THE KAMAS FOREST PLAN MEETING
An article by HUPC board member Lynette Brooks
I drove to Kamas on a beautiful summer evening to attend the Forest Service meeting about the Wasatch-Cache National Forest Plan. Although I had attended the SLC meeting I had some specific questions about the EA and was hoping Kamas would be less crowded and they would have time to sit with me. In that I was not disappointed. Very few people showed up for the meeting. Where, I thought, are the snowmobilers who are so insistent that the Lakes backcountry (proposed Mt. Watson Wilderness) be available as their playground? Do they already know the Forest Service is giving them most of what they want?
I was disappointed, however, in the answers I received. The Proposed Plan makes a very big deal about being able to manage these wild lands. It points out the Alternatives 1 and 2 (with more wilderness and less management) may actually be bad because old roads cannot be obliterated using machinery, prescribed burns cannot be used, and wildlife habitat for "desirable" species cannot be enhanced. I first talked to the Forest wildlife biologist. He seems to equate "desirable" with killable. In other words, the same old stuff about improving deer and elk habitat so the hunters are happy. In spite of all the grand discussion in the plan about managing for cutthroat trout and native wildlife, it appears the Forest Service has no plans to stop allowing planting of non-native fish or to take a stronger, more public stand against introducing mountain goats where they are not native.
The wildlife biologist also tried to answer my questions about vegetation management. The plan makes a big deal about managing vegetation to mimic nature. My main questions related to why, if they are trying to mimic nature, they don't just let natural things happen, like insect infestations. His answer was that large areas are all the same now and so nature won't work right. For instance, insects can affect too many trees because large areas contain the same species at the same age. He seemed blissfully unaware that the forest got that way because it was "managed." The Forest Plan repeats itself ad nauseum about prescribed fire, and yet it appears that prescribed fire won't happen for some time. Prescribed fire requires a fire management plan for each area, but no fire management plans have been developed for the Wasatch-Cache. Also, the DEIS states that it is not anticipated that the level of activity proposed (wildland fire use, prescribed fire, mechanical methods) would bring the forest within Properly Functioning Conditions for the next several decades... in part due to funding. In other words, the Forest Service wants to manage, but really can't. So again, why not just leave more areas unmanaged and let nature happen?
Yet another disappointment. The Wasatch-Cache doesn't really know what will happen to their proposed plan if the National Roadless Rule changes, and it apparently will. The plan is still tied to the rule, instead of being a plan by itself. And it seems as if the Forest Plan will overrule District Travel Plans in deciding where snowmobiling is allowed, which means if this plan goes through as proposed, there will be no way to stop snowmobiling in much of the proposed Mt. Watson Wilderness later.
So, in general, I learned that, although parts of the plan sound really good, not much is going to change under the proposed plan. A much better alternative is Alternative 1 or 2. More of the Forest is protected as Wilderness or Undeveloped, "management" does not really suffer because funding will probably never be available to reclaim all roads, conduct prescribed burns, etc, and nature is allowed to follow its course.