Is a subdivision surrounded by national forest “reasonable?”

Is a subdivision surrounded by national forest “reasonable?”





ANILCA provides: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, and subject to such terms and conditions as the Secretary of Agriculture may prescribe, the Secretary shall provide such access to nonfederally owned land within the boundaries of the National Forest System as the Secretary deems adequate to secure to the owner the reasonable use and enjoyment thereof: Provided, That such owner comply with the rules and regulations applicable to ingress and egress to or from the National Forest System.” 16 U.S.C. § 3210(a)

“The U.S. Forest Service is currently considering approval of a new two-lane paved road across public lands north of Edwards to facilitate development of Berlaimont Estates — 19 new mansions, 2,000 vertical feet above town. The sprawling subdivision would be developed on a parcel that is completely surrounded by National Forest.

Unlike other nearby neighborhoods (e.g., Wildridge and Mountain Star), public land managers must approve a new road across lands owned by you and me to facilitate this proposal. To approve the new road, the Forest Service must deem Berlaimont Estates a “reasonable” land use.”

How does the White River National Forest determine what is a reasonable use?  Dose it matter what the surrounding use of the national forest is?  Does it matter if it creates bigger WUI problems?  When you buy a piece of land surrounded by public lands with no access is it reasonable to expect to build a subdivision?

These questions are intertwined (and sometimes conflated) with the question of whether the “regulations applicable to ingress and egress” (access) are reasonable.  Should the Forest Service be able to say that the proposed “32-foot wide, bermed, walled, plowed and paved thoroughfare switchbacking thousands of feet up a very visible hillside,” where “the walls necessary to support this road could be more than 1,000 feet long and as tall as 40 feet” is not reasonable?  The Forest Service has been upheld when it limits the kind of access to inholdings.  And by the way, “The 2002 Forest Plan designated this area Deer and Elk Winter Range and restricted winter use to minimize disturbance.”  It seems like a road with lots of use on it might be inconsistent with the forest plan.

It’s probably unfortunate that the local land use plan either allows a subdivision here or there isn’t any local planning.  It is Forest Service policy to get involved with that process, in part to help it deal with these hard questions.


via A New Century of Forest Planning

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