LaVA Project Implementation

Background and Implementation information for the Medicine Bow Landscape Vegetation Analysis (LaVA) Project

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LaVA Background

The Medicine Bow Landscape Vegetation Analysis Project, or “LaVA” project, was developed to respond to unprecedented landscape-level tree mortality from bark beetles and other forest health issues that have affected hundreds of thousands of acres across the Medicine Bow National Forest since the late 1990s leading to a lack of resilience to other disturbances and unsafe conditions in some locations.

The LaVA project allows up to 288,000 acres of vegetation management on the Medicine Bow National Forest over the course of 15 years. The LaVA purpose and need includes mitigating hazardous fuel loading, providing for recovery of forest products, enhancing forest and rangeland resilience to future insect and disease infestations, protecting infrastructure and municipal water supplies, restoring wildlife habitat, enhancing access for forest visitors and permittees, and providing for human safety.

The Forest Service worked alongside multiple federal, state, and local cooperating agencies and the public to plan the LaVA project. By working with cooperating agencies and the public, the Forest Service was able to develop a plan that addresses a diversity of stakeholder interests and mitigates risk to habitats, activities, and adjacent communities. In August 2020, the LaVA final record of decision was signed, authorizing the Forest Service to begin project implementation.

From September to November 2020, the Mullen Fire burned more than 176,000 acres within the LaVA project area, pausing implementation in areas affected by the fire. To assess the impacts of the fire on LaVA objectives, the Forest Service completed a supplemental information report (SIR). The SIR, finalized in August 2021, found that the project’s treatments would remain within the scope and range of the effects considered in the envElk in mature forestironmental impact statement, despite changes caused by the fire. The SIR demonstrated that the implementation process outlined in the Final Appendix A contains tools that allow the Forest Service to effectively respond to changed conditions resulting from the Mullen Fire. The Forest Supervisor used the SIR to determine that implementation may continue in the Mullen Fire area. It is anticipated that most of the work within the fire area will focus on restoration activities like reforestation. Fuel treatments may continue in locations of low burn severity or in stands prone to windthrow.

The environmental impact statement, record of decision, supplemental information report, and other planning documents are available on the LaVA NEPA website.

The LaVA Implementation Process

LaVA implementation follows the five-phase process described in Final Appendix A: Adaptive Implementation and Monitoring Framework. The phases are:

  • Phase 1: Focus area development
  • Phase 2: Preliminary treatment design
  • Phase 3: Refine treatments based on field validation, standard operating procedures, and public input
  • Phase 4: Finalize and implement treatments
  • Phase 5: Monitoring and reporting

Opportunities for public and cooperating agency input are provided at key points in the process. Several documents, or “outputs” as described in the Final Appendix A, track and disclose the location and cumulative effects of LaVA treatments and are created as projects move through the phases. These outputs include the StoryMap, pre-treatment and implementation checklists, the treatment tracking workbook, and the monitoring report. The outputs allow the public, cooperating agencies, and Forest Service to review proposals, identify priorities, ensure projects are not exceeding decision triggers and treatment limits, and monitor success in meeting treatment objectives.

clear cut with aspen regrowthPictured: Mixed vegetation and conditions in the Medicine Bow National Forest and bordering lands.

StoryMap and Online Feedback Tool

The LaVA StoryMap is an interactive tool for spatially representing LaVA focus areas and treatments on the landscape. The StoryMap allows users to view future, ongoing, and completed treatments as they relate to watershed boundaries, lynx analysis units, roadless areas, wilderness areas, wildlife security areas, and other important designations for resource management and protection. The StoryMap also allows users to provide online feedback specific to focus areas and treatments. The StoryMap includes information about the size and status of each unit, with links to pre-treatment and implementation checklists.

For more information, please visit the LaVA project page

Screenshot of StorymapPictured: LaVA StoryMap screenshot of the LaVA project area with accounting units labeled.

Pre-treatment and Implementation Checklists

Checklists and maps will be posted online for each LaVA treatment. Pre-treatment checklists are completed at the end of phase 2. The pre-treatment checklist provides a description of the preliminary treatments for a focus area, which are based, in part, on input received through the StoryMap and public meetings. The pre-treatment checklist also provides a rough assessment of how proposed treatments might relate to LaVA’s decision triggers, which ensure the project remains within the scope and scale of the effects originally analyzed.

Implementation checklists are completed during phase 4 after Forest Service resource specialists conduct field work to review the preliminary units and propose any modifications needed to protect resources or to better meet treatment objectives. An implementation checklist documents final treatment boundaries, allowing contracting and on-the-ground implementation. Implementation checklists include the size of the proposed treatments and list all applicable design features and additional mitigation measures.

Treatment Tracking Workbook

The LaVA treatment tracking workbook is a tool designed to ensure treatments don’t exceed the sideboards of the LaVA record of decision. The full treatment tracking workbook is a series of spreadsheets based on geospatial data. The spreadsheets feed data into summary tables, which are regularly updated and posted online with an accompanying guide, which provides detailed information about the treatment tracking methods and how to interpret the summary tables. 

The treatment tracking workbook tracks LaVA treatments and any other projects occurring within the LaVA project area from preliminary design through completion and monitoring. The workbook displays the cumulative area of treatments against the decision triggers to alert the Forest Service and the public when LaVA is approaching the thresholds analyzed in the environmental impact statement. Decision triggers address issues such as stream health, wildlife habitat improvement and security areas, Canada lynx habitat, and temporary roads. The workbook also measures the total implementation of stand initiation, intermediate, and other treatments against the limits set for each of those treatment types in the record of decision.

Monitoring and Reporting

Monitoring and reporting is the fifth and final phase of the LaVA implementation process. Monitoring will help ensure consistency with the modified final environmental impact statement and record of decision. It will also provide the stakeholders with more information to design better treatments in the future. The primary intent of this phase is to answer the questions:

  1. Did we do what we said we were going to do?
  2. Did we get the expected outcomes?
  3. Do we need to adjust future treatments?

The first LaVA monitoring field trip took place in September 2022 at the Troublesome project, where the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Mule Deer Foundation, and Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins Conservation District, in cooperation with the U. S. Forest Service, recently completed 77 acres of shrub mowing to improve crucial big game winter range. The Troublesome project is located on the northwest edge of the Snowy Range, about 12 miles east of Saratoga, Wyoming.

The 2022 Monitoring Report is now available. We will begin monitoring additional projects in the fall of 2023.

How to Get Involved

We encourage anyone who is interested in the LaVA project to participate in the process. The Forest Service is accepting feedback through the fillable Public Feedback Form, which can also be accessed and submitted directly through the StoryMap. We also welcome anyone interested to join our mailing list through GovDelivery for LaVA project updates. To use the GovDelivery online application, enter your email address, then scroll down the list of available subscriptions to the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, which has a dropdown menu of current projects including the LaVA project.

In addition, the Forest Service will host a public LaVA workshop each spring and a monitoring field trip every fall (starting in 2022). The workshops will allow the public to participate in discussions regarding future focus areas, current treatments, and monitoring of past treatments. The next workshop is planned for spring 2022. Each workshop will be advertised through a press release, the LaVA mailing list, and on the top of this web page. Please check back frequently for updates.