by Emily Hornback, WCC Organizer
The deadline to provide input to the US Forest Service on its plans for “Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response” (SBEADMR) is Monday, February 2. The agency expects to release the final document in the Spring of 2015.
WCC has been tracking the SBEADMR treatment plan for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre & Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest throughout 2014. SBEADMR is a large-scale plan to address forest health issues related to beetle kill, Sudden Aspen Decline (SAD) syndrome, and to increase forest resiliency. The project proposes to treat 70,000-120,000 acres of mixed spruce and aspen forest over a 10 year period with a combination of commercial logging and non-commercial, non-mechanical treatments (such as prescribed fire).
The project, which was initiated in August 2013, quickly became a controversial issue for conservation groups, local governments, and the timber industry. To address the varied concerns, the Forest Service has conducted the project through an “enhanced NEPA” process. This has resulted in the creation of a stakeholder working group to aid the Forest in the creation of their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
This working group, facilitated by the Public Lands Partnership based in Montrose, has been meeting throughout the fall to help the interested parties understand the project and raise their concerns. The group has discussed issues about current industry needs to watershed science and lessons learned from Front Range wildfires. The goal has been to help all the interested parties get the information and understanding they need to fully engage in the next round of comments before the draft EIS is released.
WCC has been a strong participant in the meetings, working with conservation allies to ensure that the project is held to highest standards possible. WCC is supportive of sensible logging projects as long as there are strong plans for monitoring the impacts of the treatments and for ongoing public involvement in the “adaptive management plan” for site specific implementation.
Thus far, our concerns about this project remain. WCC and its allies are working on their latest comments to inform the Draft EIS, however we must wait to see what the revised document provides before we can provide a revised analysis of the project.
For more information, contact WCC Organizer Emily Hornback at 970-256-7650 in Grand Junction.
To submit your own comment to the Forest Service, contact: