Chugach forest plan put more emphasis on recreation

Posted: Sunday, September 17, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Chugach National Forest's 10-year management plan, now out for final review, so far is more oriented toward recreation and habitat than logging and mining.

It also tries to sort out conflicts between forest users, such as snowmachiners and skiers, and defines areas recommended as wilderness.

One of the biggest changes in the new plan is that summer motorized access would be limited mainly to designated routes. Three pages of roads are listed in the plan, showing what kinds of traffic are allowed on each, from all-terrain vehicles and snowmachines to bicycles and horses.

Just one area, near Cordova, is open to off-road riding during the summer, said Gary Lehnhausen, the Forest Service's lead planner. The old plan had few restrictions on motorized access, he said.

In some areas, forest planners have proposed setting up ''time shares'' to allow motorized and non-motorized use at different times. One such area is the Twentymile River area, where users would trade off use every other year. A few small areas would be designated exclusively for nonmotorized recreation year-round. Two of those are Skookum Glacier near Portage and Winner Creek near Girdwood.

A 90-day comment period on the plan started Friday and will continue through Dec. 14. Feedback will then be incorporated into the final plan, to be finished sometime next year.

An earlier draft recommended setting aside 2.3 million acres of the 5.5 million-acre national forest as wilderness. The final draft recommends about 1.8 million acres, about the same amount in the old plan. Most of that surrounds Prince William Sound.

The suggested wilderness acreage shrank mainly due to objections from Cordova residents and fishermen who feared land-use restrictions would curtail fishing and hunting. Environmentalists say they will continue to lobby to get the entire eastern Copper River Delta region protected as wilderness.

As part of a unique pilot project, forest officials have put all of the plan's information onto a compact disc, along with the plan's maps.

Because the maps are layered with different information, people can select what they want to know about and tailor the maps to show what they want to see. They can also outline a particular area and find out its acreage or zoom in for a closer look. People can also comment directly to the Forest Service by marking on the computer maps and e-mailing them back to the agency.

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