HIGH UINTAS UPDATES
The Ashley National Forest has formally initiated its public involvement process on the revised forest plan— a dismal process, to say the least. (See HUPC LYNX 6/05, 2/05.) The first SLC public meeting/open house will be held…
The meeting will start with a one hour presentation of the new forest planning process followed by a one hour question/ answer session. We hope you’ll join us for this important opening of the process!
At a meeting with the Ashley National Forest Supervisor and District Rangers, we learned it is likely that all grazing allotments on the Ashley National Forest will be categorically excluded from the National Environment Policy Act (see HUPC LYNX 10/05), using Section 339 of the FY 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Congress gave the Forest Service, pathologically behind in meeting previous legislative commitments to update grazing allotments, an option to skip the proverbial details and get on with it. In other words, get on with helping grazing interests on the national forests. It didn’t require the Forest Service to utilize this provision but allowed it if the decision continues current grazing management, if monitoring indicates current management is satisfactorily moving toward land management objectives, and there are no extraordinary circumstances.
In the October 2005 issue of THE LYNX, we noted how the Wasatch was ignoring these requirements on a number of allotments within the High Uintas Wilderness (HUW), defined as an extraordinary circumstance in Forest Service policy, and how the data did not show management is meeting current objectives. We have yet to hear how the Wasatch will proceed. The Ashley has simply rejected at a forest policy level any arguments and ignored conservation concerns. Decisions that have been appealed and reversed with explicit instruction to prepare an Environmental Analysis, Westside South Slope Allotments, have been categorically excluded from NEPA! Allotments within the HUW will be subject to this categorical exclusion! One allotment, Ashley-Dry Fork (see HUPC LYNX, 8/05) was actually published in the Federal Register (2/04) as being in need of a full blown Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the scoping document for the EIS was published and comments taken. The reason? Extraordinary circumstances and doubts about whether the allotment was meeting resource objectives. BOOM! In summer 2005, District Ranger Scott Steinberg, who proposed the EIS, and Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott reverse direction. withdraw the Federal Register publication, and propose the categorical exclusion!
A categorically excluded proposal does not go through the same level of analysis/ public comments and these categorical exclusions are explicitly removed from the appeal process so there is absolutely no way to hold the agency accountable.
In the last issue of the LYNX (12/05), I noted that the Forest Service had not fully implemented an appeal agreement between the agency and HUPC dealing with snowmobile outfitting and guiding along the Mirror Lake Highway corridor. Steve Ryberg, Evanston District Ranger, called to remind me that, in fact, the agreement had been fully implemented. He is technically correct and I apologize. The appeal agreement (2001) stipulated that the original proposal to allow an outfitter and guide permit for snowmobiling on the Mirror Lake Highway would be cut in half and limited to two years followed by further evaluation and analysis. During that two year period the Forest Service agreed to prepare a much needed winter recreation analysis for the Mirror Lake Highway corridor and finalize the forest plan. If not completed, the permit would not be renewed.
The former we greatly wanted to see happen. It didn’t.
The National Council of Churches announced that preservation of wilderness and wild landscapes will be among the top issues for 2006.