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FOREST SERVICE SEEKS RX FOR RANGELAND

SHARE FOREST SERVICE SEEKS RX FOR RANGELAND

Dozens of Forest Service grazing permits expire in December in the consolidated Uinta and Wasatch-Cache National Forest, and the agency is attempting to bring grazing allotments into conformity with federal regulations requiring environmental-impact studies for each permit.

The Forest Service is considering the impacts of human visitors as well as of livestock.A new draft environmental-impact statement on rangeland health for the forest includes restrictions on camping in undeveloped areas where trampling has occurred.

"With the increasing number of people on the Wasatch Front, we recognize that our biggest challenge is to manage recreation," said Wayne Padgett, Forest Service ecologist.

"This campsite would not meet our minimum standards (of ground cover) for dispersed camping," he said, speaking at a site just off the gravel road up North Willow Canyon. The stream bank had been trampled, and not a sprig of grass was left.

Until now, the forest has not had definitive standards for ground cover, forage utilization and stream-bank disturbance. Forest managers had nothing to guide them in determining the overall health standards for rangeland vegetation.

"How can we know if things are getting better or if they're getting worse if we don't have any direction in our forest plan?" asked Tom Scott, leader of the forest's planning team. "We're not trying to pick on our range permittees, because we recognize that recreation also contributes to some of the problems on the ground."

Ranchers attending an on-site briefing of the new proposal said they are willing to abide by stricter monitoring of livestock operations but expect the Forest Service to recognize that big-game herds also are gnawing down the grass in the Stansbury Mountain Range.

"We've complained about the damage the elk herds do here, but our voice is like a cry in the wilderness - nothing happens," said Ray Park, a rancher who would like to see the number of elk-hunting permits on the Stansbury range increased.

Forest Service biologist Richard Williams said his agency has asked the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to better manage the 25 to 45 elk in the range, but, "we as the Forest Service have no direct power to affect the number of elk here. Ever since the days of the Magna Carta, game has been the property of the state."

The new rangeland health plan describes a "desired future condition" for each grazing allotment on the forest and prescribes a monitoring plan to ensure that grazing and recreation activities help achieve the ground-cover goals.

Padgett said the agency recognizes that it may be impossible to balance the desires of recreationists, wildlife and ranchers in the Stansbury range.

"We have to be realistic and recognize that we can't meet everybody's needs."