Forest boss visits foothills

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By MIKE JENSEN

More timber harvesting and less restrictions on cattle grazing may result from a review of the Sierra Nevada Framework management plan, now under way by the U.S. Forest Service.

That was the message Regional Forester Jack Blackwell gave Thursday afternoon at a rare meeting in Sonora with loggers, ranchers and environmentalists. Blackwell is the U.S. Forest Service's top official in California, overseeing 18 national forests.

Present to hear Blackwell at the Tuolumne County Senior Center for the meeting were county supervisors, environmentalists, loggers and ranchers. Representatives from state Assemblyman Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, and Congressman George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, were on hand. Radanovich's district will eventually include Tuolumne County under new redistricting.

Despite recent controversies surrounding Stanislaus National Forest, Blackwell said he had only come to Sonora to meet the public and Forest Service employees. He spent most of his time discussing the Sierra Nevada Framework.

The Framework, a Clinton-era management plan, calls for less logging and grazing across 11.5 million acres on 11 national forests, including the Stanislaus.

Opponents of the framework say it is too restrictive on grazing and logging and doesn't allow the Forest Service to implement the National Fire Plan.

Framework supporters mostly environmentalists say the plan is needed to provide more protection to threatened wildlife species. Without protections offered in the Framework, they say, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would likely list the species as endangered a move that would create even more restrictions.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, selected for his position under the Bush Administration, has instructed Blackwell who took his post in Vallejo last December to review the controversial plan. The review is expected to be completed in December and could result either in minor changes or a completely new plan.

Blackwell said Thursday forest plans such as the Framework need to balance environmental, economic and social issues. He said it appears the Framework's management direction is leaning more toward the environment.

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The Union Democrat
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