The Ashley National Forest is seeking comments on the Flaming Gorge Bighorn Sheep Habitat Improvement Project. The project would involve lop and scatter of vegetation along area of Red Canyon above the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, as well as limited prescribed burning.
Project Background and History
This project originally began in 2007 and was much larger in size and scope with a purpose of improving habitat for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. In order to achieve this purpose, various actions were proposed on both sides of Red Canyon that involved vegetation treatment in the form of lop and scatter cutting as well as prescribed fire. In 2008 and again in 2010, a scoping letter was sent out to the interested parties and individuals. As of the 2010 scoping letter, there were 26 treatment units which encompassed about 6,500 acres. The project was originally designed to be completed as an environmental assessment (EA). Since 2010, due to a variety of reasons, the project was put on hold. Recently, the project has been completely redesigned with a substantially smaller footprint, and is now about 1500 acres in size. There are 12 treatment areas that contain subunits, and there is reliance on lop and scatter as the form of treatment with a reduced use of prescribed fire.
The modification of the project was a result of both public input as well as staff considerations. Some of the comments received during the two earlier scoping periods had concerns about visual quality along the Red Canyon and how the visual quality would be impacted from prescribed fire. Those comments were taken into consideration and as a result, there is very little use of prescribed fire proposed for this project. Additionally, staff input highlighted the importance of the area from an historic and archeologic perspective, as well as considerations related to soil and water quality. This input helped to reshape the size of the project, reducing the total project area by approximately 77 percent of what was originally proposed. Staff recommendations also led to more focus on using traditional vegetation management techniques such as lop and scatter with much less emphasis on prescribed fire...(see letter attached below)