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Forest Service Authorizes One of Largest Timber Sales in Wyoming History
“With this decision, the Forest Service finally has acknowledged that destructive logging and vegetation clearing shouldn’t be allowed in roadless areas, which is a step in the right direction,” according to Connie Wilbert, Director of Sierra Club Wyoming Chapter. “But this decision continues to ignore other significant concerns including the impacts from constructing hundreds of miles of new roads across the forest, and the public still has no idea where roads will be built or where clearcut logging will occur.”
Background: Originally proposed in 2017 under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, the Medicine Bow Landscape Vegetation Analysis (LaVA) project included 1,000 miles of temporary road construction, building 10 miles of permanent roads, along with burning and cutting roughly 360,000 acres over the 15-year implementation period. The project included a combination of actions within approximately 123,000 acres across 25 inventoried roadless areas.
Generally, the LaVA project proposed:
- up to 95,000 acres of stand initiation or even-aged treatments (for example, clearcutting);
- up to 165,000 acres of shelterwood, uneven-aged, or intermediate treatments (for example, group selection);
- up to 100,000 acres of other vegetation treatments.
The Forest Service omitted project details such which specific acres would have commercial logging or prescribed burning, and exactly where temporary roads would be built. In place of these requisite details necessary to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act the agency relied on “condition-based” analysis advanced under the Trump administration, an approach recently struck down by an Alaska District Court. After releasing its flawed environmental analyses, the Forest Service issued a draft decision in April, 2019 that included 600 miles of temporary roads and dropped the proposal for new permanent roads, but the agency retained most of its original proposal. Following multiple objections, the Forest Supervisor Russel Bacon withdrew the decision, only to release a modified decision and supporting analysis in April, 2020 that again garnered numerous objections.
Today’s final decision excludes actions within Roadless Areas which removes 123,000 acres from the project. It retains 600 miles of temporary roads with a 75 mile limit on the number that can be open at one time. In total the Forest Service authorized the following:
- Stand Initiation across 86,119 acres (e.g. clearcutting)
- Intermediate logging across 149,550 acres (e.g. shelterwood harvest)
- Other treatments across 52,331 acres (slash treatments, noxious weed control, native grass and forb seeding, range improvements, recreation enhancement projects, heritage resource protection projects, fisheries projects, soils projects, watershed improvement projects, wildlife projects, and routine road maintenance).