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For the week of November 22 through 28, 2000

Forest plan focuses on conservation


"The alternatives, all of them, are going to be controversial with somebody."

Sharon LaBrecque, Sawtooth National Forest planner


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The Sawtooth, Boise and Payette national forests have issued a draft plan for the next 10 to 15 years of operations that would decrease logging and emphasize forest restoration.

The joint planning document, which has been in the Forest Service drafting mill for close to five years, is in the form of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS). Each forest has a correlating Draft Land Management Plan.

The Sawtooth’s last plan was implemented in 1987. A final EIS on the new plan is expected to be issued in November 2001.

The draft EIS considers six management alternatives that range from high restrictions on human uses and emphasis on producing goods and services.

The EIS cites a preferred alternative (No. 3), which places a "high priority on restoring and protecting forest resources," Sawtooth National Forest planner Sharon LaBrecque said in a press release. LaBrecque has worked as part of a management plan team, with representatives from each of the three forests, since 1996.

LaBrecque said the preferred alternative is a more conservation-minded approach to resource management than are current policies.

"Alternative three emphasizes watershed and vegetation restoration to achieve or approach historical range," according to the draft EIS. "Forested vegetation is managed using a combination of mechanical treatments and fire, and the amount and types of treatment vary depending on restoration needs and priorities."

LaBrecque said the alternative "provides the best opportunities to improve vegetation diversity, restore and preserve watersheds, particularly those where water quality and listed fish species are a concern."

She also said it would provide for wildlife habitat through changes in vegetation, and reduce risks from uncharacteristic wildfires and insect and disease attacks.

It is likely that the preferred alternative will not be chosen exactly as presented in the draft EIS.

"We fully expect to be making changes based on what we hear from the public and other agencies," LaBrecque said. "This is why we want people to thoroughly review all of the alternatives and provide us with their thoughts."

A general summary of annual estimated outcomes for the Sawtooth National Forest, when comparing current management to the preferred alternative, shows the following:

  • The amount of timber offered for sale would decrease from 3.6 to 1.8 million board feet per year.

  • Pre-commercial thinning of overcrowded timber stands would increase from zero to 240 acres per year.

  • Range determined to be suitable for grazing would decrease from 683,300 to 670,900 acres per year.

  • Prescribed fires would increase from 500 to 2,620 acres per year.

  • Road construction projects would increase from .7 to 1.1 miles per year.

  • Road improvements would increase from 2.6 to 13.6 miles per year.

LaBrecque said there are many proposals in each alternative that are bound to be controversial with various forest users.

"We really are dealing with a very, very diverse public," she said. "It depends on who you’re talking to on which alternative they’ll want. The alternatives, all of them, are going to be controversial with somebody."

Copies of the plan are available at local libraries, at the Ketchum Ranger District in Ketchum, Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) headquarters and the SNRA Stanley Ranger Station.

The documents are also available on line at (http://www.northrim.net/sawtoothnf/revisionroom.html).

Public information workshops and public hearings on the draft EIS and draft forest management plan will be held in Twin Falls and Ketchum between Jan. 8 and Jan. 20.

A second round of hearings will be held between Jan. 22 and Feb. 9. Specific times and locations are yet to be set.

 

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