Action needed! Timber Sale Threatens Ski Operations on Grand Mesa

Map of trail closures that will happen with this timber sale.
30 Aug, 2021

August 30, 2021

Greetings Grand Mesa Nordic Council (GMNC) members and supporters,

We face a major challenge, and we need your help. The Forest Service has decided to conduct a timber operation that will extend into our coming ski season and could potentially impede our grooming operations for the next five ski seasons. This project will impact the Skyway parking lot and could preclude our use of the Scales Lake trail. The logging operation could also prevent normal use of trails such as Arroyo, Lyons, Tower and Kannah Crossing (see map).

In April, 2021, the District Ranger for the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest issued a logging permit to Montrose Forest Products allowing logging and hauling operations using Scales Lake Road and the Skyway Trailhead parking through 2026. As a result, instead of serving as a primary ski trail connecting our two main trailheads, the Scales Lake trail on Grand Mesa will become a logging route until December 23, and potentially even longer. As you know, in very low-snow conditions Scales Lake is the only trail that can be groomed. It is also the primary connector that ties Skyway and County Line trail systems together. If Scales Lake trail unusable for skiing, there will be no way to connect the two trail systems, because Kannah Crossing’s connection to County Line crosses Scales Lake trail.

In late 2020, GMNC expressed concern about the timing and duration of logging operations  to the Forest Service District Ranger, Blll Edwards. The initial timber sale offer received no bids from logging companies. In early 2021, without advising or consulting with GMNC and without public input, Edwards and his staff reoffered the timber sale permit, lowering the price by 25 percent and giving the logging company blanket permission to use Scales Lake Road for winter logging up to at least December 23. The District Ranger was well aware of GMNC's 30-year permitted use and ongoing agreement with the U.S. Forest Service that precludes motorized use of Scales Lake Road after November 15 each year. Montrose Forest Products now holds the permit for the Kannah Creek timber sale.

GMNC sought basic information about this timber sale from the Forest Service, but was forced to submit a Freedom of Information Act request in order to get copies of the Kannah Creek timber sale contract and communications with Montrose Forest Products. We still haven’t received many of the requested documents, but GMNC was provided a copy of a reoffer memo in which the Forest Service acknowledged its prior agreement with GMNC regarding Scales Lake Road, and nonetheless decided to offer winter logging to Montrose Forest Products through 2026, superseding our longstanding permit.

GMNC understands the importance of responsible forest management and science-based timber projects, and supports the Forest Service’s efforts to control spruce beetles and aspen decline through logging. However, we believe that these projects can be done without infringing on existing permits and agreements with user groups. The Forest Service’s decision to allow the use of one of our main trails for logging during our permitted ski season is a violation of the GMNC’s 30-plus year partnership with the agency.

On August 16, GMNC asked the Forest Supervisor, Chad Stewart, in the Delta office to honor the Forest Service’s agreements with GMNC and curtail the logging operations after November 15, 2021. We are still awaiting a response.

We need your help to show support for GMNC’s operations and our longstanding permit with the Forest Service.

Please contact the District Ranger and Forest Supervisor and your elected representatives (contact info below) and ask them respectfully to honor the Forest Service's agreements with GMNC and prevent the use of our trails for logging purposes during our season.

Here are some suggestions on what to say. Please be polite.

  • Explain how you use the trails and why they are important. Emphasize the importance of skiing in November and December.
  • Say a word or two about how closing Scales Lake Trail would impact you. For instance, you could no longer ski from Skyway to County Line or ski a complete loop at County Line. How having fewer trails open would affect your experience at the trails, (more crowding?) etc.
  • Ask the Forest Service to honor its longstanding agreement with GMNC that Scales Lake Road is closed to motorized users after November 15 each year.
  • Ask the Forest Service to find a way for this logging project to co-exist with our grooming operations and without closing trails.

For more information or if you have knowledge about Forest Service operations and wish to help resolve this conflict, contact GMNC Executive Director Christie Aschwanden (contact info below).

Contacts:
GMUG Forest Supervisor Chad Stewart
chad.stewart@usda.gov
970-874-6674

Grand Valley District Ranger Bill Edwards
William.edwards@usda.gov
970-263-5804

Senator Bennet’s Western Slope Regional Director John Whitney
john_whitney@bennet.senate.gov
970-259-1710

Senator Hickenlooper’s Western Colorado Regional Director Sarah McCarthy
sarah_mccarthy@hickenlooper.senate.gov
970-822-4530

State Senator Kerry Donovan
kerry.donovan.senate@state.co.us
303-866-4871

State Representative Matt Soper
matthew.soper.house@state.co.us

Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis
cody.davis@mesacounty.us
970-244-1605

Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis
Scott.McInnis@mesacounty.us
970-244-1604
    
Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland
janet.rowland@mesacounty.us
970-244-1606

Delta County Commissioner Wendell Koontz
wkoontz@deltacounty.com
970-874-2113

Delta County Commissioner Mike Lane
mlane@deltacounty.com
970-874-2111

Delta County Commissioner Don Suppes
dsuppes@deltacounty.com
970-874-2112

GMNC Executive Director Christie Aschwanden
christie@gmnc.org
970-200-6337