Long-anticipated Timber Project EIS Released: It’s Worse Than We Expected

Earlier this month, the Forest Service released the long anticipated Spruce Beetle Sudden Aspen Decline Management Response (SBEADMR) draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public comment.  This unruly proposal is for an 8-12 year period and could cover up to 120,000 acres of our National Forest lands.

SBEADMR is forest-wide proposal―meaning it would span the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests―and up to half of the covered acreage is slated to be in the Gunnison National Forest.  What HCCA finds alarming is the way it seems to undercut legitimate public comment and objection periods, site-specific analysis, and discounts negative impacts to Canada lynx habitat.  In fact, it proposed cuts that could be greater than 40 acres in important Lynx Analyses Units.  Because lynx habitat requires snags for denning habitat and their prey, as well as over-story coverage, this is particularly concerning.  Moreover, despite hundreds of miles of poorly aligned roads, the Forest Service is proposing yet more new roads.  Because roads fragment habitat, contribute to the spread and increase of invasive weeds, and increase sedimentation in our mountain streams, more roads are the last thing we need on our forested lands.

From the beginning, HCCA has pointed out the need to focus on public safety.  Removing hazard trees so infrastructure, structures, and communities are protected must be the top priority.  These activities must also occur where it truly counts – which is within close proximity to such features – not miles into the backcountry.  We need a proposal from the Forest Service that identifies these top priority areas to insure those are addressed first and foremost.

We are working on comments to the Forest Service where we make this points among others.  You have until July 31 to let the Forest Service know that this proposal as it stands is not acceptable.  As always, your comments are most helpful when they provide specific points.  We’ll have a more robust list in our July newsletter to help you draft your comments as we get closer to the July 31 deadline.  So stay tuned!

  • Public safety must be the top priority, meaning limited resources must be used wisely, focusing on protecting our communities. Research shows that to protect structures from fire, a maximum of 132 feet is sufficient.  Rather than a mile buffer, the Forest Service should adopt a quarter-mile buffer.  This is a safety margin that would allow firefighters room to stage and operate while ensuring limited resources are expended where it truly counts.
  • Additional site-specific information is needed regarding size, location, and scale of individual projects that may be proposed under the SBEADMR. Formal public comment processes must be made available for these projects.
  • Winter logging in lynx habitat should be off the table to protect Lynx from increased predation as well as competition for their primary prey – snowshoe hare.
  • Activities should exclude areas where natural regeneration is strong to protect the regeneration from being killed or damaged by logging operations.
  • The declines in aspen we have seen are tied to drought – not some new novel disease. Since 2010, decline in aspen stand health has decreased drastically – matching with the easing of drought.  It’s misleading for the Forest Service to refer to this dying of aspen stands as a disease when it’s been caused by weather.