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Forest in good health after re-check

By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

Glenn Gottschall expected to sleep easier last night, now that the Stanislaus National Forest is back in the good graces of a regional review team.

The forest's deputy supervisor expressed his relief as members of the Regional Forester's Review Team finished their checkup on the forest yesterday.

Kent Connaughton, deputy regional forester and review team leader, and Marilyn Hartley, regional director of public affairs and communications, said forest employees and community members are on track to mend problems noted in last spring's analysis of the Stanislaus and its operations.

After last year's review, the team from the Forest Service's regional office in Vallejo released a report criticizing the Stanislaus for poor communication within the agency and with the public, and for not addressing critical issues.

Shortly after that release, Ben del Villar, the former Stanislaus supervisor, was transferred to an office job in the Forest Service's regional office.

Issues mentioned in the report included the off-highway-vehicle interface area on the Calaveras Ranger District, where homes back up to OHV trails and residents complain of dust and noise from the vehicles. Relations with the OHV community also needed mending, the report said, after someone leaked meeting notes with plans titled, "Fake it!" and "Take the money and run!" as potential strategies for acquiring OHV funds for the state.

The Sammy Timber Sale, a fire-fuel reduction project near Cold Springs, should hit the auction block by mid-summer 2002 after controversial postponements, the review team noted.

The Sammy Sale was a fuel-reduction-project that would have removed 3.5 million board feet from the forest surrounding Cold Springs residences, and helped reduce catastrophic-fire fuel.

After four years in the pipeline, the Sammy Sale was welcomed by Cold Springs homeowners, who looked forward to the fire protection. Loggers anticipated cutting enough wood to build 230 homes. Even local environmentalists blessed the sale.


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