Residents are urged to take part in a series of meetings scheduled to begin Monday in Bishop to share with Inyo National Forest officials their vision for local public lands.
At the meetings, the Forest Service will be looking at resource trends on the INF in preparation for its Forest Plan Revision, a multi-year process that could change how officials manage the INF.
The current Forest Plan, which was written in 1988, “is outdated in certain ways,” said Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta, pointing out that the technology and science used to write the plan may, in some cases, be outdated, and trends for forest uses may have changed drastically.
The goal of the Plan revision is to look at current uses and trends on the INF, and take another look at scientific evidence of the impacts of those uses and rework the Forest Service’s management direction to ensure that INF staff are, essentially, keeping up with the times and how the public wants to see public land utilized.
Currently, the INF is divided into geographic sections, each with unique designated suitable uses ranging from grazing to recreation.
What the Forest Service wants to do is meet with residents and ensure that those uses are still appropriate and see if new uses that were not considered in 1988 should be added to certain geographic sections.
The new Forest Plan “could effect everything – recreation, wilderness, wildlife management …” Forest Service Public Information Officer Marty Hornick said. “Each one of these things could change. We use this forest for a myriad of things.”
As an example, Forest Planner Susan Joyce pointed out that renewable energy is a hot topic across the nation and there may be suitable areas on the INF for renewable energy projects. However, when the current plan was written in the ’80s, solar power and wind energy probably weren’t even brought to the table.
Armenta added that, in his experience, off-highway vehicle recreation in the 1980s was limited mostly to dirt bikes. Today, off-highway vehicles range from dirt bikes, to ATV’s to the more recent Rhino side-by-sides.
Armenta said the Forest Service wants to ensure that the new uses are represented in the Forest Plan. The Forest Service will compare the uses residents bring up at future meetings to science that tells officials how those uses impact the land.
“We are looking to the folks who know this forest,” Joyce said. “We want the scientific information they can point us to, and we will collect all that information. We’re looking for gaps (in forest management), changes in techniques that we can implement.”
“We have to balance the ecological concerns as well as the economic and social,” Armenta added.
As part of the Forest Plan revision process, the Forest Service is going to be required to recommend a certain number of acres on the INF for designation as wilderness. Armenta said he expects that effort to be a challenge for his staff, and a topic of debate among citizen partners as the project moves forward, which is why he wants residents to get involved early, and stay involved until the plan is written.
“We’re going to really need help from all the public to help me identify needs,” Armenta said. “The public owns this land, we’re just stewards.”
The first step in the revision will be to assess the forest. That effort will kick off Monday with the first in a series of public meetings. Joyce said the Forest Service is looking for any and all information on uses and trends on the forest, which will allow staff to identify areas that need improvements or changes.
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 .