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Under the current proposal, the agency would treat up to 350 acres, creating gaps of one to three acres in size, and up to 10 acres at a 49 acre area surrounding the Bald Mesa communications site.
"October would be the soonest that we would be able Lv Yellow Bag to start the work," Smith said.
At this stage, the Forest Service is still working on a draft Environmental Assessment of the project; a final decision isn't expected until fall.
"It sounds like a lot of them want to do similar work on their own properties," she said.
"The whole idea is to reduce fuels and the buildup of fuels so that we would have a better chance of fighting fires," Smith said.
Most of the thinning work would take place along the loop road, around 15 to 20 privately owned inholdings and in areas of thick vegetation.
it doesn't decompose," she said. "It can be active for three, four years."
The lower slopes of the La Sal Mountains are littered with reminders that fires can flare up almost any time when the ground isn't buried under snow. From the Pinhook Valley in the north to Lackey Fan in the south, charred tree limbs Lv Turenne Pm Price
O'Brien, however, does not believe the Forest Service should have to bear the costly burden of protecting private homes in the area.
Under its preferred alternative, the agency is also proposing more limited herbicide treatments of Gambel oak trees at two smaller sites. But conservation group Grand Canyon Trust is hoping the Forest Service will reconsider that plan, based on concerns about the effects the chemicals could have on vegetation and groundwater quality.
O'Brien said that even one time tebuthiuron applications could have enduring effects on the surrounding environment.
Herbicide pellets would be hand applied directly under each Gambel oak's "drip line," and Smith said crews would take care to avoid other nearby trees, shrubs or plants. Site specific soil conditions and slope grades would also be taken into account, Smith said.
Smith said that her office will be taking the public's concerns about that issue and others into consideration as it continues to review the West Slope Wildland Urban Interface Fuels Reduction Project proposal.
stand out against green shoots of Gambel oak and other new growth that has sprung to life after recent fires.
to prevent similar incidents within the west slope project area, the Forest Service is proposing to create fire breaks along the route.
"[It has] been designed to be a long lasting herbicide so that it doesn't break down, and Lv Montaigne
That 2008 fire charred more than 3,000 acres, and in order Lv Damier Neverfull
While fuels reduction projects in other parts of the American West haven't always been an easy sell, Smith said that property owners in the La Sals are well aware of what could happen if the Forest Service does nothing.
Forest Service reviews plan to reduce fire risk in La Sals
Denser vegetation in other areas near the road has increased the fire risk to newer homes on the range's western slopes. But it won't be there for much longer, if the Forest Service signs off on a plan to minimize the potential for a high severity wildfire to occur.
The agency's Moab Ranger District is currently reviewing a proposal to mechanically thin and hand prune junipers and pinyon pines on 2,350 acres across an 8,300 acre project area, which runs from Brumley Creek to Jimmy Keen Flat.
Smith said the work will also enhance wildlife habitat, while protecting the Mill Creek and North Fork Mill Creek watersheds from the kind of severe erosion that affected Pinhook Valley and Castle Valley following the Porcupine Ranch Fire.
In between, the La Sal Mountain Loop Road winds past pinyon juniper woodlands that didn't exist a generation ago, according to Manti La Sal National Forest wildlife biologist Barb Smith.
If the treatment plan is approved, Smith said the herbicide use would be limited to one time applications of tebuthiuron.
As an alternative, Grand Canyon Trust is suggesting that the agency should limit mechanical thinning work to areas within 300 feet of private inholdings and key escape routes.
Grand Canyon Trust's main concern, however, is the agency's plan to treat Gambel oaks with tebuthiuron.
"There are concerns, especially after the Porcupine Ranch Fire," Smith said.
"It [would be] very targeted on one to three acre patches where we have very scrubby oak," she said.
"In this case, I think that the real alternative is if the private landowners are wanting to protect their properties, they really need to treat their own properties," O'Brien said. "That is the best insurance for their property. It's better than anything that the Forest Service can do."
"It's one that we think would be a very unwise choice," Grand Canyon Trust Utah Forests Program Director Mary O'Brien said.
By that time, at least two years will have gone by since the Forest Service held its first public scoping meeting on the project, according to Smith.
"[The proposed use of tebuthiuron] has been the biggest thing that some people are concerned about," Smith said.
Since then, Forest Service officials have met with area homeowners, and many of them have embraced the agency's proposal, according to Smith.
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