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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The Salmon-Challis National Forest is reaching the halfway point in the four-year process of developing a new forest management plan.

The Post Register reports the work has some stakeholders digging in their heels and others seeking common ground. The plan covers ecosystems, watersheds, plant and animal communities, grazing, resource extraction, rivers and wilderness areas.

Salmon-Challis Forest Supervisor Charles Mark says there are 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) that could potentially be considered for wilderness area designation, though not all of it will be included in a wilderness recommendation to Congress.

“We’re not looking at recommending that entire acreage as wilderness to Congress,” Mark said. “We’re working our way down till we get to the areas that actually have the wilderness character that would merit a wilderness recommendation.”

A wilderness designation would mean restrictions including rules barring motorized or mechanized travel, the use of chain saws, permanent shelters, roads and mining. The Salmon-Challis National Forest will continue taking public comment on the evaluation of the wilderness plan through Thursday. Then forest officials will begin analyzing the information and comments, an effort expected to last a year.

The final step of building the forest management plan — coming up with recommendations — will also take a year; forest officials will collect public comments throughout the process.

“I had a couple of well-attended local meetings in Salmon and Challis just before the holidays,” Mark said. “One way to describe how folks are feeling locally is that people are pretty concerned. A lot of the local people in and around the forest do not want to see any further restrictions on access or their ability to use the forest.”

Outfitters, wilderness advocates and people representing the grazing, boating and mining industries are also weighing in. Several have joined the Central Idaho Public Lands Collaborative in an effort to find common ground and give that input to forest managers.

“These folks are showing up and putting in a lot of volunteer hours,” said Toni Ruth, of the collaborative. “It’s very impressive. They deliver that information to the forest supervisor. So there’s a dialogue instead of just a letter sent.”


Information from: Post Register,