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The United States Forest Service on Friday issued the following press release on signing a final decision providing access to the Berlaimont Estates’ private inholding near Edwards:
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (March 10, 2023) – Today the White River National Forest signed a decision to fulfill the agency’s legal requirement to provide access to the 680-acre Berlaimont Estates’ private inholding near Edwards, Colorado.
In response to formal objections from the public during the agency’s predecisional objection process, the final decision includes several additional mitigation measures to increase safety, protect wildlife habitat and minimize visual impacts beyond those contemplated in the Final EIS, published in July of 2021.
“The decision meets our legal requirement to provide adequate access to the inholding while largely limiting the access to existing roads to minimize impacts to National Forest System lands,” said White River Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams.
The decision authorizes a year-round access route that includes paving 2.4 miles of two existing Forest Service Roads (FSR 774 and FSR 780), as well as creating a total of 0.2 miles of new road on National Forest System lands. To mitigate impacts to public recreation from improving these roads, a 2.7-mile trail would be constructed to create a 4.5-mile loop system for pedestrian and mountain bike use in the area.
The decision applies only to National Forest System lands and does not authorize the Berlaimont Estates development itself, or any additional action on private lands. Under Eagle County regulations, Berlaimont would need to obtain additional county approvals before development could commence, including for new road construction on their private lands.
“We received hundreds of comments from people concerned about potential impacts to wildlife and other resources from the proponent’s plans to develop this private in-holding,” Fitzwilliams said. “According to federal law, the Forest Service does not have discretion to deny access to inholdings for reasonable use. However, the modified alternative selected to provide the access is responsive to public concerns around minimizing impacts to wildlife and recreation, while meeting our legal requirements.”
The Forest Service is legally required to provide adequate access to private property that is surrounded by National Forest System lands under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980.
The final decision is modified from the 2021 draft decision and allows the proposed access road to extend onto National Forest System lands a total of 0.2 miles to reduce visual impacts and potential barriers to wildlife movement, as well as make the route safer and more practical to maintain.
The Record of Decision, maps and associated documents are available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=50041.