Canyons Project is example of U.S. Forest Service being good stewards of the forest

Canyons Project is example of U.S. Forest Service being good stewards of the forest

From all appearances, our precious Manti-La Sal National Forest appears to be in good hands.

The Forest Service is gearing up for unprecedented efforts to restore and preserve the forest. In addition, they are doubling down on a commitment to try and work hand-in-hand with the state for improved effectiveness in stewardship of our public lands.

After last year’s punishing wildfires, many Sanpete residents were left wondering if we would have problems again in 2019. While short-term wildfire risk is tough to mitigate, the Forest Service is taking measures to reduce uncharacteristic wildfire by playing the long game.

The Canyons Project, which will kick off this summer, is the first project of its size and scope in Utah. Approximately 36,000 acres of dead and downed spruce will be stripped from the land where it is accumulating as hazardous fuel; the wood will be sold in more than a dozen salvage timber sales.

The dead timber has been stacking up across the Manti-La Sal since the spruce beetle epidemic of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The goal of the project is to break up the giant masses of fuel that are spread across the project areas. If successful, a reduction in the dead spruce will not only help prevent wildfire, but will also help the regeneration of aspen.

The project is a big deal, and is planned to take well over a decade to complete. By offering the dead timber as a salvage timber sale, local businesses such as Satterwhite Lumber benefit by getting the lumber they need at a good price.

Through the timber sale strategy, the Forest Service is able to avoid contracts with businesses to maintain and strip dead timber and hazardous fuels.

So instead of paying a lot of money to contractors (which are not always local businesses) to restore and preserve the forest, officials at the Forest Service created a plan to restore the project area to a healthier condition, and as a bonus, money is earned which all goes back into replanting important species to the forest.

And that is not all the Forest Service is doing to stay ahead of the curve. Recently, Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, joined with Utah State Gov. Gary R. Herbert, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Chief, Vicki Christiansen, and Intermountain Regional Forester, Nora Rasure, to sign an agreement between the Forest Service and the State of Utah focused on shared stewardship.

The agreement will emphasize collaboration between Utah and the Forest Service to work as partners in identifying, mapping and restoring priority landscapes.

Utah has been known to work with the Forest Service on projects already, such as on the Watershed Restoration Initiative, which is responsible for restoring more than 1.9 million acres of priority watershed statewide. With this new agreement and the various projects in the works to protect the Manti-La Sal National Forest, it is obvious that the Forest Service is thinking bigger picture and the longterm results are likely to benefit our children and their children after them.