For nearly 50 years, outfitter guides have helped visitors access remote, backcountry places in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. However, visitor use as well as aquatic and habitat concerns have each contributed to the need for analyzing how to best provide necessary public access to these areas while protecting Wilderness resources for future decades. A newly released draft decision is designed to balance those concerns.
“At its core, the project is about finding the right balance of multiples uses and natural resources,” said Forest Supervisor Mike Williams. “For example, this draft decision both protects sensitive aquatic areas and provides for increased economic stability for outfitters by issuing 10 year permits.”
Key draft decision information:
• Aquatic resources will be protected by managing large campsites, avoiding the creation of additional areas worn down to bare soil, utilizing only campsites and trails, minimizing damage to vegetation, wet soils and meadows to reduce overland flows, and protecting riparian areas to reduce impacts to water quality.
• Two non-significant Forest Plan amendments will better align camp standards and party size limitations (12 people/ 18 stock) while providing for non-degradation of Wilderness areas.
• New 10-year permits will incorporate reasonable future guide demand by approving the highest actual service day use in the past 10 years, plus 25% outside of Wilderness and to the extent necessary inside the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness areas.
“We’ve listened to folks far and wide, reviewing nearly 1,500 letters in 2017 alone,” added Williams. “I am confident this is the right path forward at the right time.”
Informed by this input, a final supplemental EIS and draft Record of Decision is now available for public review. In accordance with federal regulation the Forest Service will offer a 45-day formal objection period on the final supplemental environmental analysis following the date of publication of the legal notice. A final decision is expected in the summer of 2018. To learn more about the project, read previous comments, or to object, please visit: fs.usda.gov/project/?project=3752. Electronic objections will be accepted through the Forest Service online comment system available at cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?project=3752.
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