Shoshone plans resurface after lengthy pause
By RUFFIN PREVOST
Gazette Wyoming Bureau
CODY - Managers of the Shoshone National Forest shared the latest draft of a revised management plan Wednesday at a public meeting in Cody, one of several being held this month in communities around the forest.
The management plan for the Shoshone Forest was last updated in 1986.
The process to revise the plan - which governs every aspect of forest management, from mineral and timber operations to recreational activities to trail and road oversight - had been suspended last spring in response to a court ruling.
Nearly two years of preliminary planning, including extensive public comment, was interrupted when a federal court in California ruled in April 2007 that U.S. Forest Service planning regulations were not in compliance with the law
That issue has been resolved, and the planning process is moving forward again, said Bryan Armel, planning officer.
"Everything we've done over the last two to three years, we were able to pull forward. All the public comments, we were essentially able to pick up right where we were. We've just been through a pause," Armel said.
"The biggest theme we heard last year was that the public was having trouble seeing how their input was being used" in making revisions to draft plans, he said.
County officials had also said they were unclear on how their land management plans were being addressed by the forest plan.
Armel said Forest Service staffers created two detailed documents that specifically show how public comments and county plans are incorporated into the overall plan revision.
The latest draft plan will have more detailed information on plant ecosystems and what the Forest Service calls "provision of goods and services," which includes timber harvests, mineral extraction, grazing allotments and recreation activities.
An additional document covering beetle infestations will be released soon, he said.
"It's kind of a big deal and it's definitely changing the landscape," Armel said of the bug epidemics. "This will look at how we got to this point and make some projections on where things are likely to go."
Grizzly bears and gray wolves have also been recategorized from threatened or endangered species to "species of concern," he said.
Armel estimated the annual cost of plan revision efforts at roughly $400,000.
The total annual budget for the Shoshone Forest is about $13 million, said Supervisor Becky Aus.
Armel said he hopes to release a revised draft plan for a 90-day public comment period around the end of August.
The Forest Service is not soliciting comments on the current draft, he said, adding that staff members are always available to hear and discuss specific concerns.
He said that public meetings on the revised draft plan could be scheduled as soon as January, with a final decision anticipated by September 2009.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-527-7250.
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