Public input on Framework sought

August 07, 2003 11:00 pm

By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

The U.S. Forest Service wants public comment on how the Stanislaus and other national forests spanning the Sierra Nevada range should be managed.

That's why, in two sessions next week, Forest Service representatives will tell people exactly how to write their comments and where to send them.

Tables also will be set up where those interested can write their comments, which will be collected and forwarded to officials working on the Sierra Nevada Framework project.

The two meetings are not public hearings where critics can air their concerns. Instead, said Stanislaus National Forest spokesman Jerry Snyder, they are informational sessions on revisions to the Framework and lessons on how to properly comment on those proposed changes.

Question-and-answer sessions will be part of each program.

The Framework was adopted in January 2001, during the last days of the Clinton administration. A management plan for 11 national forests across the mountain range, it put a premium on environmental conservation and reduced logging and grazing. The Forest Service spent 10 years and about $20 million developing the plan.

Eleven months after its release, the Bush administration directed Regional Forester Jack Blackwell to review the document. He chartered a forest service team to evaluate the Framework, looking for ways to pursue more aggressive fire fuels treatments while reducing its harmful effects on grazing permit holders and on local communities.

Recommendations were given to Blackwell in March. The team advised that more trees be cut in the name of fire protection. Less fuel in the forest, members reasoned, could help stop forest fires from growing into infernos. Team members also recommended transferring grazing authority to local foresters, who could manage meadows with methods specific to each.

The Forest Service announced the changes in March, spurring applause from loggers and outcry from environmentalists.

Now the agency has released its supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposals and is waiting for the public to respond on whether to implement some — or all — of them.