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Residents get first look at new forest plans

Those concerned about the future of the Wayne National Forest were able to get a first look at some of the proposed plans for the forest's development on Thursday afternoon during an open house at the Ironton District Ranger Station.

The station opened its doors to any member of the public curious about what the WNF caretakers have in store. Specialists from throughout the state were on hand to help explain intricacies of the proposed plans to the visitors.

A 90-day period of public comment is legally required for the new Land and Resource Management plan (the first in 17 years), but Ricardo Garcia, Planning and Natural Resources Group Leader for the WNF, said that public's input is more that just legally required, it is an integral part of their obligation to the public.

"The way we look at it, we're managing the public's land," Garcia said. "We don't own any of this, we just manage it for the public, therefore we need to know what the public wants to happen on the public land."

Six different plans proposed for the forest on display aimed to meet those needs. Garcia said the one with the most support currently is called "Alternative E."

It provides diverse wildlife habitats, including extensive tracts of mature forest. Alternative E also provides more management for restoration and maintenance of the mixed oak eco system than the other alternatives. This may require additional prescribed burning.

Timber harvesting would also be affected by the new plan. Currently, around 2 million board feet are available for harvesting, a number that would be quadrupled if Alternative E were to go into affect.

Public input will be accepted until July 1. After that, input will be used to refine a selected alternative.

Garcia said he hopes a new plan will be adopted by the end of the calendar year.