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After much consideration, Forest Supervisor Becki Heath has withdrawn her decision for the Pack and Saddle Stock Outfitter-Guide Special Use Permit Issuance. The move will allow Forest managers more time to properly analyze some issues raised during the appeal process.
“This additional time is needed and will result in a more thorough analysis,” said Michael Liu, Methow Valley District Ranger, “unfortunately, withdrawing the decision will continue to limit the issuance of pack and saddle stock outfitter-guides to one year permits until a new decision is made,”
Forest specialists will continue to work closely with the agency’s regional and national staff as they determine the amount of commercial pack and saddle stock services needed in the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wildernesses. The results will be documented in a new Needs Assessment and Minimum Extent Necessary Determination. The Wilderness Act prohibits commercial services in wilderness except for the extent necessary to provide for wilderness-appropriate activities.
“Completing this analysis, and making a decision on Pack and Saddle Outfitter Guide Permitting remains a very high priority for us,” said Liu. “Right now, some of the agency’s top wilderness experts are working with us to improve our Needs Assessment. Once the Needs Assessment is revised, the Forest will move forward by either supplementing, or re-writing the Environmental Impact Statement.”
The Forest will publish either a new or supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, respond to comments on the DEIS, and then issue a new FEIS and Record of Decision. This decision will fall under the Forest Service’s new 218 appeal process (36 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 218). Under the new process, those who are eligible will now be able to seek higher-level review of unresolved concerns before a project decision has been made, rather than after a project decision has been signed. The agency believes addressing public concerns before a decision is made aligns with its collaborative approach to public land management and increases the likelihood of resolving those concerns. Individuals or organizations must submit specific written comments during one of the opportunities for comment provided during preparation of an EIS to be eligible to file an objection.
The public will have an opportunity to review the new documents and submit comments before a decision on pack and saddle stock outfitter guide special use permit issuance is made.
For more information, please contact Jennifer Zbyszewski, Recreation and Wilderness Program Manager for the Methow Valley Ranger District at 509-996-4021.