Mesia Nyman from the forest service updated the Emery County Public Lands Council on the status of the South Manti timber sale. She said the Utah Environmental Congress has filed a lawsuit against the Dixie, Manti-LaSal, Wasatch-Cache and the Uinta National Forests. The South Manti timber sale would entail harvesting dead timber from the Muddy to Duck Fork reservoir. These trees are beetle killed and present a real fire hazard if the stands are left.
Nyman said most of this timbering would take place by helicopter. If the forest service wins the lawsuit then it will be allowed to harvest the timber.
Nyman said she cannot see the reasoning behind the lawsuit, because the removal of the beetle killed trees will be a benefit to the forest. She said some people just believe that cutting trees is wrong.
The Utah Environmental Congress reasons that the forest service is not following the National Forest Management Act in gathering population trend data for their management indicator species, MIS, and using it to determine the effects of the timber and road construction projects on the diversity of wildlife, fish and plants on each forest. The UEC sued and won on this specific issue in 2001 when they stopped the South Manti timber sale. The UEC believes the forests are approving timber sales and new road construction projects throughout the state without actually determining what the effects of these actions will be on the populations of animals and plants that use that area.
Nyman also reported they are finishing up the Wasatch Plateau grazing environmental impact study, which involved sheep allotments from Scofield to Joe's Valley. The draft EIS contains two alternatives one for grazing and one for nongrazing, Nyman said the preferred alternative is the one containing grazing.
The forest service has completed eight gully plugs, two of which were eagle scout projects and the other six were completed by the forest service. Emery Water Conservancy District donated the use of a backhoe and materials for the project.
Plans are being made for fuels reduction projects for 2005. One includes the North Dragon project which could include 3,500 acres. The scoping has been completed on the North Dragon project and comments were received from the farm bureau and the county, both of which were favorable to the project.
Nyman reported that the Link fire burned 220 acres over the course of two and a half months and burned a lot of the litter on the floor which will be beneficial to the forest. There are plans for a possible prescribed burn near there for next year which would help burn the debris from the floor. Another lightning caused fire on the other side of the mountain burned 4,965 acres and still burned within the defined area. She said contrary to what was reported about that fire, it did not come near homes or cause damage to water resources. Plans are underway for the reseeding of the Sixmile fire area. The road in that area was closed for one week so the hazard trees could be removed.
On Nov. 22, the sale of Christmas tree permits will begin at the Ferron office. No cutting is allowed in Straight Canyon, Huntington Canyon or within campgrounds. Nyman recommends cutting a conifer because the spruce aren't doing well.
A public meeting will be held on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Ferron office on the Muddy roads and trails analysis. After people review the analysis, then comments and proposals will be taken.
Nyman said she would like to meet with the public lands council and have a constructive discussion on what should be done when grazing and recreation conflicts on the forest. She said the two uses have been clashing in quite a few places and she wants to figure out together what to do about it as situations arise.
Nyman expressed concern about the creation of user created roads on the forest. The travel plan has been in place for 10 years and people will say that a road has been in use for 50 years and will continue to use it even though it is closed on the plan. Some people are still using full-sized vehicles on trails designated for OHV use. Nyman said signs have been torn down and they receive death threats concerning road closures, she asked for the advice of the council on the matter.
Ray Petersen, public lands director said that the forest service has their travel plan and if violations are observed the offenders should be ticketed. Dickson Huntington said, if the forest service is not committed to the plan it will breakdown in a hurry.
Sherrel Ward said the plan should be enforced and if people see a need or have a concern they should meet with the forest service and amendments can be made to the travel plan if the forest service deems that necessary.
Everyone agreed that something needs to be done. Paula Wellnitz commented that just because the people want something does not mean that is the best thing for the forest.
Ward asked about the status of the spruce beetle and Nyman said that it is still epidemic and started in the Twelvemile area and is now in Huntington Canyon and 90 percent of the spruce stands are now dead. She said they are working on a project to try to stop the beetles at the pipeline and that project is being proposed now. Congress doesn't allow aerial spraying any longer and some hand-spraying of trees in campgrounds was done, with some success, but a lot of trees in campgrounds have also died. The drought has also helped the beetles in their destruction. Nyman said timber sales are being proposed for campgrounds at Millers Flat and other areas.