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ACTION UPDATE: Projects of the High Uintas Preservation Council

Grandview Trailhead Relocation

It has been over two years since the Ashley National Forest's Duchesne Ranger District proposed to construct a new trailhead near the Hades Campground on the North Fork of the Duchesne River (LYNX Feb. 00) and close the existing 6 mile road leading to the Grandview Trailhead!

This was a great proposal, one strongly supported by horsemen, hikers and wilderness enthusiasts. It would have removed a trailhead right on the wilderness boundary, closed a road that has long been unsafe and environmentally unsound.

Unfortunately the whole proposal sits on some desk-- according to the district ranger, a function of lost staff, reduced budgets and other priorities. What could be more important than a road closure that is producing sediment into Hades Creek?

Hopefully this project will soon spring back to life in the form of a commitment by the Forest Service to environmentally sound projects that benefit watersheds and wilderness!

High Uintas Wilderness Management Monitoring Plan

At the same time the Ashley and Wasatch have tied themselves into knots over wilderness management monitoring. Part and parcel to the High Uintas Wilderness (HUW) Management Plan (HUPC Newsletter, June 98) is a robust and detailed monitoring plan. That plan is now almost five years in the making (remember, it took the Forest Service a dozen years to prepare a HUW Management Plan!) and still has not been finalized. The simple matter of fact is this is a violation of the intent of the HUW Management Plan which is built upon the foundation of a monitoring and implementing plan.

We've raised this issue numerous times and have been met with an array of excuses and most often have simply not been taken seriously! It is another sad statement about the priority of wilderness on both forests and it is time to finalize it for formal public review.

High Uintas North Slope Travel Plan

In a meeting with the Evanston Ranger District late in January, we were promised a final Evanston/ Mt. View travel plan (LYNX Dec. 01) decision and Environmental Assessment (EA) in February 2002 (this project was started almost 9 years ago!).... but it will ironically defer the winter travel planning issues-- by far the most extensive and controversial in the EA-- to the forest plan revision. As you will remember, the forest plan bifurcated travel planning decisions, allowing district travel plans to make summer travel plan decisions while focusing on winter travel planning (largely a snowmobile versus roadless/wilderness recommendation issue) within the broader forest plan.

West Fork Blacks Fork Grazing--a big change!

We were also informed, after a month of informal discussions, that the very controversial Environmental Assessment for the West Fork Blacks Fork grazing decision will be withdrawn in favor of a full blown Environmental Impact Statement. Ahh, if only they would listen in the first place. HUPC, joined by numerous other conservation groups, urged the Wasatch to do an EIS on this project over four years ago when it was first initiated....
...The down side to this is a decision that will now be pushed even further into the future-- at least a year-- and the Evanston Ranger District has all of a sudden, based on a literature search and additional observations that have not yet been shared, now says that the years and years of observations and monitoring that have shown rangeland standards are not being met were in error and that, in fact, all is generally well and that the ungrazed reference sites are not representative of the upper West Fork Blacks Fork. This is an about-face for the Forest Service and we look forward to seeing this sudden new information! While we have had meaningful differences with the Wasatch on the alpine grazing issues within the Uintas, these difference have been a matter of degree. Both conservation organizations and the Forest Service have never been in dispute over the overgrazing, just the intensity and the magnitude of response. The scoping letter is due in February, followed by a draft and then final EIS.

KRD Travel Plan

The Kamas Ranger District has finally implemented its 1995 travel plan with a three year effort at decommissioning some 50-60 miles of roads on the district. A number of minor adjustments have been made and major ones await new winter travel decisions based on the ongoing Wasatch-Cache National Forest Plan revision (see, for example, HUPC LYNX, Dec. 01)

Roadless Review

Spinning around it goes! (See HUPC LYNX, Dec. 01, Aug. 01.) The Forest Service has released a new set of interim directions which further weaken the roadless review. They include an elimination of the requirements that a "compelling need" be established before road construction in roadless areas and that and an EIS must be prepared for each road building proposal in roadless areas. The Forest Service will also sit in, by invitation, on a "working group" of interested organizations to see if there exists common ground to produce an agreement on a roadless policy. The working group consists of the International Paper Co., Outdoor Industry Association, Trout Unlimited, Izaak Walton League, Wildlife Forever, the Wildlife Management Institute, and the Wildlife Society, all organizations not involved in any of the myriad pieces of litigation. Whether or not common ground is found, it is likely a new roadless policy will be set in motion.

Dick Carter

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