Forests release new planning blueprints
Forest health cited as priority
"We ask people to be patient. Changes
will not occur overnight and it will take time, years in many cases, to see the
results. We will also need to amend or update the plans periodically and ask for
your input and involvement in helping to correct problems when they are
— RUTH MONAHAN, Sawtooth National
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
With the release of new forest plans last
week, the Sawtooth, Boise and Payette National Forests said they are turning
management focus away from what the forests can produce and toward improving
The three forests announced completion of
the land management plans and an associated environmental impact statement on
Thursday, July 31. Release of the documents caps seven years of public
involvement, drafting and redrafting.
The new documents establish new
operational blueprints for 6.6 million acres of federally managed land through
the next 10 to 15 years.
"We realize that the decisions being made
for future management of the three forests will not please everyone on every
topic," said Payette National Forest Supervisor Mark Madrid.
Forest plans are similar to municipal
comprehensive plans. They set the courses for future management of publicly
owned lands and are broad in scope. While they do not make site-specific
decisions, they provide rough guidelines for subsequent projects to follow.
Original forest plans were developed in
1987 for the Sawtooth Forest, 1988 for the Payette Forest and 1990 for the Boise
Forest. According to a Forest Service press release, the revised plans emphasize
restoration or maintenance of vegetation and watershed conditions and focus on
the condition of the forests rather than on what they can produce.
"Managing and protecting the natural
resources on the 6.6 million acres … is very complex and demanding," said
Sawtooth National Forest Supervisor Ruth Monahan. "We ask people to be patient.
Changes will not occur overnight, and it will take time, years in many cases, to
see the results. We will also need to amend or update the plans periodically and
ask for your input and involvement in helping to correct problems when they are
The Idaho Conservation League believes it
has already identified a problem.
"Unfortunately the plans open the door to
salvage logging—with no ecological benefits—on three-fourths of the roadless
areas," said ICL Policy Director John McCarthy. "Salvage logging might have
conceptual economic benefits, but in reality there is no competitive market and
limited sawmills. The Forest Service intention must be to continue to play
politics with our public lands."
The plan allows for the possibility of
salvage logging on almost 70 percent of forest land covered under the federal
Roadless Initiative. That includes 147,000 acres within the 2.6 million acres of
road-free land on the three forests.
The Idaho Conservation League, and other
environmental groups, worked with Forest Service planners to identify critical
areas near homes and communities to protect through fuels reductions.
McCarthy said fire plans for fuels
reduction and ecological restoration are improved in the new Forest Plans, but
few of the remote road-free areas that could be opened to salvage logging border
the "wildland urban interface" near homes and communities where fuels treatments
may be most effective.
"No ecological benefits are established by
science or experience for salvage logging, while risks for wildlife, water
quality, recreation and economic viability are high," McCarthy said.
However, the plan also reduces the land
considered suitable for commercial timber sales from 1.75 million to 1 million
acres and retains a long-standing recommendation for 655,000 acres of additional
wilderness. It calls for no development activity on another 620,000 acres of
At a public hearing in Ketchum in 2001,
local residents said they approve of the Forest Service’s conservation-minded
approach in the then-draft documents.
McCarthy also stressed his approval.
"The emphasis on species conservation and
restoration is welcome and long overdue," he said.