Forest Service plans meetings

Kaibab National Forest officials have two public meetings upcoming, one to discuss closing or decommissioning some forest roads and one to begin revising the forest's management plan.

The meeting on road management is this Monday from 6-8 p.m. at the Squire Inn.

According to Tusayan District Ranger Rick Stahn, it will highlight some proposed alternatives drawn from last year's public scoping.

In a public meeting held in June of 2005, officials discussed an inventory of 825 miles of road on the district. They identified more than 300 miles that could be closed or decommissioned, all but 12 miles of it user-created. It also identified nearly 140 miles of road to close seasonally based on weather and wildlife breeding cycles. Recommendations were based on risks and values in eight management areas: archaeological, fire, range, recreation, soil and watershed, special-use, timber and wildlife.

Stahn said that comments from off-road vehicle users and conservation groups yielded three tentative alternatives ­ one close to the original findings, one leaving more trail for off-road use and one leaving just a minimal backbone network.

This time around, forest managers are looking for comments on three specific uses ­ dispersed camping, access to firewood and game retrieval.

Stahn said there is no set deadline for comments but they do need them within the next month or two to help the plan move forward. He said they hope to finish the environmental analysis and come to the public with final recommendations some time this winter.

The first local meeting for revision of the Forest Management Plan will be on Friday, Sept. 22, from 2-4 p.m. at the Squire.

The plan for the Kaibab National Forest was developed 20 years ago under rules that were revised last year. In the new, collaborative process, stakeholders are being engaged through a series of public meetings and workshops that started with meetings in Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson last May.

Forest managers want to address every aspect of forest use and management.

"Some might be interested in cattle management, or burning and thinning, or off-road use. It's all out on the table," said Stahn.

He said that people should speak up on uses and practices that they believe are damaging to the forest. Forest managers, he said, especially welcome ideas on how to do things better. Comments will be taken through the fall.

According to Stahn, the goal is not to completely rewrite the existing plan, but to create one that is more strategic. For example, he said, a plan to manage old growth forest and ecological restoration would be less specific on details like tree diameter and numbers of trees, and would instead broadly describe desired conditions such as fewer trees, bigger trees and forage on the forest floor.

"The previous plan has more detail than it should have," he said. "What we want to do is describe future conditions and provide general guidelines.

Details on individual projects would be determined through the NEPA process."

Both meetings will be in an informal format, with a presentation and materials available for review. Existing documents for both plans are available at the Tusayan Ranger District Office, on the east side of Highway 64, just south of the entrance station.

Information on the Forest Management Plan revision can also be found at www.fs.fed.us/r3/kai/plan-revision.

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