Liason Panel Meeting

Bankhead Liaison Panel

Meeting Notes

March 1, 2001

Moulton, AL

The meeting was brought to order by Glen Gaines. Glen introduced visiting Forest Service personnel from the National Forests in Alabama. Approximately 55 people attended the meeting.

Agenda Items:

Bankhead EIS – Glen and John Creed, EIS Team Leader, discussed the scope of the decision of the EIS which will be forest health and restoration based on the desired future conditions of the forest communities. There is a steering committee for the Forest Plan who will also be making recommendations regarding this EIS. The EIS will be developed in conjunction with the Forest Plan and must be in agreement with the Plan. However, the resulting EIS will have site-specific plans identified, such as thinning areas, and the next step after the completion of the EIS will be implementation.

The timeframes agreed upon to date are the Notice of Intent will be published by September 1, 2001 and the target date for the Decision to be signed is September 1, 2002.

John also discussed information needs for the EIS. The overall vegetative condition will be determined by a set of aerial photos, which will be taken this month and satellite imagery, which will be used in conjunction with the photos. The base year for comparison purposes will be August/September, 1999 through August/September, 2000. Information will also be gathered through field surveys, as necessary.

The panel and members of the public in attendance asked questions and discussed the EIS. The consensus of the individual panel members was in support of the scope of the EIS. Non-panel members attending the meeting did not raise major concerns about the scope.

Southern Pine Beetle (SYB) – John also gave an update of the status of the SYB infestation levels and the Bankhead SYB program. To date, there are 13,406 acres of infestation in 645 spots known on the Bankhead. There may be more. There is currently one active SYB sale, with planning for the implementation of the 2001 program ongoing. However, additional personnel are needed for the SYB program, and due to the major storm damage on the Ouachita NF in Arkansas, it may be difficult to obtain additional personnel. Other employment options are being considered.

Rick Morgan, Ecosystem Planning of the National Forests in Alabama was asked about the status of the Forest Plan revisions and expected completion date. Rick replied that the new planning regulations are being reviewed, and when that is completed, they will be moving forward again on the revisions. A completion date is not known at this time.

Mike Cook updated the group on the status of ongoing and proposed recreation, fuels and prescribed burning projects. There were questions, suggestions and discussion regarding all of the projects with the most discussion centered around the proposed mechanized treatment of dead trees and branches that are potential wildfire hazard in specific locations of recreations areas and along some forest roads. Mike and Glen explained to the attendees that the funding for this project, if approved, would be from the special appropriation from Congress for wildfire hazard reduction and could only be used for mechanized treatment.

Update by Tom Counts – the Bankhead is proposing to gate or fence the Armstrong cave due to signs of recent human activity in the cave. There are both the gray and Indiana bats in this cave. The entrance to the cave has signs posted prohibiting entrance, but that has not been effective. Scoping on this proposed action will be begin in May.

Payments to Counties – Glen discussed the new bill passed by Congress in October, 2000 which provides payments to counties which replaces the previous method of the 25% payment of receipts from timber sales. Counties can accept payments under Title II and/or Title III of this bill, but 80-85% of the money still must use this money for schools and roads. The County Commissioners decide which method of payment to accept regarding the balance of the funding.

New Member – Peggy Armstrong requested that a representative of the Bankhead Forest Coalition be a member of the Bankhead Liaison Panel. There were questions and discussion regarding this request. Dr. Charles Borden made a motion that the Bankhead Forest Coalition submit an application to the Panel, outlining the purpose and objectives of their organization and the name of the member who would sit on the panel. The motion was seconded. More discussion and questions followed. The motion was defeated. A motion was made to have Johnny Warren represent the Bankhead Forest Coalition on the panel. The motion was seconded and was passed.

The date for the next liaison panel meeting is Thursday, June 14, 7:00 am in Moulton.