A DAY OF ASHLEY NATIONAL FOREST ISSUES
A mid-December trip across Strawberry and into the Uinta Basin heading for Vernal should be a white-knuckler. Not this one--mild blue skies, not an inch of snow over Strawberry. It should have been the typical -10F in Roosevelt and two feet of blowing snow over Strawberry!
Stacy Williams, HUPC board member from Dutch John, and I met with Ashley National Forest Supervisor Bert Kulesza and Ecosystem Management Group Leader Clark Tucker to discuss wilderness management, forest planning and a host of other issues. We were joined by good friend Will Durant and President of the Uintas Mountain Club, Nancy Bostick. As always it was a productive and full afternoon.
For 3-4 hours a number of very full discussions were engaged. Agreement was not always the outcome, but willingness to discuss continues to be hopeful.
We were particularly pleased to understand the process and direction of three significant timber issues which we’ve worked on with the Ashley National Forest. The preliminary East Trout Slope Environmental Assessment (see The Lynx, Dec. ‘98; HUPC Newsletters, Oct. ‘98, June ‘98, and Jan. ‘97) has been withdrawn and will be re-considered and issued as a draft Environmental Impact Statement. We fully support that change in direction, urged it in our comments and fervently hope the analysis will focus harvesting only in the areas already under timber management which will not result in any new road construction.
The proposed West Trout Slope timber sale has undergone two scoping efforts, revealing the commitment of the Ashley to get appropriate public involvement. For the indefinite time being it looks as though West Trout Slope will be set aside. Again, we are fully supportive of this direction as West Trout Slope poses a number of different questions than the legitimate issues harbored in East Trout Slope. The issues of forest health, overstated in our opinion on both sales, simply don’t exist on West Trout Slope. West Trout Slope also harbors significantly more undeveloped lands which are so crucial to integrally functioning ecosystems.
Roadshed is another large proposed timber sale that has literally been shuffled around the Ashley for over a decade. It poses a rather sordid history. Throughout the ‘80s the Flaming Gorge Ranger District had proposed a major timber sale effort called Roadshed, the far eastern elephant’s trunk of the Ashley National Forest. The Utah Wilderness Association appealed the sale at least twice, forcing a remand and re-evaluation of the area. Much of the area is roadless and, although a small area, it seems to harbor exceptionally important wildlife values probably because it is a haven of wild land surrounded by the heaviest logging in Utah.
Unfortunately the Forest Service finally succeeded in harvesting portions of the Roadshed area but not through the normal planning process where environmentalists have been successful in controlling harvesting proposal. The method relied upon was the Salvage Rider (see HUPC Newsletter, Jan. ‘97) whereupon the Forest Service was allowed to harvest timber without normal NEPA documentation and the accountability of the appeal process.
However, the Ashley has agreed it is an important area and has agreed to sit down and discuss numerous options which, of course, would be subject to public review. Again we fully support this process and look forward to engaging a broad debate and discussion about Roadshed. We have no doubt its ecological importance is profound. The largely undeveloped nature of the area makes it an important island of biological integrity.