U.S. Forest Service Updates County on Management Plan
At the March 17 commission meeting, Manti-LaSal National Forest supervisor Alice Carlton apprised the county lawmakers of the agency's management plan.
The U.S. Forest Service is the middle of the plan's implementation.
"We started to implement this a year ago," stated Carlton. "Now, we are in a bit of a lull and we have a needs change plan ready. We need to look at where the trends are going and will be coming back to the counties in the next month for their input."
Carlton indicated the local U.S. Forest Service office wants to work closely with the cities and the counties to pick priorities for the plan.
The supervisor also said summer 2004 will be an important time to interact about wilderness designations, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and how the service can work with and compliment state and U.S. Bureau of Land Management practices.
"The fact is that people are coming in droves to recreate in our forest and we need to set the framework up for a new plan so we can decide the standards for access," noted the Manti-LaSal director.
"We are particularly interested in the off-highway vehicle management and what is being done nationally," continued Carlton.
"However, our planning would be done at the local level when it comes to designated trails and areas."
As for Wild and Scenic River designations, the Manti-LaSal director told the commission that the U.S. Forest Service had completed the inventory of rivers in the designated area and are ready to move to the suitability stage of the study. That means dealing with such areas as water rights, political designations, use, etc.
Introducing the subject of water ways brought up the issue of the proposed Gooseberry-Narrows project.
In the event the dam is constructed, the project would sit in the middle of the Manti-Lasal National Forest.
"In the area of streams, there are many things we would like to see addressed," noted Carbon Commissioner Bill Krompel. "First is the overallocation of water rights. Part of that is the accurate monitoring of water use on the Sanpete County side of the mountains. We need to have the U.S. Forest Service's support on this."
Carlton explained to the commissioners that the U.S. Forest Service has little control over anything that has to do with the Gooseberry- Narrows project.
"It's important for us to separate Gooseberry from the Wild and Scenic Rivers situation," pointed out the Manti-LaSal supervisor. "We have no jurisdiction over the land where the dam is proposed - the bureau of reclamation has that. The only thing that applies to us is that the rivers and creeks associated with it runs through the land we administer."
Many years ago, land was withdrawn from the U.S. Forest Service for the dam site, pointed out Krompel. Now the site is privately owned.In addition, 69 miles of ditches and diversions used by Sanpete are located on U.S. Forest Service land.
"All of this affects the assessment of water and streams on your agencies lands," commented Carbon Commissioner Steve Burge.
Carlton indicated that U.S. Forest Service hydrologists are currently working to describe any downstream effects the proposed dam would have on water flow and the environment.
"Riparian rights need to be looked at closely," stated Carbon Commissioner Mike Milovich. "The experts also need to look at any proposed mitigation and if it will be adequate."
U.S. Forest Service public affairs officer Ann King told the commission that the federal agency's hydrologists have conducted flow checks and sent the results back to Washington, D.C., for a third party evaluation.
In this time of re-evaluation, it might be a good opportunity for Carbon government and the U.S. Forest Service to cooperate in studying the stream flows, noted county planning and zoning director Dave Levanger.
Following the planning and zoning director's comment, the discussion switched to fire, fuels and timber harvesting in the forest.
Carlton passed out a copy of a fact sheet the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Interior Department have developed regarding the healthy forests initiative.
The initiative is a set of laws and regulations passed by the U.S. Congress in 2003.
"One of the things the initiative does is to address the urban-wildland interface that we see all over the country," pointed out the Manti-LaSal supervisor." What this has done is to give us the chance to work through local communities on our projects and our plans."
"Probably one of the best things the act does is to keep all litigation local so that groups can't shop around the country for judges. There are also a lot of categorical exclusions for us to work with," added Carlton.
The term "categorical exclusion' means a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and which have been found to have no such effect in procedures adopted by a federal agency.
Therefore, neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required for the a process to move forward.
"We are hoping to address the beetle infestation that has been devastating the forest through a streamlined NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) process using a categorical exclusion," stated Carlton.
In addition, the federal agency will be using increased prescribed burning in the future to solve some of the problems that overloaded fuels in the forest have created, indicated the Manti-LaSal supervisor.