Forest plan focuses on conservation
"The alternatives, all of them, are going to be controversial
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
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 Sawtooths 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
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
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 youre talking to on which alternative theyll
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
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
A second round of hearings will be held between Jan. 22 and Feb. 9.
Specific times and locations are yet to be set.