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Forest Service seeks comments on fuel reduction project around Booth Creek adjacent to Vail

March 4, 2022, 1:48 pm

The U.S. Forest Service on Friday issued the following press release seeking public comments on the proposed Booth Creek Fuels Reduction Project

The White River National Forest seeks public comment on its proposal to reduce hazardous fuels for wildfires on more than 3,000 acres adjacent to the Town of Vail.

The Booth Creek Fuels Reduction Project would use a combination of prescribed fire, mechanical treatments, and hand treatments to reduce the fuel loads on National Forest System lands primarily north of Interstate 70.

The project is part of a coordinated effort with Vail Fire & Emergency Services to reduce fire risk and improve firefighter safety within the Town of Vail wildland urban interface. It would implement treatments in areas of concern identified in the 2020 Vail Community Wildfire Protection Plan. 

“The fuel loads in this area have built up for more than century due to lack of wildfire combined with dead and downed trees from insects and disease,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis. “The fuel reduction work we are proposing would help reduce the risk of wildfire to the Town of Vail and give firefighters space to more effectively engage a future wildfire.” 

To be effective at reducing fuel loads adjacent to the Town of Vail, the project area includes the Eagles Nest Wilderness and three Colorado Roadless Areas. No temporary or permanent access roads would be constructed throughout the project area. The use of motorized vehicles would be avoided as much as possible within designated wilderness, although aerial ignition by helicopter or unmanned aircraft may be used in some circumstances such as rugged terrain, where it would be more effective and reduce risk to firefighters. 

The Forest Service is hosting a public meeting to provide additional information and answer questions on April 6 from 5-7 p.m. at the Grand View Room in Vail, 395 E. Lionshead Circle. More information, including maps and how to comment, is available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=61657. Comments need to be received by May 3, 2022.

The nonprofit environmental advocacy group Wilderness Workshop subsequently issued this release on the project:

Today, the White River National Forest released a Notice of Proposed Action (NOPA) for the Booth Creek Fuels Treatment Project. The Project proposes to conduct prescribed fire on 3,605 acres in and adjacent to the Eagles Nest Wilderness, north of the town of Vail, some of which includes the proposed Spraddle Creek addition to the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Below is a statement:

“We’re encouraged to see the Forest Service designing the project so that new analysis is not required when the Spraddle Creek area is protected as Wilderness and to correspond with areas identified within the Town of Vail Community Wildfire Protection Plan. We will be taking a closer look at the project to ensure the proposed actions align with federal laws and regulations that protect Wilderness and Roadless Areas.” – Will Roush, Wilderness Workshop Executive Director 

Additional information about Spraddle Creek & the CORE Act:

The CORE Act is a result of decades of collaboration between diverse stakeholders, including ranchers, small business owners, local fire departments, veterans, elected officials, outdoor recreation organizations, and water and energy groups. It will protect 4 important areas throughout Colorado; in the Continental Divide and Camp Hale area, it adds 20,196 acres to three existing Wilderness areas by expanding the Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan Peak, and Holy Cross Wildernesses. 

As the Spraddle Creek addition was being considered and its boundaries determined and adjusted, advocates had numerous conversations with Town of Vail (including the Fire Department), Eagle County, and White River National Forest officials about ways to undertake pre-suppression activities or prescribed fire, as well as how fire suppression would occur in any proposed addition to the Eagles Nest Wilderness.  These conversations resulted in several boundary adjustments and in particular the southern boundary of the addition was adjusted and moved away from the public/private boundary in response to feedback from the Town of Vail and the Vail Fire Department. Wilderness designation does not prevent fire managers from suppressing fires when conditions warrant. The City of Vail reaffirmed their support for the CORE Act in a letter in December 2021; the CORE Act has passed the House of Representatives four times and a Senate hearing is expected in early 2022.

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