BLM, USFS seek Browns’ comments

The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service recently published a draft resource management plan and environmental impact statement for Browns Canyon National Monument listing three alternatives.

Alternative A basically would take no action. Monument management would continue as it has under a plan drafted in 1984.

Alternative B would protect Browns resources, including its culture, wildlife, wildlife habitat, geological features and values, such as hiking. It emphasizes a predominantly primitive backcountry framework.

“B” would limit future recreational infrastructure development to a narrower geographic extent and allows for more restriction of recreational activities while still allowing various river-based and upland outdoor recreation experiences and outcomes.

Alternative C, the BLM’s preference, would mitigate increased use through infrastructure improvements. “C” would protect existing values but allow for a wider range of access to recreation.

“C” would allow a wider range of recreation activities in the monument’s various areas, from river to backcountry, to enhance the local economy and quality of life for both residents and visitors.

As noted by Keith Berger of the BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office, the final plan could incorporate elements of all three alternatives, choosing “the best ideas and cherry pick the best portions of each alternative.”

In the draft plan both “B” and “C” recognize ranching and grazing and its role in the monument and the wilderness study area, that ranchers have grazed cattle on what’s now the monument for more than 100 years. The plan notes the contributions ranchers make to open space and to management of public lands through grazing.

Because it would allow a wider range of recreational activities, “C” makes the most sense. Developing and improving access to Browns while ensuring that its resources are protected is the key.

It will be critically important for the BLM and Forest Service to ensure that improved access does not come at the expense of Browns’ high desert environment.

Information on the draft plan is available at go.usa.gov/xn2eC under the “Documents and Reports” tab. Comments can be left on this site or can be mailed to BCNM RMP/EIS, 5575 Cleora Road, Salida, CO 81201.

Meetings originally scheduled for last month in both Salida and Buena Vista have been rescheduled because of recent snowstorms. The sessions are now set for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at Salida SteamPlant and 5:30-7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at Buena Vista Community Center.

Chain gang service

Going back to 1976, for some 43 years, Charlie Plewes has been a member of the chain gang patrolling the sidelines of Salida High School football games.

The “generous” pay for the service at typically four to five home games through the fall has been all of a hot dog and bottle of water at halftime.

But that’s not the reason he volunteers. He said he gets to watch young men mature and develop their skills as they go through the program.

“I’ve also got the best seat in the house,” he said. “I’m at the line of scrimmage every play.”

Those who volunteer to provide services like those of the SHS gridiron chain gang are part of a community’s unsung heroes. They do it because it keeps them involved and because they love their community.

Thank you, Mr. Plewes, for your 43-and-counting years of service.

— MJB