ACTION UPDATE: Projects of the High Uintas Preservation Council
The Wasatch National Forest released its Proposed Action for the Uinta Mountains under the Revised Forest Plan in Kamas on September 11. HUPC staff and board members were in force at that meeting of the Issues Forum.
Dick Carter was invited to give the opening remarks at a national gathering of environmental/wildland leaders on September 10 on the north slope of the High Uintas Wilderness. Called the Rewilding Conference and organized by SLC's Wild Utah Forest Campaign director Susan Ash, the conference focused on all levels of wildland activism.
East Trout Slope... again! This is an 18,000 acre area 20 miles north of Vernal between East Park and Oak Park Reservoirs on the west. (For a history of this massive timber harvesting proposal, see THE LYNX, 4/99 and HUPC Alert, 8/99.) It is a gently sloping plateau of lodgepole pine, some spruce and aspen, wet and dry meadows, and small watersheds. It has been heavily harvested with a road density of almost two miles of roads/square mile. Past harvesting has been a misguided reaction to the natural occurrence of pine bee tle infestations in the lodgepole pine forests.
The Ashley National Forest now concedes past harvesting severely fragmented the forest ecosystem and all but eliminated many species of wildlife, but now, ironically, argues additional harvests are necessary to mimic nature!
The Ashley proposed in the August 99 Draft EIS (DEIS) to harvest about 12 mmbf of timber, much of it dead, and, in a very positive change in direction from an earlier East Trout Slope recommendation, proposes to use the existing road network. Fifteen miles of old, closed logging routes would be re-opened then closed after harvesting.
The DEIS harbors too many unfounded assertions, makes too many unbounded ecological jumps, tries to build a biological premise for an action that is belied by the document itself which clearly notes the real purpose of this DEIS is to produce timber sales because that is what this area has always done! The DEIS, inadvertently or consciously (we hope the former but aren't sure it matters), tries to circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirement of analyzing the site specific impacts of site specific projects, thus many impacts aren't appropriately discussed. The alternatives aren't adequately compared, often skipping important concepts/issues to make the no action less compelling and making the preferred alternative more benign.
And of profound import the DEIS preferred alternative doesn't adequately meet the actual purposes described in the DEIS. It enhances and increases fragmentation, disturbs and reduces soil productivity, wildlife populations are threatened with nesting failure and widespread impacts occurring over a 5-10 year logging period all the while assuming, with no evidence, that available effective habitats abound. This despite the clear acknowledgment in the DEIS the area has been severely fragmented and with many forest dwelling species being diminished or extirpated from the area. Fifteen miles of closed roads will open for the extent of logging operations.
It is nothing more than responding to the admitted problems created by past management with a more intense continuing status quo management. Attack the problem with the problem. This is a never-ending spiral of continued expense and intense management. Fragmentation and soil productivity will deteriorate. More roads will be needed. Wildlife will be pressured. Timber- related insects/disease will increase.
Every purpose could bemet with a no action alternative modified to rehabilitate the necessary stream-related problems while focusing thinning (dead-only) and minor clear cutting immediately adjacent to the values at risk roads (not the closed n on-system logging roads--they should be closed and returned to natural cover), campgrounds, reservoirs, facilities and summer homes. These actions will begin the long recovery of this area.