Opportunity to comment on Smokey Bear District's proposed Ski Apache Vegetation Project

Release Date: Jan 4, 2018  

RUIDOSO and ALAMOGORDO, NM – The Lincoln National Forest, Smokey Bear Ranger District is proposing to authorize Ski Apache Ski Resort to conduct restoration work within the footprint of the ski resort. Ski Apache has identified the need to remove trees killed in the 2012 Little Bear Fire in order to reduce fuel loading, reduce the risks to staff, guests, and resort infrastructure, and to improve the recreation opportunities available. The project area is located west of Alto, NM and can be accessed by NM State Road 532. The legal location is on sections PB 57 and PB 58 of Township 10 South / Range 11 East.

The proposed treatment areas are on steep slopes in excess of 40%. In the past, slopes greater than 40% could not be treated with ground-based mechanical equipment for the removal of dead standing or dead and down trees. The equipment and technology to operate on slopes of up to 80% is now viable and owned by several operators in the Pacific Northwest. This equipment uses a synchronized and stabilizing cable that connects an upslope anchor to the operating equipment downslope. The anchor and cable system serves primarily to assist equipment traction, stability and mobility on steep and uneven terrain. Tethered equipment has demonstrated success in increasing access to steep ground, and has improved worker safety and productivity in challenging terrain conditions.

Description of Proposed Actions

Hazard tree removal and forest thinning using heavy machinery would occur on slopes of up to 80% within the footprint of Ski Apache (the majority of the project area does not exceed 60% slopes). Down and standing dead timber would be removed and piled and burned. Portions of green forest in the project area would be treated by removing dead trees and thinned lightly to remove some small diameter living trees; this would create some glade skiing without increasing the risk of wind throw within the forest stand. After clearing dead material, approximately 30-50 acres off Chair 1 would be reforested via planting/transplanting of small conifer trees and/or transplanting aspen. Trees would also be planted on top of the Capitan lift to provide eventual wind screening. Existing aspen stands may be protected from wildlife browsing in order to promote stand regeneration. Down woody material that is already in contact with the soil and under 18” in diameter would be retained where possible in order to maintain habitat for the Sacramento Mountain salamander. Finally, approximately 20 acres would be revegetated with native grasses and forbs. Prescribed fire may be implemented as a follow up treatment and used in the project area in future years to maintain desired conditions. Total project area is approximately 373 acres. Most project activities will be completed within 5 years of the start of implementation, however some of the work may be completed incrementally as resources allow.  Maintenance activities for the project area may occur over the duration of the ski area permit.

The proposal for the Ski Apache Vegetation Project includes a project-specific amendment to the Lincoln National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan), which would authorize the use of mechanical equipment on slopes over 40 percent. The majority of the project area is located on slopes greater than 40 percent. This amendment is needed to provide access and complete proposed project activities.

Additional information regarding these actions, including the complete scoping letter, can be obtained from:  Andrew Ellis, 901 Mechem Drive, Ruidoso, NM 88345; 575-257-4095; AndrewEllis@fs.fed.us; or on the Lincoln National Forest projects website - http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/lincoln/landmanagement/projects.

How to Submit Comments

Electronic comments including attachments may be submitted by email in word (.doc), rich text format (.rtf), text (.txt), or hypertext markup language (.html) to comments-southwestern-lincoln-smokey-bear@fs.fed.us and include the project title in the subject line. Written comments may also be addressed to: Travis G. Moseley, Forest Supervisor, c/o Andrew Ellis, 901 Mechem Drive, Ruidoso, NM 88345; or faxed to (575) 257-6174. Oral or hand-delivered comments must be received within our normal business hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at either the Smokey Bear Ranger District, (575) 257-4095, or the Lincoln National Forest Supervisor’s Office, (575) 434-7200.

Although comments may be submitted and will be considered by the responsible official at any time prior to the decision being signed, only specific written comments (as defined in 36 CFR 218.2) received within 30 days following the date of the legal notice published in the newspaper of record (the Alamogordo Daily News) will provide the reviewer with the ability to object to the draft decision when it becomes available. The legal notice is scheduled for publication on Janurary 3rd, 2018. The actual publication date of the legal notice is the exclusive means for calculating the designated comment period. Those wishing to comment should not rely upon dates or timeframe information provided by any other source. If the comment period ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday, the comment period will be extended until the end of the next Federal working day. It is the responsibility of the sender to ensure timely receipt of any comments submitted (as outlined in 36 CFR 218.25(a)(4)).

Anyone submitting a comment is asked to provide their name and postal mailing address so that they can be added to the project mailing list. Comments submitted anonymously will be considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide the Agency with the ability to provide the respondent with subsequent environmental documents.

Thank you for your interest in the Lincoln National Forest. For more information about the Lincoln National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/lincoln follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LincolnUSForest