Forest Service limits
Over half a million Sawtooth acres get new protection
Sawtooth National Forest supervisor Bill LeVere and spokesman
Ed Waldapfel joined other Sawtooth National Forest land managers yesterday morning to
release a draft proposal that will limit road building on 1.2 million acres of the
Sawtooth National Forest. Express photo by Willy Cook.
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
U.S. Forest Service chief Mike Dombeck yesterday announced a proposal to
end road construction on nearly one quarter of the 192 million acres managed by the U.S.
Forest Service. Of that, 1.2 million acres are in the Sawtooth National Forest.
"I strongly support this proposal," Sawtooth National Forest
supervisor Bill LeVere said at a press conference in Hailey yesterday morning.
The draft was scheduled for release yesterday afternoon.
The proposal would prohibit new roads on 43 million acres of inventoried
roadless areas (those of over 5,000 acres) within the national forest system. That
includes the 1.2 million acres in the Sawtooth National Forest.
Decisions on smaller roadless parcels would be left to local forest
managers through their individual forest planning processes.
"In my mind, this is common sense businesssolve national issues
at the national level and leave local issues up to local publics and local managers,"
Of the affected land on the Sawtooth, 635,000 acres would gain protection
from road building for the first time. That represents 30 percent of the forests
total of 2.1 million acres.
The majority of those areas are in the Smoky Mountains, west of Ketchum
and in the foothills of the Sawtooth, Pioneer and White Cloud mountains.
Another 592,000 acres, roughly 29 percent of the forests total, are
already designated by forest managers as wilderness study areas or road-free zones.
An additional 217,000 acres have already been designated by Congress as
the Sawtooth Wilderness Area.
Under the new proposal, 84,000 acres of roadless land, making up 4 percent
of the forests total, would be open to road building. Roads already exist on 561,000
acres, which make up 27 percent of the total.
People who expressed concern in last falls Forest Services
fall 1999 public hearings about losing motorized access to national forests need not fret,
"Motorized access will still be allowed in these roadless
areas," LeVere said at the press conference. "This makes no change in our
motorized plan. I think we heard that loud and clear" [in the public hearings]."
Indeed, snowmobiles, ATVs and even full sized vehicles will still be
allowed access to the backcountry in areas affected by the proposal according to
individual forests motorized plans and regulations. The Forest Service just
wont be building or reconstructing roads in inventoried roadless areas, LeVere said.
In a subsequent telephone interview, Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson
said the motorized plans of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Ketchum Ranger
Districtthe management units immediately surrounding the Wood River
Valleylimit, for the most part, motorized uses to designated trails anyway.
"In my professional judgment, these combined, preferred alternatives
do a good job of protecting the values in these inventoried roadless areas, and at the
same time allows for other activities that are important to the people of Idaho.
"As a local manager of these natural resources," he added,
"[I believe] it is good to have another tool added to our toolbox
something in- between lands to be developed and lands that are congressionally designated
Sawtooth National Forest spokesman Ed Waldapfel pointed out at the press
conference that the proposals final approval is not a given.
"Its important that people realize that this isnt a draft
in a can," he said.
In the coming months, in fact, the Forest Service will host meetings on
the topic throughout the state.
On May 24, the Sawtooth National Forest will host an informational meeting
at Ketchum City Hall at 7 p.m.
A second series of meetings, designed to gather public input on the
proposal, will be held in June.
The second local meeting will also be held at Ketchum City Hall at 6:30
p.m. on June 22.
"We now feel that roadlessness has its own value to it," LeVere
reflected"wildlife, fish, water, a sense of place and solitude on the national