45-day public comment period began Wednesday.
Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2009
Nine years after President Bill Clinton signed a proclamation establishing the Giant Sequoia National Monument, a management plan is finally moving forward to map out recreational uses, fire management and protection of trees in the vast acreage within the Sequoia National Forest.
The process took a step forward Wednesday, the start of a 45-day period for the public to voice suggestions and concerns about the plan.
"We're saying to the public, 'This is what we're looking at. Are we on the right track?' " said Tina Terrell, forest supervisor.
The plan will take into account public comments on how the monument's land, vegetation and wildlife and historic resources will be used and protected, Terrell said.
A management plan for the monument was created about five years ago, but a federal judge scrapped it in 2006 after environmental groups and the California attorney general sued the U.S. Forest Service over alleged flaws in its scientific assessments and provisions allowing some timber cutting in the 328,000-acre monument.
Scientific assessments remain a concern for Sequoia ForestKeeper, a nonprofit group that monitors forest projects, the organization's executive director said.
"They appear to have started the planning process without a scientific advisory board, which the proclamation requires," executive director Ara Marderosian said. "It may end up creating a plan that is not based on science, which would again have to be litigated."
Sequoia ForestKeeper was one of the groups that sued a few years ago over the initial management plan, Marderosian said.
Terrell said a symposium on the plan led by scientists was held in Visalia in September. The forest service also is exploring additional ways to link science to the plan, she said.
"I feel that is being looked at and will be addressed," Terrell said.
Public forums on the plan will be held in April in Visalia, Lake Isabella, Porterville and Hume Lake. The public comment period ends May 4.
A draft environmental impact report on the plan is expected to be completed by September, Terrell said. A final environmental report is expected to be ready by March 2010.
Four public forums on the Giant Sequoia National Monument plan are scheduled for April. All begin at 6:30 p.m.:
April 14: Visalia Convention Center, 303 E. Acequia Ave., Visalia
April 15: Lake Isabella, site to be determined
April 16: Porterville Supervisor's Office, 1839 S. Newcomb St., Porterville
April 20: Hume Lake Ranger District Office, 35860 E. Kings Canyon Road, Dunlap
Suggestions and concerns about the plan and proclamation can be submitted online at gsnm-consult.limehouse.com/portal. Comments also can be submitted by calling (559) 784-1500, by faxing (559) 781-4744 or by mail to Marianne Emmendorfer, Sequoia Forest Headquarters, 1839 S. Newcomb St., Porterville, CA 93257.