Comments Sought on Wildlife Projects
The Ferron/Price District of the Manti-LaSal National Forest is seeking comments on two wildlife habitat improvement projects. The project names are the Hoag Springs Rejuvenation and Protection Project, and the Box Pond Exclosure Project.
Hoag Springs is located on Gentry Mountain approximately 15 miles northwest of the town of Huntington, and 15 miles southwest of Price. The two springs are an important water source for wildlife and livestock. Current conditions around the springs are less than desirable. First, water flow has diminished substantially over approximately the past 10 years. According to a local livestock permittee, flow from several nearby springs has halted altogether, and has heightened the importance of Hoag Springs. Second, improvements associated with the springs are in severe disrepair. Fences around both the upper and lower springs are breeched. In addition, the headbox, pipeline, and trough associated with the lower spring are non-functional. Because the trough no longer provides water, livestock are forced to get water directly from the springs. The results of these conditions are decreased water availability for wildlife and livestock, and a degraded spring source with little or no riparian vegetation.
The forest service, in conjunction with the livestock permittee, proposes a project to rejuvenate spring flow, protect the springs from unrestricted livestock access, and provide reliable water for wildlife and livestock.
In attempt to release underground water for surface flow, Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir greater than 10 inches diameter-at-breast-height would be cut from approximately one acre immediately surrounding the lower spring. Smaller trees would be left standing. The felled trees would be built into a logworm exclosure fence that would encompass the cut area and both springs. Leftover slash would be burned. A new headbox would be installed at the lower spring, and a new, buried pipeline would transport water approximately 150 feet to a trough located away from the potential riparian zone.
Following treatment, the upper spring would remain fully vegetated and undeveloped, and would provide species that prefer heavy cover. The lower spring would have only small trees, shrubs, forbs, and snags around it, and would provide habitat for wildlife species that prefer more open areas. One or both springs would be seeded with riparian plant species if natural colonization did not occur. Both springs would be fenced to protect water quality and promote growth of riparian vegetation. The fence would allow access by wildlife, but exclude livestock. Pre- and post-treatment water flows, riparian vegetation growth, and exclusion effectiveness would be monitored.
Box Pond is located in "the Pines" area, approximately seven miles northwest of the town of Emery. It is within approximately one mile of the only known, active sage grouse lek (breeding grounds) on the Manti-LaSal National Forest, and one of the few leks in central Utah. Box Pond and the associated bottomland are thought to have high potential for providing wet meadow brooding habitat. Brooding habitat provides food and cover for hens and their chicks, and is very limited in the area.
Currently, Box Pond is used as a water source for livestock, and the adjacent meadow is grazed. By fencing the pond/bottomland complex and providing an alternative water source, the area would be more likely to express wet meadow characteristics and provide consistent brooding habitat, while still accommodating traditional livestock uses. The Forest Service proposes to construct a post-and pole fence that would enclose approximately five acres, and install a pipeline and water trough outside of the exclosure.
Analysis of these projects is anticipated with the use of a Categorical Exclusion. This is based on the belief that this action would not have an individual or cumulative significant effect on the quality of the human environment. Specifically, the category the action falls under is wildlife habitat improvement activities as found in Section 1901.15 of the Forest Service Handbook, Chapter 30, Section 31.2, Category 6. If you have questions regarding these projects, contact Cara Staab at (435) 384-2505. If you have comments provide them in writing by March 29, to the Ferron/Price Ranger District, P.O. Box 310, Ferron, UT 84523.