Feds unveil roadless forest plan
No forest roads would be closed under an option the U.S. Forest Service prefers for protecting roadless areas nationwide.
The Forest Service released a final environmental impact statement Monday on a roadless area conservation policy. A final decision that could eventually affect 58.2 million acres nationwide is expected Dec. 18, the agency said in a statement.
The preferred alternative would affect 3.4 million acres, or roughly half, of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which covers much of Nevada. The Carson and Bridgeport ranger districts, which include the eastern Sierra Nevada, have 698,906 acres of roadless areas, the agency says.
Rick Connell, a forest analyst for the Humboldt-Toiyabe, said the alternative wouldn’t mean any immediate changes for the forest.
“Any road that’s out there is still open to any use. You just aren’t going to be building any roads,” he said. “It hasn’t really changed much for the Humboldt-Toiyabe, because we don’t have a lot of roads.”
When the roadless conservation area policy was first proposed, Douglas County residents worried it would cost them access to 22,000 acres in Douglas County southeast of Topaz Lake and near Monument Peak. In neighboring Alpine County, Calif., 67,000 acres could also be affected.
Forest Supervisor Robert Vaught emphasized the preferred alternative would not close any roads, affect any existing permits or contracts or affect locatable minerals, because leasable mineral development would be limited to existing roads within roadless areas.
Vaught also said the rules won’t affect the Jarbidge Road in Elko County because it is not in a roadless area.
The alternative would prohibit road construction or reconstruction immediately on 49.2 million acres of roadless areas throughout the country, though roads could be built for public safety and resource protection.
The rule would also restrict logging “except for clearly defined stewardship purposes” in roadless areas. The Forest Service says stewardship harvests could happen where they maintain or improve roadless characteristics and improve habitat for threatened, endangered, proposed, or sensitive species, reduce the risk of severe fire or restore ecological balance.
A Forest Service statement says logging occurs on only a small portion of roadless acreage in the Carson and Bridgeport ranger districts.
The roadless policy is one of three Forest Service rules that are intended to foster land stewardship.
The agency announced a new set of planning regulations Nov. 9 that make forest health a priority in determining management policies. The new rules also encourage more public and scientific input.
A separate road policy for national forest roads emphasizes local cooperation. Connell said that rule could lead to closed roads, but it’s designed to include local sentiment on whether a road should be open or closed.
Breakout: A final environmental impact statement on managing roadless areas has been posted at http://roadless.fs.fed.us. Copies will also be available at Forest Service offices and libraries and can be ordered by calling 1-800-384-7623 or 1-703-605-5299.
The approximate 49,000 acres of roadless territory in the Lake Tahoe Basin will not likely be affected by the the Forest Service roadless plan, said Forest Service spokeswoman Linda Massey.
“There’s not going to be that much of an impact,” Massey said. “We’ve already got a plan that is very much in sync with what’s being proposed.”
The Forest Service is the largest land manager in the Basin, owning about 77 percent of the area’s forests.
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