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Forest Service hears comment on access plans

by Sheila Gardner, Record-Courier editor

For every shovel-toting, regulation-hating Nevadan who thinks the nation’s forests are the public’s playground, there are at least two latte-loving, tree-hugging California environmentalists who believe the millions of pristine acres should be closed off by chain link fence.

That’s the conundrum faced by the U.S. Forest Service struggling for a middle ground to protect the nation’s vast forests without trampling on the rights of people seeking access.

About a dozen Douglas County residents attended one of the forest service’s public meetings to comment on the U.S. Forest Service land management plans.

Gary Schiff, district ranger, told the audience that regulations are coming that even a change in presidents won’t stop.

“Every morning we put on our targets and go out,” Schiff joked. “A new administration won’t mean a big change. You remember that Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act in 1969. We don’t want to shut down recreation opportunities. We want healthy forests. We all feel very strongly that we don’t want to sign something that can’t be implemented.”

Audience members expressed frustration Monday that the forest proposals as written are difficult to comprehend. Participants also said they were worried that the same changes would be implemented in all USFS property without regard for individual characteristics of the forests and residents.

Right now, Schiff said, public opinion is heavily weighted toward organizations that believe timber operations and access need to be curtailed.

“That’s why it’s extremely important to add your comment,” he said.

Under consideration are two documents: the Northern Sierra Amendment and the Sierra Nevada Framework Project.

“On the first document, we probably have 200 comments that all focus on Tahoe Meadows off Mount Rose Highway. It’s a three-mile-square area and we have 176 comments that urge no snowmobiling. We haven’t heard anything from the snowmobilers,” Schiff said. “The other comments relate to the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.”

Schiff said decisions regarding the framework project will be made at levels much higher than that of district ranger.

“We’re adding our comments, too. The biggest concern is air quality.With 30,000 acres burning a year, the smoke is coming this way,” Schiff said.

South County resident Vic Buron said he wanted to make it clear that the forest belongs to the residents and not the government.

“What they have done in Elko is a complete atrocity. They ran the ranchers out and I don’t want to see that happen here,” he said.

Jani Buron agreed with her husband.

“I don’t want to see camping opportunities denied to people because they can’t afford it,” she said.

The Sierra Nevada plan covers 11 million acres throughout the Sierra Nevada in California and Nevada and would change 11 national forest plans, including that of the Humboldt-Toiyabe, which covers much of Nevada.

The proposed plan emphasizes ecosystem protection and addresses management of the old forest ecosystems, streamside, fire and fuels management and noxious weeds. Copies of the plan are available on the Internet at http://www.r5.fs.fed.us.scnf or by mail: USDA Forest Service-CAET, Sierra Nevada Framework Project, P.O. Box 7669, Missoula, MT 59807. The comment period ends Aug. 11.

The Northern Sierra Area Amendment focuses on protecting scenic mountain views along 500,000 acres of Sierra front communities in Nevada and eastern California. The draft statement examines the environmental effects of possible future management alternatives for the Carson Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and small portions of the Stanislaus National Forest and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit that are within the Carson-Iceberg and Mount Rose Wilderness areas. The proposal would not affect private land.

Copies of the report are available at libraries in Carson City, Washoe, Douglas, Alpine and Sierra counties and on the internet at http://www.fs.fed.us/htnf. A summary is available by writing to the Forest Service at 1536 S. Carson St., Carson City, 89701.

The Northern Sierra comment period will end Aug. 31.

Decisions on the documents are expected later this year.

For more information, call the Forest Service’s Carson City office at 882-2766.