Forest releases La Garita Hills final analysis


SAGUACHE — The Saguache Ranger District of the Rio Grande National Forest has released the final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision for the La Garita Hills Restoration Project. The proposed project area is located southwest of Saguache and includes more than 145,000 acres of National Forest System land and 33,000 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management San Luis Valley Field Office.

Saguache District Ranger Tristram Post selected Alternative Two of the three action alternatives analyzed in the environmental impact statement. The Bureau of Land Management will release a separate decision concerning proposed activities on lands managed by the San Luis Valley Field Office.

“The spruce beetle epidemic, historic fire suppression, and drought has created a need for a landscape approach to managing the area covered by the proposed La Garita Hills Restoration Project,” Post said. “The projects outlined in my draft decision would be conducted in an environmentally sensitive manner guided by the standard and guidelines of our forest plan and provide a variety of economic opportunities.”

Alternative Two would approve a variety of projects to be implemented over a 10 to 15 year period, including:

  • Salvage dead and dying spruce on up to 31,000 acres for commercial sawtimber. Seedlings would be planted in areas that don’t have adequate regeneration after harvest activities in order to accelerate forest recovery.
  • Thin trees and use prescribed burning on up to 54,000 acres of forest land to reduce drought stress on trees and the potential for large, high severity wildland fire.
  • Improve riparian areas along streams on up to 770 acres by removing conifers and planting willows where appropriate.
  • Relocate and realign up to 10 miles of road segments to reduce sedimentation in waterways and improve effectiveness of road maintenance.
  • Potentially decommission up to 73 miles of national forest system roads currently closed to motorized public use to reduce sedimentation.
  • Reduce trees encroaching on upland meadows on up to 8,400 acres to maintain patchiness across the landscape.

In order to allow the public to follow the progress of the management activities, maps, resource checklists, tracking spreadsheets and progress reports would be posted to the Rio Grande National Forest website as projects are implemented.

Individuals and organizations with standing – those who provided previous comments – will have 45 days to file objections to the analysis and draft decision once the legal notice is published in the Valley Courier (expected publication is May 5).

The La Garita Hills Restoration Project final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision may be viewed on the Rio Grande National Forest website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=42001.

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