In this May 13, 2017 photo, the snowy Chugach Mountains stand over Vagt Lake near Moose Pass, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

In this May 13, 2017 photo, the snowy Chugach Mountains stand over Vagt Lake near Moose Pass, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Draft revision to Chugach Forest plan released

The U.S. Forest Service is moving into the next phase of rewriting its plan for the Chugach National Forest and is seeking public input.

The plan provides a framework for how the government manages the Chugach National Forest, which covers the eastern half of the Kenai Peninsula, Prince William Sound and the Copper River Delta. Most of the population of Alaska lives within a two-hour drive of the forest.

The Forest Service has been reevaluating the document, which was enacted in 2002, since 2012 and on Friday released the draft Land Management Plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement. The new version includes a climate change assessment and consideration of the changes local and regional economy, physical condition of the forest and increased recreational use, among other details.

“The Chugach National Forest is the backyard to over half of Alaska’s population, supporting businesses and rural communities with world-class tourism opportunities and destinations,” said Terri Marceron, Forest Supervisor, in a Friday press release. “The draft Land Management Plan for the Chugach National Forest continues our commitment to connect and deliver forest resources and benefits to people.”

Part of the plan revision will be to change some of the management areas within the forest as well. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement evaluates four alternatives, each with specific reclassifications for different areas. Some of the proposals raised controversy during previous public meetings, as the Forest Service has suggested designating some areas a wilderness or primitive recreation.

The Forest Service has to revise the plan every 10 years and need to consider new information from monitoring, scientific research and public involvement, according to the plan documents. Beyond two internal agency-related goals, the plan identifies four major goals: integrating Alaska Native tribe and corporations and State of Alaska interests; providing diverse recreation opportunities while preserving the forest environment; identifying lands for inclusion in the wilderness preservation system; providing ecosystem management direction in response to a changing climate.

The Forest Service plans to hold a number of public meetings on the plan, one of which will be in Soldotna. The dates, times and locations will be announced on the forest service’s website.

The plan documents are available on the Chugach National Forest’s website, as well as a portal where public comments can be submitted.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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