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For the week of January 3 through January 9, 2001

Combined forest plan would stress conservation

Express Staff Writer

The Sawtooth, Boise and Payette national forests have issued a draft joint management plan that puts more emphasis on forest restoration than does current policy.

In the Forest Service drafting mill for close to five years, the document offers several alternative planning visions for the next 10 to 15 years. They are in the form of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), and 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 next November.

The Forest Service will hold public information meetings on the plan in the next two weeks. Meetings will be held at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls on Jan. 8, at the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce meeting hall in Ketchum on Jan. 10 and at the Challis Ranger District office on Jan. 11.

All three open-house meetings will be from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Information booths will be set up to discuss various natural resource topics, including wilderness, Wild and Scenic rivers, botany, wildlife and fisheries.

A round of public hearings will follow shortly thereafter, where oral and written comments will be accepted. Public hearings will be held at the College of Southern Idaho campus in Twin Falls on Jan. 23 and at the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce meeting hall in Ketchum on Jan. 25.

Public hearings will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The draft EIS considers six management alternatives for all three forests that range between "no action," high restrictions on human uses and emphasis on producing goods and services.

The EIS cites a preferred alternative that places a "high priority on restoring and protecting forest resources," said Sawtooth National Forest planner Sharon LaBrecque. She has worked as part of a management plan team, with representatives from each of the three forests, since 1996.

The preferred alternative, alternative three, is a more conservation-minded approach to resource management than current policies, LaBrecque said.

"Alternative three emphasizes watershed and vegetation restoration to achieve or approach historical range...," the draft EIS states. "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."

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

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

According to a forest service press release, implementation of alternative three would result in less grazing and commercial timber harvest, but increased thinning of the forest to reduce fire hazard.

However, selection of the preferred alternative exactly as presented in the draft EIS is unlikely.

"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."

LaBrecque said there are many proposals in each of the six alternatives 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 office in Ketchum, Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters at North Fork and the SNRA Stanley Ranger Station.

The documents are also available online at (


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