The Gunnison National Forest in western Colorado is involved in another hot access question. The last access dispute - with developer Tom Chapman - resulted in a land trade that thus far has given Chapman a $2 million profit (HCN, 1/23/95). That trade was made over strenuous objections from residents of the ski town of Telluride.
Now, the ski town of Crested Butte,
the Gunnison County commissioners, the Forest Service district
ranger and numerous residents are objecting to Forest Supervisor
Bob Storch's permit to a couple allowing them to plow open a county
road to their home. The house sits at an elevation of 9,200 feet in
an area that receives 200 inches of snow a
Storch argues that federal law requires
that he allow the couple to plow open the road, which now is used
for winter sports.
In the past, property owners
and recreationists have traveled the area on skis, snowmobiles,
sleds or snow cats, rather than by plowing winter trails, says
Gunnison County Planning commission chairman Fred
Regional Forester Elizabeth Estill in
Denver says Storch's permit to the couple, Judy and Craig Pauly,
means the agency probably will not be able to deny similar requests
in the future.
There are numerous inholdings on
the West's national forests, and residents fear that now-closed
winter roads will be opened, one by one.
Sprung, president of the High Country Citizens Alliance, told
Estill, "It is not the responsibility of government to maximize
profit opportunities for individuals. Your job is protecting the
Storch defends the permit,
saying his attorneys told him the Paulys would win in court. The
responsibility, he says, lies with the state of Colorado, which has
allowed land to be freely subdivided into 35-acre lots (the Paulys'
home sits on such a lot), and with Gunnison County. He said the
Forest Service would immediately hand over the Cement Creek Road to
Gunnison County, and the county could then close the road, if it
Storch also continues to defend the
land trade with Chapman, in which the agency traded 110 acres of
land near Telluride it appraised at $640,000 for a wilderness
inholding elsewhere on the forest. Chapman has sold 70 acres of
that land thus far for $2.7 million. Like Chapman's case, the
Paulys' situation involves an inholding and almost unanimous
opposition from the community.
that his hands were, and are, tied. "In both cases, I was following