STANEY COMMUNITY FORESTRY PROJECT
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The area of the Tongass National Forest on Prince of Wales Island commonly known as “Staney” is a rich producer of fish, wildlife and other forest products. From subsistence to recreation to commercial harvest of timber and fish, the land and water resources surrounding the greater Staney area have historically provided a bounty of goods and serviceson which people depend, and that have enriched the lives of residents of the region, and in more recent times, the state and the country as well.
Today, there is great interest in the future of the Staney area and how its bounty of natural resources will be restored and managed. To better understand the opportunities and challenges of this area, the Forest Service and other stakeholders have engaged in a collaborative, integrated resource approach to develop possible future management actions in the Staney area.
The Nature Conservancy, the USDA Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Klawock Watershed Council identified Staney Creek and associated watersheds as high priority for integrated management based on a combination of very high biological and social values and moderate-to-extensive levels of modification of important ecological systems and functions. Moreover, the combination of high-value old growth forests with existing road infrastructure offers potential for management, including stewardship options, within densely-stocked “stem-exclusion” young-growth forests. These treatments will provide multiple benefits in terms of understory plant diversity and improved habitat values for deer and other species.
The Staney Creek Landscape is located on northwest Prince of Wales Island approximately 50 miles north of Klawock by road and includes the small communities of Naukati West, Naukati Commercial Subdivision, and Gutchi Cove. The project area is on USDA Forest Service managed lands and includes the Staney and Shaheen Creek watersheds, extending south along the coast to Nossuk Bay, and including the southern slopes of Kogish Mountain and Hanging Valley, and portions of Shinaku and Election Creek watersheds.
What is Integrated Resource Management?
Integrated resource management planning (IRMP) is a balanced, multi-resource approach that considers a range of forest values, by which a range of needs and opportunities can be efficiently identified, scheduled, and implemented. These may include restoration and maintenance of forest health, enhanced habitat for fish and wildlife, access for hunting and fishing, protection of cultural resources, and sustainable wood products for local industries. With integrated planning, multiple years of diverse opportunities can be scheduled in order to support local contracting, employment, and investment.
Traditionally, the Forest Service develops plans and proposes actions for a given landscape and involves the public in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Typically, the first stage in the NEPA process is development of a proposed action. The next phase involves public involvement, termed “scoping”, an early and open process in which the agency identifies public and agency concerns about a proposed management action. The public responds to the Proposed Action, and the agency considers this input, further refining the action and providing explanation of the anticipated effects of the action(s) on the land. The collaborative effort for Staney intends to provide a broad range of possible actions for the watershed that reflect the concerns and desires of its diverse stakeholders. When completed, the effort should produce an integrated assessment of the desired conditions. This assessment will be shared with the Forest Service for consideration as part of its broader implementation of the Tongass Land Management Plan.
Though nothing in this process obligates the Forest Service to take a specific action, thorough and transparent input is a critical consideration for the agency; and Tongass leaders are committed to this process. They are awaiting the group’s assessment before proposing additional actions within the project area.
A Collaborative Process
This effort is facilitated by The Nature Conservancy in cooperation with Wilderness Society and the USDA Forest Service. The objective is to develop an integrated resource management assessment for the greater Staney area which the US Forest Service will consider when proposing future projects in the area.
A series of workshops are planned for 2010, inviting local and regional stakeholders to a series of public meetings where a shared vision for stewardship and resource management within the Staney Landscape will be developed. The purpose of these workshops is to foster understanding of the current social, environmental, and legal constraints and conditions within the Staney Project Area with the goal of crafting a focused strategy for a range of forest, fish, wildlife and cultural resources, and to explore opportunities for employment and community engagement in forest restoration and management.
By planning a suite of forest stewardship and management projects, scheduled over multiple years, this process intends to build a supply of projects sufficient to allow local operators to make investments in equipment and local employment. Management will focus on activities designed to restore and enhance future benefits in terms of fish and wildlife populations, accelerated development of desirable forest products, and better management of infrastructure.
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