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(UT) Wasatch Cache National Forest plan won't please anyone

Ed A. Stevens

NAXJA Member
NAXJA Member
New forest plan won't please anyone (UT)


New forest plan not likely to please anyone

By Donna Kemp Spangler
Deseret News staff writer

The newly released forest plan for Utah's most popular playground, the Wasatch Cache National Forest, aims to calm some of the noisy conflicts between motorized use and hikers seeking backcountry solitude.
But don't expect the plan to generate a lot of peace and quiet,
either, as critics are lining up to take their shots. Some say that the plan doesn't go far enough to restore the quiet, and others say that the plan locks away traditional playgrounds.
"We had hoped it would move us forward and get us out of
conflicts," said Dick Carter of the High Uintas Preservation Council. "What it really did is keep us right where we are. What we really have is the same battle for the next 15 years."
On Tuesday, forest officials released a long-awaited management plan that governs all uses on the 1.2 million-acre forest, one of the most heavily visited national forests.
The new plan is not much different from the old plan, but with
some tweaking here and there to address specific problems that weren't concerns in 1985 when the old plan was first released.
"We attempted to find a balance that would best meet everyone's needs," said forest supervisor Tom Tidwell. "The problem is that so many of the public is polarized in its views."
The delicate balancing act is likely to leave both sides
Snowmobilers and off-highway users fear the plan lays the
groundwork for trail closures, especially in proposed wilderness areas.
"We support the wilderness in place," said Curt Kennedy of the Utah Snowmobile Association. "We just feel enough is enough."
"It's disappointing," Carter said, adding he had high hopes, maybe unrealistic hopes, that the plan would address future needs. "We really anticipated it would take us in new directions, make us look more distant into the future," he added.
But it didn't.
The plan, four years in the making, offers a number of attempts to balance competing interests. Among them:

It does not close any designated ATV trails and roads, but it also does not add more trails. It would, however, look at extending some trails to connect them to other trails.

It closes off snowmobiling in some parts of Logan Canyon due to deer and elk winter range.

It recommends that Congress add 73,500 acres of new wilderness, including 38,000 acres along Mirror Lake Highway that would be left open to snowmobiling until Congress acts. Snowmobiling is typically banned in wilderness areas and wilderness study areas.

It continues to manage 600,000 acres as roadless areas, but at the same time it opens up 25 percent of that to timber harvesting and oil and gas exploration. It also opens up an additional 45,000 acres on the north slopes of the High Uintas to oil and gas.

There are no changes to where people can travel by helicopter to go backcountry skiing, but it will continue to study whether the extreme skiing is appropriate in some parts of the forest.

It launches a plan to restore ecological diversity to the forest by having prescribed burns and allowing natural wildfires to run their course. Forest officials hope fire will help restore aspen groves.

It does not change the current fee system for using some areas of the forest.

Conservationists expressed alarm over certain points of the plan.For example, forest officials will focus wildlife efforts on five
key species, instead of the 22 they are trying to monitor now. Tidwell said there just aren't enough resources to manage them all.
"That doesn't mean it shouldn't be done," retorted Gayle Dick,
president of Save Our Canyons. "They are aiming too low."
Dick also criticized the plan for cutting back the roadless areas
by 25 percent, and a plan to connect some ATV trails. He was also disappointed the plan did not call for studies on limiting the number of people who can use the forest at any one time.
But Dick also praised the plan for its increased wilderness and
promised prosecution of illegal snowmobile use. And he was happy the plan did not call for expansion of area ski resort boundaries.
Kennedy, however, said the snowmobiling restrictions in Logan Canyon are likely to cause an uproar. The Franklin Basin area, northeast of Logan, is a popular snowmobiling romp and will incur some restrictions to accommodate cross country skiers.
"We think alternatives need to be explored," he said.
The plan has already been signed by the regional forester, and it will go into effect April 5. The public has 90 days after that to appeal the plan to the chief of the U.S. Forest Service.
"We are not particularly shy about appealing provisions we don't like," Dick said, adding Save Our Canyons would reserve judgment until the entire document had been studied. "We'll decide then whether we need to appeal it."

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