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Shoshone prefers plan with no new wilderness
Conservationist says at least two area deserve designation.
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: November 28, 2012
The Shoshone National Forest’s management plan, on the drawing board for the first time in 25 years, maintains the status quo in terms of federally protected wilderness.
To the disappointment of some environmental groups, the forest’s preferred plan, “Alternative B,” recommends zero acres of new wilderness.
Conservationists contend the 2.4 million-acre forest, the United State’s first national forest and one that abuts Yellowstone National Park and the Bridge-Teton National Forest, is a prime location for new expanses of wilderness. The plan’s alternatives C and D propose new wilderness recommendations of 628,800 and 194,500 acres, respectively.
The public comment period on a draft environmental impact statement for the plan closed Monday, and the final management plan is expected to be released this summer, said Carrie Christman, a planning staff employee at the Shoshone.
Most of the nearly 15,000 comments received by the Shoshone were boilerplate “form letters” sent in from environmental groups, she said.
“We got 9,700 comments that were the same: a form letter from the Wilderness Society,” Christman said.
Some 2,500 comments were received from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, 260 came in from the Sierra Club, and 10 were sent in from a snowmobile group, she said. Another 1,300 unique emails and letters were received, she said.
Phil Hocker, a former Jackson resident who was instrumental in drafting Wyoming’s 1984 wilderness legislation, said the Shoshone’s Dunoir Special Management Unit, a roadless area, deserves wilderness designation. The Dunoir is located several miles east of Togwotee Pass, just past the Teton County border.
“The Dunoir area has frankly been almost a mythic wilderness battle area since the 1960s,” Hocker said in a phone interview Tuesday.
In a comment letter, Hocker also urged the forest to recommend the 14,700-acre High Lakes Wilderness Study Area, located 74 miles northeast of Cody, for wilderness protection.
“By any criteria --— except for the fact that they’re next to Yellowstone National Park and other wilderness areas --— these are areas you would jump on to become wilderness,” Hocker said in the interview.
The Shoshone’s draft EIS cites “no more need” in its rationale for endorsing no new wilderness acres. The national forest currently contains approximately 1.4 million acres of designated wilderness, equating to 55 percent of the total forest.
Hocker’s comment letter also alleges that the Shoshone neglected its duty to legally map the Dunoir and High Lakes areas.
Legal descriptions and detailed maps of the boundaries of both areas, Hocker said, were required by law “as soon as practicable” after Oct. 30, 1984, but were never completed.
Earlier this summer, a similar mapping error stalled an 87,000-acre forest-thinning fire plan in the Palisades Wilderness Study Area on the western side of Jackson Hole.