As the Inyo National Forest moves forward with a revision of its Forest Plan, officials are asking those who know the forest best to help them identify areas that can be improved.
Residents and visitors are being asked to help identify trends associated with forest resources, such as fishing, hiking and climbing, and help analyze the current condition of the forest resources.
INF officials will be collecting this information at a series of meetings in Bishop and Mammoth next month.
According to Forest Planner Susan Joyce, the information forest users provide will be used to establish an assessment of the INF, which is the first step in revising the Forest Plan.
“We will be looking at ecological, social and economic resources,” Joyce said. “It’s a pretty wholistic view of the Forest.”
Joyce said the INF is hoping to get citizens on board before the assessment, to ensure that forest users have the opportunity to help create a new plan that will reflect the needs and goals of the local communities.
Joyce said Forest resources include, but are not limited to grazing, hunting and fishing, economics, air and water.
“What we want to know is what residents say the key resources are, and what types of changes to resources are occurring,” Joyce said. “We’re reaching out, asking people to share whatever information they have. People will have information in a variety of formats – some people have lived here for 15 years, and some for two years – so we want to know what they’ve seen as far as trends.”
Joyce said the Forest Service wants to know if citizens have noticed an increase or decrease in traditional uses on the Inyo, and if there are any new uses being noticed.
“The main purpose is to figure out what needs to change in our Forest Plan,” Joyce said. “If there is management direction that isn’t working, then maybe there is a gap in that management direction.”
Though no firm time line has been set, Joyce said a list of the main points gathered from next month’s meetings will be drafted in May or June, and release a draft Forest Assessment to the public sometime in the fall.
The Forest Service will use the assessment to identify areas of improvement, and release a document identifying the “need for change” in various areas of the forest. Joyce said that document is expected to be released to the public next winter.
Joyce said the public will be invited to comment on each phase of the planning process.
Acting Forest Public Information Officer Marty Hornick said it is important for residents to be involved with the process, which may take up to three years, because it will have direct impacts on forest management. He said he is hoping to do regular media updates as the Plan revision process proceeds in an effort to keep the project at the forefront of the public’s collective mind.
To help guide residents who are interested in the Plan Revision, the INF has started a wiki website that will give information on the current status of the project and keep residents informed on its progress.
According to Joyce, the website is a “tool designed to gather and display information about the assessments being completed during the first phase of forest plan revision. The outlines for each chapter (or topic paper) of the Inyo’s Assessment Report will be posted to the wiki by March 1.”
The Wiki page can be found at http://livingassessment.wikispaces.com/ .
“I look forward to working with all who are interested in what this Forest has to offer,” Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta said. “We are just beginning a long and important journey together. I know that with an engaged public, we will build a strong plan that balances the needs of a wide range of interests, and that sustains this forest and community for future generations.”
The INF’s first round of meetings is scheduled to start from 6-8:30 p.m. Monday, March 11 in the Forest Supervisor’s Office at 351 Pacu Ln. in Bishop. This meeting will be an introduction on the Forest Plan revision and will include an opportunity for citizens to provide input on forest resources, conditions and trends.
A second introduction meeting will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13 in the Mammoth Community Center at 1000 Forest Tr. in Mammoth.
A follow-up technical workshop and webinar will be held in the Forest Supervisor’s Office on Pacu Lane in Bishop. The meeting will be held in two sessions, with the first scheduled from 2-4 p.m. and the second for 5-7 p.m. Participants are invited to take part in one or both sessions.
All three meetings are designed with a webinar component for those who cannot make it to the meeting location. Those planning to participate via webinar are asked to RSVP by contacting Joyce at (760) 873-2516 or firstname.lastname@example.org .