By Deb Murphy
Inyo County Supervisors hosted a three-plus hour session on the Inyo National Forest Plan Tuesday with a run-down by the Planning Department’s Cathreen Richards and INF Resource Planning Officer Leeann Murphy.
The purpose of the presentation: comments from the Board to submit within the public comment period.
The draft plan and Environmental Impact Statement come in a large box and are beyond comprehension by mere mortals, so we’ll skip to the basics.
The plan offers four alternatives: A, no change; B, the preferred alternative, fire management tactics ranging from fuel reduction to maintenance of lightning-caused fires to restore the health of the forest, recommended Wilderness Areas, mostly adjacent to existing Wilderness, a balanced approach to other planning issues; C, contains the most new Wilderness designations and D, no new Wilderness and the most aggressive pace and scale on fuel reduction.
While some public comments wanted more Wilderness, others less, the majority of speakers opted for Alternative B as an appropriate balance and described by one speaker as the alternative that “meets nobody’s happy criteria.”
The plan identifies species and waterways that qualify for some level of protection. INF staff have explained this is a function of the plan but no limitations are intrinsic to simply identifying their eligibility. Ed Armenta stressed there are no restrictions or limitations to existing uses like grazing or packer access written into the plan.
Alternative D got some votes based on a higher pace and scale of fuel reduction, specifically mechanical treatment to reduce dead trees and heavy undergrowth. Since the final preferred alternative could be a combination of the four, suggestions were to graft the more aggressive fuel reduction program into Alternative B.
The Supervisors weighed in, providing direction to staff on crafting the official Supervisorial comment letter.
Dan Totheroh wanted mechanical treatment of forests “to the greatest extent possible,” a pro-active approach to Species of Concern to prevent formal endangered or threatened listing and partnerships in developing sustainable recreation.
Matt Kingsley “could live with Wilderness Areas in B,” but preferred D’s fire management component.
Planning Department staff will come back to the Board with a draft letter prior to the August 25 comment deadline.