As of Tuesday, October 14, 2014
I would like to thank Mr. Haverstick of Friends of the Clearwater for his opinion piece shared with many northern Idaho newspapers, including last week’s Idaho Free Press. Mr. Haverstick is correct that Forest Plan Revision is important to citizens who use the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests; Forest Plans set direction for national forests for the next 10 to 15 years.
The Proposed Action for the NPCLW Forest Plan Revision was developed as the result of 20 months of open collaboration with the public and my staff’s professional, science-based expertise. That said, we know improvements can be made. The Proposed Action is currently out for public input and we are requesting the public to provide input by Nov. 14 in order for it to be the most useful to identify issues and alternatives to the proposed action.
Mr. Haverstick mentions that only 22 percent of the 1.5 million acres of Idaho Roadless Areas within the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest would be managed as recommended wilderness in the proposed plan and that roughly 80 percent would be susceptible to development. I’m confused about what Mr. Haverstick considers development because the Idaho Roadless Rule prohibits road building and timber harvest in roadless areas. The rule provides direction on how Idaho Roadless Areas will be managed to protect the forest’s unroaded resources from development. The Idaho Roadless Rule does permit very limited ecological restoration activities in some areas to restore ecosystems and protect communities from uncharacteristic wildfire risk. The rule does not address recreational access or the recommendation of roadless areas for wilderness designation. Our proposal includes two options for recommending areas for wilderness designation. Both options were developed as a result of strong public response in regard to permitting or not permitting limited motorized and mountain biking use in areas recommended for wilderness designation. We want to hear more from the public on this issue.
We acknowledged when we released the proposed action that it did not include a monitoring program, including a list of focal species. We received from our regional office an initial list of Species of Conservation Concern, examined the habitat and other needs of these and other species and incorporated those needs into the vegetation desired conditions. We will be developing a monitoring program in collaboration with the public at the same time the Environmental Impact Statement is being prepared.
Our analysis on the amount of timber harvest that would be produced on the forest is preliminary. In the proposed action, we considered a range of possibilities from 58 MMBF to 150 MMBF. Our primary focus on timber harvest is moving towards desired conditions for the forest. Protecting the environment and meeting vegetation desired conditions is paramount for us; we are not lowering standards, creating loopholes or sacrificing other values. It’s important for the public to look at the desired conditions and other plan components to really understand our objectives.
There has also been a lot of interest in the proposed size of regeneration harvest. Our proposal is not a large change from the current plans. The current plans do limit regeneration units to 40 acres, but they also allow exceptions. We frequently have units greater than 40 acres in our timber projects in order to meet ecological objectives, such as white pine restoration.
Mr. Haverstick is correct in saying “Your voice is needed!” Copies of the Proposed Action can be obtained from our website (http://www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater); by calling our office at 935-2513, by e-mailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by stopping by any Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests office. We are holding a collaborative meeting on Saturday, Oct. 18, beginning at 8 a.m. in our Grangeville office. Please come and form your own opinion on how well the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Proposed Action protects the Clearwater Basin.