Colorado Celebrates National Forest Week
Monday, July 13, 2020
DELTA, Colo. -- This week, Americans are celebrating National Forest Week.
Ute Mountain Utes member Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk says forests have long been places where Indigenous people have retreated to find solitude or collect herbs in preparation for ceremonies. She says access to public lands has been especially important during the pandemic.
"Indigenous people have always found refuge in the mountains," she states. "The mountains and the forest areas have always been very important places to center and heal."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's management planning efforts are under way for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests in western Colorado.
Lopez-Whiteskunk says she hopes the agency will consider the wisdom of Indigenous stewardship practices to ensure that the area's rich wildlife and natural vegetation are preserved for generations to come.
Arvin Ramgoolam, owner of Rumors Coffee and Townie Books in Crested Butte, says he hopes the revised plan will do a better job balancing extraction with needs of the outdoor recreation industry.
He says he'd like to see as much of the forests' natural beauty protected as possible, which he views as critical for businesses in gateway towns.
"It's an inexhaustible resource for us to return to all the time, but we have to take care of it," Ramgoolam states. "We have to have rules and things in place that make it so we can sustainably use it and use it responsibly."
National forests are public lands owned by all Americans, but they have not been enjoyed equally.
Non-Hispanic whites tend to dominate, while people of color and communities with less education and income are less likely to participate in outdoor recreation.
The USDA plans to submit an Environmental Impact Statement for its current draft plan for the forests for public comment in the next year.
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