Forest Service report will soon be available

Public input could affect hunting, snowmobiling in national forest

More than 9,000 public comments are in and the report that will help determine if hunting and snowmobiling will still be allowed in “semi-primitive” areas of the Huron-Manistee National Forest should be available in September.

The public will then have 90 days to make additional comments on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), which was prepared under order from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals after a Detroit-area attorney filed a lawsuit in September 2010 claiming that snowmobiling and gun hunting create too much noise.

The areas that could possibly be affected, designated as Primitive and Semiprimitive Nonmotorized, make up about 6.7 percent of the total 970,000 acres of the Huron-Manistee National Forest. In Manistee County, areas of the forest between Hodenpyl and Tippy dams carry this semiprimitive designation. While the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area is already closed to snowmobiles, this could also close it to gun hunting. The Briar Hills area in Wexford County would also be affected.

The court ordered the Forest Service to put together the environmental statement — something they do every 15 years or so anyway — but not to make any changes. The purpose of the report was to evaluate the environmental impacts of a proposed ban on firearm hunting and snowmobile use, subject to existing rights, in the areas.

The public has been involved throughout the process. A recent mailing went out to anyone who provided comments during the period when the report was being put together, which included a February meeting at Manistee’s Days Inn. Those who attended that meeting were overwhelming against any changes.

There was a postcard with the recent mailing asking the preference of acquiring the environmental impact statement. While the Forest Service asks that the postcard be returned by Aug. 12, there are many other ways to see the report.

“If people would like to receive a copy of the SEIS they can either call our offices in Cadillac or Manistee, or they can send an email, or they can just download it online,” said Ken Arbogast, public affairs officer for the forest service. “They don’t actually need to contact us if they just want to download it, review it and provide comments.”

Based on these additional comments, the Forest Service will complete a final draft of the report, which will include whether or not to ban hunting and snowmobiling in these areas or not. Then, the regional forester will make the decision which of the choices will be implemented. Finally, the finished draft will go back to the court for approval.

For more information on how to see the report, send and email to comments-eastern-huron-manistee@fs.fed.us, or call the Manistee Ranger Station at (231) 723-2211 of the Cadillac Supervisor’s Station at (800) 821-6263.

Leave a Reply