The U.S. Forest Service is reconsidering its proposal to harvest timber from the Epple tract, public land southeast of Columbia.
The Forest Service’s original “Southwest project” proposal earlier this year included clearcutting 33 acres within the Cedar Creek Ranger District, as well as heavy logging and lighter cutting within the Epple tract along Cedar Creek. The Forest Service is now asking for public comment on two new alternatives: Halt plans to cut down the trees, or go forward with an updated plan to cut through the timber.
The U.S. Forest Service
documents detailing its plans for management of national forest lands
in Boone and Callaway Counties can be found at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/marktwain/projects/projects/30801/30_comment/comment.html
How to comment
Contact Mark Hamel at the Rolla District Offce from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 341-7443.
Direct written requests or comments to District Ranger Elrand Denson, Houston/Rolla/Cedar Creek Ranger District, 108 S. Sam Houston Blvd., Houston, MO 65483. ATTN: Southwest Project #21888.
Fax to: Mark Hamel, at (573) 341-6844. ATTN: Southwest Project #21888.
Email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include Southwest Project #21888 in the subject line.
The clearcutting, known as silvicultural clearcutting, occurs when non-commercial trees are cut down "to allow vigorous, straight trees to regrow," according to a Web site of the University of Washington's College of Forest Resources.
The Epple tract is near Smith Creek, a semi-primitive roadless area that has beentargeted for wilderness protection. The coalition wants the same protection for the Epple tract.
The Forest Service seeks to preserve land while making use of its resources.
"Thinnings or removal of residual larger trees suppressing the younger stand helps provide the growing space needed for the remaining trees to grow faster, remain healthy and produce more mast for wildlife," the Forest Service reported in documents announcing the new alternatives.
The two new alternatives for the Epple tract were released after the federal agency fielded public comments on its initial plan. “Most comments were in opposition to any clearcutting or harvesting of trees,” the Forest Service reported in the documents
The Missouri Wilderness Coalition opposes development of the Epple tract, coalition spokesman Scott Merritt said Tuesday.
“It’s a really important area to a lot of people,” Merritt said. “No change is being asked – just the continuation of something that’s been a good thing.”
The deadline for comments on the new alternatives is Monday, said Mark Hamel of the National Forest Service office in Rolla. Of the 35 to 50 new comments received so far, he said, “it’s really been a mixture. There’s no alternative really standing out over another.”
The final decision will be made by District Ranger Elrand Denson. Hamel said he did not know when that decision would be made. “At this time, I know it’s not going to be anytime soon,” he said.
That the new alternatives on the Epple tract is "a possible sign” that the Forest Service “is willing to compromise,” said Hank Dorst of the Mark Twain Forest Watchers.
“I think there’s a good chance that if the public makes their voice heard, the Forest Service could make the right choice,” Dorst said.