July 26, 2007
The Tongass National Forest is the nation's largest national forest of more than 150 managed by the Forest Service, and covers 17 million acres across southeast Alaska.
The Baht Project Area encompasses more than 57,000 acres on the northern half of Zarembo Island, about 17 air miles west of Wrangell. The 1100-plus acre tract of the project area will provide about 39.5 million board feet of sawlog and utility volume to the Forest's overall timber program, according to the Decision.
The timber designated for harvesting will have a substantial impact on the local economy in southeast Alaska. Estimates in the Decision indicate that between 180 and 270 jobs could be created annually across southeast Alaska, which would be determined by wood producers' capabilities and demand.
In reaching the decision, Supervisor Forrest Cole stated, "I weighed and balanced the information in the environmental analysis in the Baht Timber Sale EIS, including the supporting documentation in the project record, as well as agency, tribal, and public comments received on the project before making my decision." He further stated that the Decision satisfactorily met the Purpose and Need for the project, and that it is consistent with the Forest Plan. His decision took into account the information gathered during the environmental analysis, and public and agency comments on the Draft EIS. Cole added that the Decision is responsive to issues raised during the project's extensive public scoping phase.
Cole stressed in the Decision that none of the timber activity would take place in designated roadless areas. The sale will include the construction of about six miles of new Forest Service roads, which will be used throughout the sale for any land management-related activities. These roads will be put into a non-maintenance storage condition upon completion of the sale.
An additional 6.5 miles of temporary roads will be developed to accomplish the sale, which will be decommissioned when the sale concludes. Zigzag Road, which is FS Road 52026, will be reopened for this sale and remain open for subsistence and recreational uses. Zarembo Island already has about 100 miles of roads that have been used historically in previous timber sales, in other land management projects, and for recreational and subsistence uses.
In reaching this Decision, the agency had to develop mitigations to one particular environmental concern for the sale area. Most notable among these were how road construction and placement for the new sale, combined with past timber and management projects in the area, may affect watersheds. The agency has designed road placement for the project to provide stream crossings at high elevations within the watershed of Frenchy Creek. This will minimize and localize any effects to fish habitat, which are well below the planned crossings.
A related condition raised through scoping, which this Decision addresses, is that none of the timber harvest and road building take place in inventoried roadless areas. This was a consistent concern raised through comments to the Draft documents as well as in public scoping sessions.
None of the sale area is within designated roadless areas. Two other areas related to this Decision are being withheld from harvest activities because of their proximity to roadless areas until after the Forest releases its Forest Plan Amendment later this fall.
No timber activities can take place in the sale area for at least 50 days after the official announcement of the Decision. Timber harvest activities in the project area will only take place on lands found suitable for timber production under provisions of the National Forest Management Act, and may be offered in one or more sale.
The Decision is subject to appeal under the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 215. Appeals to this Decision must be made in writing to the Regional Forest for the Alaska Region in Juneau: Denny Bschor - Regional Forester, Alaska Region; US Department of Agriculture, 709 W. 9th Street (P.O. Box 21628); Juneau, AK 99802-1628. Appeals may also be submitted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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