USA — The Lincoln National Forest is currently seeking public comments on chapters 1 and 2 of an Environmental Assessment for a proposed amendment to the Lincoln National Forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) for Unplanned Ignition for Resource Benefit.
The purpose of the amendment is to meet current federal wildland fire management policy, direction and terminology. As part of the proposal, forest management direction and both forest-wide and management area specific standards and guidelines would be amended to reflect changes in policy, direction and terminology.
The amendment would apply to National Forest System lands within the proclaimed boundaries of the Lincoln National Forest in Lincoln, Otero, Chaves, and Eddy counties.
If adopted, the amendment would change the current management options when addressing unplanned ignitions for resource benefit.
The amendment allows for a broader application of this resource management tool in certain management areas. Unplanned ignitions are defined as being the initiation of a wildland fire by natural causes such as lightning or unauthorized and accidental human-caused fires. Though the existing forest plan allows for unplanned ignitions within many management areas, the current direction is too restrictive to allow for these types of fires to play an effective role as a natural disturbance regime influencing forest and woodland ecology and growth.
The amendment would give forest and fire managers more flexibility in using natural caused fires in appropriate situations to reduce the build up of fuels, thin dense stands, improve wildlife habitat and restore ecosystem function to the forest.
Copies of the environmental documentation are available at all four forest offices, including the forest supervisor’s office at 3463 Las Palomas Road, Alamogordo; Smokey Bear Ranger District, 901 Mecham, Ruidoso; Sacramento Ranger District, 4 Lost Lodge Road, Cloudcroft; and the Guadalupe Ranger District, Federal Building Room 159, Carlsbad.
People who would like a copy mailed to them should call 434-7200.
The Lincoln National Forest Web site at www.fs.fed.us/lincoln can also be accessed for copies of the environmental documents.
Comments are invited on the proposed amendment. The 15-day informal comment period ends Aug. 8. Comments must be submitted to Jacqueline Buchanan, forest supervisor of Lincoln National Forest. Comments may be submitted by e-mail in Microsoft Word (.doc), rich text (.rtf), text (.txt) or hypertext markup language (.html) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments may also be hand-delivered weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the aforementioned addresses for the supervisor’s office. Names and addresses of those who comment will become part of the public record.
After a review of the comments, it is anticipated that, a final EA, Decision Notice, and a Finding of No Significant Issues (FONSI) will be issued for the amendment sometime during September. In compliance with the June 30 Northern District of California court ruling enjoining the USFS from implementing the 2008 planning rule, and the direction from national headquarters regarding which planning rule to move forward under (deputy chief’s letter dated July 15, 2009), the forest will continue to work on the amendment using the procedures of the 1982 planning rule, as allowed by the transition language in the 2000 rule.
After a decision is made, the forest will establish a 45-day administrative appeal period as described in “Optional Appeal Procedures Available” during the planning rule transition.