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Forest Service seeks comments on Pacific Crest Trail Crossing project proposal

By ThisIsReno

USFS NEWS RELEASE

SPARKS — The Humboldt–Toiyabe National Forest is initiating a second comment period on a proposal that would establish a snowmobile egress route between the Bridgeport Winter Recreation Area and Highway 108 near Sonora Pass to create a loop opportunity on the Bridgeport Ranger District.

The proposal stems from the Omnibus Public Land Act of 2009 (Act), which directs the Forest Service to create a motorized crossing in accordance with the National Trails System Act and applicable environmental and public safety laws.  The Act states that the crossing will not interfere with the nature and purposes of the Pacific Crest Trail or harm the surrounding landscape.

The Environmental Assessment is being released for public review and a second comment period.

Two primary reasons are driving this second comment period:

1)        A conflict exists between the proposed use of motorized vehicles in the congressionally designated PCT Crossing Area and current Forest Plan direction to manage the area as wilderness, which excludes motorized vehicles.

A decision to select any of the motorized alternatives would not comply with this Forest Plan direction.

All motorized alternatives will contain a Forest Plan Amendment provision to resolve this discrepancy.

This non-significant amendment would require that winter use in the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail Crossing Area be managed as identified in the Decision Notice for the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail Crossing Environmental Assessment.

2)        The Sierra Nevada red fox was discovered in the PCT Crossing Area in August, 2010, after the initial comment period.  The Sierra Nevada red fox was previously known only to inhabit areas near Lassen National Park, over 150 miles north of the PCT Crossing Area.  Recent survey efforts by the California Department of Fish and Game in the Sierra Nevada had failed to detect red foxes south of the Lassen area, making the Sonora Pass discovery important.

Upon confirmation of the discovery, the subspecies was designated as a Forest Service Region 4 “sensitive species.”   This means that the Regional Forester has identified that this species’ population viability is a concern (as evidenced by significant current or predicted downward trends in population numbers or density, or significant current or predicted downward trends in habitat capability that would reduce a species’ existing distribution).  The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail Crossing Environmental Assessment describes the effects from each alternative on the Sierra Nevada red fox.

The initial comment period identified the Bridgeport District Ranger as the deciding officer.  “Due to the fact that any action alternative will require an amendment to the Forest Plan, I will be making the final decision,” said Jeanne Higgins, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisor.

Comments received during the first comment period, June 25 – July 23, 2010, will be considered along with the comments received during this comment period of March 11 – April 11, 2011, in the development of the final environmental assessment.  “We are committed to providing the public an opportunity to comment on the full scope of the proposal and its effects,” said Higgins.
Copies of the Pacific Crest Trail Crossing Environmental Assessment can be found on the Humboldt – Toiyabe National Forest website at:  http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/htnf/projects.

Public comments about the proposed action can be submitted to Bridgeport District Ranger, Attn: PCT Crossing, HC 62 Box 1000, Bridgeport, CA, 93517.

Written comments can be hand-delivered from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays:  Attention PCT Crossing Analysis, at the Bridgeport Ranger District office, Highway 395, Bridgeport, CA.

Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an e-mail message, plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), and Word (.doc) to [email protected].

All public comments need to include a full name and a physical mailing address in the comment.  Names and addresses of those commenting will become part of the public record.  A scanned signature may serve as verification on electronic comments.  The deadline for comments is April 11, 2011.

Media may learn more about this release by contacting Jeanne Higgins, Forest Supervisor, at 775-355-5304, or Mike Crawley, Bridgeport District Ranger, at 760-272-7374.  The public is encouraged to direct their questions about the Pacific Crest Trail Crossing Project to Rachel Franchina, Recreation Planner, at 303-838-0663.

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