The Ekalaka Eagle - Your Community Builder

Draft management plan available for public comment

 

March 15, 2019

Tyler Beck

Sioux Ranger Station in winter, Custer Gallatin NF, USFS

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service released the draft revised land management plan and draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Custer Gallatin National Forest for public review and comment. The revised plan has the potential to add as many as 400 new jobs to the region and as much as $20 million in additional labor income. The plan will also support work with state partners, Tribes, communities and stakeholders in setting priorities for investments for active landscape management, emphasizing vegetation and wildlife conservation in the right locations and with the right tools; while balancing sustainable mining, grazing, forest products and recreation industries. Each action alternative details the desired conditions, standards, guidelines and objectives that would provide the foundation of future management activities across the forest for the next 15 years or more.

Previous land management plans were developed for the Custer National Forest in 1986 and the Gallatin National Forest in 1987. Since then, the forests were administratively consolidated, and the region has experienced growth, shifts in recreation trends, and changed forest conditions. These changes made it clear that revisions to the existing plans needed to be made. Currently the Custer Gallatin National Forest supports roughly 5,400 jobs that contribute $232 million in annual labor income to surrounding communities, from top sectors including recreation, mining and grazing.

Land management plans provide direction for how public lands are managed in the long-term. These plans are informed by an inclusive and transparent process that involves the communities, publics, and partners affected by the plan.

Since the planning process began in January 2016, there have been more than 80 community meetings and public webinars to shape the draft plan and draft EIS. Custer Gallatin Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson says that the four action alternatives outlined in the draft plan are the product of the feedback received from those meetings, as well as the latest science and specialists' expertise. Written and electronic comments will be accepted for 90 days after publication of the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register. All project documents, including instructions on how to comment, are on the Forest Plan Revision website.

"We need specific feedback from our public and these documents are lengthy and detailed," Erickson said, "so we aim to help everyone better understand the process, content of the plan and what changes we have made."

This outreach will include ten resource-specific podcasts, eight webinars, and 10 public meetings throughout the comment period. One of these public meetings will take place on April 9 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Camp Crook Area Community Center (203 Main Street in Camp Crook, SD).

Maps and other materials will be available for review at public meetings, and planning team members will be available to answer questions. The location and schedule of these meetings will be published in local newspapers and can be found on the Custer Gallatin National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/custergallatin and click on Forest Plan Revision, then Draft Plan/Draft Environmental Impact Statement review.

"We manage these lands on behalf of the American people, which is why it's incredibly important for them to help us design this plan," Erickson said. "There is no magic answer, but we're hoping to balance people's values on the landscape, while maintaining the long-term sustainability of our resources."

Documents are available in hard copy at Ekalaka Public Library.

For more information, contact Mariah Leuschen-Lonergan at 406-587-6735.

 

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