HUPC ISSUE UPDATES
Ashley N. F. Wilderness Grazing
In March the Duchesne/ Roosevelt Ranger District initiated a review of eleven grazing allotments on the South Slope of the Uintas, all within the High Uintas Wilderness.
It was an odd document.
First, the scoping document didn’t even mention the eleven allotments were entirely within the High Uintas Wilderness, encompassing some 206,000 acres. Why the fear of wilderness? Why can’t it be even written in a scoping document? The map notes the word wilderness but doesn’t even note the wilderness is the High Uintas Wilderness- the dominant feature on the district and the forest. Could the Ashley, after all of these years, still be slightly embittered, even embarrassed, by the High Uintas Wilderness?
Second, the proposal by the district is not to prepare any new environmental analysis documents but to review recent existing documents for any changed circumstances to determine if the existing analysis is sufficient.
Third, three of the allotments- Fall Creek (presently ungrazed), Painter Basin and Tungsten- were all previously analyzed in a decision memo in 2006. No new circumstances exist other than the original analysis failed to evaluate historic and prehistoric resources. That is being done in this analysis.
Fourth, six of the allotments- Five Point, Uinta, East Basin, Grandaddy Basin, Squaw Basin and Shale Creek- are allocated to recreation livestock--outfitter and guide and personal horse use. We think it is probably appropriate on these allotments to analyze the existing environmental document for changed circumstances rather than preparing new environmental analyses.
Last and not least, Oweep and Ottoson deserve a full analysis (the environmental analysis documents are out of date) to determine whether grazing on these allotments is appropriate. Only 40% of the nearly 30,000 acres in these two allotments is deemed suitable for grazing! Let’s hope a meaningful review will take place, not the old get-it-done, reauthorize grazing and the-public-be-damned.
In an ambitious effort this summer, underway right now, the Duchesne/Roosevelt Ranger District has begun the process of stabilizing Kidney Lake Reservoir on the Lake Fork drainage and Five Point, Superior, Bluebell and Drift Lake Reservoirs-- all on the Yellowstone drainage and all within the High Uintas Wilderness. This will mean that, over the last 4 years Water Lily, White Miller and Farmers Lake on the Yellowstone/Swift Creek drainages, and Clements Lake, Island and Brown Duck, all within Brown Duck Basin on the Lake Fork drainage, have been stabilized. Reservoirs on East Timothy and Deer Lake (Swift Creek) still await stabilization next year.
Well ahead of the decade-long schedule to stabilize these 13 wilderness reservoir lakes, this process to return lakes to their natural level is a huge, hopeful undertaking that will allow these lakes to function as wild lakes, not reservoirs. (For a complete history, see HUPC Lynx 4/97, 4/99, 4/01, 8/01, 12/01, 6/02, 2/04, 6/04, 6/06, 10/07.)
At a recent meeting the Duchesne/Ro-osevelt District Ranger called it something like a white hat project. Indeed, once stabilized these reservoirs will never again be operational. No more work will be done.
But a white hat project may be a bit of an overstatement. It’s more like a gray hat! When first discussed over a decade ago the context of the reservoir stabilization project was, with a few exceptions, that non-motorized, primitive tools would be utilized. Shortly into the actual project (some four years back), the decision was made--required by the State of Utah--that each reservoir had to be completely stabilized in a single season. The Forest Service seemingly adopted this single season rule without much resistance; we are told Forest Service engineers agreed with the rule. This first default position, not anticipated in the original Central Utah Water Conservancy District Uinta Basin Replacement Project Environmental Assessment, led to the second default position: helicopter access and small motorized machinery became the norm. Neither one was ever subject to analysis or public review in spite of our repeated requests.
Our support for the project continues, obviously, because of its deep importance and we are thankful the Ashley has insisted on wilderness training for crews and done all they can do to minimize helicopter access and motorized tools. Crews use horse packers, minimum impact camping techniques and maximize muscle power.
What the Forest Service ignores is that the single season constraint was not anticipated, never discussed or analyzed, just ordered. The end. Sadly, some of the shine has been tarnished.
The roller coaster ride of Forest Service roadless areas continues. We have discus-sed and written on this very roller coaster at least 20 times--enough to make one very sea-sick!
Roadless area preservation has been in an almost ghost-like state with competing and confusing court decisions suggesting roadless area should both simultaneously be protected and/or not be protected. Meanwhile some states have used the Bush roadless petition process to urge protection of all roadless areas and/or some roadless.
Hoping for a new vision and a decision by the new administration to withdraw the government’s (Bush) appeal of a 9th circuit court decision upholding the old Clinton roadless rule (2001), conservationists were on the roller coaster themselves recently. On one hand, the new administration issued a one year “time out” on road building in roadless areas everywhere but Idaho, which recently completed the Bush roadless petition process, but has not yet withdrawn the appeal.
The new administration has suggested a “time out” is the best way to begin to build a roadless area vision. Clinton waited eight years, Bush reversed it in one year and spent seven more trying to road them. Now it’s Obama’s turn.
Meanwhile, the new (6/09) Chief of the Forest Service who will, in some way, drive this process is Tom Tidwell. He was a district ranger on the old Uinta National Forest, later Forest Supervisor on the Wasatch- Cache National Forest, something like 2002-2005, off to California and then Regional Forester in Montana in 2007. An easy-to-get-along-with guy, big smile, obviously headed for the top, he proved very disappointing, however, on the Wasatch Forest Plan as he was simply not at all supportive of roadless areas or wilderness recommendations. Maybe he will grow into the position and direct the Forest Service out of its ever-more serious doldrums.
Good luck and congratulations, Tom!
I’m not that good at fairy tales (no kids, no grandkids) and too old to remember what my mom read to be from my fairy tale book, but by now I’m pretty sure wolf is wishing that he would have just eaten those damn little pigs and Little Red Riding Hood and maybe changed the course of history. Wolf was de-listed from the Endangered Species Act by the Bushies and litigated and protectedagain to only be de-listed by this new administration and now litigated again by conservationists (see LYNX 12/08, 2/07, for example). The de-listing and litigation deal with the population of wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Wolves in Utah, for example, are fully protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The Obama de-listing decision focuses only on Idaho and Montana. Hunting seasons have already been or are being set in Idaho and Montana.