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High Uintas Council Forest Plan Alternative: Your Comments Needed by November 1!

The Wasatch-Cache National Forest (WCNF) has released its draft forest plan proposed action (PA). Anticipating public response, the WCNF doesn't expect this proposed action to be its preferred alternative in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Let's make sure it isn't! That step in the planning process is due out in March 2000.

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As part of this High Uintas Preservation Council (HUPC) forest planning alert, we are including the HUPC proposed forest plan action which we hope will influence the final WCNF proposed action and will be included as a formal alternative in the plan specific to the High Uintas. Your wild voice is crucial. We ask every HUPC member to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard at this point and then again for the draft EIS. Passion, vigor, even skepticism and cynicism are valuable as long as they speak to the wildness of the Uintas. Hold your silence inside!

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In many ways, the WCNF PA is both a major step forward and unfortunately a major step backward. But there is no doubt of this--the management prescriptions and direction for the Uintas is a magnitude better than most of the rest of the WCNF! And there is no doubt you have helped us get to this point. While we would like to prepare this alert for the whole forest, our efforts will, of course, focus on the Uintas, by far and away the most wild and ecologically important area on the WCNF. The WCNF PA basically zones the forest into various management prescriptions or direction. For now, we are going to focus on roadless areas. When we get to the DEIS, we will look at a variety of issues.

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High Uintas Roadless/Wilderness

The PA proposes to add about 25,000 acres to the High Uintas Wilderness (HUW) in a strip of land from the East Fork of the Bear River to East Fork Blacks Fork and a few thousand acres on the West Fork of Beaver Creek. These proposals take the HUW out to the trailhead--our goal since the 1984 creation of the HUW. They deserve support-- and praise for the FS! The PA then prescribes additional formal management direction to maintain the roadlessness on Boundary Creek, the lower Stillwater and the upper Main Fork as well as the lower Middle Fork of the Blacks Fork, the lower E. Fork Smiths Fork, Henrys Fork and a sliver of land out on Burnt Fork and Kabell Creek. All of these areas are adjacent to the HUW. For all but the last two drainages, these prescriptions, along with the wilderness recommendations, assure all of the roadless country out to the trailhead is preserved across the WCNF North Slope portion of the Uintas! We should be proud! The WCNF should be proud! On all of these areas snowmobile use would NOT be allowed! It is undeniably true all of these areas should be recommended as wilderness and that remains our vision. Unfortunately, the WCNF has recommended a tiny and inexcusably small fraction of the area as wilderness but at least a large portion of the area is protected through formal management prescriptions and standards. This is at least a meaningful step.

TWO CONSEQUENTIAL PROBLEMS EXIST: 1)The lower roadless Main Fork and the roadless Hayden Fork on the western end of the Uintas has been allocated to timber management and standard oil and gas leasing, as has 2) the lower portion of Kabell Creek and Round Park. Both need to be rectified with direction to protect their roadless character to assure the entire roadless High Uintas ecosystem is maintained from west to east. Anybody who has walked, dayhiked or backpacked the Hayden Fork in the fall watching the bull moose rut will understand the significance of this place!

Lakes Country (our proposed Mt. Watson Wilderness, Kamas District)

Unfortunately, and with a bit of irony, the effort to protect this expansive backcountry area is not as visionary and represents a scary scenario. The PA proposes a paltry 47,000 acres on the Lakes Backcountry as either wilderness or backcountry. The WCNF is awaiting comments to make a final determination! Of more importance, if recommended as a backcountry area it would be open to snowmobile use! This means snowmobilers would carry the day on the Kamas District with almost no areas closed to snowmobiling. This contrasts severely with our 80,000 acre proposed Mt. Watson Wilderness!

So, what will be most effective for us to do?

#1-Write to Bernie Weingardt, Forest Supervisor Wasatch-Cache National Forest Attn: Revision Team 8236 Federal Bldg., 125 S. State SLC, UT 84138 or email revision/r4_w-c@fs.fed.us

Tell the FS to put all roadless areas into a prescription that protects them from any road building, timber harvesting, or oil and gas leasing. KEEP THEM ROADLESS. The value of roadless landscapes, particularly large intact contiguous landscapes like the Uintas and the Lakes Backcountry, is no longer debatable. There are no places or resources more important!

#2-Urge them to expand and recommend the Lakes Roadless area as the HUPC Mt. Watson Wilderness of about 80,000 acres. This would include all of the N. Fork Provo R., Middle and Main Fork Weber, Smith Morehouse, Shingle Creek drainages.

#3-Support the management direction of the North Slope of the Uintas and urge the WCNF to support HUPC s HUW additions on the North Slope and, at the minimum, also include the lower Middle Fork Blacks Fork, Boundary Creek and the lower Stillwater as part of the wilderness recommendation, while pushing hard to protect the lower Kabell on the east and Hayden Fork on the west! It is important to NAME these drainages so the FS understands they are crucial to integrity of the Uintas ecosystem.

How about a nice October trip to Mt. View, WY? Seriously! Whatever you do, silence will be interpreted as nothing but quiet! PLEASE, tell a friend. Add two voices through two good letters to the I support a wild Uintas side of the roster. We must carry the day; so much is at stake!

The High Uintas Preservation Council's Forest Plan Alternative

Desired Future Conditions/Themes

THEME: Anthropogenic Impacts, Naturalness:"The new paradigm in ecology can, like so much of scientific knowledge, be missed. If nature is a shifting mosaic or in essentially continuous flux, then some people may wrongly conclude that whatever people or societies choose to do in or to the natural world is fine. The question can be stated as, "If the state of nature is in flux, then is any human-generated change okay?" ...The answer to this question is a resounding "NO!" ...Human-generated changes must be constrained because nature has fun ctional, historical and evolutionary limits. Nature has a range of ways to be, but there is a limit to those ways, and, therefore, human changes must be within those limits."Conservation Biology: The Theory and practice of Nature Conservation, Preservation and Management. Steward Picket, et al. 1992. Chapman and Hall, NY.

THEME: Roadless, Naturalness, Wilderness, Sustainability: "...Although naturalness may not be capable of unambiguous definition that pleases everyone, some logical indicators of naturalness are available....a) the amount of cultural energy required to maintain the system in its present state; b) the extent to which the system would change if humans were removed from the scene; and c) the proportion of the fauna and flora composed of native versus nonnative species. For example, a forest ecosystem that can take care of itself and would change little if left alone (barring natural disturbances), and is composed of native species, is more natural than a tree farm--and much more sustainable! Hence, naturalness is a relative rather than an absolute concept, but provides a good general measure of sustainability for ecosystem management." A Citizens Guide to Ecosystem Management. Reed Noss. 1999. Biodiversity Legal Foundation.

THEME: Biological Diversity, Ecological Integrity, Sustainability:

"Identify areas, species and processes that are particularly important to the maintenance of an ecosystem, and make special efforts to protect them."

"Manage in ways that do not further fragment natural areas."

" Maintain or mimic patterns of natural processes, including disturbance, at scales appropriate to the natural system."

"Avoid disruption of food webs, especially removal of top or basal species."

"Avoid significant genetic alteration of populations."

"Recognize that biological processes are often nonlinear, are subject to critical thresholds and synergisms, and that these must be identified, understood, and incorporated into management programs."

Principles for the Conservation of Wild Living Resources. Ecological Applications. Marc Mangel, et al. 1996.

High Uintas Preservation Council Forest Plan Alternative:

Kamas and Evanston/Mt. View Ranger District Management Areas.(1)

1. ROADLESS (Lakes Country, High Uintas, Widdop Mt., Death Valley, Whiterocks)

*Maintain roadless characteristics on identified Forest Service roadless inventory areas.

+no road construction.

+no timber harvests, commercial or non-commercial.

+no oil and gas leasing (NL).

+phase-out all non-native fisheries over a 10 year period. -phase in indigenous fisheries.

+no non-native wildlife transplants.

+phase-out domestic grazing permits over a 15 year period.

+sustain ecological disturbance and evolutionary processes within their geographic natural history of variability.

2. WILDERNESS

*Recommend Lakes Country as Mt. Watson Wilderness and additions as High Uintas Wilderness.

+no non-indigenous fish stocking; natural reproduction only of native fisheries. -phase out non-native fisheries over a 10 year period.

+no non-indigenous wildlife transplants.

+phase-out grazing over a 15 year period.

+stabilize all wilderness and backcountry reservoirs as naturally functioning lakes at or near natural lake levels within 5 years to be accomplished by minimum/necessary tool standards.(2)

+develop wilderness management plan within 2 years of designation to maintain and sustain ecological disturbance and evolutionary processes within their geographic natural history of variability and provide wilderness recreation opportunities cons istent with maintaining the wild nature of the area.

+amend wilderness management plan in 2003 to maintain and sustain ecological disturbance and evolutionary processes within their geographic natural history of variability and provide wilderness recreation opportunities consistent with maintaining the wild nature of the area.(2)

3. WILD & SCENIC RIVERS

*Determine as Suitable for inclusion in the NW&SR System:

+Middle Fork and Main Fork of Weber Rivers (W), 14 m., all roadless.

+Smith-Morehouse (W), 5 m., all roadless.

+North Fork Provo (W), 9 m., all and some roaded to confluence with Provo River.

+Hayden Fork, High Uintas Wilderness, contiguous roadless and roaded area, 12 m.

+Stillwater, High Uintas Wilderness, contiguous roadless and roaded areas, 11 m.

+Boundary Creek, Proposed High Uintas additions, all roadless, 4 m.

+East Fork Bear, Right and Left Hand Forks, High Uintas Wilderness, contiguous roadless/roaded areas, 20 m.

+West Fork Blacks Fork, High Uintas Wilderness, contiguous roadless and roaded country, 2 m.

+Middle Fork Blacks Fork, High Uintas Wilderness and contiguous roadless and roaded 10m.

+East Fork Blacks, Main and Little East Fork, High Uintas Wilderness, contiguous roadless and roaded country, 25 m.

+West Fork Smiths Fk., High UintasWilderness, roadless land, roaded country and some intermixed ownership, 14 m.

+East Fork Smiths Fork, High Uintas Wilderness, roadless and roaded country to Stateline Reservoir, 16 m.

+Henry's Fork, High Uintas Wilderness, 8 miles.

+West Fork Beaver, High Uintas Wilderness and contiguous roadless and roaded country, 10 m.

+Middle Fork Beaver, High Uintas Wilderness to National Forest boundary, 8 m.

+Burnt Fork, High Uintas Wilderness, contiguous roadless country, 7 m.

+Duchesne River, Main and East Fork, High Uintas Wilderness, contiguous roadless, 13 m.

+Thompson Creek, High Uintas Wilderness and roadless area, 5 miles.

+Rock Creek, High Uintas Wilderness, 10 miles.

+Lake Fork, High Uintas Wilderness, 10 miles.

+Yellowstone River, High Uintas Wilderness, 14 miles.

+Uinta River, High Uintas Wilderness, 14 miles.

+Whiterocks River, High Uintas Wilderness, contiguous roadless and roaded country, 16 m.

4. TIMBER

*No timber harvesting or vegetation treatments in roadless areas.

* Timber harvesting done as uneven-aged silvicultural systems or to rehabilitate/ mimic natural historic variability and patch size.

+maintain and determine appropriate wildlife corridors.

+close all timber system roads to public access.

+after harvest close all timber sale access routes and restore roadbed to natural cover.

+sustain ecological disturbance processes within natural range of variability.

+dead-only harvesting constrained to meet interior/core forest avian and small mammal habitat needs.

5. GRAZING

*Within 3 years bring all grazing allotments into compliance with the WCNF Rangeland Health EIS, including appropriate monitoring, and comply with the Region IV Grazing Handbook.

*Maintain all ungrazed areas.

*No increase in grazing capacity.

*No new grazing structures in roadless areas.

+phase out all roadless area grazing structures concomitant with grazing phase-out.

*Phase-out all predator control on roadless land.

+utilize only "offending animal predator control standards.

6. WILDLIFE

*Maintain/restore viable native populations, including management indicator and threatened and endangered species, in natural patterns and distribution.

+phase out all non-native fisheries in roadless areas in 10 years.

+stock only native fisheries/rely on natural reproduction in wilderness.

+no non-indigenous terrestrial wildlife introductions.

+determine and prepare a native spp. re-introduction plan across the Uintas ecosystem with wilderness and roadless landscapes as core areas.

+determine and prepare a watershed based aquatic preserve on both North and South Slopes highlighting the indicator spp. of Bonneville and Colorado cutthroat trout.

7. MINERAL LEASING

*No oil and gas leasing (NL) in roadless areas.

*As leases expire, stipulate no surface occupancy (nso) or no lease (nl).

8. ACCESS/ROADS

*Prepare a public/management "needs analysis" for all roads/ways on the Uintas.

+no new public access roads.

*No snowmobile access allowed in roadless areas.

*OHVs allowed on non-paved surface roads and extant open-to-ATV trail systems (Taylor Fk. and Murdock Basin, Wolverine).

+OHVs prohibited in roadless areas.

*Mt. bikes prohibited on areas proposed for wilderness designation and allowed in other roadless areas only in a manner that eliminates or reduces conflicts with other users and avoids environmental degradation and deterioration of the ecosystem.

9. RECREATION--DEVELOPED

*No new special use permits for commercial/for-profit applications.

*Prepare an analysis of campground and developed recreation uses/demand within 5 years on Mirror Lake Highway (MLH) and within 10 years on all districts.

+maintain extant campgrounds.

+expand or limit extant campgrounds based on analysis--no new campgrounds.

+phase-out over 5 years all dispersed camping on MLH to protect riparian areas.

*Prepare an analysis of "primitive" (no water campgrounds with tables, fire pits) along the Spring Canyon Road.

*Prepare an outfitting and guiding analysis of public needs, not opportunities.

*Within 10 years prepare a developed /dispersed camping plan on all districts.

10. RECREATION-UNDEVELOPED

*No new special use permits for commercial/for-profit applications.

*prepare trail system analysis.

*no new trailhead capacity nor trailheads (replace/ relocate old trailheads which are adversely affecting riparian/wetland areas)

*no new outfitter/guides or guiding capacity/change in opportunity.

(1)-While this document focuses on the WCNF Plan, the direction is intended across both the Ashley and Wasatch.

(2)-These standards/issues are specific to the HUW.

Thanks for your help!


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