The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 41 - 6/8/00
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Low Turnout at USFS Roadless Meeting
Less than fifteen people showed up for the informational meeting on the Roadless Area Conservation Proposed Rule (RACPR), which was held at the Marbleton-Big Piney Fire Hall last Thursday evening. Bridger-Teton National Forest planner Rick Anderson and assistant planner John Kuzloski from the Supervisor's office in Jackson presented a slide series on the proposal to those attending. B-T road and minerals engineer Tex Williams, Big Piney District Ranger Greg Clark and Pinedale District Ranger Bob Reese were also present to answer questions.
On October 13, 1999, President Clinton announced that he was directing the Forest Service nationwide to develop a plan to prohibit the future construction or reconstruction of roads into roadless areas of all national forests. The Forest Service published a Notice of Intent - (NOI) on October 19 to protect these roadless areas and to begin the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Over 180 public meetings were held across the United States to solicit comments on what the public thought should be considered in the proposed rule, and the Forest Service received over 365,000 responses, which in turn were considered when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was developed.
Before the DEIS could be written however, the Forest Service had to identify the specific areas that would be affected by the proposed rule. According to Reese, the proposal will in effect create a third type of land management area designation within the system. Currently the Forest Service defines the lands under their management as either "designated", which means wilderness or wilderness study areas and "non-designated" which includes all areas not a part of the "designated" category. This third land area is titled "inventoried roadless area" (IRA), which currently is part of the "non-designated" area designation. Only "unroaded" portions of the IRA's are addressed by the proposal.
The Forest Service came up with four "Prohibition Alternatives" and four "Procedural Alternatives" as part of the DEIS and have already identified the preferred alternatives they will seek to implement. The "Prohibition Alternative" would be to "prohibit road construction and reconstruction in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas." The "Procedural Alternative" chosen states "during forest plan revisions, local managers would evaluate the quality and importance of roadless characteristics in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless and other unroaded areas and determine whether and how to protect them in the context of multiple-use objectives."
Any road that is currently officially designated on the forest Travel Plan and an undetermined "buffer zone" around it, will not be affected by the RACPR and existing undesignated roads will not be closed because of the proposal. The rule would not expressly prohibit current activities in the unroaded portions of IRA's, except anything requiring a new road to be built or an existing undesignated road to be rebuilt or improved. Roadless area characteristics would have to be considered at the time of a forest plan revision, which for the Bridger-Teton will occur in 2005. The proposed rule also leaves all management and decision making during any forest planning to local managers, i.e. district rangers, forest supervisors or regional foresters, but requires those managers to consider roadless characteristics within the IRA's, in addition to other issues, when developing forest plans.
Public hearings will be held on the proposal at the Teton County Library in Jackson on June 27 from 6-9 p.m.; in Afton at the City Hall on June 28 from 6-9 p.m.; and in Marbleton-Big Piney Fire Hall on June 29 from 6-9 p.m. If persons wish to comment at these meetings, time will be limited to three minutes total. Comments may also be mailed to the USDA Forest Service, CAET, Attention: Roadless Areas Proposed Rule, P.O. box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT 84122; by fax to 877-703-2484 or e-mailed via the website at www.roadless.fs.fed.us, which also contains all information regarding the proposal. Information may also be obtained at any forest District office. The deadline to have comments in is July 17, 2000. If the proposal is implemented it is expected to go into effect later this year.
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