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Talking points on national forest plans

The Forest Service's plans for the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests are a good start, but they need to go much farther for wildlife, old growth, watersheds, and wilderness. Comments needed by Sept 28, 2011.

The Forest Service's plans for the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests are a good start, but they need to do much more for wildlife, old growth, watersheds, and wilderness. Comment deadline is September 28, 2011.

The good in the plans - what the revised plans do now.

What they need to do

  • Protect and restore habitat for wildlife. The forests of the Pacific Northwest support an exceptional diversity of plants and animals. Our old-growth forests harbor more than a thousand species, including many found no where else on earth. Large tracts of intact habitat provide hope for imperiled species, like Canada lynx and wolverine, as well as excellent game hunting opportunities. The forests' plans must provide specific management guidelines – both forest-wide and within specific land allocations – to maintain and connect habitat that supports viable wildlife populations of all native species, great and small.
  • Protect mature and old forests.  A network of Late-Successional Reserves on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and the “Eastside Screens” (which protect trees over a sufficient size) on the Colville National Forest and portions of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest ensure that the wildlife that depend upon older forest conditions have sufficient habitat to survive. Active management is encouraged to restore and maintain old forest structures and ecological processes. The Reserves and Screens must remain intact or be replaced by an equivalent or better strategy for old forest conservation.
  • Protect watersheds, fish, and clean water.  On the Okanogan-Wenatchee, the plan merges three strategies for aquatic conservation into one. The proposed action must contain clear standards for maintaining high quality habitat within a network of Key Watersheds, and within Riparian Reserves along streams, wetlands, and unstable slopes. All management actions must “maintain and restore” aquatic conditions at the site and watershed scale.
  • Protect the wilderness character of eastern Okanogan-Wenatchee roadless areas.  Wilderness character should be maintained in the eastern Okanogan inventoried roadless areas: Jackson Creek, Bodie, and Clackamas.
  • Seriously consider for wilderness recommendation all roadless areas in the Colville National Forest.  The Colville National Forest proposed action includes recommended wilderness for some of the “Crown Jewels” of the Colville, including most of the Kettle Crest (Profanity and Bald-Snow roadless areas), Hoodoo Canyon, Abercrombie Mountain, and the additions to the Salmo-Priest Wilderness. It's a good start, but the recommendations notably leave out several pieces of the roadless areas recommended for wilderness on the Kettle Crest, including areas along Sherman Pass as well as a large area north of Mount Leona and west of Profanity Peak. The Forest Service is leaving these areas out of the wilderness recommendation to leave options open for future development of uranium deposits along the Kettle Crest Trail. Tell the Forest Service that this area needs to be recommended specifically to keep a future uranium mine off the Kettle Crest! There are also several other wilderness quality areas that should be considered for wilderness in the final plan: Thirteenmile, Cougar Mountain, Twin Sisters, Hall Mountain, Grassy Top Mountain, Quartzite, Bunchgrass Meadows. All inventoried roadless areas in the Colville should be seriously considered for wilderness recommendation.
  • Safeguard the wild characteristics of roadless areas.  All roadless areas that were inventoried as part of the forest plan revision should remain roadless and be managed consistent with the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Clear direction should be included in the final plan that no road building is allowed in roadless areas.
  • Manage for climate change. As the forest begins to feel the impacts of our changing climate, the Forest Service must manage the forest for climate change. Protecting core habitats of sufficient size to accommodate large natural disturbances, like fire and insect events, and maintaining connectivity between core habitats contributes substantially to wildlife adaptation to a changing environment. Maintaining existing carbon storage in old forests, soils, and wetlands mitigates the impacts of climate change. Protecting large robust “core” ecosystems, creating adaptation corridors, storing carbon to mitigate climate change
  • Address winter recreation and travel.  The Forest Service needs to give management direction for winter recreation, including guidance on where snowmobiling is and is not appropriate. Quiet, human-powered snowsports, from backcountry skiing to snowshoeing, are the fastest growing forms of winter recreation. Given the growing number of snowmobiles in the forest and increased technology of snowmobiles, increased understanding of the needs of wildlife, and need for balance of recreational options, it would be unacceptable not to address mechanized and non-mechanized winter travel in the proposed action and revise forest plans.
  • Clarify the definition of Special Interest Areas.  There are several “special interest areas” (areas managed for native plants, recreation, etc), a few of them quite large, identified in the proposed action that need much more specific definition than what is provided. Where these areas overlay potential wilderness and recommended wilderness areas, wilderness qualities need to be a priority in the management direction.
  • Define a “right-size,” sustainable road system.  We commend the proposed action’s goal to maintain an access system of authorized roads that is safe, affordable, and environmentally sound. The Forest Service’s obligation to a road system that is the “right size” should be recognized by an explicit statement that the current road network will necessarily need to be reduced.
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