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KAMAS NON-MOTORIZED RECREATION PLAN FOR MT. WATSON PROPOSED WILDERNESS, LAKES BACKCOUNTRY!! COMMENTS DUE JANUARY 7, 1999

The Kamas Ranger District has finally released the Backcountry Recreation Plan for the Proposed Mt. Watson Wilderness Area (the Lakes Backcountry) which includes all of the roadless country from Kamas east to Bald Mountain. This includes the headwaters of the Weber and Provo Rivers, including such notable drainages as the Main and Middle Forks of the Weber, Smith Morehouse, and the North Fork of the Provo and Shingle Creek.

COMMENTS ARE DUE BY JANUARY 7, 1999 TO JANE COTTRELL, DISTRICT RANGER, KAMAS RANGER DISTRICT, WASATCH-CACHE NATIONAL FOREST, P.O. BOX 68, KAMAS, UT  84036.

In March 1996 the Kamas Ranger District released a scoping document on managing the Lakes Backcountry which was then updated and re-released in May 1997 (see HUPC Newsletter, March/April 1997  and October 1998 for a “picture,” map and discussion of many of the issues facing the Lakes Backcountry--we are referring to it as the Proposed Mt. Watson Wilderness).

On balance this is a good document and the Kamas Ranger District should be commended.

The premise of the plan is that increasingly heavy backcountry recreational use, including dozens of outfitting and guiding proposals, threaten the recreational experience and biological integrity of 100,000+ acres of the undeveloped backcountry, most of it closed to summertime motorized recreation use. Thus the plan proposes to maintain the nonmotorized nature of the area and acknowledges the area meets the definition of roadless and potential wilderness while zoning the backcountry into the Provo River heavy use zone and the Weber River light use zone. The distinguishing factors would be the Provo River would be managed for group size of 25 beating hearts (human, horse, etc.) and the creation
of some designated campsites, including campfires sites around heavy use lakes. The Weber River zone would allow a maximum group size of 15 beating hearts.

The plan also proposes numerous additional standards and guidelines including good recreation livestock controls and the closure of all the trails in the roadless area to mountain bikes (this still leaves over 200 miles of trails and rough dirt roads for mt. biking). But it still refuses, unfortunately, to deal with
the important ecological issues surrounding non-native fish stocking. The plan also fails to modify the travel plan which leaves the bulk of the area open to snowmobiles during the winter. Both contradict the stated decision to enhance the sustainability of the biological values and nonmotorized values of the area!

The district is taking a significant step to deal with outfitting and guiding in a systematic manner by requiring potential outfitters to meet resource goals, assist in environmental education and meet Forest Service mission/resource responsibilities. Need will not be determined simply by an open piece of land and a proposal by an prospective outfitter. While these are laudable steps they do not go far enough.

THE MAJOR PROBLEMS and WHAT YOU SHOULD DO!!

Even though there are problems with the plan it represents a good and visionary plan. Support it-- and suggest a couple of changes:

  • The EA admits the minimum group size of 25 beating hearts will restrict only 1% of the
    user groups in the area. Obviously the standard is far too liberal to have any affect on
    the problem the agency has defined--too many folks in a small an fragile land base. The
    group size should be consistent across the landscape at 10 beating hearts/group. The
    research suggests larger groups cause inordinate social and physical conflicts and
    impacts. Suggest to the Kamas Ranger District that large groups should be
    ushered into the semiprimitive motorized areas on the District such as the
    Haystack/Beth/Blue/Hourglass Lakes area along the Spring Creek Road or Murdock Basin,
    including the Fehr/Shephard/Marshall/Echo/Joan Lakes area. This is less wild, more
    accessible and “harder” country, offering the kind of experience associated with
    larger groups.
  • The EA consistently analyzes impacts of recreation on recreation uses and values rather
    than impacts to the wild nature of the landscape including soils, water and wildlife. This
    must be addressed.
  • There are only two alternatives considered--do it or
    don’t do it! There should be an alternative that analyzes no-outfitting and guiding.
    This would provide a sound baseline.
  • The EA must consider the effects of stocking non-native fisheries on the biotic
    environment and how that stocking creates serious environmental conflicts around the
    heaviest used backcountry lakes.
  • The EA should consider a campfire closure similar to the Naturalist Basin closure on the upper Provo River backcountry lakes.

    COMMENTS ARE DUE JANUARY 7 and should be sent to Jane Cottrell, Kamas District Ranger, W-C National Forest P.O. Box 68, Kamas, UT  84036.

Thanks so much!
Dick Carter


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