Forest service seeks input on plans
STRATTON - The US Forest Service is hosting a public meeting and open house in Stratton on May 2. The meeting will focus on the upcoming Somerset Integrated Resource Project in which the forest service will employ “management activities” to achieve the goals set out in the Green Mountain National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. At the meeting, forest service officials are hoping to get input from the public about their priorities with regard to the work they will take on in the coming years as they work to achieve the plan’s goals.
The area that will be covered by the project includes 71,000 acres primarily within the towns of Dover, Glastenbury, Searsburg, Somerset, Stratton, Wilmington, and Woodford, but also includes small portions of Sunderland and Wardsboro. The Green Mountain National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, or “Forest Plan,” as it’s referred to on a fact sheet about the Somerset project, is a prescribed set of goals that the forest service is tasked with working toward achieving.
“It’s very similar to a town plan or a zoning plan,” says Jay Strand, Green Mountain & Finger Lakes National Forests Forest Planner and National Environmental Policy Act Coordinator. Strand explains that in this instance, “zones” are management areas. “So the forest is divided into management areas and those areas are similar to zones within a town plan. Each management area has a specific emphasis and desired condition that we try to manage that area of the forest for.”
An example, Strand says, is that a goal may be to achieve desired conditions within a management area. “For example, there are certain management areas where we can harvest timber to provide for managing wildlife habitat.”
Strand says that the meeting will be part information and question and answer period and part open house, where attendees may talk to experts about different “resource areas,” such as timber harvesting, enhancement of wildlife habitat, soil and stream restoration, and improvements to roads and trails. There will also be an opportunity for private-land owners to connect with experts about how they may use management activities on their own property to help achieve the forest service’s goals.
“The total project area is over 70,000 acres, but 40% of that is non-national forest lands,” says Strand. “It’s private land either owned by private owners or towns. We’re hoping that private-land owners who own property within the project area, big or small, will be interested in managing their own property for various resource objectives that would achieve their needs, but also complement what’s going on in adjacent national forest lands, that would, for instance, benefit wildlife.”
Strand says in addition to experts who can speak to landowners about what management tactics may be beneficial, the forest service also hopes to bring in experts who can tell private-land owners how to access funding mechanisms for those activities.
Strand says public feedback has shaped projects in the past. In a recent project in Rochester, the forest service modified their plan based on feedback regarding maintaining access roads to the forest, white water rafting, backwoods downhill skiing, and preservation of historic landmarks.
“We have a lot of ideas, but we want to hear from the public because a lot of these folks have a real local knowledge of what is out there,” said Strand. “So we might have totally missed something that we want to include or address in our final proposed action.”
The meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 2, from 6 to 8 pm at the Stratton Mountain Resort.