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USFS expands headquarters search

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The U.S. Forest Service is expanding its search in Delta for a new headquarters.

Scott Armentrout, GMUG forest supervisor, in a report to the county commissioners on Monday, said the agency's search area for a new home now extends north from the Delta-Montrose Technical College to the Gunnison River. East and west boundaries are approximately one block on either side of Main Street.

The previous search area had been focused in the Highway 50 corridor south of 1600 Road. The agency wants to remain within the highway corridor to provide convenient public access, Armentrout said.

A map of the expanded area can be viewed at www.fs.usda.gov/gmug.

Announcement of the expanded search area has already generated interest, Armentrout reported. No final decision on location has been made. The agency is considering lease of existing property or possibly a "build-to-suit" deal. A 15-year lease agreement is currently proposed.

According to a press release issued last week, "The agency would like to remain located in the Delta area to provide continued customer service to its stakeholders and economic support to the community."

Armentrout and Levi Broy-les, Paonia district ranger, also reported:

• The long-awaited environmental impact statement on the GMUG's spruce beetle program is expected for release soon -- perhaps this week. It will recommend 60,000 acres of commercial timber harvest and sale along with another 60,000 acres of various restoration treatment. Following release of the EIS there will be a 45-day objection period. Armentrout said, "We expect to reach a 25-year high in timber production." The spruce beetle is still most heavily concentrated south of Delta County where 100 percent-kill stands of spruce can be found. The spruce beetle continues migrating north into the local GMUG.

• There were many comments on the recently completed Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the North Fork Area Coal exemption and the Colorado Roadless Rule (DCI, Jan. 27.) Depending on how comments are counted, up to 300,000 comments were received. But those high numbers mask duplicate comments, form letters and petition signatures. Broyles said there were actually about 100,000 comments considered "unique," and only 6,000 to 7,000 considered "distinct and non-replicated." The agency hopes to be able to issue a lease modification decision on the West Elk's application by June.

• Visitor use is "very high" across the forest in all seasons of the year, Armentrout stated.

• Petrox and SG Interests are among the companies producing activity in minerals exploration and development on the GMUG. Activity is mostly in the extreme east part of Delta County, into Gunnison County, and also in the disputed "Thompson Divide" area.

"There is activity, for sure," Armentrout said.

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