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ACTION ALERT: WASATCH-CACHE NATIONAL FOREST WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS DRAFT INVENTORY

COMMENTS NEEDED BY FEBRUARY 19! THE WASATCH-CACHE NATIONAL FOREST HAS RELEASED ITS DRAFT INVENTORY OF RIVERS FOR INCLUSION IN THE NATIONAL WILD
AND RIVERS SYSTEM. COMMENTS SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO:
BERNIE WEINGARDT, FOREST SUPERVISOR
WASATCH CACHE NATIONAL FOREST
8236 FEDERAL BUILDING, 125 SO.STATE STREET, SLC, UT  84138

Way back in May 1998 the Forest Service initiated a public scoping process to update the Wild and Scenic River evaluation process. As you know, the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA) is a multi-step process requiring (1) an identification and inventory of eligible rivers and (2) a suitability determination. To be eligible for wild or scenic status a river must be both free-flowing and possess at least one outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geological, fish, wildlife, historical, cultural or ecological value. In 1993 the Wasatch concluded only a small segment of the Stillwater Fork of the Bear River contained any of these values!

This time around, however, the Wasatch responded to a broader understanding of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and many of your voices by recommending 31 stream segments as eligible for further evaluation! 17 of those streams are on the Uintas including:
Henry’s Fk Henrys Fork Lake to trailhead Wild
W. Fk Beaver Creek, source to forest boundary Wild and Scenic
Middle Fk Beaver Creek, Beaver Lake to mouth Wild and Scenic
W. Fk Blacks Fork, source to trailhead Wild and Scenic
E. Fk Blacks Fk, headwaters to confl w L. E. Fk Wild
Little E. Fk Blacks Fk, source to mouth Wild
W. Fk & E. Fk confl to Meeks Cabins Res. Recreational
W. Fk Smiths Fk, source to forest boundary Scenic
E. Fk Smiths Fk, Red Castle L. to trailhead Wild
Hayden Fk, source to mouth Recreational
Stillwater, source to mouth Wild and Scenic
Ostler Fk, source to mouth Wild
Left, Right and E. Fk Bear Wild
Boundary Creek, source to E. Fk Bear Wild
Middle Fork Weber, source to confl w Weber Wild
Beaver Creek, source to forest boundary Recreational
Provo River, Trial Lake to U 35 Bridge S&R

There can be no debate that this draft eligibility recommendation is notable and the Wasatch-Cache National Forest deserves commendation. Given the subjective and judgmental aspects of making these kinds of recommendations, there are always going to be a series of small problems. In this case they are overshadowed by the giant step forward. But there are problems, nonetheless, which need to be addressed and resolved to make this eligibility recommendation as meaningful as it could be.

First and foremost, at least four river segments have been mistakenly overlooked as eligible.

1- Middle Fk Blacks Fk. This 10 mile stretch of river harbors obviously outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational geological, fish, wildlife and ecological values. Many users of the Uintas, from hunters, fishers, to backpackers and wilderness enthusiasts, consider the Middle Fork of the Blacks Fork one of the most wild rivers and drainages on the Uintas. About 2 miles is within the HIGH UINTAS WILDERNESS and the rest is adjacent roadless country. It is a large meandering river from its inception. Working up the drainage it is river dominated by huge forested slopes with portions of the river forested to its banks. Other portions open into wide  expansive meadows where the river meanders and flows quietly and deeply. Beaver are noticeable. Pine marten are seen. The great gray owl is tucked in these deep old growth forests. Moose are throughout the drainage. Coyotes, black bear and even cougar are seen here. At least two species of woodpeckers are found in these forests. There are a couple of huge rock slides. Like the West Fork Blacks Fork, a hiker is in touch with this river as you must cross it back and forth, working your way up through lodgepole pine forest to classic subalpine parklands and spruce fir forests. The river circles in and about these meadows and the base of 13,000 foot Tokewana Peak. Literally the Middle Fork starts on the shoulder of this massif. Early in the summer sandhill cranes are seen and listened and the common loon heard on its stopover as they migrate north.

2-E. Fork Blacks Fork from the confluence of the Little E. Fk to the Blacks Fork is a stunningly quiet)acknowledged by the Forest Service in previous planning efforts!) and beautiful stretch of river offering a semi-primitive motorized recreational experience surrounded by wilderness/wildness/roadless landscapes and accessed by a rough, but 2 wheel drive passable road. The river winds in and out of stands of lodgepole pine and open meadows, making for a remarkable fishing and camping experience w/o the crowds and dwarfed by high peaks and wild country.

3- Burnt Fork is a very unique drainage as it flows through a narrow steep roadless canyon in its lower reaches, literally popping out into the high subalpine and alpine country of   Big and McCoy Parks within the High Uintas Wilderness. It is a lightly used but very wild access into the eastern bollies of the Uintas. While elevations of the high peaks have dropped off from 12,000-13,000 foot peak ridgelines, this country is rimmed by lower subalpine ridgelines and 11,000-12,000 foot rounded peaks (bollies). Bighorn sheep reside here, along with the native Colorado River cutthroat trout, pine marten, old growth avian species, moose, elk, black bear and cougar. It is habitat for lynx and wolverine-- sightings of both have occurred here. It offers the recreationist a recreationist experience with a natural, integral functioning montaine ecosystem. It is a wonderful example of a U-shaped glacial valley incised by deep alluvial erosion.

4-The Main Weber River runs through the roadless country of the Lakes Backcountry and HUPC’s proposed Mt. Watson Wilderness. It quickly leaves the high country churning through a deep, steep-walled, ledge-filled canyon of aspen, spruce and lodgepole pine. The upper reaches of the canyon are filled with old growth forests and pine marten, goshawk, a few moose and black bear; it is prime habitat for lynx and Bonneville cutthroat trout. The river is wide, the canyon “narrow,” steadily descending through willows, aspen and alder right to the shore. A few small meadows are found along the stream but generally it is a river in  a deep canyon. While the river starts in a small glacial basin, it shows the effects of alluvial cutting rather than the typical U-shaped glacially carved system. It receives heavy recreational and fishing use.

We have in front of us a very hopeful process which deserves and needs your
support. While supporting the Wasatch-Cache National Forest vigorously push
the inclusion of these rivers as eligible for wild and scenic status under
the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Thank you!


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