillon and Keystone. County officials say a vast majority of residents in the area oppose the trail system. Forest Service planners say they are obligated to meet demand from all user groups.
Forest Service officials say new planning regulations adopted under the Bush administration prevent them from extending comment periods on environmental assessments. Conservation groups criticized the rules before they were adopted, saying they could inhibit public participation — and the Tenderfoot trail plan is a clear example of that.
The environmental study was released shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday and the comment period ends shortly before Christmas, at a time of year when many people take time off to be with family. The Tenderfoot study is a complex 170-page document, and 30 days doesn’t allow much time for careful study and comment, especially by the general public.
Summit County planner Kate Berg is working on an initial draft of the comments that will be presented Tuesday, Dec. 4 to the Summit County Commissioners in bullet point form for additional input and guidance.
Berg, who worked on the county’s scoping comments last year, said an initial review of the plan shows that the Forest Service addressed some, but not all the county’s extensive concerns. The Tenderfoot discussion is tentatively set for 9:35 a.m. as part of the BOCC’s worksession agenda at the county courthouse in Breckenridge.
The Snake River planning commission will hold a special Dec. 6 meeting to discuss the Tenderfoot trail plan. The meeting is at 5 p.m. at Dillon town hall.
The Forest Service will hold an open house on the plan at the Dillon Ranger Station from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on December 5, 2012.
Input from the public, staff and elected officials will help shape the county’s formal comments on the study. Those comments are due to the Forest Service by mid-December. ll the Forest Service documents relating to the proposal, including comment information, are at this WRNF web page.