By Deb Murphy
The Forest Service’s series of meetings, marking the early stages of a 90-day public comment period, almost amounted to a user’s guide to the four-year effort to develop drafts for the Inyo National Forest Plan Revision and supporting Environmental Impact Statement.
The process, begun in conjunction with the Sierra and Sequoia forests in response to the 2012 Forest Rule, focused on new issues not addressed in the existing 28-year old plan INF Supervisor Ed Armenta told the audience at Tuesday’s session at Cerro Coso Community College in Bishop. The draft EIS includes all three national forests; each forest has its own draft plan.
Part of that process was the requirement to inventory potential Wilderness Areas and Wild and Scenic Rivers and the analysis of a number of different alternatives. This kept both proponents of access and proponents of more protection in suspense. The preferred Alternative B recommends only a few Wilderness Area designations, all abutting existing Wilderness.
While the Forest Supervisor makes the decision on Wilderness recommendations, Congress is the entity that actually acts on those recommendations.
Don Yasuda, the Forest Service’s regional analyst for the Pacific Southwest Region, provided tips on navigating the documents promising a more detailed discussion of their contents at future meetings scheduled for early August.
Following five years of drought conditions and as many summers of extensive wildland fires, the draft plan establishes four strategic fire management zones based on risk to communities and resources. Two of those management zones are identified as protection zones; the other two, based on risk to resources and threat to communities, would be managed in an effort to gain a benefit to the health of the forest.
Inyo County planning staff and Supervisors will discuss the drafts at a future meeting once they’ve had a chance to look at them.