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Liaison Panel Meeting

Date:

July 14, 2000

Subject: Bankhead National Forest

Liaison Panel - July Meeting

 

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Dear:

The next working meeting of the Bankhead National Forest Liaison Panel will be held July 20, 2000 starting at 7:00 pm. The meeting location will be the Traders and Farmers Bank Upstairs Meeting Room in Double Springs, Alabama. The meeting is open to the public.

Enclosed are a meeting agenda and some additional information for the scheduled topics.

The objectives of this meeting are to:

(1) Discuss and begin formulating recommendation for the Bankhead district-wide loblolly pine thinning program.

(2) Look at range of alternatives for improving horse riding opportunities on the Bankhead, including improvements to Owl Creek Horse Camp.

I look forward to seeing each of you at the next meeting. If you have any questions, please call me at (205) 489-5111.

GLEN D. GAINES

District Ranger

Enclosures

Cc Forest Supervisor, National Forests in Alabama

Bankhead National Forest

Liaison Panel

Meeting Agenda

July 20, 2000

Meeting Objectives:

1. Discuss and provide recommendations on the forest-wide loblolly pine thinning proposal related to forest health

2. Begin discussion on improvements to horse riding facilities

7:00 Welcome Glen Gaines

7:15 Topic 1: Forest Health Initiative John Creed

Loblolly Pine Thinning Program

8:30 Topic 2: Horse Riding and Owl Creek Camp Mike Cook

9:15 Closeout Glen Gaines

TOPIC 1

BANKHEAD NATIONAL FOREST

FOREST HEALTH INITIATIVE

Loblolly Pine Thinning Program. There is approximately 68,000 acres typed as loblolly pine forest on the BNF. The majority of these acres are at high risk to Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) infestation. This high risk is due in part to the high stocking (trees per acre) of loblolly pine in some of these areas. The BNF is experiencing an epidemic outbreak of SPB resulting in significant acreage of loblolly pine mortality and dead/downed trees. This is resulting in increased fire fuel loads and reduced visual quality in some areas. In addition, to risk to BNF resources, there is potential risk to private landowner’s forest investments. The forest condition resulting from loblolly pine mortality may or may not be consistent with DFCs that will be developed for the BNF. There is a short-term forest health need to reduce risk of SPB infestation in loblolly pine areas, until these areas can be restored to native forest communities. At issue is what areas of the BNF will commercial timber sales be used to accomplish this task and where will “nature take its course” without intervention?

Draft Recommendation - For Panel Discussion

I. Implement a Bankhead-wide loblolly pine thinning program on approximately 28,000 acres (rough estimate) in the uplands of the following 5th level watersheds:

  • Upper Sipsey Fork (south of County Road 60 [Cranal Road])
  • Upper Bear Creek (exception High Town Path Study Area)
  • West Flint Creek (exception High Town Path, Indian Tomb Hollow Study Area, Flint Creek Botanical Area)
  • Upper Brushy (exception High Town Path)
  • Lower Sipsey Fork
  • Lower Brushy
  • Clear Creek
  • Upper Rock Creek
  • Lewis Smith Lake

The loblolly thinning program is needed to reduce the short-term risk of southern beetle infestation on the BNF and to adjacent landowners property. This proposal will reduce the potential for large-scale stand replacement mortality such as is now occurring in the Upper Sipsey Fork Watershed (Sipsey Wilderness). This project will maintain an intact loblolly pine overstory in place for the short-term until the restoration of these areas to one of four native forest communities can be accomplished in future years.

The thinning program will reduce the basal area to between 60-70 square feet per acre on average. The top priority stands for commercial thinning will be those stands between 15-40 years old, with high tree densities. ). It is proposed that all timber sale harvest operations (cut to length and skidder operations) be available for this program.

Trees favored for retention will follow the standards identified in the Indiana Bat Biological Opinion (BO). The BO stipulates in part that at least 16 class I or>

It is anticipated that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be prepared for this project beginning this year. This process will provide opportunity for public involvement, disclose environmental effects of the project for different alternatives, and identify locations and acreages for this project.

II. A loblolly pine thinning program will not be implemented on the approximately 20,000 acres (rough estimate) that occurs in the following 5th level watersheds and proposed land allocations:

  • Upper Sipsey Fork (north of County Road 60 [Cranal Road])
  • The following land allocations in other watersheds – Indian Tomb Hollow Study Area, High Town Path Study Area, and Flint Creek Botanical Area

TOPIC 2.

BANKHEAD NATIONAL FOREST RECREATION PROGRAM

OPTIONS FOR IMPROVING HORSE RIDING OPPORTUNITIES

Current Situation. The BNF is a popular place for horseback riding for local people and out-of-state visitors. Currently horse back riding is limited to trails designated for horse use and on roads open to vehicle traffic. There is currently 24.9 miles of trail on the Owl Creek System – a popular horseback riding area. Owl Creek Horse Camp provides primitive camping opportunities for horseback riders. It costs $3.00 per vehicle per night to camp at Owl Creek.

Some local horseback riders have recently requested improvements to the horse camp, which include a bathhouse (showers, flush toilets), running water a locations throughout the camp, and electrical hookups for recreational vehicles. This improvement would upgrade the area to a developed recreation site. There currently is no source of public water to service the area. However, a new waterline is proposed on Leola Road in the near future.

The cost of constructing the improvements to Owl Creek would be expensive, as well as tying into the new public waterline. The anticipated improvements would probably cost in excess of $150,000 (including planning, design, and construction. There currently is no money identified for this project. This type of improvement has not been planned or discussed until the last 5 months. Another issue is the long-term cost and labor required to operate and maintain such a facility.

Further discussion with the horse riding community is needed to determine if such improvements are desired. The BNF currently has a petition with 1,200 signatures in favor of the improvements. An analysis of the effects of upgrading the facility on the potential for increased capacity on the current trail will also be needed.

Draft Options - For Panel Discussion

 

Option 1 – Begin Design and Construction of New Improvements at Owl Creek

Utilities – Electricity and public water

Camp Sites – full electrical hookups, drinking water, fire grills, lantern posts, tables, gravel sites

Bath House – flush toilets, showers/sinks

Trail System Expansion – plan and implement expansion of current trail system

Estimated Cost - Most Expensive to the Forest Service, both initial startup and long-term maintenance cost

Fees – Substantial Increase - $15- $20 per night

Option 2 – Implement Modest Improvements at Owl Creek

Utilities – Public water

Camp Sites – drinking water, hitching posts

New Toilet Facility – Construct one SST, replaces current pit toilet

Estimated Cost - $100,000 - $150,000

Fees – Modest Increase $5 - $10 per night

Option 3 – New Equestrian Center and Modest Improvements at Owl Creek

Equestrian Center – Design and construct new center that includes developed campsites, shower/bathroom facilities, store/restaurant facilities, and stables. Center location could be national forest system land or private property. Would be developed through partnership with state and local governments and private organizations. Operated through concession or could be owned by private organization/local government.

Trail System Expansion – plan and implement expansion of current trail system that services the new equestrian center.

Owl Creek Utilities – Public water

Owl Creek Camp Sites – drinking water, hitching posts

New Toilet Facility – Construct one SST, replaces current pit toilet

Cost – Most Expensive Overall, a big share of expense would come from sources other than federal government

Fees – Owl Creek fees increase $5 - $10 per night; Equestrian Center unknown

Option 4 – Maintain Facilities as Primitive Camp Site, with Slight Improvements

Camp Sites – maintain sites as is, with periodic maintenance of hitching posts

New Toilet Facility – Construct one SST, replaces current pit toilet

Cost – Least Cost, operate primarily through fee demo program

Fees – Remain the same





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