Potential Wilderness Parcels up for First Look, June 9

A June 9 meeting in Bishop gives interested parties the first glimpse of several parcels of Inyo National Forest land the forest believes have wilderness qualities. Photo/Wendilyn Grasseschi
By: 
Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Staff Writer

The Inyo National Forest will be hosting an open house to share the results of the wilderness evaluation process as part of the completion of forest plan revision on Tuesday, June 9
.
Several parcels are proposed as wilderness quality in the Inyo, including land in the Deep Springs area, the White Mountains, the Glass Mountains and the Southern Sierra area.

According to the Forest Service, the parcels are mostly 15,000-20,000 acres or smaller, and most are located adjacent to existing wildernesses areas or near roadless parcels located close to areas like the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, or the crest of the Glass Mountains in the alpine zone above the multi-use areas.

In all, the parcels total roughly 73,000 acres, according to the maps released of the areas.

The areas were chosen, Inyo officials said, for their wilderness qualities and because, if designated as wilderness, the forest will be able to manage the areas more efficiently, according to the forest documents that detail the proposals.

The Inyo, along with the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests, is required to undertake an evaluation of potential wilderness areas as part of its ongoing Forest Plan Revision, which has been underway now for about two years and will continue for at least another year and will include many more public meetings and opportunities for comment.

The informal open house will be Tuesday, June 9, from 6-8 p.m. at the US Forest Service Supervisors Office, 351 Pacu Lane, Bishop.
Interested parties can stop by and talk to staff and view maps.

There will be a brief presentation to help explain the process the Forest Service used to draft the proposal.

This meeting is informational and there is no comment period associated with it.

“I made a commitment to my communities that I would share the results of the wilderness evaluation with them prior to the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS),” said Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta.

“I am proud of the work of my staff to meet the intent of the evaluation. We neither advocated for or against wilderness, rather we simply evaluated which lands meet the criteria for proposed wilderness.”

The 2012 Forest Planning Rule requires forests to identify and evaluate lands that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System and rivers suitable for inclusion under Wild and Scenic River Act, according to Inyo officials.

The Sierra, Sequoia and Inyo national forests were selected as early adopters; they will be the first forests to revise their land management plans using the 2012 National Forest System Planning Rule, according to Inyo National Forest public information officer Deb Schweizer.

The planning rule provides the framework for Forest Service land management plans across the nation.

The Tuesday meeting is designed to give the public a look at how the Inyo National Forest arrived at making the decisions they did regarding what parcels of the forest are wilderness quality but Schweizer said she wants to be clear that only Congress can actually designate wilderness, not the forest.

“Congress holds the authority to designate wilderness,” she said. “If areas are recommended for wilderness, the responsible official will include forest plan direction to protect ecological and social characteristics so that the wilderness character of the recommended area(s) is not reduced before congressional action on the recommendation can take place.”

Although the June 9 meeting is not designed to take public comment, she said there will be an opportunity for formal comment when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Forest Plan revision is released.

The Forest Service expects to publish a “Notice of Availability of DEIS” in the fall of 2015, which begins a 90-day public comment period.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE

These six new potential wilderness recommendations are:
• Three potential new wilderness areas in the Glass Mountains, Deep Springs South (Soldier Canyon), and the Deep Springs North (Birch Creek) areas;
• One potential addition to the eastern side of the existing South Sierra Wilderness;
• Two potential additions (Blanco and Dead Horse Meadows) to the existing White Mountain Wilderness.

• More detail on the wilderness evaluation process can be found at http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r5/landmanagement/planning/?cid=STELPRD380...
Additional information regarding these forest plan revisions is available at: http://tinyurl.com/r5earlyadopters.

IF YOU WANT TO GO
The informal open house will be Tuesday, June 9, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the US Forest Service Supervisors Office, 351 Pacu Lane, Bishop.
For more information, contact Deb Schweizer
 at 760-873-2427
or debraaschweizer@fs.fed.us

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