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A SPECIAL ACTION ALERT FROM THE HIGH UINTAS PRESERVATION COUNCIL ON WCNF FOREST PLAN REVISION

"Preliminary Alternatives for the Wasatch-Cache Forest Plan Revision" requires our comments before September 29!

The Wasatch-Cache National Forest has finally released the Preliminary Alternatives, Wasatch-Cache National Forest Plan Revision. THIS IS NOT THE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (DEIS), but represents the 5 alternatives that will be evaluated in the DEIS. The DEIS will follow this document sometime later in the fall or early winter. To the credit of the Wasatch, they are asking for public review and comment on this intermediate step in the forest plan revision process. This document comes to us unfinished, as the Forest Service notes, and incomplete and serves only as a broad review of alternatives--an umbrella, if you will.

COMMENTS ARE DUE SEPTEMBER 29 to Bernie Weingardt, Forest Supervisor, Wasatch- Cache National Forest, Attn.: Revision Team, 8236 Federal Bldg., SLC, UT 84138 or ON LINE: kamurray@fs.fed.us

The five alternatives represent various themes:

  1. Conservation Biology, or nature-takes-its-course;
  2. Biodiversity;
  3. Need for Change and Proposed Action;
  4. No action, or continue-the-1985-plan;
  5. Development, or traditional- rural- economy- culture.

This alert will focus primarily on the disposition of roadless areas.

THANK THE HEAVENS FOR THE NATIONAL ROADLESS AREA CONSERVATION PROPOSAL (NRACP)!
  1. This is the first real SNAG in what has been a progressive planning effort. Alternatives 4 and 5 make no wilderness recommendations at all (this makes sense for #4 since the '85 plan made no new wilderness recommendation as it followed on the heels of the 1984 Utah Wilderness Act). This proposal notes the roadless recommendations were made prior to the NRCP and if the proposal is completed before the DEIS is released, which is expected, then the DEIS will show that roadless areas will be protected consistent with that final determination. Alt. 4 shows that only 22% of the 574,000 acres of Wasatch roadless areas would be formally protected as roadless--only 18% of the 103,000 acres on the North Slope of the High Uintas, only 1/2 of the Lakes/Mt. Watson area, only 31% of Naomi, and on and on! Alt. 5 is, of course, worse, protecting only 19% of the roadless acreage, 8% on the Uintas, 1/2 of the Lakes and a roaring 1% of Mt. Naomi, for example!
  2. We are surprised by Alt. #3, Proposed Action, the supposed need-for-change-alternative! It recommends only 9% of the roadless acreage as wilderness, a mere 21,000 a. on the North Slope of the Uintas, NONE on the Lakes, a major surprise and let down, only 10% of Naomi, 13% of the Stansburys and the like! Add to that another 183,000 acres, 31% of the roadless acreage, that would actually be protected as roadless. The alternatives document notes most other roadless areas would probably never be developed due to other management prescriptions but throughout this process comments to the Forest Service have urged that this be stated clearly in the particular management prescription. The Wasatch wants us to believe what they say but refuses to write it down plainly and clearly so there will be no future confusion and different expectations. Only 9 of 32 roadless areas in this alternative receive some form of formal roadless/wilderness protection, despite clear evidence that one of the primary needs for change in forest management is the unequivocal scientific baseline to protect roadless areas!

    Of course, because of the roadless policy it is likely and hopeful that these problems will be put aside to some extent because the national policy will protect roadless areas (see HUPC's LYNX, 6/00 and 8/00). What is frustrating to so many of us is that instead of coming from the Wasatch, it had to come from the top down, leading one to wonder just how progressive the Forest really wants to be!
    BUT GOOD ALTERNATIVES ARE NOT UNKNOWN TO THE WASATCH!
  3. Alts. 1 and 2 are meaningful and valuable alternatives, albeit with some minor problems. Alt. 1 recommends 45% of the roadless acreage as wilderness with large additions to the North Slope of the Uintas, 71,000 acres, ~36,000 a. to Mt. Naomi, ~35,000 a. to Deseret Peak (Stansbury Mts.), among many other good recom- mendations on Twin Peak, Mt. Olympus, Lone Peak. While this alternative recommends 60,000 a. as wilderness on the Lakes/Mt. Watson area, it should be closer to 80,000 acres. This alternative does fully protect all roadless acres from road building, timber harvesting, BUT LEAVES MANY AREAS OPEN TO SNOWMOBILES!
  4. Alt. 2 is a bit disappointing. A paltry 29,000 acres of the North Slope is recommended as wilderness, only 43,000 acres on the Lakes/Mt. Watson, 8,000 acres on Naomi, etc. While all roadless acres are protected, MOST WOULD BE OPEN TO SNOWMOBILES and even some timber harvesting! About 17% of the roadless acreage is recommended as wilderness.
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF VERY HOPEFUL AND POSITIVE COMPONENTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE FIRST THREE ALTERNATIVES:

* discourage introduction of non-native species (1-3) * protection of wildlife corridors (1-2) * wildland fires allowed (1-3) * timber harvesting not allowed in roadless areas (1), or to achieve historic conditions (2-3) * no ski area expansion (1-3) * no additional recreational facilities (1);limited facilities consistent with management prescriptions (2-3) * no oil and gas leasing on North Slope (1)

...BUT THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT PROBLEMS:

* snowmobiling allowed on most areas w. exception of lynx habitat and wilderness recommendations (1-3) * reliance on structural improvements to restore watersheds rather than limits on uses (2-3) * oil and gas leasing even in roadless areas--no surface occupancy instead of no lease proposal (2-3) * the nemesis, forest health, pops up in an ugly fashion with emphasis on thinning/harvesting (2-3)

...AND SOME UGLY PROBLEMS:

* Alternative 5 is obviously purely a response to local rural WY counties intent on maintaining the archaic "culture and custom" arguments, despite the fact that the demographics of these rural counties have changed dramatically and are simply no longer dependent upon outdated, ecologically illiterate management.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO NOW?

*Remember, this is not the DEIS so it isn't important to support one alternative over another. But becuase the whole DEIS turns on the quality of the alternatives, we must make sure the alternatives are meaningful, ecologically based and not skewed toward the development of the forest! 1- Urge the Forest Service to protect all roadless areas, independent of the NRCP, with a formal roadless area protection prescription in Alt.3, the Proposed Action, particularly since it is based on a need-for-change. The scientific data and broad public support for protection of roadless areas is clear, concise and convincing. 2- While the wilderness recommendations are reasonably gratifying in Alternative 1, the drop-off is implausible within Alts 2-5, particularly 2 and 3. In particular, the Lakes/Mt. Watson area wilderness recommendation should be larger, more akin to HUPC's recommendations, and should be carried in both 1 and 2. Certainly a 60,000-80,000 acre Lakes roadless area should be carried in the proposed action alternative. At the minimum the wilderness recommendations adjacent to the existing wildernesses (High Uintas, Mt. Naomi, Deseret Peak, Twin Peaks, Lone Peak, Mt. Olympus, and the Wellsvilles) in #1 should be carried through #2 and the proposed action to meet both the intent of #2 and the need-for-change in #3. 3- Oil and gas leasing should reflect a No Lease for all roadless areas in at least #1-#3.Again, this meets the intent of the alternatives and the need-for-change. 4- Snowmobiling should be curtailed in all roadless areas in #1 and in roadless areas adjacent to designated wilderness in #2-3. 5- Make the forest Servcie re-think alternative #5 to reflect true rural demographics, not a few diehard sheepmen. The real Cache Co., UT or Uintah Co., WY are not represented in Alt. 5!

These are but a few ideas in this long and complex process. We urge you to take a few minutes to read this alert, think about the importance of the forest plan and make your wild voice heard. We really have no choice. With a meaningful set of alternatives the DEIS becomes a document that can move us toward an ecological view of the Wasatch-- not business-as-usual. <<Remember, SEPTEMBER 29: Bernie Weingardt, Forest Supervisor, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Attn.: Revision Team, 8236 Federal Bldg., SLC, UT 84138 or on-line: kamurray@fs.fed.us>>

THANK YOU SO MUCH FRIENDS!

Dick Carter High Uintas Preservation Council P.O. Box 72 Hyrum, UT 84319 435-245-6747


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