NEWS RELEASE - (February 7, 2017)
In an effort to utilize beetle-killed timber while it is still marketable and to reduce the risk of wildfire near communities, the Medicine Bow National Forest (MBNF) is launching a new planning effort on the Laramie and Brush Creek-Hayden Ranger Districts.
The Landscape Vegetation Analysis project is intended to authorize flexible management of forest vegetation using tree cutting and/or prescribed burning in the Sierra Madre and Snowy Ranges. The approach is consistent with goals outlined by the 2015 Governor’s Task Force on Forests, the 2011 Western Bark Beetle Strategy, and the 2010 Wyoming Statewide Forest Resource Strategy.
Most activities on the MBNF are planned on a smaller scale, with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis for individual projects. This large-scale analysis will provide the environmental foundation for several projects in one decision, to accelerate the pace and scale of active forest management.
Public meetings to gather input on the project will begin this spring. Like smaller-scale proposals, there will be several opportunities to comment throughout the NEPA process.
The project will broadly review all lands within the two Districts to identify strategies to best approach the negative effects of the current beetle epidemic. Results could include using tree cutting and/or prescribed burning to: make areas more resilient to future disturbance; reduce fire hazards to communities and high-value resources; and provide a sustainable supply of wood and biomass consistent with sound forest management.
Dead and dying trees are a short-lived product that quickly loses value, so there is a need for urgency and expediency in planning and completing treatments. Local industry has a consistent need for this timber and is ready to make use of sales that are offered. Hazard trees become more likely to fall the longer they are dead, plus high levels of dead trees can add to fire risk. The sooner treatments to increase stand resiliency are implemented, the sooner these stands can better withstand future disturbances. Diversity of tree species and age across the landscape will also be improved.
The project will use options granted in the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act and 2014 Farm Bill Amendment. Analysis will occur using existing data and a narrow range of options, but with frequent engagement with stakeholders and the public. To account for rapidly changing forest conditions, field analysis of specific sites will take place after the NEPA decision but before individual projects occur.
For more information please contact Planning and Information Program Manager Melissa Martin at (307) 745-2371.