USFS to remodel current location

Photo by Hank Lohmeyer Term-limited Delta County Commissioner Bruce Hovde was recognized for his work on forest health and public lands issues on Monday. Presenting the award at the commissioners\' business meeting were Paonia District Ranger Levi Broyles

Meeting with county commissioners on Monday for a "relatively informal presentation" and informational update, GMUG Forest supervisor Scott Armentrout said the agency will remain at its present headquarters location in Delta.

Also attending the meeting was Paonia District Ranger Levi Broyles.

The long search for a new GMUG headquarters has resulted in a proposed 10- to 15-year lease agreement to stay at the current headquarters in Delta on Highway 50 South. The building will be "completely renovated." The agency will remain open during construction, which is scheduled to begin in the spring, Armentrout told the BoCC.

The agency announced last February that it was expanding its search for a new headquarters to include existing buildings in the North Delta area, in areas not directly accessed by Highway 50, and south to the Delta-Montrose Technical College. No suitable option was located during that expanded search.

Commissioner Doug Atchley said the county is "extraordinarily pleased at how the agency's search for new headquarters has worked out."

The 45-minute-long meeting with commissioners touched on a number of forest related issues including the following ones:

• GMUG staff will restart the process for a new forest plan in 2017. In 2007, a U.S. District Court barred the USDA and the Forest Service from implementing the agency's 2005 Planning Rule, a move which effectively cancelled out the GMUG's 2007 Forest Management Plan that was based on the rule.

According to an agency advisory, "The GMUG's current forest plan was developed in 1983 with five subsequent amendments. New guidance in the Forest Service's 2012 Planning Rule directs forest plans to be science-based and developed with extensive public involvement."

Since the 2007 plan was scratched, two new developments have occurred -- increased recreational use on the forest and the invasion of spruce beetle threatening old growth stands of forest.

• Following an official signing set for December of the agency's decision reinstating the North Fork Area Mining Exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule, a supplemental environmental

impact statement will be prepared for the West Elk mine's expansion plan, commissioners were told. When completed, the supplemental EIS will be subject to the same type of litigation that overturned the North Fork Area Mining Exception over two years ago.

• Timber sales are at 20-year high levels. The mill in Montrose is taking a lot of dead beetle kill trees from the Gunnison Basin. On Grand Mesa treatments are also including removal of trees in areas to help prevent beetle infestation. Trees are also coming to the Montrose mill from the White River and Routt National Forests. Beetle kill salvage operations will continue at varying levels of production for up to another 10 years. There is "quite a bit of activity" with timber harvests from the Uncompahgre Plateau, Armentrout reported.

• The GMUG officials were highly complimentary of the county for cooperation on wildland fire events; for offering knowledgeable input on forest issues; and, for help with road maintenance work.

• Term-limited Commissioner Bruce Hovde was presented with a certificate citing his contribution to forest health and other natural resource issues during his eight years as commissioner.

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