ANF offers public opportunities to comment on forest projects

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry On Thursday ANF Deputy Forest Supervisor Chris Cook spoke briefly about what people could do to have an impact on forest health.

The health of the Allegheny National Forest is central to the forest’s motto — “land of many uses.”

It is to be “a healthy, vigorous forest that provides wood products, protects watersheds, a variety of wildlife habitats and recreational opportunities — not only for today, but in a sustainable way so future generations can enjoy these benefits, too,” according to the ANF website.

At a forest health event on Thursday, ANF Deputy Forest Supervisor Chris Cook spoke briefly about what people could do to have an impact on forest health.

In the informational booklet given to attendees of the event, the sponsors — Allegheny Forest Alliance, and Forest Area and Warren County school districts — also encouraged more active participation in forest proposals.

According to ANF Public Affairs Officer Christopher Warner, there are two comment opportunities for larger vegetation management projects — including timber sales.

“The first is called a scoping period, which occurs after the Forest Service has developed a proposal for vegetation management and before the environmental assessment is completed,” he said. “The second represents a chance for stakeholders and the public to review and comment on the environmental assessment itself.”

“Some of the ANF’s smaller projects fall within the scope of a categorical exclusion, which can be applied to a few specific activities that do not typically result in any significant environmental impacts,” Warner said. “In this instance, the scoping period is the public’s opportunity to comment on these projects before a decision is made.”

The ANF accepts comments any time, but there are specific comment opportunities for projects, Warner said.

“Comments are most useful if they:

¯ are submitted in writing, within the requested time periods;

¯ give site-specific detail regarding the effects of our proposal at specific locations on specific resources;

¯ identify different activities or implementation methods to consider in resolving identified concerns; and

¯ provide references to supporting data and scientific literature.”

“Comments can be mailed, emailed, or phoned into the Forest Supervisor’s Office or one of our two District Ranger offices,” Warner said. “All ANF contact information can be found on out website at www.fs.usda.gov/allegheny.”

“All of the Allegheny National Forest’s vegetation management projects are announced on our website, sent out in a news release, posted on our Facebook page, and sent directly to interested stakeholders announcing the project’s details and that the comment period is open.”

Current Forest Service schedule of proposed actions (SOPA) reports can be found at www.fs.fed.us/sopa/ by clicking on the forest of interest.

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