High Uintas Preservation Council
ACTION ALERT- PROTECT WHAT IS WILD ON THE ASHLEY!
DEADLINE: JULY 31, 2006
TELL THE ASHLEY NATIONAL FOREST THE WILD UINTAS SHOULD REMAIN JUST THAT!
As part of the ongoing Ashley National Forest revised forest planning process, the forest has released a preliminary draft information packet, Evaluation of Undeveloped Areas for Potential Wilderness.
The Ashley promises a formal draft proposal later this fall. While this is just a preliminary draft, with many sections of the document unfinished, a preliminary public comment period has been allowed through 31 July.
You can find the whole report on the Ashley forest planning website: http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/ashley/projects/forest_plan_revision/draft_wilderness_evaluation_report/draftwer.shtml or you can obtain it from Ashley National Forest, 355 N. Vernal Ave., Vernal, UT 84078.
IT IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT THAT YOUR COMMENTS ARE CRUCIAL, EVEN AT THIS EARLY PHASE.
LET YOUR WILD VOICE SING!
Submit your comments by July 31 to Kevin Elliott, Forest Supervisor, KBElliott@fs.fed.us or Rick Peaveler at email@example.com (make sure in the subject line you note Undeveloped Areas Evaluation) OR mail comments to:
Ashley National Forest
355 N. Vernal Ave.
Vernal, UT 84078
Attn.: Undeveloped Areas Evaluation
The PROPOSAL--and why your wild voice is so important even at this preliminary stage!
The Ashley has identified 37 roadless areas on the forest. At this preliminary stage, the forest has proposed that only FIVE areas have values high enough to be considered for wilderness evaluation and recommendation:
* Roadshed- 37,805 a. This is the “elephant’s trunk” extending from Leidy Peak on the west some 15 miles eastward including Eagle, Elk, Lake, and Burnt Creeks. It is one of the last mid- elevation contiguous stands of old forest left on the east end of the Uintas and is recognized for its wildlife and fisheries.
* North Slope High Country- 40,573 a. The magnificent drainages of Sheep Creek, Weyman Park and Lamb Lakes define this area, which is contiguous to the High Uintas Wilderness (HUW), Roadshed, the South Slope High Country and the roadless Burnt Fork/ Kabell Creek drainages on the North Slope of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
* South Slope High Country- 85,024 a. Like the North Slope High Country, of which this is a part, merely on the South Slope, it is the quintessential “bollies”-- rounded alpine peaks, dense forests and high glacial basins of the West and East forks of the Whiterocks, Blanchett Park, upper Dry Fork, Lakeshore Basin, the lonely Lake Wilde, and Marsh Peak. It is also contiguous to the High Uintas Wilderness, the lower Whiterocks, a portion of lower Dry Fork and High Uintas Unit B.
* High Uintas B- 46,413 a. Contiguous for 20+ miles with the High Uintas Wilderness and the South Slope High Country, this is the epitome of rugged, incised, dense forested canyons and high elevation ridgetops on the Uinta and Yellowstone River drainages, including one of the most wild canyons on the South Slope-- Crow Canyon.
* Ashdown Gorge- 31,869a. The stunning gorge of Ashdown Creek and Black Canyon represents diverse lower elevation forested country on the South Slope and exceptional avian and raptor habitat.
The GOOD STUFF
The roadless inventory itself is notable with about 678,000 acres of roadless areas identified-- 523,000 on the Uintas (313,000 acres adjacent and contiguous with the 460,000 acre High Uintas Wilderness) and 155,000 acres on the detached South Unit between Duchesne and Price.
The BAD, UGLY and DOWNRIGHT DISINGENUOUS
The Ashley has broken the single most important rule in analyzing these roadless areas for potential wilderness--it has taken a single, massive, roadless area and fragmented it into tiny, arbitrary, separate units that automatically diminish and bias its inherent wilderness/wild value. This practice was abandoned back in 1972 and shows just how far back the Ashley has reached to bias wilderness character!
FIVE roadless areas are indisputably one, all with contiguous boundaries to one another and the High Uintas Wilderness:
* Roadshed, North Slope High Country, South Slope High Country, High Uintas B and the Lower Whiterocks (description below). Furthermore, units referred to as High Uintas A and C (descriptions below), while not contiguous to these areas, have a common boundary with one another and the HUW! The fact is these seven areas have a common boundary with the HUW--they are a single unit encompassing and contiguous to the HUW, flowing north and south out of the east-west HUW. A single massive roadless area on both the Wasatch-Cache and Ashley National Forests, north and south slopes, envelopes the HUW!
* Lower Whiterocks- 32,611 a. Deeply incised and convoluted canyon of the Whiterocks River. Forested slopes, open parklands along portions of the river and steep cliffsides dominate this wild country. It is contiguous and part and parcel of the Whiterocks drainage in the South Slope High Country.
* High Uintas A- 21,669 a. This is the steep forested country on both sides of Moon Lake including Slate Creek and marvelous, meadow-dotted Fish Creek. The entire area is contiguous to the High Uintas Wilderness as well as Brown Duck Basin and the high plateau of Toquer Lake.
* High Uintas C- 48,851 a. This country is as steep, isolated and diverse as any on the Uintas. It consists of peaks near 12,000 feet elevation, numerous supalpine lakes rarely ever visited, deep canyons of old growth pine and spruce, and open sage and aspen parklands at 6,000 feet elevation. The entire boundary is contiguous to the High Uintas Wilderness and High Uintas A from Brown Duck Basin to the Grandview Trailhead and the Duchesne River-- well over 15 miles!
This single area (or seven, in the distorted view of the Ashley) cradles nearly 313,000 acres, making it one of the largest single roadless areas in the lower ’48!
Nearly as stunning as the anti-wilderness/roadless attitude seen in this evaluation is the fact that the Ashley’s evaluation did not include all of the information for public review- “availability and needs” analysis- for the roadless areas that did not receive a high capability rating. The Ashley determined that, because areas are of low wilderness capability, full public disclosure and review is not necessary! What a self-serving policy.
YOUR WILD VOICE MUST SING
*Fully and vigorously support the areas with a high wilderness rating, including the Lower Whiterocks and units High Uintas A and C.
They are all contiguous to one another and have a common boundary with the High Uintas Wilderness. They represent one massive intact roadless landscape, part and parcel with the HUW.
*The ecological value of roadless landscapes can’t be overstated or overlooked. Almost every roadless area on the Ashley is immediately adjacent to other roadless areas, usually separated by backcountry dirt roads.
This makes these areas exceptionally important as the landscape is dominated by undeveloped roadless areas, not isolated roadless landscapes. Almost all of these areas are mid-elevation, making them exceptionally important in an ecological context.
*Urge the Forest Service to provide all of the analysis and relevant information concerning these roadless areas and to allow at least 60 days to comment on this complex and crucial issue.
The Ashley knows the roadless issue is the most important and telling issue on the forest, but it is doing all it can do to minimize public review and accountability.
WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW?
Write a letter to Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott (address at top of this alert) that might look like this:
Dear Mr. Elliott:
Please accept these comments on the Evaluation of Undeveloped Areas for Potential Wilderness on the Ashley National Forest.
...Insert something about your love of the Uintas and wildness....
While the roadless inventory was notable, the areas determined to be capable for wilderness simply do not represent what is on the ground. Arbitrarily fragmenting a single roadless area into smaller areas is disingenuous and detracts from the remarkable size and ecological diversity of the area. Looking at the actual roadless area and its size and diversity clearly would enhance the capability rating. Without any doubt, these five areas- Roadshed, North Slope High Country, South Slope High Country, High Uintas B and the Lower Whiterocks- are all a single roadless area contiguous to one another and the High Uintas Wilderness, accounting for a single massive undeveloped landscape of over 242,000 acres! High Uintas A and C are both contiguous to one another and the High Uintas Wilderness; they represent a single area of 70,520 acres ranging in elevation from sage and aspen slopes at 6,000 feet to alpine cirques!
The simple matter of fact is the roadless country surrounding the High Uintas Wilderness is a single landscape, all of it literally contiguous to the High Uintas Wilderness flowing north and south out of the Uintas. When looked at it as the single undeveloped landscape that it is, one can only marvel at the unique opportunity the Forest Service has at preserving one of the largest undeveloped areas in the lower ’48!
It is also noteworthy to remember almost all of the roadless areas on the Ashley are literally immediately adjacent to one another, separated only by lightly used backcountry routes making roadlessness and undeveloped landscapes the dominant feature and one so important from a ecological perspective.
It was also very disconcerting the analysis did not harbor all of the necessary information to assist the public in making decisions on these areas by excluding the needs and availability data for the areas not determined to be of high capability.
Please keep us posted as this process moves along.
Please sing with a wild voice!
High Uintas Preservation Council
PO Box 72
Hyrum, UT 84319