By Ann McCreary
A new public comment period on the Mission Forest Restoration Project has been opened by the U.S. Forest Service, specifically related to a proposed amendment to the Okanogan National Forest Plan. The 30-day comment period began June 30.
The Mission Project proposes commercial and non-commercial thinning, prescribed burning, soil treatment and changes to roads on 50,200 acres of Forest Service land in the Libby Creek and Buttermilk Creek drainages south of Twisp.
The work is intended to restore the health of forest and aquatic ecosystems that have been altered by human activities, including fire suppression, according to a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project. An initial comment period on a draft EA ended April 1.
“Since seeking comments on the proposed project earlier this year, it was determined that one amendment would be needed to the existing Okanogan National Forest Plan,” said Shannon O’Brien, a spokesperson for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
“The proposed amendment would reduce some winter deer range cover through thinning to reduce wildfire hazard in the urban interface; restore dense, overcrowded forests and increase forest health,” O’Brien said in an announcement of the additional comment period.
The proposed amendment to the Forest Plan would be “project-specific, non-significant (and) temporary” according to the revised preliminary EA released last month. It would permit exemption from the Forest Plan’s standards and guidelines related to management of deer winter range cover on 746 acres within the project boundaries.
Commercial and non-commercial thinning on those acres would “create a more open forested landscape” as part of the goal of restoring forests to both historical and predicted future conditions, the EA states.
“Reducing winter range cover is also needed to lessen wildfire risks in the Wildland Urban Interface, decrease conifer encroachment … and increase the ability of vegetation to withstand impacts of a projected warmer, drier future climate,” according to the EA.
Temporarily amending the Forest Plan for the project “would cause some adverse, mostly short-term impacts as well as several beneficial long-term impacts,” the EA said.
More information about the Mission Project and the Forest Plan amendment is online at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=49201.
Anyone wishing to obtain additional information on the project should contact Meg Trebon at 996-4032.
Comments already submitted on the project will be considered and do not need to be re-submitted. A final EA and draft decision on the project is expected this fall.