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Comment period ends on forest management plan

The draft offers a hands-off option as well as three different levels of management of the area, which includes Pilot Rock and Soda Mountain

ASHLAND ' Some 1,600 comments have been submitted on the draft management plan for the 52,947-acre Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as of Monday.

Dec. 19 is the deadline for commenting on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's proposed alternatives for managing the monument that blankets the region where the Siskiyou and Cascade ranges come together. The area includes Pilot Rock and Soda Mountain.

Most of the comments are from people concerned about conservation and preserving the monument, said Howard Hunter, the monument's assistant manager.

They are doing a good job of commenting in that they have acknowledged we have some givens under the proclamation requirements, he added. They are commenting within the range of what we have to work with.

Created in June 2000 by the Clinton administration under the 1906 Antiquities Act, the monument proclamation calls for protecting the monument's biological diversity, restoring damaged ecosystems and preserving unique flora and fauna.

That document also established the monument boundary, directed the BLM to study the impact of livestock grazing, banned cross-country mechanized travel, closed Schoheim Road to mechanized vehicles and eliminated com-mercial logging except where needed for ecological restoration or public safety.

The agency was given three years to prepare the monument's management plan. The result was a complex document containing more than 800 pages.

The original 90-day comment period was to have ended in September but an extension was granted after many complained they didn't have time to study the draft plan in-depth.

The draft offers a hands-off alternative as well as three different levels of management.

Alternative C, BLM's preference, would manage up to 7,700 acres of the roughly 24,000 acres designated as part of the old-growth emphasis area. That management would include cutting trees to reduce density and improve old-growth characteristics.

The preferred alternative also calls for managing some 2,000 acres in the 20,000-acre diversity emphasis area to restore and enhance grasslands, shrubs and oak woodlands. Another 3,000 acres in the area would be treated for noxious weeds.

Alternative D, the most proactive of the three, would treat 14,126 acres of the old-growth emphasis area. It also would provide for the widest array of management tools in treating the 5,000 acres of diversity emphasis area.

Two other regions within the monument, a wilderness study area and research natural area, already are being managed for their respective characteristics.

The draft management plan contains proposed transportation plans for the roughly 250 miles of roads in the monument. The BLM already has closed 77 miles of roads, but the other 174 miles of agency roads are not closed under any alternative, with the exception of three miles of road under Alternative B. The remainder of the roads are on private land.

The region's unique climate and geology have created one of the most biologically diverse areas in North America, many scientists say. They were joined by environmental activists in calling for the monument's creation.

But others, including ranchers fearing the loss of grazing permits for their cattle, have countered that the diversity is the result of timber management and grazing over the years. They opposed the monument's creation.

Meanwhile, while many of the comments received appear to have been form letters, several hundred were independent of any group, Hunter said.

No one has come out for or against but there are alternatives (that) people like more than others, he said.

The agency's goal is to have a final plan completed this spring with a record of decision released in the fall, Hunter said.

For additional information, visit on the Web.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at