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HUPC ACTION UPDATE

* The UTAH WOLF MEETINGS of early March have come and gone. Part of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) wolf planning process (see HUPC LYNX 12/03, 2/03, HUPC Special Alert 2/04), the hearings, from Logan to St. George, were sponsored by the Utah Wolf Working Group, a group formed by UDWR consisting of a few mild voices supporting wolves and a vast majority of ardent, hysterical (in both senses of the word!), terrified opponents of wolves. The meetings were, not surprisingly, but nonetheless with disappointment, dominated by those fearful of wolves. The highlighted issue at these meetings was one of ëno wolvesî with enough myth to hold a person for a lifetime that wolves will kill all of the deer, elk, moose, cows, sheep, dogs and maybe even all of us.

But the issue is only peripherally about wolves. While they are the symbol, the icon, this is really about our relationship to wild land and truly wild species-- land and critters that we don't control. Few things are easier in wildlife/wildland management that managing deer or elk herds and stands of trees it is an agricultural model, thus the term big game or regulated forest. Herds are mapped, counted, even named. The same with regulated forests; map them, define them by stands of timber, types of vegetation and it takes on a different context-- nearly tamed context. But predators and unmanaged wildlands are a different thing. They are unkempt, active at night, and resist the very idea of managementafter all, wolves eat deer!

And to some, it goes still deeper and that is a fear of wildland and real wild creatures because they are not human endeavors. Literally, it is the bump in the night. Big game like deer and elk are highly regulated and managed species, but wolves run and live in family packs, are cunning, incredibly communicative, smart, even analytical and, of course, they kill to live. Because of those traits they represent no threat to humans; on that, the evidence suffers from no ambiguity. Packs of wolves will not be pursuing humans; they rarely even confront humans. But their existence in the dark pine forests where they take refuge intrigues many, and scares some. The myths seem to prevail and are always hard to lay down.

If wildness, not just recreation, matters to you, we hope you will notify UDWR of your support for allowing wolf to come back home. Ask them to submit your comments as part of the formal record. Contact:
Craig McLaughlin
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
P.O. Box 146301
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6301
WolfComments@utah.gov

* Lost in a maze of convoluted history is the Wasatch-Cache National Forest and Evanston Ranger Districtís/oil and gas industry paper trail for the Main Fork oil and gas drilling proposal (HUPC Review, 1/97). The proposal was initiated in the early 90's. The Table Top leasing unit already in existence for over a decade then, is now lost in decades of history and clock stopping suspensions. (In theory, a lease has a life span of ten years, but in a decidedly biased twist of fate, leases often "last" for decades and decades without any activity or drilling!) And now because of the Wasatch-Cache forest plan revision (HUPC LYNX, 6/01, 12/01, 4/03, 8/03) and a long desire of the forest and ranger district, a supplemental EIS (SEIS) will be released this month proposing to again allow road building and drilling on the roadless Main Fork just below Hell Hole Basin and the High Uintas Wilderness.

Among a plethora of reasons for suspending drilling has been the desire of the oil company (it has changed hands numerous times and last we knew was called Double Eagle Petroleum) to obtain a couple of parcels of land not yet leased within the leasing unit. That decision was made in the forest plan to lease those lands. We, of course, appealed that decision (HUPC LYNX 8/03), but in another devious twist of fate, the Forest Service approved the forest plan and has still not responded to the forest plan appeals. They recently told us no formal time frame exists to get them answered-- a team is working on them-- thus, the leases were issued under the forest plan and drilling proposed.

So watch for an SEIS, a 45 day comment period and let your wild voice growl!

* Along these lines, we again note the decade of waiting for a decision on the Evanston Ranger District West Fork Blacks Fork grazing allotment continues (see HUPC LYNX, 10/03). It is not the least bit funny, though in the Forest Service some must think so, that an important grazing decision on the High Uintas Wilderness can be started, completed, pulled back, stalled, started ever so slowly again while the agency can ram through a timber sale proposal, the East Fork Fire Salvage Timber Sale DEIS (HUPC LYNX, 4/03, Special Alert, 2/04) in a year and then jumps at the beck and call of an oil and gas drilling proposal.

* The Ashley National Forest, Vernal Ranger District, is preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Lake and Dry Fork Allotments. The district is to be commended for preparing an EIS and for broadening the analysis to consider numerous important issues:

  • Water quality, soils, long term productivity and nutrient cycling.
  • Considerable portions of these allotments are within Ashley National Forest inventoried roadless areas, particularly the notable wild country on the Black Canyon allotment.
  • Significant concerns exist over increasing exotic plant/noxious weed invasions.
  • Of significant concern is the economics of grazing--not a rationalization but a real economic review of the costs of grazing on these sensitive lands.
  • A meaningful array of alternatives, including a phase out of grazing, must be prepared.

Rangelands on today's national forest lands have a much broader value than pasture land. That is the issue. The ecological values-- the definition of this system-- are the cornerstone.

Dick Carter


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