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New Shoshone National Forest management plan signed

May 7, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

It's the first new forest plan since 1986.

With a signature Wednesday, the Shoshone National Forest Land Management Plan was finalized, though it will not take affect for several weeks.

Regional forester Dan Jiron signed the document Wednesday at a ceremony in the office of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, bringing to a close 10 years of planning.

The new plan is expected to govern management of the forest for 10 years. It establishes what activities are allowed in different areas of the 2.4 million-acre forest, from drilling oil wells to hiking with pack goats. It updates the forest's old plan, which dates to 1986.

It does not change much.

"With a forest plan the average user ... I don't think they'll notice a drastic difference," forest supervisor Joe Alexander said in an interview.

Forest Service personnel received about 23,000 comments on the document and held 100 public meetings over that decade, an agency statement said.

The plan would take affect 30 days after the Forest Service publishes a notice in the Federal Register, which it plans to do soon, Shoshone National Forest spokeswoman Kristie Salzmann said.

Travel plan coming

Next on the agenda for the Shoshone Forest is to write a travel management plan, a more-detailed document establishing where different types of travel, such as all- terrain vehicles, bicycles and walking, will occur.

Alexander expects that process to take about two more years and to involve strong feelings from the public.

Planning is to begin with public meetings on June 10 in Lander, June 11 in Dubois and June 16 in Cody.

Locations are not yet finalized.

Widely accepted

The new plan enjoys broad support.

"The final document is a good compromise based on the input the Forest Service received and serves as an example of how the process should work," Mead said in a release.

Conservationists also supported it.

"In the big picture ... the Forest Service struck a balance that keeps management of the Shoshone on a good path and safeguards the wild, backcountry values that make it unique," Wyoming Outdoor Council program director Lisa McGee said in a statement.

Local government is behind the plan as well.

"The final product is a good product although everybody didn't get everything they wanted most people got most of what they wanted," Park County Commissioner Lee Livingston said in an interview.

The new plan does make a few changes to the forest's management. It would allow for foresters to address beetle-killed trees to a greater degree, closes more areas to oil and gas development and calls for new ATV trails.

No new wilderness

Significantly, the Forest Service did not recommend wilderness designations for new parts of the forests, as some commenters suggested.

The plan increases the areas open to vegetation treatments, such as for beetle-killed trees, by 35 percent, a Forest Service release.

Areas with low potential for oil and gas development and with wildlife and habitat resources were closed to drilling, Alexander said. The plan calls for more ATV trails because more people use the vehicles, he said, though the travel management plan will decide their exact routes.

"We don't have anything designed simply for ATVs which is something I think we have a responsibility for," Alexander said. "But we are committed to maintaining the backcountry character (of the forest)."

He did not believe there was a demand from the public for more wilderness, and keeping the amount of land managed under the strictest protections the same keeps a balance for users, Alexander said.

"The Shoshone is currently 57 percent wilderness with an additional 26 percent roadless that doesn't leave a whole lot out of that for other types of uses," he said.

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