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Impact Statement Open For Public Review

The Forest Service today announced that the Larson Reforestation and Fuels Reduction Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is available for public review. A 45-day formal comment period will follow. The DEIS documents the environmental analysis to determine how best to manage the vegetation and fuel levels in an area burned in the 1987 Stanislaus Complex Fire. Alternatives within the document are designed to return a portion of the affected area to a condition with a greater proportion of conifer vegetation that better reflects the pre-fire forest, and reduce the fuels, which makes the area susceptible to another stand-replacing wildfire.

“The Larson Reforestation and Fuels Reduction analysis is an important tool to help accomplish the goals stated in the Stanislaus Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) and to take significant steps towards achieving long-term desired forest conditions in the area,” said Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn. He emphasized the importance of public comment in the planning process, and noted that meaningful public participation in the DEIS review is essential in determining future forest management decisions.

Supervisor Quinn is asking members of the public to provide specific comments in response to the alternatives and analysis displayed in the DEIS. Quinn pointed out that he has identified Alternative 4 as the preferred alternative to implement the Larson Reforestation and Fuels Reduction project, as it appears to best meet the land management objectives for the area, and responds to public comments received during initial scoping for the proposal.

Under Alternative 4 the Forest proposes to reduce fuel accumulations and reforest nearly 4000 acres with conifer trees, construct fuel breaks along strategically located roads and topographic features, thin nearly 750 acres of existing plantations, and control the spread of noxious weeds in areas where these activities occur.

Quinn emphasized that all public comments on the DEIS will be carefully considered in development of the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and final decision, expected by July 15, 2004.

To assist in understanding what actions are being proposed and how to participate in the process during the comment period, the Forest Service will host public information sessions in mid-November. They will be held at the Groveland District Office, eight miles east of Groveland and at the Forest Supervisor’s Office in Sonora, at times and dates to be determined and announced soon. The meetings are intended to provide information, assist members of the public and local communities in interpreting the document, and how to participate in a meaningful way in the planning effort during the comment period.

Forest managers would like to receive substantive comments on the DEIS that are specific to the Larson Reforestation and Fuel Reduction Project and address the adequacy of the statement and the merits of the alternatives discussed. The public´s comments will be used to help formulate the Final Environmental Impact Statement, and assist the Forest Service in making future forest management decisions.

A 45-day comment period begins once the Environmental Protection Agency publishes the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on or about October 27, 2003. Comments should be mailed to: Groveland Ranger District, Attn: Larson EIS, 24545 Highway 120, Groveland, CA 95321.

Electronic comments may be submitted by e-mail to: comments-pacificsouthwest-stanislaus-groveland@fs.fed.us [Subject: Larson EIS] (please include full name and a mailing address with comments).

The DEIS is available on the Stanislaus National Forest website at www.fs.fed.us/r5/stanislaus. Paper or CD copies are also available on request. Review copies of the DEIS are also available at the Tuolumne County Main Branch Library in Sonora, the Public Library in Groveland, the Groveland Ranger District Office, near Groveland, and the Forest Supervisor´s Office in Sonora.

For more information on how to comment and participate in the Larson Reforestation and Fuels Reduction planning effort, or to request a copy of the DEIS, please contact Steve Marsh at (209) 962-7825 ext. 550 or via e-mail at smarsh@fs.fed.us.