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For the week of Dec. 15, 1999 through Dec. 21, 1999

Local hearing on roadless initiative set

Express Staff Writer

After it appeared as though local residents would have to travel to Twin Falls or not participate, Sawtooth National Forest officials scheduled a public meeting in Ketchum to receive comments regarding President Bill Clinton’s roadless initiative.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at Ketchum City Hall, 480 East Avenue North.

"We decided to provide this opportunity after receiving requests for a meeting here in the Wood River Valley," Ketchum District ranger Kurt Nelson said.

The Forest Service will provide a brief presentation on the background of the president’s proposal and the process for making decisions. The majority of the meeting will be dedicated to listening and recording comments from the public regarding the proposal, according to a Sawtooth National Forest press release.

Nelson and Sawtooth National Recreation Area ranger Deb DesLaurier will be there to help answer questions.

Similar hearings have been taking place around the state in the past week, and newspapers are reporting that flocks of people are turning out to protest or support the initiative. In rural areas of Idaho, miners, loggers and ranchers, in general, are turning out to speak against Clinton’s proposal while a recent hearing in Boise was flooded with environmentalists in favor of the initiative.

In all, Clinton’s plan could protect 40 million acres of land from road building nationwide. In Idaho, there are 9,449,400 acres of national forest that don’t have roads.

"The president is asking us to work with the public to develop a rule that would initiate a two-part process to protect roadless areas," Sawtooth National Forest supervisor Bill LeVere said. "If adopted, part one of the rule would immediately restrict certain activities, such as road construction in (road-free) portions of inventoried roadless areas."

He said the second part of the president’s proposed order is to establish national direction for managing the inventoried road-free areas in the future and for determining whether, and to what extent, similar protections should be extended to non-inventoried road-free areas.

LeVere said the 1987 Sawtooth Forest Plan identifies approximately 702,000 acres in that category.

The deadline for comments during the initial phase of the process is Dec. 20.

However, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne has received support for his request to extend the initial public comment period by 120 days.

After the Dec. 20 deadline, according to LeVere, the Forest Service will begin drafting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a national level.

The draft EIS will be released this spring. The Forest Service will seek more public comment in the process before making a final decision. The final decision is expected to be made in December of 2000.


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