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The Phoenix of West Trout Slope A HISTORY

...In the days of yore, 1998 to be exact, the Ashley National Forest proposed the West Trout Slope Timber Sale (see HUPC Newsletter and LYNX 8/98, 10/98, 2/99), a massive timber sale which would have opened 33 miles of new roads and proposed constructing seven miles of new roads. Loudly the voices of wisdom yelled, including many in the Forest Service itself, and this sale and many like it were shelved.

Unfortunately the expiration date for this shelved item, it turns out, wasn't "never," but 7/2002! Admittedly and thanks to the good sense of the Ashley National Forest, what is coming off the shelf is much different than what went on the shelf, but, nonetheless, still of some concern.


This is but the first step of the process-- Scoping. What follows will be a Draft Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment. This first step is so important to set the tone and concern.


Comments should be sent to:

Brad Exton, District Ranger
Vernal Ranger District Ashley National Forest
355 N. Vernal Ave.
Vernal, UT 84078
or bexton/


The proposed West Trout Slope Timber Sale lies between Oaks Park and Long Park Reservoirs, an 18,000 acre analysis area, easily one of the heaviest roaded areas on the South Slope of the Uintas, Vernal Ranger District. Get your satellite photographs out and you will see the "clearcuts from space" (see HUPC Newsletter 6/98) in this particular area. The Ashley is now proposing to harvest about 9 million board feet of timber on 2,170 acres, opening only 12 miles of extant but closed roads, and reconstructing only 1/2 mile of road. The road-a-ma nia seems to have dissipated considerably. All the opened roads would be closed and re-seeded after the harvest. No roadless country will be affected and proposed harvesting methods would be individual tree harvesting of dead and dying trees with some thinning. The objectives, nonetheless, are always the same: reduce fuel loads, prevent a future condition of downed and jack-strawed timber, increase tree species diversity, increase growth and recover the economic value of wood products.


Primarily on the Ashley Creek drainage, West Trout Slope consists of a plateau-like series of undulating ridges broken by small sub-watersheds of Ashley Creek. Elevations range from just above 9,000 feet to a few rounded peaks well over 10,000 feet. Most of the area is at about 9,500 feet and consists of climax or persistent lodgepole pine stands, may of them affected by a pine beetle infestation during the early 1980s. Some stands of mixed spruce and lodgepole pine are also in the area. It is heavily harvested; clear-cuts abound with very few remaining old and mature stands of trees.

The continuous stands of lodgepole pine are literally defined by fire (see Fire article); the two go hand in hand. The mixed conifer- subalpine areas depend upon fires as well but the frequency of fire is far less. Like so many places in the West the Forest Service's Smokey the Bear successfully retarded fire frequency and severity in these two systems, thus enhancing the likelihood of fire severity outside of the normal conditions along with the extensive timber harvesting and dense road construction.


The reason this area is dysfunctional now (admitted by the Forest Service in the Trout Slope Analysis Area Report) is all of the past timber harvesting, road construction and fire prevention. Wildlife habitat is already deeply fragmented. Thus:

  1. Urge the Forest Service to do NO harvesting in any unharvested old growth or mature stands of timber, dead or otherwise. Dead trees are crucial to many interior wildlife species, particularly birds, nutrient recycling, soil stability and insects; harvesting dead trees in this area must be prohibited;
  2. Harvest only within extant clear-cuts or other harvested areas. Conduct no additional clear-cuts or large opening harvest systems. This will assure re-growth mimics the natural system of large, even-aged patches br oken by natural topographic barriers and different-aged, even aged patches. Let fires then intervene in the system since fire is the foundation of this forest type!
  3. Initiate no new road construction; close all but Forest Service general transportation system roads. This proposal is a vast improvement and has the characteristics of meaningful rehabilitation, over past proposals, but it can be made even better with your wild voice.

Dick Carter 

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