State and federal officials are teaming up to create a new park in the northwest corner of Colorado.
The 488 acres at Sweetwater Lake will become Colorado’s 43rd state park following an announcement this week from Governor Jared Polis, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Eagle Valley Land Trust.
“Sweetwater Lake is simply gorgeous and has great potential for even more recreational opportunities like a campground,” Polis said in a statement.
The White River National Forest had acquired the property in late August. The land is located in Garfield County, which borders Utah, and rests near the Flat Tops mountain range.
The land had been identified as one of the top 10 priorities nationwide by federal officials who saw it as both a public recreation opportunity and a chance to protect wildlife and cultural and scenic values.
“We look forward to working with our partners and Coloradans with the ultimate gpa; of adding Sweetwater Lake to Colorado’s world-class state park system for fun, conservation, education, and to support job growth in the region,” Polis said.
Forest officials are pleased the area will gain protections afforded property in the federal and state systems.
“Sweetwater Lake is a hidden gem, both as a destination and getaway to the Flat Top wilderness,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director of the state’s Department of Natural Resources. “The partnership forward to protect and manage this unique landscape is an extension of the state and federal commitment to shared stewardship.”
Sweetwater Lake is about three hours directly west of Denver, making it a reasonable trip for people looking to get away from the city and back to nature.
Polis said improvements to the park, such as a new boat launch, should be in place by next June. Future changes to the park will be made in consultation with the public, he pledged.
“Colorado Parks and Wildlife is excited to modernize facilities, and provide updated and sustainable recreational services through this partnership,” said Dan Prenzlow, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Our main priority is to conserve the unique character of the area while improving access to this incredible property.”
Justin Spring, project manager for The Conservation Fund’s Colorado office, is thrilled the government stepped in to purchase the land. It could have been a very different outcome had that not happened, he told the Colorado Sun.
“It just came so close to being lost to development and being a private, high-end resort community,” Spring said. “We were hopeful we would get to this point.”
Proposed roads and trails for motorized use as well as areas where snowmobiling would be allowed have been outlined by the Shoshone National Forest in its Travel Management Plan environmental assessment.
The 470-page document goes into great detail about how and why the Forest Service staff made decisions on topics like continuing to allow snowmobiling in the High Lakes Wilderness Study Area along the Montana-Wyoming border and the Line Creek Research Natural Area atop the Beartooth Plateau.
If approved the decision would regulate motorized use across the 2.44 million acre forest in northwestern Wyoming putting an end to six years of work and thousands of public remarks.
The agency will be taking comment on its proposal for 30 days. Selected as the desired proposal is Alternative 4, a modification of an earlier alternative that was changed to respond to some public concerns.
“Alternative 4 would provide the greatest benefits for motorized recreation with respect to wheeled vehicle use with 935 miles of routes: over 706 miles of designated roads and 229 miles of motorized trails,” according to the document.
For oversnow travel, the alternative approves 299 miles of trail and 521,038 acres for cross-country use, a small increase in trail miles (14 miles) and slight reduction (1,800 acres) in overall acreage. In areas like the High Lakes WSA, a season of use would be established limiting snowmobile and tracked vehicle use between Nov. 1 and June 15.
Oversnow travel “has been largely unregulated,” the forest staff noted, but that will change with the implementation of the travel plan, which will also result in the agency printing maps of areas and trails available to snowmobilers.
Other changes under the proposal are 10 miles of new roads (three miles across the North Zone ranger districts; seven miles across the South Zone districts); and bringing online nearly 25 miles of new trails open to wheeled vehicles 64 inches wide or less (the majority located in the Wind River Ranger District).
In addition, the forest is proposing to seasonally close 358 miles of roads for resource protection and decommission about 11 miles of roads while converting an existing five miles to administrative use only. Of existing roads, 173 miles would be converted to trails open to wheeled vehicles.
Funding to maintain roads and motorized trails is in short supply. According to the travel plan, the average annual operational funding for road work over the past eight years was $440,000. Fortunately, supplemental funding has been increasing since 2017 (with the exception of 2020), in part due to the Great American Outdoors Act which was aimed at deferred maintenance. The agency estimated its deferred maintenance needs at $25 million.
“Overall, the trend for the majority of the Shoshone’s roads has been toward a declining condition due to the reduction in overall funding and increases in traffic volume and use,” the travel plan said.
Although the changes may sound like a win for motorized users, the Forest Service noted that its travel plan still leaves the majority of the forest closed to vehicles.
The Shoshone, America’s first national forest, spans elevations from 4,600 feet to 13,804 feet across five Wyoming counties: Fremont, Hot Springs, Park, Sublette and Teton. Five designated wilderness areas comprise roughly 1.37 million acres of the forest, approximately 55% of the total acreage.
Aside from these wilderness and wilderness study areas, approximately 684,845 acres (about 28% of the forest) are inventoried roadless areas which, together with the wildlands, account for roughly 83% of the Shoshone National Forest.
Critics and supporters now have the opportunity to weigh in, which during the initial proposal attracted more than 6,500 comments. Of these, the Forest Service only recognized about 450 as original, ignoring the others which it classified as conservation group form letters.
In the past, conservation groups have asked for snowmobile use to be halted in the High Lakes WSA. Established in 1984, the 14,700-acre protected area is a popular entry point for snowmobilers and hikers, during different seasons, to a region along the Beartooth Highway containing 134 lakes.
The Forest Service ruled out removal of snowmobiles from the landscape, citing the original intent of Wyoming’s congressmen, at the time the area was set aside, to keep winter motorized use on the landscape.
“On the one hand, the area provides for unparalleled opportunities for solitude, primitive recreation, naturalness, and other associated wilderness characteristics,” the travel plan noted. “On the other hand, the area has long been held to support motorized recreation uses (and) other associated uses that accommodate recreation (including structures and infrastructure) – aspects of use that are influenced, in no small part, due to the proximity to the Beartooth Highway.”
On the Line Creek Plateau RNA, the forest staff found that use was mainly limited to the spring after the Beartooth Highway is plowed around Memorial Day weekend and concentrated in a small area – mainly near the Gardner Headwall – that restricting or banning snowmobile use was not necessary.
The forest acknowledged the contradictions by writing, “Should RNAs be managed for broad ecological processes versus for the objectives determined in an establishment record, the management regime would arguably shift. This tension reflects the unique situation here on the Shoshone National Forest: a research natural area that allows for motorized use. That tension dates back to the establishment of this area and is likely to continue regardless of the selected alternative.”
The environmental assessment and maps are located on the Shoshone National Forest website at https://go.usa.gov/xMfQu. Comments on the travel plan should be submitted in writing by sending an email to [email protected] with “Shoshone NF Travel Management Planning Project” in the subject line or by writing a letter to Mark Foster (environmental coordinator), Shoshone National Forest, 808 Meadow Lane Avenue, Cody, WY 82414.
The Shoshone National Forest will hold virtual public meetings during the first week of November to discuss the plan. Additional information on how to attend the meetings will be forthcoming. The meetings are scheduled for Nov. 2 for the Clarks Fork, Greybull, and Wapiti Ranger districts; Nov. 3 for the Wind River Ranger District; and Nov. 4 for the Washakie Ranger District. All of the meetings will begin at 6 p.m.
*Leave a trip itinerary with family or friends. If hiking by yourself and don’t have family or friends in the area with whom you could leave an itinerary with, leave an itinerary in the vehicle.
*Every hunter should carry these “ten essentials”: map, compass, flashlight, extra food and water, extra clothes, sunglasses, first-aid kit, pocketknife, waterproof matches, and fire starter.
*Shooting and/or hunting is prohibited in developed recreation sites and trailheads including Lake Como and Bass Creek Recreation Areas.
*Be aware that there may be bears in the area, store food properly. Also, carcasses should not be closer than 100 yards to your sleeping area.
*Your cell phone can save your life, but don’t depend on having sufficient coverage, particularly in remote parts of the Bitterroot National Forest.
*Follow the ‘Pack It In, Pack It Out’ and ‘Leave No Trace’ principles while camping.
*Campers, hunters, and others are not allowed to camp for more than 16 consecutive days in one location. New camps must be located five air miles from the previous camp.
*Choose a site for a campfire carefully, near water if possible, and clear it of any combustible material. Remember, just because it’s cold in the morning doesn’t mean fires can’t spread quickly! NEVER walk away from a smoldering campfire. ALWAYS make sure a fire is dead out.
HAMILTON — The Bitterroot National Forest is offering up some tips for hunters who are planning to head into the backcountry.
All hunters during the general rifle season must wear “hunter orange” (hat, cap, vest, jacket, or rain gear) above the waist. It must be the outermost garment and be visible from all sides. This is also a good idea for non-hunting Forest visitors this time of year. Consider putting an orange vest or bright bandana on pets (dogs, horses, etc.) that will be accompanying you as well.
Regulations can change yearly and from drainage to drainage. Know the regulations for the area that you will be hunting. Printed copies are available anywhere that licenses are sold and can be found online from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Dumping carcasses on public lands is illegal, unethical and can spread diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease. Click here for more information on preventing the spread of CWD and carcass disposal guidelines.
Hunters should treat every firearm as if it were loaded and always point the muzzle in a safe direction. Be sure of your target, and beyond, and know where your hunting partners are at all times. Never assume you are alone in the woods.
Leave a trip itinerary with family or friends. If hiking by yourself and don’t have family or friends in the area with whom you could leave an itinerary with, leave an itinerary in the vehicle.
Every hunter should carry these “ten essentials”: map, compass, flashlight, extra food and water, extra clothes, sunglasses, first-aid kit, pocketknife, waterproof matches, and fire starter.
Shooting and/or hunting is prohibited in developed recreation sites and trailheads including Lake Como and Bass Creek Recreation areas.
Be aware that there may be bears in the area, store food properly. Also, carcasses should not be closer than 100 yards to your sleeping area.
Your cell phone can save your life, but don’t depend on having sufficient coverage, particularly in remote parts of the Bitterroot National Forest.
Follow the ‘Pack It In, Pack It Out’ and ‘Leave No Trace’ principles while camping.
Campers, hunters, and others are not allowed to camp for more than 16 consecutive days in one location. New camps must be located five air miles from the previous camp.
Choose a site for a campfire carefully, near water if possible, and clear it of any combustible material. Remember, just because it’s cold in the morning doesn’t mean fires can’t spread quickly! NEVER walk away from a smoldering campfire. ALWAYS make sure a fire is dead out.
Be sure to call one of our offices to get a Bitterroot National Forest map. Our maps are sold in two parts, split into the North and South half of the forest. Maps are $14 each. Office hours are 8am to 4:30pm, Mon-Fri. Forest Service offices are located in Hamilton, Stevensville, Darby, and West Fork. Some offices are currently operating ‘virtually’ due to COVID 19. Please call our office and we would be happy to assist you. Maps can be mailed out or in-person pickup may also be available, depending on location. Forest Visitor Maps can also be purchased online.
You can also download Forest Visitor Maps onto your phone or tablet using the Avenza PDF Maps App. Avenza makes navigating your National Forest easy, as it tracks your location on the map using your device’s internal GPS. The app also allows you to measure distances or areas, and records waypoints so you can find your way back to that new secret spot. To learn more, head to the App Store (Apple Devices) or Play Store (Android Devices) on your mobile device and search for the free “Avenza PDF Maps” application.
In order to protect our public lands and natural resources, the Forest would like to remind visitors of the importance of using designated routes. To that end, there have been a number of changes to our road system as a result of the Travel Management Plan. The travel plan designates 2,246 miles of forest roads and trails open to motorized use. These areas are designated on a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) now available free of charge at all Bitterroot NF offices and online. MVUMs are also available for free at the Avenza Store. The maps identify which areas are open to motorized use, the types of vehicles allowed and any seasonal restrictions that apply.
All forest recreators are responsible for knowing which roads are open to motorized use. A road without a gate, barrier or sign does not imply that the road is open. Seasonal use restrictions are important for wildlife. Please do not ruin another user’s experience to enhance yours.
All vehicles must stay on existing routes and not drive cross-country. Many seasonal use restrictions include the period from October 15 to December 1. These types of restrictions help to reduce hunting pressure on big game animals and allow Fish, Wildlife & Parks to maintain desired elk numbers and herd structure. Do not drive around barricades, gates, or snowdrifts. Barricades and gates are meant to close a road, frequently for the benefit of wildlife. Violations of these closures can result in fines. Check the MVUM for the travel rules in your areas of interest.
People are asked to notify the US Forest Service if a violation or resource issue is observed (example, driving behind a locked gate, camping for more than 16 days, tree blocking road, washout, etc.) If you witness a hunting violation, call (800) TIP-MONT. In case of emergency, dial 911 or contact Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office at (406) 363-3033.
If you use horses, mules, goats, or llamas anywhere on National Forests, you’re required to bring in only certified weed-free hay, cubes, pellets, or grain. In the past, contaminated feed introduced invasive weeds to many prime wildlife backcountry areas. Help stop new invaders from getting started.
Power wash the undercarriage and inside/outside of the bumpers of your trucks, horse trailers, ATV’s, or other vehicles you drive into the hills. Invasive weed seed can travel over a thousand miles on vehicles and bounce out at the wrong time on our rough mountain roads.
In Montana, outfitters and guides must be licensed to operate on federal, state, as well as private lands unless it’s their own. Be sure your guide or outfitter is licensed. Call the Montana Board of Outfitters at (406) 841-2304 or Idaho Outfitter and Guide Licensing Board at (208) 327-7380 for more information.
Finally, beginning this fall, you may see Bitterroot NF employees wearing bright orange vests and working in recreation sites and along Forest Service roads. They are conducting National Visitor Use Monitoring (NVUM) Program surveys which are done every five years. The surveys provide forest managers with an estimate of how many people recreate on federal lands and what activities they engage in while there. All information you give is confidential and the survey is voluntary.
People can contact their local District office for updates and more information.
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – The Atlantic Coast Conference announced today that the Pitt at Boston College women’s basketball game scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 24, and the Florida State at Boston College game scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 28, have been postponed.
Boston College remains in COVID protocols, resulting in the postponement of the games. The program is adhering to the outlined protocols within the ACC Medical Advisory Group report, which is available on theACC.com (full report). As a result of the postponements, Pitt will travel to Clemson on Tuesday, Jan. 26, for a 7 p.m. tipoff on ACC Network Extra. Additionally, Wake Forest will host Florida State on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. on ACCNX, moving up the scheduled Feb. 2 game.
The conference also announced tip times and television designations for the games listed below. The full 2020-21 ACC women’s basketball schedule can be found on theACC.com.
Adjusted Games Sunday, January 24 Pitt at Boston College | Postponed
Tuesday, January 26 Pitt at Clemson | 7 p.m. | ACCNX
Thursday, January 28 Florida State at Boston College | Postponed Florida State at Wake Forest | 6 p.m. | ACCNX
Sunday, January 31 Notre Dame at Syracuse | 11 a.m. | ACCN Clemson at Wake Forest | 2 p.m. | ACCN
Tuesday, February 2 Syracuse at Georgia Tech | 7 p.m. | ACCNX
Sunday, February 14 North Carolina at Pitt | 2 p.m. | ACCNX
Thursday, February 18 Georgia Tech at Florida State | 6 p.m. | ACCN NC State at Wake Forest | 7 p.m. | RSN
Sunday, February 21 Louisville at Florida State | 4 p.m. | ACCNX
Thursday, February 25 Pitt at NC State | 4 p.m. | RSN