Combined forest plan would stress conservation
By GREG STAHL
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
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
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
"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
The documents are also available online at