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Bighorn National Forest
|Lead Agency:||USDA Forest Service|
|Responsible Official:||William T. Bass, Forest Supervisor
Bighorn National Forest
2013 Eastside 2nd Street
Sheridan, WY 82801
|For Further Information or to Submit Comments:||Craig Yancey, District Ranger
Tongue Ranger District
Bighorn National Forest
2013 Eastside 2nd Street
Sheridan, WY 82801
|Abstract. This Environmental Assessment (EA) is a public
document that will provide evidence and analysis for determining whether
to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or a Finding of No
Significant Impact. The proposed action is to implement fuels treatments
to reduce the threat of large wildfires to Story Wyoming and to increase
the resilience of timber stands to the mountain pine beetle. There are
two alternatives: a no action and an action alternative. Proposed
activities would occur in the North and South Piney Creek drainages
immediately west of Story in Sheridan and Johnson County, Wyoming.
to Comment: This EA will be available for a 45-day public comment period, beginning
approximately February 28, and ending approximately April 14, 2003. All
written comments must be postmarked no later than the date of the legal
notice in the Sheridan Press(Official Paper of Record). Written comments
may be submitted to Craig Yancey at the address listed above. Reviewers
should provide the Forest Service with their comments during the review
period of the EA. We ask that comments be specific to the issues and
actions identified in this EA.
received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses
of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record on
this proposed action, and will be available for public inspection.
Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered; however,
those who submit only anonymous comments will not have standing to
appeal the subsequent decision under 36 CFR Part 215. Additionally,
pursuant to 7 CFR 1.27 (d), any person may request the agency to
withhold a submission from the public record by showing how the Freedom
of Information Act (FOIA) permits such confidentiality. Persons
requesting such confidentiality should be aware that, under FOIA,
confidentiality may be granted in only very limited circumstances, such
as to protect trade secrets. The Forest Service will inform the
requester of the agency’s decision regarding the request for
confidentiality, and where the request is denied, the agency will return
the submission and notify the requester that the comments may be
resubmitted with or without name and address within 10 days.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all
its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national
origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual
orientation, or marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases
apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternate
means for communication or program information (Braille, large print,
audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600
(voice and TTY). To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA,
Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400
Appendix B - Bibliography
Fire & Fuels
The Forest Service has prepared this Environmental
Assessment (EA) on the potential effects of fuels reduction in the Story
Fuels project area (see Figure 1-1) in compliance with the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other relevant federal and state
laws and regulations. The fuels reduction project area is located near
the town of Story Wyoming on the lower portion of South Piney Creek. The
treatment area is dominated by ponderosa pine on the south slopes with
Douglas-fir more present on the north slopes. In elevations above
7000ft. lodgepole pine is the dominant species. The proposed treatment
area is within the Tongue Ranger District on the Bighorn National Forest
in Wyoming. This EA discloses the direct, indirect, and cumulative
environmental impacts and any irreversible or irretrievable commitment
(chapter 3 section 3.11) of resources that would result from the
proposed action and alternatives.
This EA is prepared according to the format
established by Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations
implementing NEPA (40 CFR 1500-1508). Chapter 1, in addition to
explaining the purpose and need for the proposed action, discusses how
Story Fuels relates to the Land and Resource Management Plan for the
Bighorn National Forest (Forest Plan) and identifies the key issues
driving the EA analysis. Chapter 2 describes and compares the proposed
action, alternatives to the proposed action, a no-action alternative and
summarizes the significant environmental consequences by issue. Chapter
3 describes the natural and human environments potentially affected by
the proposed action and discloses what potential effects are
anticipated. The document concludes with the list of preparers, the EA,
literature cited, and an index. Appendices provide additional
information on specific aspects of the proposed project. This EA
incorporates documented analyses by summarization and reference where
The Interdisciplinary Team used a systematic approach for analyzing the proposed project and alternatives to it, estimating the environmental effects and preparing this EA. The planning process complies with NEPA and the CEQ regulations. Planning was conducted with the appropriate federal, state, and local agencies, along with local federally recognized tribes. Public comment began in December of 2001. Public notice appeared in the Sheridan Press on December 27th of 2001.Additional documentation, including more detailed analyses of project-area resources, may be found in the project planning record, located at the Tongue River Ranger District Office in Sheridan Wyoming, at 2013 Eastside 2nd Street. These records are available for public review.
The following background information is from the Forest Service
publication Protecting People and Sustaining Resources in
Fire-Adapted Ecosystems: A Cohesive Strategy, October 2000.
On August 8, 2000, President Clinton asked Secretaries Babbitt and Glickman to prepare a report that recommends how best to respond to this year’s severe fires, reduce the impacts of those fires on rural communities and insure sufficient firefighting resources in the future. On September 8, 2000, President Clinton accepted their report Managing Impacts of Wildfires on Communities and the Environment. This report prompted the creation of the National Fire Plan and its “operating principles”.
“Operating principles directed by the Chief of the Forest Service in implementing this report include: firefighting readiness, prevention through education, rehabilitation, hazardous fuel reduction, restoration, collaborative stewardship, monitoring, jobs, and applied research and technology” (from Protecting People and Sustaining Resources in Fire-Adapted Ecosystems: A Cohesive Strategy, p.11-12).
The hazardous fuel reduction portion of this strategy called for; “Assigning highest priority for hazardous fuels reduction to communities at risk, readily accessible municipal watersheds, threatened and endangered species habitat, and other important local features, where conditions favor uncharacteristically intense wildfires.” (ibid, p.12) Story is listed as a community at risk, in the Federal Register Vol. 66, No. 3 Jan 4th 2001. The Moncreiffe and Stockwell fires in 1996, above Story, Wyoming, burned with high intensity and were a factor in prompting an action plan by the town of Story to create its Wildfire Assessment and Mitigation Plan (see Appendix A). Story Fuels responds to the fuels reduction element of the Cohesive Strategy.
Fuels is adjacent to the town of Story, Wyoming T. 53N., R. 84 W.,
Sections 15-16, 22-23, and 26, in Sheridan and Johnson counties. Access
into the treatment areas would be by foot and ATV along the Story
Penrose Trail and other available walk in areas. The area is used by
recreationist in and around the communities of Buffalo and Sheridan as
well as some out of state use. The project area includes key winter
habitat for deer and may include some sensitive plants occurring in the
spring and summer months. Areas of interest include the Story Penrose
Trail, South Piney Creek, and the Story State Fish Hatchery.
Figure 1 - Reference map; treatment area is approximately 690 acres.
The Story Fuels project responds to the National
Fire Plan. In addition, this project will meet the goals and objectives
of the Bighorn National Forest Plan, and management area prescriptions
in 6B, 4B, 7E, 4D, and 9A summarized as follows:
Prescription 4B (189 acres, 14.7% of total)
Prescription 4D (85 acres 6.6% of total)
Prescription 7E (43 acres 3.4% of total)
Back to Top
Analysis indicates an unnatural density of small conifers, and brush, resulting in fuel ladders in ponderosa pine stands adjacent to the community of Story. This primarily results from decades of fire suppression in ponderosa pine that normally has a fire frequency of about 20 to 30 years. This increase of fuel along with an increase of mountain pine beetle has increased the chance for a high intensity wildland fire in and around the town of Story. The desired condition for these adjacent National Forest lands is to return them to predominantly open ponderosa pine stands. This would achieve multiple goals of The National Fire Plan and compliment the activities of the Story Fire District with their “Story Wildfire Assessment and Mitigation Plan.”
National Fire Plan goals and objectives include:
The objective specific to this project is to reduce the accumulation of unnatural fuel buildup on Forest Service lands adjacent to Story by chain saw thinning and using prescribed fire. The Forest Service looks to improve the overall health of the forest by returning fire back into a fire dependent ecosystem. Ponderosa pine, a fire adapted species with its thick bark as an insulating protective layer and self-pruning capabilities, has evolved with fire. With the reintroduction of fire and thinning, the Forest Service intends to increase (Mountain Pine Beetle) MPB resistance in ponderosa pine and create more open ponderosa pine stands.
A "proposed action" is defined early in the project-level planning process. This serves as a starting point for the interdisciplinary team, and gives the public and other agencies specific information on which to focus comments. Using these comments, key issues, and other information from preliminary analysis, the interdisciplinary team then develops alternatives to the proposed action. These are discussed in detail in Chapter 2.
The proposed action for the Story Fuels project is to reduce fuel loading on approximately 690 acres within an area of 1500 acres of National Forest System lands. The methods used to treat the area are a combination of prescribed fire and mechanical treatments to thin the understory of brush along with removal of some small diameter conifers. There will be no new roads built and no commercial timber harvest for this project.
In addition to the fuels treatment proposed by the Forest Service, there are private and state Wyoming Game and Fish Department lands (Story Fish Hatchery), immediately adjacent to the Bighorn National Forestry boundary. The communities proposed treatments include commercial timber harvest and working with the Story Fire District to create a shaded fuel break and prescribe burning. The effects of these treatments on National Forest System Lands will be described in this EA in chapter 3 under the cumulative effects section 3.10.
Story Fuels has been listed on the Bighorn National Forest Schedule of Proposed Actions since December 4, 2001. To date, the public has been invited to participate in the project in the following ways.
Local News Media
Key issues for the Story project were identified through public and internal scoping. Similar issues were combined into one statement where appropriate. The following were determined to be the key issues and within the scope of the project decision. These issues are addressed through the proposed action and alternatives. Additional concerns, discussed separately below, were considered but determined not to be significant for the project decisions to be made.
Preliminary analysis indicates an increase in fuel loading in the urban interface in and around Story, Wyoming. The increase in fuel loading combined with the suppression of wildfire in a fire adapted ecosystem has also decreased the resilience of ponderosa pine to MPB.
The aesthetic beauty of the forest is important to people who visit the Bighorn National Forest as well as the local population. The main issue was a concern over what negative impact would the thinning and prescribed burning have on the South Piney Creek and Penrose Trail area as well as the impacts the project might have on the visual appearance of the forest above Story.
All of the Story Fuels Project is located within an established roadless area. Roadless management policy (FSM 1925.33) states; “Inventoried roadless areas contain important environmental values that warrant protection and will be managed to preserve their roadless characteristics.” The concern was that any new road construction would alter the roadless character.
The Story fuels project area has a variety of different ecosystems providing a wide range of wildlife habitat. Four important issues were identified through scoping: 1) Hiding cover for big game; 2) Snag retention; 3) Forest diversity including old growth, and; 4) Potential effects on terrestrial threatened and endangered species.
The following were considered key issues concerning aquatics and soils in the Story Project area. 1) Will the prescribed burns increase soil movement due to the watershed and erosion, and will this also result in poorer water quality? 2) What effect will the treatments have on aquatic wildlife and will there be effects on the Story Fish Hatchery?
There are a number of plants in the treatment area that were at one time listed as Senstive or as species of concern. The analysis indicates that plants like the mountain lady’s slipper (Cypripedium montanum) were removed from the Region 2 Sensitive Species list in 1994, but mitigation plans will be put into place to reduce effects on these plants.
The following public concerns and resource areas
are important and were considered in the analysis of key issues, however
they were determined not to be key issues because they did not drive
alternatives. Some are already addressed through other processes
addressed in the Forest Plan (see "Items Common to All
Alternatives" in Chapter 2), or their resolution is beyond the
scope of this project.
To proceed with the proposed project, various permits must be obtained from federal and state agencies.
approved Burn Plan will be completed and approved by the Bighorn
smoke emission permit will be obtained from the Wyoming Department of
Environmental Quality (DEQ) before the prescribed burn is implemented.
· The Wyoming State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) has been consulted. They are in agreement with the finding that this project will have no effect on cultural resources.
An EA is not a decision document. The purpose of this document is to disclose the effects and consequences of the proposed action and alternatives and to solicit public input. The responsible line officer will make a decision based on consideration of the purpose and need for the project, the effects of the alternatives, and public involvement.
For this project the responsible official, the Forest Supervisor, will decide:
chapter describes and compares the alternatives for the Story Fuels
project. It includes a discussion of how alternatives were developed, an
overview of mitigation measures, monitoring and other features common to
all alternatives, a description of each alternative considered in
detail, and a comparison of these alternatives focusing on key issues.
Alternative Two is identified as the preferred alternative. Chapter 2 is
intended to present the alternatives in comparative form, sharply
defining the issues and providing a clear basis for choice among options
by the decision maker and the public (40 CFR 1502.14).
Some of the information used to compare alternatives at the end of Chapter 2 is summarized from Chapter 3, "Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences." Chapter 3 contains the detailed scientific basis for establishing baselines and measuring the potential environmental consequences of each of the alternatives. For a better understanding of the effects of the alternatives, readers will need to consult Chapter 3.
Wildland Urban Interface Areas
The following definition of Wildland Urban
Interface has been adopted by the Council of Western State Foresters and
the Forest Service: “Wildland/Urban
Interface is where humans and their development meet or are intermixed
with wildland fuels” (Teie and Weatherford, 1998: 11-12).
There are four different wildland/urban conditions:
1. Interface Condition--is a situation where structures abut wildland fuels. There is a clear line of demarcation between the structures and the wildland fuels along roads or back fences. Wildland fuels do not continue into the developed area.
2. Intermix Condition-- is a condition where structures are scattered throughout a wildland area. There is no clear line of demarcation; the wildland fuels are continuous outside of and within the developed area.
3. Occluded Condition-- is a situation normally within a city, where structures abut an island of wildland fuels. There is a clear line of demarcation between the structures and the wildland fuels along roads or back fences.
4. Rural condition-- is a situation where scattered small clusters of structures are exposed to wildland fuels. There may be miles between these clusters.
Story is located within a continuously forested environment and is of the Intermix Condition. The timber stands and brush serving as ladder fuels are scattered throughout most subdivisions. Within the main part of town there are very few fuel breaks with an abundance of forest vegetation. This condition, if ignited, can provide for a high intensity crown fire amongst the wildland fuels in and around the town of Story.
“Story has a reputation within
the Wyoming Wildfire community as a disaster waiting to happen” (Story
Wildfire Assessment and Mitigation Plan pg. 5) The heavy fuel loading
with inadequate access for suppression of fire, and no fire fuel break
near the community increases the chance for a urban interface fire.
Fire has been a past visitor to the Story area. Fire scars on a
ponderosa pine near the Wagon Box Inn record a major fire in 1868 and
another in 1876. Historic photographs of the area show this to be an
open savannah area with widely spaced trees and fire playing its natural
role in the cleanup of this forested area. (See Story Photo 1910,
Upon the recognition of the above factors, this fuels reduction project was made a priority by the Bighorn National Forest. In addition the area in and around the community of Story was proposed for fuels reduction treatment by the Story Fire Board (Story Wildfire Assessment and Mitigation Plan).
The ID team
used information from public scoping, including the key issues
identified for the project (see Chapter 1), in conjunction with field
related resource information, to formulate different alternatives. Based
on these alternatives, the ID team then assigned potential treatment
prescriptions to different land units to create the two alternatives.
The proposed action and the no action alternative presented in this EA
provide a different response to the key issues; one alternative may
respond to more than one issue. The action alternative is also designed
to meet the stated purpose and need for the Story Fuels project and the
project-specific desired future conditions.
The action alternative represents a site-specific proposal developed through interdisciplinary evaluation of current and desired conditions. Through the use of field data, past , present and current topographic maps, the analysis and site-specific treatment areas have been identified.
timber harvest was considered but eliminated from detailed analysis for
1. Most of the treatment area exceeds 40 % slope which is the maximum allowable for ground based logging systems (Forest Plan, III-78).
2. The maximum tree diameter being cut for prescribed burning is 8 inches which is at the minimum size for merchantable saw timber products.
Alternative One - No Action
The emphasis of this alternative is to propose no
fuels reduction in the Story Fuels area at this time. It does not
preclude activities in other areas, or from the Story fuels reduction
area at some time in the future. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
regulations (40 CFR 1502.14d) require that a "no action"
alternative be analyzed in detail. This alternative represents the
existing condition against which other alternatives are compared.
Alternative Two - Proposed Action
of Alternative Two is to reduce the potential effects of a catastrophic
wildfire entering the town of Story. This is responsive to the National
Fire Plan identifying concerns of urban interface and the potential for
fuels reduction proposed in Alternative Two will meet the standards and
guidelines of the National Fire plan, reducing unnatural fuels buildup
through thinning, pruning, girdling, brush cutting, and the use of
prescribed fire to reduce fuels and increase resistance to the present
MPB infestations in ponderosa pine. There will be no new or improved
road construction for this project. The project cost is estimated to be approximately
Three treatment areas have been identified with different objectives and treatment types. (Refer to map pg .6). They are as follows;
Treatment Area #1 – Thin, Limb up, Pile &
The objective is to create a fifty foot wide fuel break, to ensure prescribed fire does not cross the forest boundary on to non-Forest Service lands. This treatment area is not designated or intended to create a wildfire fuel break, it is intended to create a tactical anchor point for prescribed burning.
The treatment area includes the fuel break, inside the Forest Boundary from the middle of the East line of Section 23, T53N, R84W, to the north to the northeast comer of Section 14, T53N, R84W, then west to Grandma’s Mountain. Treatment specifications are to thin trees to an average of thirty foot spacing and cut brush where it could serve as a ladder fuel, and remove tree limbs to a height of six feet. Hand pile all slash up to three inches in diameter and than burn hand piles in the spring or fall when the ground is covered with snow. The treatment area is nine acres.
Treatment Area #2 – Thin, Broadcast burn.
The primary objective in treatment area two is to reduce fuels. In addition, there is a secondary objective to reduce the stocking rate to increase resistance of ponderosa pine to attack from mountain pine beetles.
Representative of existing fuels in treatment area two
The treatment area includes the south to southeast facing slopes in Section 14 and the north one third of Section 23, T53N, R84W. These areas are occupied by closed stands of mature ponderosa pine with grass openings, scattered pockets of pole sized mixed conifers, aspen, and patches of brush. This treatment area is approximately 600 acres.
Prior to 1900, fire frequency in this area is estimated to be 12-50 years (see Table 1, chapter 3, 3.1). These short fire intervals kept the ponderosa pine stands open with only an occasional seedling surviving the low intensity fires for eventual recruitment/replacements. Since the Story area was settled in the early 1880's, fire has not been allowed to play a significant roll as it had prior to settlement. This has resulted in an increase of trees and vegetation becoming ladder fuels. Without treatment this area would convert to a dense, mixed conifer stand, which would be an unnatural condition. The objective is to eliminate ladder fuels that are known to cause detrimental crown fires.
This treatment uses a combination of mechanical techniques and prescribed fire to reduce ladder fuels and increase crown spacing. The low-intensity fire planned to reduce fuels, will not kill all of the targeted vegetation. To ensure all targeted vegetation is removed, some trees will be cut prior to the prescribed fire. The target vegetation for cutting is 90% of the conifers that are eight inches or less in diameter. Prescribed fire would follow the cutting, burning the cut trees and the uncut target vegetation. Primarily, these conditions occur in the spring, but there may also be a narrow “window of opportunity” to meet objectives in the fall. This allows the prescribed burning to be done without having to construct fire lines, reducing costs and ground disturbance. This method ensures greater control of the prescribed fire as opposed to straight broadcast burning.
The primary objective is to reduce fuels by breaking up the
continuity of conifer overstory to complement the fuels treatment
occurring in the Story area (See map private lands). The secondary
objective is to improve the resistance of the ponderosa pine stands to
The treatment area includes the north and northeast facing slopes in the east one third of section 14 and the northeast quarter of section 23, T53N, R84W. This treatment area is estimated to be approximately 80 acres.
The treatment is thinning the ponderosa pine and Douglas fir to spacing that ranges from 12 feet to 17 feet, depending on the average diameter of the leave trees. Thinning will have an 8” dbh limit, unless larger trees have active beetle hits. This treatment also includes hand piling all slash up to three inches in diameter and burning the hand piles in the fall when the ground is covered with snow. There would be no broadcast burning in these areas. Some trees may be girdled (killed by interrupting the circulation of water and nutrients – Removal of cambium layer by a chainsaw) and left standing to reduce the amount of potential slash greater than three inches. Fuels will also be used for erosion control and serve as cover for some wildlife species.
The mitigations in this next section are integrated into Alternative Two for assessing the environmental consequences.
Ignition will be precluded for at least 100 feet on each side of streams within the burn area. The purpose of this buffer strip is to minimize loss of fish habitat associated with stream bank vegetation and to reduce the possibility of increased sedimentation to aquatic habitats. Fire may back through riparian zones at very low intensity with a low percentage of crown removal. This would reduce the chance of sediment delivery and reduce the chance of dry ravel failures or debris torrents in the ephemeral draws.
Spring burning is recommended as mitigation in this watershed to lower the risk of high intensity fire that could expose bare soil that can be routed as sediment and reach the stream. Re-growth is also much faster in the spring.
Construction of water bars where needed, contour falling of trees, strategic location of slash/debris piles and other similar techniques would help control soil erosion.
Re-vegetate areas by seeding with native grass species where high intensity fires have occurred to minimize soil erosion and related aquatic impacts.
Buffer zones of uncut vegetation should be left along each side of standing waters and water courses to minimize sedimentation and direct fish habitat impacts. Factors such as slope, stream channel stability and fish habitat should be considered when determining appropriate buffer zone width. As a general rule, the following slopes and corresponding buffer zone widths should be maintained.
Attempt to create a mosaic of fire effects. This means that most areas of large diameter (>8” dbh) trees should remain unburned. It is recognized that a few patches of mature trees may be killed. The trees killed by burning should be left standing to provide snags to meet the requirements of snag-dependant wildlife species in the short term and the patches of unburned trees will provide future snags over the long-term.
Assure that enough area is burned at one time to prevent concentrations of big game animals from damaging the vegetation that will re-sprout on the burned areas. It is recommended that at least 200 acres be burned at one time to prevent creating wildlife “magnets.”
If any raptor nest is found after the Decision Notice has been signed, restrict activities in the vicinity of the nest site during the nesting season until the young have fledged and left the area. This “no activity” area will normally be approximately 2,000 feet radius from the nest site (roughly 300 acres), and all activities should be curtailed from May 1, through August 15.
Increase the amount of coarse woody debris for wildlife habitat. This can be accomplished mainly through slash treatment and prescribed fire management. Avoid creating big game movement barriers with slash, but assure that Forest Plan minimums are met for down, dead woody material; 12-inch diameter, and at least 50 linear feet per acre.
Sensitive Plants and Species of
Mountain lady’s slipper
(Cypripedium montanum), a Wyoming Natural Diversity Database (WYNDD)
species of concern (ie, it is not a Threatened, Endangered or Proposed
for listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nor is it on the
Region 2 Sensitive Species list), is known to exist within the proposed
treatment units. In Wyoming, it is found along the east-central edge of
the Big Horn Mountains. There is no known peer reviewed published fire
effects information on this species as most of what is presumed about
the life cycle of mountain lady’s slipper has been from research on
other Cypripedium species (Seevers and Lange 1998). Since this
species exists in a landscape where fire was an important influence, it
is assumed that it is adapted to fire.
To better understand fire effects upon this species, monitoring plots will be established for mountain lady’s slipper within the project area. Monitoring will include quantitative inventories and qualitative information, such as photo series. The objective of the monitoring will be to measure population numbers in response to fire.
One noxious weed population is known to exist in the proposed treatment units, leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula). This population will continue to be monitored as well as the rest of the burned units and will be spot treated if necessary to control the spread of this species and any other noxious weeds.
To help mitigate the
effects of the treatments to potentially occurring R2 Sensitive plant
species and mountain lady’s slipper, the following will apply:
· See items 1 and 5 under Watershed Mitigations. The purpose of this buffer strip is to minimize the loss of riparian plant habitat.
· Do not completely burn up the duff layer where it is present.
Do not drop slash or hand pile
slash on top of marked mountain lady’s-slipper sites and Region 2,
Forest Service (R2) Sensitive plant species sites if plants are found
prior to implementation.
During treatment operations,
avoid trampling marked mountain lady’s slipper sites and R2 Sensitive
plant species sites if plants are found prior to implementation.
Retain sufficient shrub and/or
tree canopy cover so that marked mountain lady’s slipper sites are not
exposed to more than intermittent direct solar radiation.
Conduct prescribed burns at a time of year when completely
burning the duff layer is unlikely so that mountain lady’s slipper
rhizomes will not be damaged.
· A specialist will locate several patches of mountain lady’s slipper to be excluded from prescribed burning within the treatment units to provide a seed source within the treatment units.
Recreation, Roadless and Visual Mitigations
During implementation, leave tree spacing recommendations should take some randomness into consideration, so that the overall sense is one that has been naturally rather than mechanically created. Hand piling in close proximity of the trails should be minimized.
This chapter provides information concerning the environment affected by the Story Fuels project and potential consequences to that environment. It also presents the scientific and analytical basis for the comparison of alternatives presented in Chapter 2
Environmental consequences are the effects of implementing an alternative on the physical, biological, social and economic environment. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulates implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and includes a number of specific categories to use for the analysis of environmental consequences. Several are applicable to the analysis of this proposed project and its alternatives. These categories form the basis of much of the analysis that follows. They are explained briefly below.
Direct environmental effects are those occurring at the same time and place as the initial cause or action. Indirect effects are those that occur later in time or are spatially removed from the activity, but could be important in the foreseeable future. Cumulative effects result from incremental effects of actions, when added to other past, present, and reasonable foreseeable future actions, regardless of what agency or person undertakes such other actions. Cumulative effects can result from individually minor, but collectively important, actions taking place over a period of time. The Cumulative effects section for all resources starts at 3.10 of this chapter.
Regime/Fire History/Fire Occurrence
Fire is widely considered to be the dominant disturbance influencing the composition and structure of Rocky Mountain forests (Clements 1910; Romme and Knight 1981; Peet 1988). The fire regime found in ponderosa pine is commonly believed to be one of high frequency and low intensity (Spurr and Barnes 1980). Listed in Table 1 are mean fire return intervals, estimated from fire scar analysis, from a variety of research papers for the Rocky Mountains.
Even though there are variations in estimates of mean fire return intervals, the literature suggests overwhelmingly that reoccurring surface fires shaped the structure of ponderosa pine stands. It has been widely held that the open, savanna nature of low elevation conifer woodlands was perpetuated prior to European-American settlement by relatively frequent, low-intensity fires that killed many seedlings and saplings but not mature, thick-barked trees, especially ponderosa pine (Covington and Moore 1994; Knight 1994),. Surface fires at regular intervals maintained the clumped pattern of all-aged stands in even-aged groups and reduced excess fuel. Fires set naturally by lightning and by Native Americans thinned out young pine reproduction (Spurr and Barnes 1980). Historic accounts describing "open and park-like" stands with understories rich in grasses were common in the American Southwest (Cooper 1960) and in the Rock Mountains (Velben and Lorenz 1991).
As the inclusion of fire as a natural part of the ponderosa pine ecosystem defines its structure, so does the exclusion of fire. The most important changes brought by European Americans were the attempted exclusion of fire, which was accomplished by an intense fire prevention program and the introduction of livestock that reduced the flammable grasses. With few fires, dense poine thickets developed and with them the accompanying problems of slow growth and stagnation (Spurr and Barnes 1980) and stand replacing (emphasis added) wildfires (Agee 1997).
Vegetation management in the analysis area has been limited to selective logging near the turn of the century and more recently grazing. The phenomenon of over-stocked stands with tree densities and fuel loadings well in excess of the RNV (Range of Natural Variation) are found throughout the analysis area. This is especially obvious where topography limited vegetative management activities other than fire suppression.
The Bighorn National Forest averages 22 fires per year. Even though this occurrence is quite low, average burned acres is high at 1,206 acres per year. Ninety-three percent of these fires never exceed 10 acres but the balance accounts for 99% of the total acres burned. Recorded large fires in the Piney/Rock geographic area are:
Alternative 1: No Action
Under this alternative, fuel treatments would not be implemented in the analysis area. Fire behavior, especially as it relates to surface to crown fire transition in the conifer stands has the potential to occur.
Alternative 2: Proposed Action
There is general consensus from more than ninety years of fire experience and research that a fire burns hotter, spreads faster, and pumps more harmful smoke into the atmosphere, when there is more fuel available to feed it.
A long standing program of fire behavior research and decades of empirical observation by both managers and researchers indicate that appropriate stand structure changes do reduce the intensity of fires and the effects of fire on the ecological process (Graham et al, 1999).
The problem of uncharacteristically intense and volatile fire behavior in certain ecosystems is getting worse. Resource damage from these intense fires is exceeding that of fires that burned pre Euro-American settlement.
The action alternative (Alternative 2) proposes treatments that move in the direction of more open, large-tree dominated, low-fuel forest condition.
Treatment Areas #1 and #3 have slightly different specifications but both are essentially thinning from below and treating the slash. The basic objective of this thinning is to remove fuels, specifically smaller understory trees that provide ladder fuels for a surface fire to move into the forest canopy and become a highly destructive crown fire. Removal or treatment of slash produced by the thinning operation, either mechanically and/or with prescribed fire, is an integral part of the thinning prescription. Otherwise, fire hazard could be exacerbated. Quoting from Brown (2000): "Neither thinning nor fire will be a panacea: both must be used, but used thoughtfully. Nothing will make forests fireproof, but it appears feasible to make some forest more "fire safe". in that they will have species composition, age structure and fuel levels such that crown fires are unlikely to begin or spread (Agee 1996).
In most established forest ecosystems, thinning preferentially removes the more fire-susceptible small trees, tends to leave the more fire-resistant large trees and accelerates the growth of residual trees into larger more fire resistant size classes. For reducing fire risk, the priorities are to reduce surface and ladder fuels and raise the bottom of the live canopy (Agee et al 2000, van Wagtendonk 1996). Reducing the probably of violent crown fires that also increase the likelihood of fire spotting is a key objective of this thinning.
There is peer-reviewed science and general consensus in the science community that properly implemented and maintained fuel treatments that include prescribed burning will result in reduced fire severity within treated areas (Graham et al 1999). Depending on how the treatments are placed on the landscape, there may be fire reduction benefits outside the treated area on the subsequent spread rate, size and severity of wildfires and on the ease of suppression.
Treat Area #2 reduces fuels by means of mechanical slashing, followed up with prescribed fire. The current fuel model would be described as FM2 (open pine grass) with patches of FM10 (Heavy down woody conifer fuels). Historic photos of the analysis area show the area was predominately FM1 (grass group). This conversion of fuel models from those dominated by grass with scattered timber to those dominated by timber is a result of the absence of fire. This conversion will continue if fire is not allowed to play its natural role of reducing immature trees and favoring grasses.
Introduction - Scale of Analysis
This report will discuss the affected environment and environmental consequences of the alternatives upon the forested vegetation at the project scale and at the site-specific scale. Analysis of forest fuels, fire risk/hazard, and forested diversity are covered in other sections. Silvicultural diagnoses prepared for the EA, and site-specific prescriptions prepared after the DN/FONSI, will be completed for the selected alternative.
Project Scale Affected Environment
A brief summary of the forested environment is found in the geographic assessment attached to the forested vegetation specialist report in the project file, and on the Bighorn National Forest web page. The forests in the Bighorn Mountains have changed over the millennia, with the dominant factor being fire. Ponderosa pine dominated this lower elevation project area historically because of its resistance to the low intensity fires that frequented these sites prior to settlement. Upper elevation of the project area includes lodgepole pine, limber pine, and some Engelmann spruce in the wet draws. Hardwood species include the cottonwoods in the riparian draws, with aspen as a very minor component with only a few small clones within conifer stands. These forests, defined by their structure, size, and spatial distribution, provide a variety of habitats for the other flora and fauna of the area. These habitats change as human actions, disturbances such as fire, or other natural successional processes occur over time.
The forested lands developed in response to historic landscape scale and wildfires, however, much of the forested lands within the project area were harvested primarily during the early to mid part of the last century. Early harvesting was in support of the growing local community, with horse skidding to small sawmills, post and pole, and fuelwood removal. The only recent harvest activity within the project area has been some localized fuelwood harvest. Past activity from fires, harvests, forest pest, and natural succession can be seen in the current stand conditions.
Prior to settlement, frequent low intensity fires influenced the project area. These fires essentially controlled the density of the trees by killing the less fire resistant trees such as Douglas fir, and younger ponderosa pine. Prior to the early 1900's when fire suppression efforts started, these lower elevation ponderosa pine habitat types were open park-like stands with less than 30 trees per acre and densities less than 45 square feet of basal area (BA) (Smith, 1999). Currently some of these stands have over 1,000 trees per acre and densities over 250 BA. These stands have now missed at least two historic fires and are considered outside the historic range of variability (Meyer, draft 2002). When a fire enters this area now, the fuel loading is greater\r than what was seen historically and the fire intensity could be also.
The mountain pine beetle (MPB) (Dendroctonus ponderosae) has also influenced the project area forests. As the ponderosa pine stands have grown denser, their susceptibility to MPB has increased. Mountain pine beetle in the ponderosa pine has as recent history of cyclical population epidemics occurring every 10 to 20 years. Currently the populations are above endemic levels and could be considered epidemic with the increased mortality (Allen, 2002).
The following chart summarizes the number of acres in the Story Project area by vegetative cover type.
Site-level Scale Affected Environment
This report is based upon data from IRI-CVC (Ingegrated Resource Inventory-Common Vegetation Unit) and RIS (Resource Information System) inventory systems and field reviews of the stands in the Story area. Every Story unit proposed for treatment has been field reviewed. There are minor differences between the databases so one can expect to see slight variations of data based on how it was collected and stored. The project file contains data for stands treated under the Story alternatives.
None of the proposed treatment units are on land currently suitable or scheduled for timber production.
The forested vegetation directly affects wildlife habitat, visual quality, fuels management, recreation use, and so on. Other reports in this analysis will cover many of those details, including the affected environment and environmental consequences of the alternative.
Alternative 1: No Action
Natural seccession and disturbance events (blowdown, insects, or wildfire) would be the dominant factors in future stand development. Without a disturbance event, there would be a shift to more tolerant species (Douglas fir) and more dense stands of trees as more young trees are established. However, this condition is not sustainable. The increased density of forested stands increases the fire hazard, and risk of mountain pine beetle populations above endemic levels. These increases outside the range of historic variability could produce MPB epidemics or wildfires with intensity and scale outside the historic range.
Alternative 2: Proposed Action
Mountain pine beetles select more dense stands with smaller trees over the more open stands with larger trees. Thinning stands to a density below 90 square feet of basal area has been shown to increase the resilience of the residual stand to MPB attack (McCambridge, 1982). Treatments described in Chapter 2 will decrease the density of some areas, depending on the existing condition. In open stands densities may be below 90 BA. However on the denser north aspects, which have existing BA in the range of 160 to 250, treatments will not result in stand density bellow 90 BA. However the reduced competition between residual trees for resources will increase the resilience to MPB over the no action alternative.
There are two 7th level watersheds in the analysis area that will be evaluated for direct, and indirect effects of the alternatives. A portion of the South Piney Creek sub-watershed (HUC 1009020601001) is in the southern part of the project area. There are two intermittent drainages, which flow into South Piney Creek within the project area, however South Piney Creek is just south of the project area boundary. Also, the headwaters of a small-unnamed tributary to Piney Creek (HUC 10090206010406), which is adjacent to the Penrose Trail is within the project boundary. In addition, a small drainage, which flows into the unnamed tributary, is within the analysis area but not the project area. The Piney Creek bsin is located on the east slope of the Bighorn Mountains. Average precipitation near the analysis area is approximately 23 inches per year (Nesser, 1986)
Riparian Areas/Wetlands - Dense riparian vegetation is not common in most of the drainage due to the high gradient channels. Based on present knowledge, riparian areas and wetlands in the drainage are not subject to disturbance by current management activities.
Stream Channels - IRI and topographic map data for this drainage suggests that streams in the watershed are relatively steep, high gradient channels, comprised of coarse alluvium. These types of channels are generally resistant to management impacts due to their inaccessibility, channel materials, and confined valleys. In general, most 9of those stream channels within the analysis area are in good condition.
Water Quantity/Quality - Water quantity is not expected to change within the watershed, relative to the proposed action. Tributaries within the project are likely not a large contributor to downstream watershed conditions. Some water from the drainage is diverted through a channel to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Story Fish Hatchery,. In general, stream channels, water quality and quantity within the analysis area are in stable condition.
Alternative 1 - No Action
Riparian Areas/Wetlands and Stream Channels - If Alternative 1 is implemented natural processes will continue to dominate, and no immediate human-caused changes in the riparian areas or stream channels will occur. The condition of riparian reserves will remain unchanged. The processes that may detrimentally affect riparian zones are fires that are stand replacing, high intensity and high severity. An out of control fire that is high severity could burn the riparian vegetation hot enough to destabilize streambanks, due to loss of vegetation with deep roots that stabilize banks.
Water Quantity/Quality - Under Alternative 1, water yield would stay the same and improve over time and past wildland fire areas recover, But, if fuels continue to accumulate and wildland fire occurs and burns at high severity and intensity levels, water yields could increase for up to 5 years if a high proportion of stands are burned in the watershed. Overland flow could occur if soil becomes hydrophobic and forest floor organic matter is removed. if a high severity fire occurs and a high intensity rainstorm follows, overland flow could quickly deliver water and sediment to the stream channels increasing water yields, peak flows and in channel erosion. These are also the conditions that accelerate debris torrents on the breakland landtypes.
2 - Proposed Action
Riparian Areas/Wetlands and Stream Channels - Riparian areas, wetlands, and floodplains contribute to water quality and stream conditions. These areas play an important role in maintaining dependant resources (fish, water, wildlife, people). They also buffer fluctuations in water yield and erosion, thereby aiding in the maintenance of stream stability. Fire plays a natural role in the riparian zones in the Piney Creek watershed. The processes that may detrimentally affect riparian zones in this proposal are fires that are stand replacing, high intensity and high severity. the chances of this type of fire increase without some level of prescribed burning. Reduction of fuels in riparian zones is considered as an important part of the scheme that help retain the large trees that provide shade that control stream temperature, provide the large wood that stabilizes stream channels and store sediment in first and second order headwater streams.
This alternative is not expected to cause sufficient direct effects tot he sediment delivery, peak flow, riparian condition, or channel stability to create destabilizing indirect effects on channel equilibrium. Stream channels in the analysis area would be expected to maintain their natural form and function following the implementation of this alternative. The effects of this alternative on sediment delivery, peak flo9ws, large organic debris, and riparian conditions are not expected to result in indirect effects that would upset the geomorphic equilibrium of the stream channels in the analysis area. Prescribed burning is beneficial to the watershed in lowering risk of high severity wildland fire and the mitigation outlines in Chapter 2 will minimize the effects.
Water Quantity/Quality - changes in vegetation condition are not of a magnitude where changes in water yield or stream channels would occur in any of the streams in the project area. This alternative would not be expected to increase the instantaneous peakflow above an acceptable level in any of the watersheds within the analysis area. The activities in this alternative were designed to prevent adverse effects to the streamflow regime. Therefore effects to fish and habitat in these streams from increased water yield are not expected. Prescribed burning is beneficial to the watershed in lowering risk of high severity wildland fire and the mitigation outlined with Alternative 2 will minimize the effects.
In areas of steep terrain where wildland fires occur, substantial increases in sediment can occur. This happens as infiltration decreases, interception and evapotranspiration decrease, and overland flow increases due to inability of soil to store water and loss of infiltration. Sediment is carried as suspended sediment in streams during overland flow, and sediment increases as higher than normal peak flow increase in-channel erosion. Mass wasting, such as an increase in debris torrents on steep slopes after fire also increase sediment The upslope activities would not increase the risk of surface erosion through slop failure of through bank scour. This alternative would not increase the risk of sediment delivery to streams in the analysis area, including increased sedimentation at the intake for the hatchery water supply in South Piney Creek. In channel sources of sediment (bank scour) would not be increased with this alternative.
Existing condition surveys in the analysis area show that current levels of band-derived sediments are not excessive where riparian areas are protected. Prescribed fire under controlled conditions can prevent most of the affects of high intensity, high severity fires as described above. Prescribed fire helps retain the forest canopy, thus reducing the effects of lost interception and evapotranspiration. Soil infiltration is retained due to cooler burns preventing hydrophobic soils and increase in bulk densities. A mosaic of conditions are found on the forest floor, which help protect the soil surface from raindrop erosion and retain the water storage capacity of the soil Prescribed burning is beneficial to the watershed in lowering risk of high severity wildland fire and the mitigation outlined with Alternative 2 will minimize the effects.
The proposed action would maintain or improve the quality of water and provide for the protection for the designated beneficial uses within the analysis area. This alternative would maintain or improve the quality of the aquatic environment by: maintaining intact riparian areas, implementing BMP"'s, and maintaining stream channel processes.
Fisheries - The WGFD currently manages the drainage as a wild fishery and there are no fish stocked in the drainage. The most recent electrofishing was conducted on South Piney Creek in 1999. The slamonid assemblage in South Piney is dominated by rainbow trout, but brown and brook trout are also present. Step/pool sequences, steep gradients, and overhanging vegetation characterize the stream reaches containing important aquatic habitat. channel substrates are mainly cobble/gravel with little sedimentation impacts. The WGFD has rated Piney Creek as a Class 3 trout stream (important trout waters and fisheries of regional importance). The WGFD trout stream classification uses various characteristics to calculate a value for a stream's aesthetics, availability, and productivity. These values are weighted and combined to determine a classification rating.
Streams within the analysis area boundary do not support a fishery. South Piney Creek just south of the project area boundary supports a diverse assemblage of fish species. This stream provides a good recreational fishery. Fisheries in the Piney Creek drainage are regulated under Wyoming statewide fishing regulations, allowing 6 trout per day. In general , stream channels and fish populations within the analysis area are in stable condition.
Sensitive Species -- The Piney creek drainage is not considered within the historic range of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout (YCT) (Gresswell 1988). There has been no evidence of the presence of YCT in the Piney Creek drainage.
Alternadve 1 -- No Action
If Alaternative 1 is implemented, no prescribed burning will occur, and
the landscape will remain the same in the short term. Natural
processes will continue to dominte, and no immediate human-caused
changes in the watersheds will occur. Amount of sediment, summer
water temperatures, streamflow, and the amount of wood in the channel
will remain unchanged.
Soils/Geology - If Alternative 1 is implemented, no prescribed burning will occur, and the landscape will remain the same in the short term. Natural processes will continue to dominate, and no immediate human-caused changes in the watershed will occur. This alternative would have no measurable direct/indirect or cumulative effects on soil compaction, soil displacement, nutrient cycling or erosion within the project area. There would be no change in the concentration of large organic debris, mineral soil exposure, or compaction. There would be no dverse effects to the soil resource as a result of the implementation of the no action alternative. Water runoff would decrease and soil water storage would increase. Litter and soil organic matter would increase over time, leading to the development of a more productive topsoil layer. Soil productivity would increase in areas currently below their potential. Soil erosion would continue to decline over much of the area as vegetation continues to recover on disturbed sites.
Soils/Geology - New sources of fine sediment would be minimized in this alternative. Alternative 2, through implementation of BMPs, is not expected to produce or transport high levels of sediment. Riparian buffers would filter sediment derived from units located adjacent to stream channels. The upslope activities would not increase the risk of surface erosion through slop failure of through bank scour. Soil Types (LTAs) susceptible to increased risk of landslides, mass movement, and debris torrents were not included in any of the proposed burn units. In-channel sources of sediment (bank scour) would not be increased with this alternative since peak flows would remain at (or below) existing levels, Existing condition surveys in the analysis area show that current levels of bank-derived sediments are not excessive where riparian areas are protected. This alternative owuld not alter the integrity of riparian areas in the analysis area. There would be no direct or indirect effects on the soil resource. Acres of disturbed soils would not increase above existing levels.
There were 4 main concerns raised during scoping that relate to the terrestrial wild life resource, elk hiding cover and habitat capability, threatened and endangered (T&E) and R2 Sensitive species, retention of snags and large woody debris, and wildlife habitat diversity. Habitat conditions described below apply to these categories. The Biological Evaluation for determination of effects to threatened, endangered, proposed, and sensitive species has been completed and is incorporated into this EA.
Mule deer and elk were selected as Management Indicator Species (MIS) even though improvement for either of these species is not part of the purpose and need for the proposed action. Monitoring of population trends will be accomplished by utilizing herd trend data accumulated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The table below lists the remaining candidate MIS that are described in the Forest Plan. This table also specifies the reason(s) each species was not selected as MIS for analysis of this particular project.
Proposed burning units lie partly within each of Diversity Units 075. 080, and 081.
The table below was compiled from the Resource Information System (RIS) database and summarizes vegetation types within the wildlife effects analysis area:
As shown above, conifers dominate the analysis area, and a total of 13,907 acres is forested (94.3%).
The analysis area contains yearlong habitats for deer, elk and moose. Consequently, wildlife-related recreation (hunting and viewing) is a common use in the analysis area. Motorized use is restricted to designated roads and trails. The Story Penrose Trail (#033) is closed April 1 through June 15 annually in part to reduce disturbance to elk during calving season. There is no critical big game winter range within the analysis area.
Past commercial harvest of timber has been extremely limited in this analysis area. This type of activity (past timber sales) has not had a measurable effect on road densities or loss of hiding cover. There currently exists a surplus of hiding cover, which is limiting to big game habitat capability in some Diversity Units.
All of the Diversity Units in this analysis area are well above the Forest Plan minimum standard for deer and elk hiding cover. The amount of deer and elk hiding cover in the cumulative affects analysis area (all DU's combined) is also well above the Forest Plan minimum. The areas that currently constitute deer and elk hiding cover are well distributed throughout the analysis area.
Alternative 1 -- No Action
There would be no change to the forested cover types if this alternative were implemented. Consequently, there would be no change in the amount or distribution of hiding cover for elk or in road densities, which means there would be no change in habitat capability for elk.
Alternative 2 -- Proposed
Implementing Alternative 2 could have a measurable affect on elk habitat capability, by reducing the amount of forested cover (hiding cover). There are no proposed changes in travel management, which means that road densities or impact from motorized use on big game habitat effectiveness would not change.
Implementing Alternative 2 would have some effect (reduction) on deer or elk hiding cover. However, non of the affected Diversity Units would be below the Forest Plan minimum for hiding cover after completion of the proposed action.
Implementing Alternative 2 would have a slight positive effect on elk habitat effectiveness. This is because the Bighorn Elk Habitat Effectiveness model recognizes an optimum amount of hiding cover of 50-60%. Amounts of hiding cover either above or below that range are less than the optimum, and would have an adverse effect on potential elk use. In summary, when hiding cover is higher than 60%, any project that reduces hiding cover would improve potential elk use in that area.
The HABCAP model reflected a slight increase in elk habitat capability in Diversity Unit 081 where the majority of the treated units occur. The HABCAP Model gives credence to increasing the amount of openings with the assumption that forage is lacking. Even though the modeled HABCAP changes are positive, they are considered to be minor.
Implementing Alternative 2 will not affect the amount of elk hiding cover or elk habitat capability.
A few sightings of TES species within the cumulative effects analysis area have been recorded. These include historical sighting of three-toes woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch, and western small-footed myotis.
-- No Action
There are no direct or indirect effects on habitat for TES species because there is no change from current conditions.
-- Proposed Action
A Biological Evaluation has been prepared for this project. The determination of that document was that no populations of any Federally listed species would be adversely affected if either of the alternatives were implemented.
The peregrine falcon has been delisted and is no longer on a federal list. The Forest Service will continue to include peregrines on the Sensitive species list. Potential effects on this species have been analyzed in conjunction with the other sensitive species in the BE/BA for this project.
The determination for Canada lynx, recently listed as a threatened species, is that implementing this project will have no effect on individuals of this species, and would have no effect on any potential habitat or critical linkage corridors.
The Region 2 Sensitive species, which may be adversely affected by Alternative 2, include marten, goshawk, pygmy nuthatch (DU 081), and the northern three-toes woodpecker (DU 075 and all DU's combined). The determination made in the Biological Evaluation was that implementing the action alternative may adversely affect individuals, but is not likely to result in a loss of viability on the planning area, nor cause a trend to federal listing or a loss of species viability range wide.
For more detailed information on analysis and potential affects on TES species, please refer to the Biological Evaluation /Assessment (BE/BA) for this project. The BE is a part of the project file.
Alternative 2 will not adversely affect populations, or jeopardize the population viability, of any known threatened, endangered, proposed, or candidate species. The proposed action alternative may adversely affect individuals, but will not jeopardize population viability of some Region 2 Sensitive wildlife species.
The overall forested vegetation type in this analysis area is relatively young, and is only now approaching senescence. Consequently, most of the current standing dead trees are too small to constitute quality snags. There have been no management activities in the project area, and 100% of the naturally occurring snags are available to wildlife.
Alternative 1 -- No Action
There would be no change in the amount, quality, distribution, or recruitment of snags in the near future. Over time as individual trees mature and die, and barring the occurrence of a stand replacing fire, the amount of snags available to wildlife would increase over time.
Alternative 2 --Proposed Action
By design, implementing Alternative 2 would have no effect on snag
availability. This alternative would not cut any trees larger than
8" diameter. Under burning prescribed for treatment areas 2a
through 2d may kill a few of the larger trees, but they would remain
standing and their availability to wildlife would not be
There is a disproportionate amount of pole-sized trees in this project area. There is very little forested land in a grass/forb or seedling/sapling stage, and no land that is currently classified as old growth.
There is no late successional forest (old growth) shown in the RIS database for any of the three Diversity Units in this analysis area. There is no late successional forest in the cumulative effects analysis area according to the RIS database. Basically, there aren't any stands within the analysis area that support trees that are old enough to constitute old growth. This current situation can be attributed to the fire history of the area.
All of the Diversity Units in this analysis area are below the Forest Plan minimum (5%) for forested areas in a grass/forb stage. The amount of forested area in a grass-forb stage within the cumulative affects area is also below the Forest Plan minimum at 2.21%.
Alternative 1 -- No Action
Many of the forested areas within this analysis area are currently stagnant. As a result, implementing the Alternative 1 would not cause a change from current conditions within the foreseeable future. There would be very little of the forested types at either the very young or the very old age classes, barring any naturally occurring disturbance such as wildfire or insect epidemic.
Alternative 2 --Proposed Action
Horizontal and vertical diversity was analyzed for each of the affected Diversity Units and for the cumulative effects area. Results of this analysis using Gibson's scorecard method indicates that all analysis areas are currently above the minimum standard for horizontal diversity, and are barely meeting the Forest Plan minimum standard for vertical diversity. Projecting changes due to proposed action did not change the ratings of any of the analysis areas.
The proposed action would not remove any older trees by design, and therefore the potential of a stand to become old growth would not be significantly affected. Also, this project could potentially affect only 4.7% of the total forested area in the analysis area, and all untreated stands would continue to grow older and move toward a later successional stage. It should be noted however, that this movement toward a more typical old growth structure may take many decades.
In summary, implementing either of the action alternatives would have no effect on wildlife species requiring early or mid successional forest stages, and would have an negligible effect on wildlife species which utilize late successional forests.
Habitat diversity for terrestrial wildlife will not be measurable affected. Implementing the proposed action will neither reduce nor promote the amount of early successional forests or late successional stages.
The project area is on soils of sedimentary and granitic origin. Forest vegetation is predominantly Douglas-fire and ponderosa pine habitat types interspersed with drainages that contain ephemeral to perennial streams. There are also a few meadows interspersed within the project area.
Ute ladies' tresses (Spiranthes diluvialis) is listed as threatened and possibly occurring on the Bighorn National Forest by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It is very unlikely to occur on the Forest, as potential habitat is very limited. Surveys revealed no suitable habitat and no plants within the project area.
Hapeman's sullivantia (Sullivantia hapemanii var. hapemanii) a Forest Service, Region 2 sensitive plant was located during surveys of the project area. Another plant found within the project area was mountain lady's slipper (Cyprepedium montanum). It was brought up as a species of concern and is tracked by WYNDD as a species of concern as well, though it is not a Threatened, Endangered or Proposed species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nor is it on the Region 2 Sensitive species list.
Potential habitat exists for four other Forest 'Service, Region 2 sensitive plant species, but no plants were found during surveys of the project area for northern arnica (Arnica lonchophylla), soft aster (Aster mollis), upward-lobe moonwort (Botrychium ascendens), and northern blackberry (Rubus acaulis).
Other Forest Service, Region 2 sensitive plant species found on or thought to exist on the Bighorn National Forest are pink agoseris (Agoseris lackschewitzii), Hall's fescue (Festuca hallii), and Cary's beardtongue (Penstemon caryi). For these species, no suitable habitat and no plants were found during surveys within the project area.
A literature and database review was conducted, and a biological evaluation (Forest Service Manual 2672.4) and species of concern supplement were prepared. for more information about the existing condition, refer to these documents, which are part of the project record.
Alternative 1 -- No Action
If Alternative 1 were implemented, no mechanical thinning or prescribed fire would occur. Natural processes would continue to dominate, including mountain pine beetle mortality in the ponderosa pine.
Mountain lady's slipper
Northern arnica and Soft aster
Upward-lobe moonwort and Northern blackberry
Other Threatened and Sensitive Plant Species
Mountain lady's slipper
Seevers and Lange (1998) recommended maintaining a canopy closure of 60 percent or greater to provide shade for mountain lady's slipper. Kaye (1999) in contrast, in a fifteen-year study (not replicated properly enough for standard statistical tests), found that in a shelterwood cut, where the percent tree cover was reduced to 15 to 30 percent, the number of stems of mountain lady's slippers increased or stayed the same. Kaye (1999) also found that in the clearcuts and unmanaged stands studied, the number of stems of mountain lady's slippers declined by approximately 25 to 50 percent over the fifteen-year study. Therefore, plants growing under ponderosa pine killed by mountain pine beetle would lose shade as these trees die over time. A clearcut would mimic a crown fire in terms of percent canopy cover and therefore no treatment may be detrimental to the mountain lady's slipper population. Also, as the stand ages, providing that the number of beetle-killed trees doesn't increase drastically, the canopy cover will increase and may suppress mountain lady's slipper plants (Mousseaux 2003).
Since it is thought that mountain lady's slipper is a fire-dependant species (USDA and USDI 1994), fire suppression is considered a threat. Fuels would continue to build up on the forest floor and ladder fuels would continue to exist, presenting unnatural fuel conditions. A wildfire during the dry season could cause more damage to the habitat than a prescribed burn because of complete consumption of the duff and killing the overstory trees (Mousseaux 2002).
Deer would continue to forage on mountain lady's slipper plants. Deer have been grazing on mountain lady's slipper for hundreds, if not thousands of years and it still persists. In addition, Urban (1997) stated that elk graze mountain lady's slipper without much impact.
Humans and game animals would inadvertently trample individual mountain lady's slipper plants and humans would also continue to collect this species for medicinal purposes, bouquets, or for garden use. However, none of these impacts are currently known to occur at a level that threatens the plant.
Effects are not likely limiting this plant's persistence.
Northern arnica and Soft aster
Fuels would continue to build up on the forest floor and ladder fuels would continue to exist, presenting unnatural fuel conditions. A wildfire during the dry season could cause more damage to the habitat than a prescribed burn because of complete consumption of the duff and killing of the rhizome or root, should the plants exist.
As arnica inhabits low-density limber pine/Douglas-fir forests and limestone or granitic outcrops, and the aster is found in grass and sagebrush meadows, mountain pine beetle outbreaks in the ponderosa pine would not have an effect on these species.
Timber harvest on the adjacent lands would not affect these species, as suitable habitat was not found on those lands.
Cumulatively, the effects of this alternative are considered negligible for both northern arnica and soft aster.
Upward-lobe moonwort and Northen blackberry
Other Threatened and Sensitive Plant Species
2 -- Proposed Action
Seevers and Lange (1998) recommended maintaining a canopy closure of 60 percent or greater to provide shade for mountain lady's slipper. Kaye (1999) in contrast, in a fifteen-year study (not replicated properly enough for standard statistical tests), found that in a shelterwood cut with pile burning, where the percent tree cover was reduced to 15 to 30 percent, the number of stems of mountain lady's slippers increased or stayed essentially the same. The effects of the thinning treatments prescribed for this project would provide a percent canopy cover in line with Seevers and Lange's (1998) recommendations and above the canopy cover observed for a shelterwood by Kaye (1999),. With treatment (removal of ladder fuels, brush and understory trees), the severity of a wildfire is reduced, as a wildfire is more apt to be confined to the surface fuels. Openings in the tree canopy due to beetle infestation will also be reduced, as trees remaining after thinning will be better able to resist attacks by beetles. Both of these effects would be beneficial to populations of this plant.
Urban (1997) found that generally, mountain lady's slipper sites are too wet for spring burning. On drier mountain lady's slipper sites with actively growing plants in the springtime, burns at this season are probably more detrimental to the plants than fall fires (Mousseaux 2002). Any burning that creates sustained heat and elimination of the duff layer, such as pile burning, burning concentrations of slash, or burning when the duff is dry, could damage or kill lady's slipper rhizome buds (Harrod 2002, Knecht 2002, Knight 2002, Mousseaux 2002, Shelly 2002). If that occurs in spring, no new growth will occur that year and the plants will remain dormant or die (Sheviak 1990). However, ongoing monitoring of clustered lady's slipper in Washington indicates that on a site that had the duff consumed, seedling establishment occurred three years later (Knecht 2002). Huber (2003) also found mountain lady's slipper may become established from seed on areas that had been burned from pile burning.
Another ongoing study with clustered lady's slipper in Montana indicates that rhizomes that were presumed to be dead following overstory removal and a spring prescribed fire consuming more than 50% of the duff layer emerged two years later and flowered the following year (Applegate 2002, Shelly 2002). This same study showed that on sites where prescribed fire burned less than half the duff layer and had less than 25% canopy cover remaining after thinning, the effect to clustered lady's slipper was neutral to positive (Shelly 2002). Since it is thought that mountain lady's slipper is a fire-dependant species (USDA and USDI 1994), it is adapted to some level of burning. Given the estimated fire return interval for the Story Fuels project area to be from 20 to 30 years, four to six fire cycles have been missed. Prescribed fire would reduce competition and release nutrients. Reintroducing fire that is controlled and not catastrophic would help maintain the species' habitat, existing and potential. Some plants may be lost, but populations would be maintained and habitat improved.
Implementing the project following the actions in Chapter 2 and monitoring would minimize the impacts to mountain lady's slipper and provide useful information regarding the species and fire.
Should they exist, northern arnica plants that have emerged would be top-killed by prescribed fire. heartleaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia), a similar species, is found to respond favorably to low intensity fires, such as a prescribed fire, as the rhizome often survives, but high intensity fires can kill the rhizome due to heat penetrating deeper into the soil (USDA 2002). The latter would occur under heavy accumulations of slash. Opening up Douglas-fir or limber pine stands may be beneficial to the species as it is found in open as well as somewhat shaded sites.
Dropping trees onto plants or hand piling slash onto plants would impact individual plants by cutting them off from sunlight, thereby reducing the plants ability to photosynthesize. During the treatment operations, humans may trample some plants or drag slash through sites not detected during surveys.
Potential effects to this species and its habitat would be negligible, as no plants are known to occur, and potential habitat would be maintained.
Prescribed fire may be beneficial to soft aster as it has been observed to come back vigorously on sites that have been burned (Welp et.al. 2000).
As no plants were found during surveys, effects of this alternative would be negligible, and potential habitat would be maintained.
moonwort and Northern blackberry
Threatened and Sensitive Plant Species
The Story Fuels area provides an array of recreational opportunities including hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, ATV/motorcycle use, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, photography, wildlife and wildflower viewing. Two trails pass through this area, Story-Penrose Trail #033, and South Piney Creek Trail. The Story-Penrose Trail is a very popular trail that accesses Willow Park, Cloud Peak and Kearney Reservoirs, and other destination fishing and hunting areas. it is open to ATVs and motorcycles from June 16 through March 29. South Piney Creek Trail, although less than a mile in length, suits many receptionist's day-use needs because of its close proximity to population areas (Story, Big Horn, Sheridan, Buffalo) and the scenic attractions along South Piney Creek. This trail is closed to motorized use except for snowmachines during the designated season (mid-November through mid-May). Snowmobiliers use both trails to access Penrose Park and other destinations in the winter.
There are no developed recreation sites within the project area. Some dispersed recreation sites are scattered along the South Piney Creek Trail, but the trail is used primarily for day use. There are no dispersed sites along the portion of the Story-Penrose Trail that is located within the project area. The predominant recreation along this trail is for travel to other forest destinations such as Penrose Park, Willow Park, Cloud Peak and Kearney Reservoirs.
From a visual standpoint, the project area is a mixture of highly scenic to less scenic, depending on the location of the viewer. The scenery as viewed from the South Piney Creek Trail is exceptionally appealing with numerous positive features such as the rock formations, water attractions, large ponderosa pine, and wildflowers. Some, but fewer of these attractions, are also present along the Story-Penrose Trail. These two trails provide the only access into the project area. The area as viewed from Story and more distant locations is primarily one of forested land with rock outcroppings and steep drainages, and is scenically appealing. Others may access the area via cross-country travel from these two trails or private land, but because of the steep topography and dense vegetation, the majority of users stay on the trails or within the trail corridors. The landscape is natural-appearing, with few modifications by human activities. Natural events including insects and disease and nearby wildfires have also fashioned the landscape.
The project area is located within Forest Plan management areas 4B, 4D, 6B, 7E, and 9A. A minimum visual quality objective (VQO) of modification is set as a standard and guideline for 9A. (Forest Plan III-199).
The project area includes two ROS classes. The northern portion (most of Section 14) is designated as Semi-Primitive Motorized class. The southern portion (most of Section 23) is designated as Semi-Primitive non-Motorized class. (Refer to Figure III-38b).
There are seven setting indicators that are established in the ROS framework" access, remoteness, naturalness, facilities and site management, social encounters, visitor impacts and visitor management. The ROS Users Guide displays a matrix to establish the limits of acceptable change for each of these setting indicators. The existing condition for the project area for both the Semi-Primitive Motorized and Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized classes fall under the "Norm" and "Fully Compatible" categories for all of the setting indicators as al prescribed VQO's are being met or exceeded. The "Naturalness" indicator is the primary indicator that applies to this project because it focuses on the visual resource. The existing condition for the naturalness indicator is partial retention for the Semi-Primitive Motorized class and retention for the Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized class.
The following table displays limits of acceptable change for the naturalness indicator in the two ROS classes as displayed in the ROS Primer and Field Guide.
There would be no initial effects to the recreational use in Alternative 1, however no action would allow natural processes to continue, contributing to increased stand density, increased fire hazard risk and heightened risk of spread of insets and disease. These conditions may result in a burned-over landscape and amplified potential of burning of homes and private property adjacent to the forest. Fire effects to the trails could be considerable downfall across the trail corridor as well as increased risk for additional downfall to occur within the corridor.
The spread of insects and disease could contribute to these same effects, as trees die and add to a high-risk fuel situation as well as the downfall along the trail corridor.
From a scenic standpoint, more dense vegetation has been correlated to negative visual appeal (small, dense understory that is encroaching on mature ponderosa pine forests, open meadows and grass; high brush; dead and dying trees). [Elliott, 1993]
The Forest Plan standard and guideline for a VQO of modification for management area 4B, 4D and 6B a VQO of partial retention for 7E and 9A would be met and (or) exceeded.
The naturalness setting would remain at partial retention for the Semi-Primitive Motorized ROS class and retention for the Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized ROS class, with the landscape character being intact with few deviations. All other setting indicators for ROS compatibility would remain in the "Norm" or "Fully Compatible" categories.
2 -- Proposed Action
The principal effects to recreation use would be short-term, such as temporary trail closures for safety purposes during burning or thinning. For thinning, these effets would be very minimal, affecting only the immediate area where trees are being dropped at the time. The burning would affect a larger area, but again, only for a short period of time. Recreation users may also be affected by hearing and seeing the thinning and burning activities take place, but only for the duration of implementation.
The proposed actions of a combination of thinning, pruning, hand piling, girdling, brush cutting and prescribed fire would help reduce the threat to the scenic resource posed by these natural processes. it would also emulate the natural processes that most likely would have occurred if fire had been allowed to play its natural role in the area over the past century. Stumps would be screened by grasses and groundcovers. By maintaining individual trees, pruning lower limbs, and removing debris the natural appearance can be improved and the naturalness setting indicator would be only slightly altered. Underburning would create a color contrast of dead needles and vegetation, but over time, they will fall off and new vegetation will come back, reducing the contrast.
The proposed treatment areas are viewed from the distance and along the trail corridors. The area included in Treatment Area #1 is so minimal that the effects to Treatment Areas #2 and #3 need to be considered in conjunction with it. These two areas are separated and broken up from each other enough that the treatment proposed should compliment the overall visual resource, particularly as viewed from a distance.
The primary negative effects to visual resources would be short-term, during the ctual treatment phases, and primarily to users of the two trails. The hand piling, until burned and scattered, may be a negative visual effect. The fresh cuts from thinning and pruning would also be a deterrent to the scenic quality, but only in a short-term period.
The proposed activities in all treatment areas will reduce the amount of vegetation that has been correlated to negative visual appeal (small, dense understory that is encroaching on mature ponderosa pine forests, open meadows and grass; high brush' dead and dying trees). The treatment will encourage conditions that have been correlated to positive visual appeal (large ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests with grass understory, grass openings; healthy, vigorous trees). [Elliott, 1993].
The Forest Plan standard and guideline for a VQO of modification and use of irregular clearing edges and shapes to blend with the natural landscapes would be met for management areas 4B, 4D and 6B. The Forest Plan standard and guideline for a VQO of partial retention within the foreground of primary trails and riparian areas would be met in management areas 7E and 9A. Thinning activities would remove vegetation randomly, so that no unnatural opening would result.
For the portion of the project area included in the Semi-Primitive Motorized ROS designation, all setting indicators for ROS compatibility would remain in the "Norm" or "Fully Compatible" categories. The naturalness setting would remain as partial retention. The resulting deviations would be the impacts from thinning, pruning, hand piling and burning, brush cutting and broadcast burning, but these effects would be visually subordinate to the landscape charcter being viewed.
For the portion of the project area that is included in the Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized ROS designation, all setting indicators for ROS compatibility would remain in the "Norm" or "Fully Compatible" categories. The naturalness setting would remain as retention, not visually evident. The resulting deviations would be the impacts from thinning, hand piling and burning, and girdling. These effects may push the limits of an unaltered appearance, in the short-term, primarily because of color contrast of dead needles and trees and recent burning activity. However, these effects would recover in a relatively short timeframe. The spacing requirements, randomness of thinning selections, and burning would emulate the form, line, texture and pattern common to the landscape character enough that they would not be noticeably evident.
The project area consists of approximately 1,211 acres within the Piney Creek Raodless Area (#02029). Primary access to this area is by the Story- Penrose Trail #033 that begins in Story, Wyoming. Access through two roads, Kearney Reservoir Road #520 and Willow Park Reservoir Road #319 is controlled by private land ownership.
The roadless inventory, initiated in the late 1970s to determine the suitability/unsuitability of identified roadless and undeveloped land for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, was revised in the early 1980s to direct re-evaluation through the Forest Plan development process. The Bighorn Forest Plan allocated the inventoried roadless within the Story Fuels project area to management areas that released these lands to multiple uses, allowing for activities such as thinning and burning.
The Roadless Area Conservation Final Rule (66FR 3244) was signed in January 2001, which prohibited new road construction and timber harvest in inventoried roadless areas. Since this time a preliminary injunction was granted that enjoined the Forest Service from implementing all aspects of this rule. Interim direction, designed to protect roadless characteristics while allowing some road building and timber harvest in specific situations was released by the Chief on December 20, 2001 (66FR 65789). Although the Story Fuels project area is subject to the interim directive, no road construction is proposed, so that portion of the interim rule does not apply. The following situations have been exempted from the Chief's authority and are applicable to the Story Fuels project:
Alternative 1 -- No Action
Items 2, 6, 8 and 9 do not apply in this porposal. There are no sources of public drinking water, reference landscapes, traditional cultural properties and sacred sites, or locally identified unique characteristics.
following items do apply:
3. Diversity of plant and animal communities.
4. Habitat for threatened, endangered, proposed, candidate, and
sensitive species and those
5. Primitive, semi-primitive, non-motorized and semi-primitive
motorized classes of dispersed
7. Natural appearing landscapes with high scenic quality.
The no action alternative does not affect roadless area characteristics of the inventoried roadless area because no activities would occur.
Alternative 2 -- Proposed Action
Items 2, 6, 8 and 9 do not apply in this proposal. There are no sources of public drinking water, reference landscapes, traditional cultural properties and sacred sites, or locally identified unique characteristics.
The following items do apply:
3. Diversity of plant and animal communities.
4. Habitat for threatened, endangered,
proposed, candidate, and sensitive species and those
5. Primitive, semi-primitive, non-motorized and
semi-primitive motorized classes of dispersed
7. Natural appearing landscapes with high
The effects of the tree thinning and the prescribed burning would be similar to what would occur with a ground fire and would not affect roadless characteristics. The thinning, pruning, and hand piling, would create short-term impacts to the scenic quality, but improve the quality for the long-term.
In June 2002, Forest personnel conducted a Class I literature search with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) records section. The results of the search noted that no Heritage Resource inventory had occurred in the area of the proposed prescribed burn, and that only one previously recorded site was located in the area of potential impact. The site is a historic trail, 48SH573, which is ineligible to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
Field inventory of the area of potential impact was completed during the summer of 2002. The project area was surveyed at a Class III level in accordance with the Forest's Programmatic Fire Agreement (PA) with the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The survey resulted in no new historic properties being located.
Alternative 1 -- No Action
No potentially eligible or eligible heritage resource is located within the area of potential effect. There, no direct or indirect effects would occur to any heritage resource under Alternative 1.
Alternative 2 -- Proposed Action
No potentially eligible or eligible heritage resource is located within the area of potential effect. There, no direct or indirect effects would occur to any heritage resource under Alternative 2.
Economics was a consideration in the development of the Story Fuels project. Direct relationship between costs and benefits can not always be made however relationships are evident.
The costs of planning, analysis, and implementation of the project are estimated to be $186,000.
The benefits of the project include reduction of the fire hazard to the community of Story, increased public and fire fighter safety as it pertains to wildland fire, reduction of wildland fire suppression costs, and restoration of natural ecological systems. The following is a closer look at these benefits:
Reduction of the fire hazard to the community of Story -- Property values in story have a wide range. Cabins typically sell near $100,000 while 3-bedroom homes range from $200,000 to $400,000. There are several exclusive properties that have sold for $1,000,000 and higher. The Story Fuels project is designed to reduce the intensity of wildland fires occurring on the National Forest. In the event a wildland fire crossed the boundary on to developed private property fire fighters have a better chance to protect homes and other improvements. Preventing the loss of one 3-bedroom home would pay for the cost of the project.
Increase public and firefighter safety -- Reduction of fire intensity also provides increased public and firefighter safety. Fast-moving, intense wildland fires such as those that have occurred on the Bighorn National Forest and all over the west are extremely hazardous to the public and firefighters. By reducing the speed and intensity of the fires the public has more time to retreat to safe locations and the safety for firefighters is greatly increased.
Reduction of wildland fire suppression costs -- Table X displays the suppression costs of wildland fire that have exceeded 200 acres on the bighorn National Forests. Reducing the fire intensity makes suppression easier and in turn reduces suppression costs. The estimated project costs of $269/acre would be quickly offset by reducing the average suppression cost of $1,189/acre.
Cumulative effects are those effects of past, present or foreseeable future activities that when combined with the action alternative could have an additional effect on the resources.
Listed below are the past actions, the concurrent actions and the reasonable foreseeable actions that have been considered in analyzing cumulative effects with the proposed action:
1. Trail Maintenance - past, concurrent, and future.
The area for cumulative effects analysis would be the South Piney Creek watershed unless otherwise noted in the following resource sections.
All proposed treatments have a positive cumulative effect on the fuel profile and subsequent fire behavior. The proposed fuel treatments will reduce potential fire behavior in areas adjacent to the urban interface of Story and decrease fuel loading and create areas of defensible space across the landscape.
Without some form of long-term maintenance, the areas will return to their present condition. The areas should be visited and evaluated for maintenance using either mechanical methods and/or prescribed fire at a minimum of every ten years.
The cumulative effects on the forested vegetation are considered beneficial. Reducing the tree density will improve tree health and increase resistance to MPB. The cumulative effects upon fire and insect/disease risk indicate improved resilience with increased diversity of forest structures.
There should be no long-term cumulative effects on riparian areas from the prescribed burn projects unless they burn out of control. An out of control fire that is high severity could burn the riparian vegetation hot enough to destabilize stream banks, due to loss of vegetation. Staggering the application of fire, and development of burn plans which minimize fire intensity in riparian areas, are expected to reduce risks. No geomorphic response is expected in the channels located in the cumulative effects watersheds. The indirect effects on sediment, peak flows, riparian, and large organic debris is not expected to increase to a point where channel adjustment would occur.
The cumulative effects on the major drainages in the analysis area would be to prevent a shift in the streamflow and sediment transport regimes. When peakflows are retained at existing levels, no shift in the sediment or streamflow regime would be expected.
There should be no long-term detrimental cumulative effects from water yield or increase in percent fine sediment in spawning gravels. Changes in vegetation condition are not of a magnitude where changes in water yield or stream channel would occur in the Piney Creek watershed. Therefore effects to fish and habitat in these watersheds from increased water yield are not expected.
Piney Creek is affected by human impacts, which have produced sediment from tributary upland activities. All water sheds are expected to have peakflow increases below a level at which bank erosion could occur. Therefore, this alternative will not increase the risk of bank-derived erosion in the Piney Creek watershed.
Cumulative sediment effects from this project are expected to be negligible and have insignificant effects on fish and habitat in the Piney Creek drainage. There should not be any long-term cumulative effects to sediment, riparian condition, stream temperature, and hydrologic function with the proposed burn projects.
Impacts to stream stability and riparian conditions caused by catastrophic fires would continue at their current levels. Implementation of BMP"'s will help to minimize impacts, primarily form sediment, to the aquatic resources. The cumulative effect on fish habitat suitability would be an improvement in the quality of fish habitat in the streams within the analysis area. The cumulative affect would nbe the continued improvement of sediment, discharge, large woody debris, and temperature in these watersheds. the amount of time needed to attain a desirable condition would vary by stream type and pre-existing watershed conditions.
For cumulative effects on wildlife the analysis area lies within the three diversity units 075, 080, 081.
Terrestrial TES Species:
Wildlife Habitat Diversity:
Humans and game animals would inadvertently trample individual mountain lady's slipper plants and humans would also continue to collect this species for medicinal purposes, bouquets, or for garden use. However, none of these impacts are currently known to occur at a level that threatens the plant.
Timber harvest would occur on lands adjacent to Forest Service land. The felling of trees could damage the above ground portions of plants. A similar species, clustered lady's slipper (Cypripedium fasiculatum), appears to be killed by activity that exposes or damages the rhizome (Harrod 1994). Riparian buffers would likely occur on the adjacent lands, as they would be covered by State Best Management Practices (BMPs). Potentially, more mountain lady's slipper plants could be impacted on non-Forest Service lands due to the nature of the activities, but Kaye (1999) observed that opening up a stand through a shelterwood treatment appears to be neutral to beneficial for C. montanum. Cumulatively, this should still not cause a decreased trend for this species due to its persistence in similar habitat conditions as described previously.
Implementing the project following the actions in Chapter 2 would minimize the impacts to this species.
and Soft Aster
Timber harvest on the adjacent lands would not affect these species, as suitable habitat was not found on those lands.
moonwort and Northern blackberry
and Sensitive Plant Species
The Biological Evaluation findings for Ute ladies' tresses state that the proposed action will have "no effect" and for pink agoseris, Hall's fescue, and Cary's beardtongue, there will be "no impacts".
Other cumulative actions not covered in the master list for plant species include grazing and trampling by wildlife, and collection and trampling by humans. Of these actions, routine trail maintenance would not have a cumulative effect on TEPS and mountain lady's slipper. There is no grazing by cattle that occurs currently or in the reasonable foreseeable future within this project area and therefore would not have a cumulative effect on TEPS and mountain lady's slipper. Past wildfires are not thought to have a cumulative effect, though plant surveys were not conducted on these sites.
Of the five actions listed under section 3.10 above, cumulative effects on the national forest and its users would primarily come from the timber harvest and slash burning on the adjacent private and state lands.
Recreation users of the Story Penrose Trail and the South Piney Creek Trail may be temporarily impacted by temporary closure of the trails during logging and prescribe burning operations on both the federal and non-federal lands. The cumulative effects to both federal and non-federal would not change the ROS class on the federal lands.
The scenery of the non-federal lands from a distance would be similar to the federal lands, a general reduction in the tree canopy density. The scenery viewed on site would be impacted greater cumulatively since more disturbances will be in view from the two trails as one approaches the trailheads and proceeds up the trails. Overall the visual impact will be temporary at the conclusion of both operations as the slash is burned and the understory grasses and forbs revegetate. The cumulative effects of both the federal and non-federal lands would not change the VQO on the federal lands.
The cumulative effects of these activities will have no further impact to values of the roadless area than the direct and indirect effects described in section 3.8 above. Even the effects of logging and prescribe burning on the non-federal lands adjacent to the roadless area will be of a temporary nature and will not cause any effects to the values of the roadless area.
The adoption of Alternative 2 for this proposed project would have no direct or indirect effect upon Heritage Resources, as no properties are located with in the project area. There fore, the proposed project would have no cumulative effects on Heritage Resources.
This project will not result in any irreversible or irretrievable commitment of resources. No roads will be constructed with this proposed project. In addition the roadless area is not affected. Without subsequent treatments in one to two decades, the area will probably return to near-current conditions.
Interdisciplinary Team: List of Preparers
Craig Yancey, District Ranger
Bill Bass, Forest Supervisor
Office of Federal Land Policy - January 13, 2003
Comments by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Comment 1: To minimize disturbance to nesting raptors, we suggest a ½ mile buffer around the nest site during the nesting season. Treatment activities should be limited within the buffer until the young have fledged.
Response to Comment 1: This has been addressed in paragraph 2 on page 17 of the EA your comment is appreciated.
Comment 2: There are no proposed changes in travel management and the project will not result in any changes to habitat effectiveness. Likewise, no elk security areas occur in the project area. However, thinning north-slope timber stands to a 12-17 foot spacing will more readily accommodate off trail ATV travel.
Response to Comment 2: This is correct there are no proposed changes in travel management in the project area. It’s prohibited to travel off trails and the steepness of the slope will not allow for off trail use by ATV’s.
Comment 3: We recommend that any trail closures, except very short-term closures, occur outside the hunting season (September 1-November 5) to reduce adverse effects to recreational hunters. This is a popular hunter access point to the National Forest.
Response to Comment 3: The short term closure is addressed on page 43 of the EA and this is done for safety reasons during prescribed fire treatments. There are no long term closures expected.
Comment 4: (Aquatic Concerns) According to the Bighorn Forest fish biologist, the area that is to be treated is within an active livestock allotment, but to his knowledge, livestock are not currently using this area due to the terrain and tree density. However, with the proposed timber treatment, it may be conceivable that livestock are allowed into the treatment area before an adequate groundcover has become established. Therefore, the Department recommends that at least a 2-year rest period for vegetative ground cover to become established before livestock grazing is permitted.
Comment 1: There are two Water Quality Division (WQD) permits that may apply to the project. The Discharge permit and the Storm Water Associated with the Construction Activities. Any or all of them may apply depending on the eventual scope of the project.
Response to comment: Based on the proposed activities outlined in this EA, the WQD permits mentioned are not required for this project. Thank you for your comment.
Office of Federal Land Policy - January 22,
Due to the comment period deadline of Jan 13, 2003 the comments received from the Office of State Lands and Investments and the Office of Federal Land Policy received on Jan. 24, 2003 were not reviewed but responded to.
Dainis Hazners – January 10, 2003 letter.
Comment 1: I believe there are more risks in the Story area than ordinarily encountered in other prescriptive burn situations, because of the very close proximity of many humans and structures. I would urge the Forest service to consider “Thin, prune, brush cut, mulch and or remove” in order to reduce fuels and increase resistance to the present MPB infestations in ponderosa pine, and to perform no prescribed burns. This may be a more expensive solution, but I think the dangers justify and demand it.
Response to comment: The alternative of “thin, prune, brush cut, mulch and or remove” was considered. Without an adequate transportation system or the option to construct roads, “mulch and or removal” is not feasible.
The activities of thinning, pruning, and brush cutting create a fuels hazard. The only feasible method of treating these fuels is prescribed fire. There are risks associated with prescribed fire however these risks will be mitigated with detailed burn plans that establish specific parameters for conducting the burns. These parameters, also known as the prescription, are designed to be effective in burning target fuels while minimizing the chance of the fire escaping.
Comment 2. I would like you to conduct an environmental impact statement, because several issues (see below for details), regarding flora and fauna, were not discussed in the present study.
Response to comment: The impacts of the proposed project are insignificant and do not require the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS).
Comment 3. Regarding the two comparative photographs of Story circa 1910 and 2002 what does the comparison mean? The town of Story was probably built with logs from the local area as well as Fort Phil Kearney. The Mountains in the background of the photo in 1910 are two blurry to tell if there are many trees are none.
Response to comment:
It is hard to see detail in the 1910 photo however it still
provides a lot of information. The
pine trees in the photo’s foreground are full crowned trees indicating
they have grown in an open environment.
This supports what is known about the ecology of ponderosa pine
in that frequent, low-intensity fires kept ponderosa pine forests in an
open, savannah condition. The
photo’s back ground is even less clear but the south slopes of the
Story Fuels project do appear to have considerably fewer trees than what
is currently there. These
slopes are predominately ponderosa pine so the open condition would be
expected. Logging in the
area where the community of Story now sets did take place, although it
didn’t create the open condition as seen in the foreground of the 1910
photo. If it had, the
remaining trees would not have full crowns but look like the majority of
pines currently in Story which have open boles and partial crowns.
Most of the Story Fuels project area is on slopes in excess of
30%. It is very unlikely
large-scale logging took place on these slopes.
Comment 4: Although only nine acres total, I can only imagine a fifty foot wide fuel break as you describe on page 14, this will appear quite unnatural, it will be quite ugly.
Response to comment: Treatment Area #1 will not be cleared. Larger trees will be left on a thirty-foot spacing and vegetation treatments in the adjacent areas do not differ enough to create noticeable edges.
Comment 5: There are several items regarding flora, fauna, in the study area, that are not adequately addressed.
Response to comment: A few comments could be summarized as stating that this document did not analyze effects to all animals and insects. This is true. It is not feasible to analyze effects of the project to populations of every life form that uses the project area. Therefore, we use the Management Indicator Species concept. By analyzing potential effects on habitat for selected species, we can infer what the effects will be to other species utilizing the same habitat type. It is also true that there will be direct effects to habitat for some species of wildlife, including insects. It should be noted again here that the purpose of this analysis is to determine if those effects are significant. All of the butterflies mentioned in this comment are quite common and it is expected that the effects of implanting the proposed project would have some direct effect to individual butterflies, but will not cause such a downward trend to affect species viability nor cause a trend to federal listing.
Comment 6: Reducing the fuels in the adjacent forest might lower the risk of a tragic fire in Story, but the fact remains the available fuel in the town itself is the more serious problem.
Response to comment: In the EA under the “Prioritization” section page 13, the Story Fire Board, addresses fuel reduction in their “Story Wildfire Assessment and Mitigation Plan page 21.” Thank you for all your comments.
Claire Leon – January 13, 2003 letter.
and that although the
relationship is not fully understood, symbionts may be necessary for
adult plants as well as for the establishment of seedlings…site
disturbance may occur with timber harvesting activities and prescribed
burning. Harrod (1994b) and
Knecht (1996) found that activity that exposes or damages the rhizome
appears to kill the plant. Physical
disturbance of the site may affect the mycorrhizal fungus.”
Response to the comment:
We chose to look at more than the one document referenced by the Bighorn
Forest Users Coalition and look for the individual citations referenced,
as well as talk to researchers themselves to find out if more recent
information was available. We are still not aware of any peer reviewed
published fire effects information for mountain lady’s slipper.
At the time of Seevers and Lange’s “Management
Recommendations for Mountain Lady’s-slipper” (1998), the effects of
fire on mountain
lady’s slipper were based on anecdotal observations without
quantitative data, as well as on clustered lady’s slipper (Cypripedium
fasciculatum) or other lady’s slipper species.
Seevers and Lange (1998) stated, “What is known of the ecology
of C. montanum is based largely on information from cursory site
reports. Detailed C.
montanum habitat studies have begun in the last few years…”
choose to seek out other botanists, ecologists, and plant physiologists
who are researching mountain lady’s slipper and clustered lady’s
slipper as well as those who are writing the new management
recommendations for mountain lady’s slipper and clustered lady’s
slipper. The mitigations
for sensitive plants and species of concern are in line with draft
management recommendations for mountain lady’s slipper in the area of
the President’s Northwest Forest Plan.
Wilderness Association – January 13, 2003 letter.
Comment 1: The number one concern is the building of roads and the 50 foot fuel break. The scoping also called for a wide density of trees 30 feet apart.
Response to comment: There will be no building of roads in this project and the 50 foot fuel break will not be a clearcut nor will it have the wall effect appearance. The 30-foot tree spacing has been added to the document.
Comment 2: The problem with prescribed fire treatments is in order to be effective, the burning of the understory will have to be done on a yearly basis to keep the dried grasses from spreading wildfires and there would be no funding for this. Prescribed fires are also dependent upon congenial weather patterns to be successful.
Response to comment: The intent is to reduce buildup of the unnatural accumulation of standing woody fuels (trees and shrubs) so that a wildfire is more likely to be a ground fire rather than a crown fire. Ground fires in this timber type are easier to manage than crown fires. Annual burning is unnecessary to accomplish this objective.. Pages 14-16 under treatment areas describe the intent of the fuels reduction.
Comment 3: The WWA finds that the swath treatment of Area #1, according to the map provided on the southeastern boundary of line of section 23 will be difficult and unnecessary.
Response to comment: Thank you for identifying the mapping error it will be corrected.
Comment 4: For the remainder of treatment area #1, thinning trees to 8 inches in diameter or less, combined with the proposed pruning of limbs up to 6 feet, should be adequate enough to protect the citizens of Story, provided you employ sound fire prescription techniques, and it is done with snow cover on the ground partially exposing the forest floor. This would be a better alternative than leaving dead large trees on the forest floor.
Response to comment: The fuels treatment in Treatment Area #1 is not intended as a fuel break for the town of Story. It’s only function is to provide an anchor point for prescribed fire.
The BNF has chosen to ignore the scoping comments about Cypripedium
montanum (mountain lady’s slipper).
On page 17 of the EA, BNF states, “There is no known published
fire effects information on this species.
Since this species exists in a landscape where fire was an
important influence, it is assumed that it is adapted to fire.” But
scoping comments concluded that there were indeed impacts from fire on
mountain lady’s slipper:
or damages the rhizome appears to kill the plant.
Physical disturbance of the site may affect the mycorrhizal
Response to comment:
Scoping comments were not ignored.
Referring to page 2 of Seevers and Lange’s “Management
Recommendations for Mountain Lady’s-slipper” (1998), it states,
“These Management Recommendation(s) apply only to C. montanum
in the Western Cascades as defined in the Northwest Forest Plan (USDA
and USDI 1994b).” Therefore we chose to look at more than that one
document you referenced and find the individual citations referenced as
well as talk to researchers themselves to find out if more recent
information was available.
We are still not aware of
any peer reviewed published fire effects information for mountain
lady’s slipper. At the
time of Seevers and Lange’s “Management Recommendations for Mountain
Lady’s-slipper” (1998), the effects of fire on mountain lady’s
slipper were based on anecdotal observations without quantitative data,
or for fire effects on clustered lady’s slipper (Cypripedium
fasciculatum) or other lady’s slipper species. Seevers and Lange
(1998) state, “What is known of the ecology of C. montanum is
based largely on information from cursory site reports.
Detailed C. montanum habitat studies have begun in the
last few years…”
The monitoring plots and mitigation
procedures are not adequate for protection of the mountain lady’s
Response to comment:
Mitigation measures are based on recommendations from other botanists,
ecologists, and plant physiologists who are researching mountain
lady’s slipper and clustered lady’s slipper as well as those who are
writing the new management recommendations for mountain lady’s slipper
and clustered lady’s slipper.
The BNF did not go last summer with Claire Leon to view the extensive
sites around the Penrose Trail and South Piney Canyon.
Response to comment:
Attempts were made in the 2002 flowering season to visit the project
area with Claire Leon, but due to conflicts in schedules, the botany
crew or Greg Karow and Claire Leon were not able to survey the area at
the same time. A field review has been scheduled for June 2003 with
The Management Indicator Species analysis is inadequate.
Response to comment: The
concept for utilizing Management Indicator Species was developed to
assist the Forest Service in managing for viability of fish and wildlife
species. MIS were conceived
to act as surrogates for analyzing the effects of planned actions and
monitoring for all species and their habitats.
In other words, MIS are described as indicators of the abundance
of other species or conditions of biological communities they are
selected to represent.
Project-level MIS may be
selected from all or a subset of the Forest-wide MIS list. One of the main criteria for selecting a species as a MIS is
that the population trend of the species should be directly influenced
by changes in habitat composition, structure, or function due to the
proposed project activities. Species
should not be selected for project MIS analysis if abundance is assumed
to be influenced by other factors.
In the case of this comment, where the commenter has observed a large “influx” of Clark’s nutcrackers into the Story area, it illustrates the poor utility of this species as MIS for this type of project since populations have been observed to fluctuate independent of management activities. The same holds true for moose. Even though moose are known to use the area, clearly there would be no effect to the moose population from activities in ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests as these cover types are not suitable habitat for moose.
Many of the other MIS mentioned in this comment, like the Northern 3-toed woodpecker, pygmy nuthatch, goshawk, pine marten, etc., are also sensitive species. As sensitive species, the effects of implementing this proposal were analyzed in detail in the Biological Evaluation for this project, and the results were summarized in the EA under the section on effects to TES species.
Comment 8: Building roads into roadless areas would require the permission of the Regional Forester and a higher level of scrutiny.
Response to comment: Road construction has not been proposed.
Comment 9: Finally, Penrose Trail and South Piney Canyon’s scenic and recreational value will be adversely affected by the proposed alternative. Hundreds of Story and Sheridan citizens fish, hike, ski, South Piney Canyon for its scenic beauty. Recreational users would be greatly distressed to find the canyon’s forest and Penrose area decimated by logging, the mountain lady slippers burned out and South Piney Creek’s fishery destroyed by the increased sedimentation. The WWA feels with the higher moisture content in the spring and fall that the prescribed fire should take place then. This would minimize impacts and decrease any escapes.
Response to comment: The broadcast burning in Treatment Area #2 will likely be done in the spring or fall however there may be a chance to do some burning in the winter. The pile burning in Treatment Areas #1 and #3 will take place when the ground is covered with snow which may be fall, winter or spring.
Comment 10: Unlike the Southeast, where most forests are ecologically adapted to frequent, low-intensity fires, most forest of the West are adapted to infrequent, high-intensity fires.
Response to comment: The fire ecology of ponderosa pine forests, such as those found in and around Story, is frequent, low-intensity fires. Table 1 gives several references to the fire ecology of ponderosa pine forests in the Rocky Mountains Chapter 3, section 3.2 Fire and Fuels.
Comment 11: In light of the lack of scientific data to support the efficacy of thinning in preventing forest fires the treatments proposed for Area #3 are unjustified. Until studies can be completed, and success documented, it would seen that a much more prudent and reasonable approach would be one that resembles those intended for treatment Area #2.
Response to comment: Applying the prescription for Treatment Area #2 (TA2) in Treatment Area #3 (TA3) would likely result in cutting more trees and creating more fuels. Treating the additional fuels with the broadcast burning prescribed for TA2 would be difficult to conduct in TA3 because most of TA3 is on northeast facing slopes. When conditions are favorable for broadcast burning on northeast slopes conditions on adjacent slopes would be hotter and dryer and chances of escape would be higher.
Appendix C - Glossary
basal area: the area in square feet of the cross section at breast height of a single tree, a group of trees, or all of the trees in a stand, usually expressed in square feet per acre.
Best Management Practices:( BMP) a practice or usually a combination of practices that are determined by a state or a designated planning agency to be the most effective and practicable means (including technological, economic, and institutional considerations) of controlling point and nonpoint source pollutants at the levels compatible with environmental quality goals-note BMPs were conceptualized in the 1972 US Federal Water Pollution Control Act—see pollution
d.b.h.: diameter at breast height, usually assumed to be 4.5 feet.
direct effect: economic response in an industry that results from a change in that industry’s output.
endangered species: a species or subspecies in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, as rated and listed by the USDI FWS.
fire-dependent: the characteristic of requiring periodic fire as part of the ecosystem.
forest land: land that is at least 16.7 percent stocked by forest trees of any size, or formerly having had such tree cover, and not currently developed for non-forest use.
forest type: a classification of forest land based on the species forming a plurality of live-tree stocking.
forest: an assemblage of woody vegetation typically attaining positions in a plant community at the tallest level; attains height and diameter growth of canopy-layer trees within established averages for the species.
fragmentation: "the process by which a landscape is broken into small islands of forest within a mosaic of other forms of land use or ownership--note e.g. islands of a particular age class (e.g., old growth) that remain within areas of younger-aged forest -- note fragmentation is a concern because of the effect of noncontiguous forest cover on connectivity and the movement and dispersal of animals in the landscape" - definition from John A. Helms, ed., 1998. The Dictionary of Forestry. The Society of American Foresters, Bethesda MD.
fresh water: water that contains less than 1,000 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of dissolved solids.
geomorphology: a science that deals with the land and submarine relief features of the earth’s surface and seeks a genetic interpretation of them; physiography.
hydrology: the science dealing with the study of water on the surface of the land, in soil and underlying rocks, and in the atmosphere.
indicator species: a species of plant or animal whose presence or absence indicates the general health of the community upon which the species is most dependent. Generally, providing for the needs of the indicator species will also meet the needs of most other organisms in the community.
indirect effect: the economic effect that occurs when a producer purchases goods and services from another producer, who, in turn, also purchases goods and services.
morphology The external and internal form and structure of whole plants,organs, tissues, or cells.
Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB)Dendroctonus ponderosae a pine engraver beetle black and about ¼ of an inch in size that attacks pine trees leaving pitch tubes on mature pine trees.
native species: species that is within its known historical range, and there is no evidence of humans having artificially introduced it.
natural open land: land that is mostly free of trees due to the ecological conditions of the site.
nonforest land: land that has never supported forests and land formerly forested where timber production is precluded by development or other uses.
old-growth stand: a stand of trees characterized by a diversity of tree species in several size classes, advanced age, downed logs and snags, large canopy trees, tree fall gaps, undisturbed soils, and other plants and animals that prefer old growth..
perennial stream: streams that flow throughout the year..
population density: the number of individuals of a species per unit area.
rare species: any native or once-native species of wild plant or animal that exists in small numbers and has been determined to need monitoring (may include peripheral species).
rare: a classification reflecting a species’ scarcity in a given area. Rare plants and animals (and eventually communities) are assigned rarity ranks according to The Nature Conservancy’s global ranking system.
riparian zone/riparian area: the area of land on either side of streams, channels, rivers, and other water bodies. These areas are normally distinctly different from the surrounding lands because of unique soil and vegetation characteristics (e.g., wetter soil than adjacent soil conditions where aquatic vegetative communities thrive).
riparian: describing lands associated with bodies of water.
saplings: live trees 1.0 to 5.0 inches d.b.h.
sensitive species: a term used for species of special concern by some States.
stream reach: a segment of a stream.
surface water: an open body of water such as a stream or lake.
sympatric: the capacity for species or populations to inhabit the same or overlapping geographic areas.
threatened species: a species or subspecies that is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range and listed as such by the USDI FWS.
tributary: a stream feeding a larger stream, river, or lake.
turbidity: a measure of water clarity.
values: relatively firmly held and socially shared positions or expressions about what is good or right; they are abstract and normative and are considered to be somewhat stable.
Visual Quality Objective: A desired level of excellence based on physical and sociological characteristics of an area. Refers to degree of acceptable alteration of the characteristic landscape.
water quality standard: a standard that defines the goals for a water body or portion of a water body, by designating the beneficial use or uses to be made of the water and by setting criteria necessary to protect the uses. Water quality standards should provide for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and for recreation in and on the water, and should take into consideration the use and value of public water supplies.
watershed: the area of land above a given point on a stream that contributes water to the volume of a body of surface water; also referred to as a drainage basin.
wetlands: those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions (U.S. ACE 1987). Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas; (2) lands that are transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface of the land and is covered by shallow water. For purposes of this classification, wetlands must have one or more of the following attributes: (1) at least periodically, the land predominantly supports hydrophytes (plants dependent on saturated soils or a water medium); (2) the substrate is predominantly undrained hydric soil; and (3) the substrate is nonsoil and is saturated with water or covered by shallow water at some time during the growing season of each year.
wilderness: a Congressionally-designated area that provides opportunities for solitude and primitive, unconfined recreational experiences. There are no constructed facilities such as campgrounds, picnic areas, or interpretive sites and motorized and mechanized vehicles are prohibited.
wildfire: any fire that is not burning for a prescribed management purpose or being managed as a prescribed fire.
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