Shoshone National Forest Draft Land Management Plan - CDTS Comments
CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL SOCIETY
3704 N. Charles St. (#601)
Baltimore MD 21218
November 21, 2012
Shoshone National Forest
Forest Plan Revision
Attn: Joe Alexander, Forest Supervisor
808 Meadow Lane Avenue
Cody, WY 82414
Re: Draft Land Management Plan/Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Dear Mr. Alexander:
Thank you for inviting the Continental Divide Trail Society to comment upon the subject draft plan and EIS. Our comments relate solely to management direction for the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST or Trail).
The framework for our comments comes from Forest Service Manual 2353.44b, referenced at DEIS p. 480, which relates specifically to the CDNST.
This directive contemplates two stages of planning: (1) a land management plan that will establish a management area for the CDNST, prescribes desired conditions, objectives, standards, and guidelines, and establishes a monitoring program, and (2) a unit plan that identifies and displays the segments of the CDNST that traverse the Forest and establishes the trail class, managed uses, designed use, and design parameters, provides for development, construction, signing, and maintenance, identifies and preserves significant resources, and establishes carrying capacity and monitoring programs to evaluate site-specific conditions.
We understand that the current proposal deals with the first of these planning stages, to be followed by a unit plan (which is a site-specific project to be addressed in subsequent project planning, as indicated at page 47 of the DEIS).
Our Society is extremely interested in issues related to the location, managed uses, etc. of the CDNST that will be addressed in the unit plan; some of our concerns have been outlined in the scoping comments we submitted in November 2010 and comments on the proposed draft plan submitted on January 30, 2012. We believe the locations depicted on Map 41 will be useful in developing alternatives in a unit plan. Our detailed recommendations on these site-specific issues will be deferred until that stage of planning.
Land Management Plan
The first requirement of FSM 2353.44b is to establish a management area for the CDNST that is broad enough to protect natural, scenic, historic, and cultural features. The DLMP establishes Management Area 3.6A, which includes a corridor within 0.5 mile of centerline of the Trail location (“Setting”, p.172). This is consistent with FSM 2353.44b7, which provides that the one-half mile foreground viewed from either side of the CDNST travel route must be a primary consideration in delineating the boundary of a CDNST management area. It is important to recognize that in accordance with the Scenery Management System, as applied to the Trail as a concern level 1 route, some activities outside this corridor may need to be excluded or modified; this would require detailed review in project planning.
FSM 2353.44b next calls for the land management plan to prescribe desired conditions, objectives, standards, and guidelines for the CDNST.
The DRMP’s “desired conditions” are, for the most part, satisfactory. However, the reference to “compatible” non-motorized recreation opportunities fails to convey the important qualification, set out in 16 U.S.C. 1246(c), that the use “will not substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of the CDNST.” This is applicable, in particular, to bicycle use (FSM 2353.44b.10); segments of the CDNST that might be open to mechanized travel would be evaluated in the site-specific planning process. While “access to the Trail” presumably might be by bicycle, bike travel “along the Trail” would require additional review. 
Objectives for the CDNST appear as Goals for Management Area 3.6A (p. 173). The entire “nature and purposes” clause of the Comprehensive Plan should appear here. As revised, it should read: “Provide high-quality scenic, primitive hiking, and horseback riding opportunities and conserve natural, historic, and cultural resources along the Trail corridor.” This would acknowledge that historic and cultural resources represent important values that should be considered in unit planning. (For more information, see James R. Wolf, “General Sheridan’s Pass,” Annals of Wyoming, v.71, No.4, Autumn 1999, pp. 29-40.)
Proposed Goal 2. for Management Area 3.6A is to “relocate the Trail off motorized routes as time and resources allow.” We would delete the last five words. As detailed in the Comprehensive Plan (II.A.), citing a memorandum from the Chief of the Forest Service to Regional Foresters, “it is expected that the trail will eventually be relocated off of roads for its entire length…. It is the intent of the Forest Service that the CDNST will for non-motorized recreation.” The extent to which this can be accomplished at a particular time will need to be examined in site-specific planning, but the goal is clear and it is to relocate the Trail off motorized route.
Under the DRMP’s “standards,” competitive events, nonmotorized outfitter and guide activities, and over-snow and winter activities would be allowed if they do not interfere with the nature and purposes of the Trail. As a general rule, we think these activities would in fact interfere. We would prefer to have these standards revised to say: “Allow [activities] only if they do not interfere with the nature and purposes of the Trail.”
The standard for snowmobile use should conform to FSM 2353.44b 11f. If that is done, the restriction regarding colocation of the Trail with snowmobile trails can be deleted.
We disagree with Standard 6, which calls for the CDNST to be moved off existing motorized routes, if the motorized use becomes incompatible with management of the Trail, particularly where the route is not a road subject to Section 5(a)(5) of the National Trails System Act (16 U.S.C. 1244). We have in mind a situation addressed in Section 7(c) of the Act where the motorized vehicle use substantially interferes with the nature and purposes of the Trail. Moving the CDNST would be acceptable if the new location offers equivalent or superior scenic, historic, natural, or cultural values. However, where a change in Trail location would degrade the qualities of the CDNST, the better course could be either to relocate the motorized route or reclassify the route as nonmotorized. We suggest: “If motorized use that has been allowed becomes incompatible with management of the Trail, the conflict will be resolved after consideration of alternatives in a site-specific planning process.”
Also with respect to roads, the provision in Table 26 (ROS standards for MA 3.6A) that would allow new primitive roads in a semi-primitive motorized portion of management area 3.6A must be removed, as it conflicts with the direction of Section 7(c) of the NTSA prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles on post-1978 roads by the general public. After deleting the words “better than a primitive standard,” the provision would be that “No new roads may be located in the corridor.”
The first of the guidelines for Management Area 3.6A contemplates cutting or removal of trees under a variety of circumstances, all of which may be justifiable. We would like you to indicate that authorization would only be given “after environmental review.”
Guideline 2 needs to be revised so as to eliminate any ambiguity with respect to which management area is intended. Presumably, there can be no question that the management area in which the Trail occurs is MA 3.6A. Delete the word “management” in this guideline.
All provisions for roads and trails (Table 26) should be reviewed for consistency with FR 2353.44b 11 and the Comprehensive Plan (IV.B.5.c.): motor vehicle use by the general public should be prohibited “on the CDNST” in every ROS category unless one of the enumerated exceptions applies.
Motor vehicle use is also discussed under the “Management approach” heading on p. 176. As noted above, we would not prejudge that the Trail will “generally” be moved in the event of conflicts. We are also concerned about the “special circumstance” that would justify the authorization of such use on a relocated section. It should be made clear that any such special circumstance must be one falling within the scope of Section 5(a)(5) or 7(c) of the National Trails System Act.
The land management plan must also “establish a monitoring program to evaluate the condition of the CDNST in the management area.” FSM 2353.44b 1.c. The final LMP should address this requirement.
CDNST Unit Plan
FSM 2253.44b2 gives direction to the detailed unit planning for the CDNST. We will focus on two key elements: (1) identification and display of the segments of the CDNST that traverse the unit, and (2) establishing the Trail Class, Managed Uses, Designed Use, and Design Parameters for the segments of the CDNST that traverse that unit and identify uses that are prohibited.
The unit planning process will provide the opportunity to formalize a particular route as the location of the Trail. Some alternative locations are depicted on Map 41; we understand that these routes reflect recent field investigations (including completed cultural resource and botanical surveys according to DEIS p. 479) that would provide the necessary information for an environmental assessment in support of the MA 3.6A corridor. The planning process should be carried out in consultation with the Bridger-
Teton National Forest inasmuch as some segments (e.g., at Leeds Creek) may best be located west of the Continental Divide.
But identifying and displaying the area of MA 3.6A and its constituent segments, is only part of the unit plan. The second part, which remains to be done, is detailed planning (including trail class, managed uses, designed use, and design parameters) for these segments. Beside prescriptions for managing segments within MA 3.6A, the unit plan would also provide the basis for managing scenery along the CDNST. FSM 2353.44b7. Scenery management considerations may necessitate adjustments to management areas outside MA 3.6A in order to achieve the national scenic trail objectives.
Any consideration of the CDNST should begin with the recognition that this is a Congressionally-designated area, subject to special requirements as a national scenic trail. This should be reflected throughout the DEIS, including for example the purpose and need discussion for Special Areas and Designations (p.8) and the analysis of the affected environment and environmental consequences for Special Areas (p.508). Some of this is treated in Chapter 3 under the Recreation heading, but this does not highlight the uniqueness of the CDNST. Just as Designated Wilderness and Wild and Scenic rivers are examined as Special Areas, the same should be the case for National Scenic and Historic Trails. A further reason for singling out the CDNST is Executive Order 13195 (Jan. 18, 2001), which directs Federal agencies to protect national scenic trail corridors to the degree necessary to ensure that the values for which the Trail was established remain intact.
We turn to Map 41, which illustrates a variety of locations between Brooks Lake and Shoshone Pass that may be found suitable, after site-specific analysis, for location of the CDNST (and MA 3.6A).
None of these locations – or for that matter, any other segments of the CDNST – are identified as MA 3.6A on any of the alternative maps included in the DEIS.
Because of the absence of an identified MA 3.6A we regard all of the alternatives to be unacceptable. The trail corridor should be managed under the goals and standards set out in the MA 3.6A prescription and not under any other. We understand that effective management will also require identification of trail segments, with their respective definition of trail class, managed uses, etc. But if these determinations are not made as part of the land management plan itself, they should be made as soon as possible by the consideration and adoption of a unit plan for the CDNST.
In our view, MA 3.6A should be shown on the alternative maps and should include all of the locations drawn on Map 41. Once an assessment of these locations has been completed and a particular route has been selected, the remaining portions of the management area can be removed and those portions managed thereafter in accordance with the prescription for the adjoining area.
For the sake of argument, we will offer some selective comments on Alternate B (the preliminary proposed action) as if the Map 41 locations were superimposed thereon. In all cases, the standards and guidelines for MA 3.6A (including mountain biking and snowmobile or other motorized use) should be observed, whether or not they are included in this list.
North of Brooks Lake. (MA 3.3B). Motorized winter use must conform to paragraph IV.B.6b.(6) of the Comprehensive Plan.
Brooks Lake through U.S. 26/287 corridor (MA 3.3B and MA 4.2). Motorized vehicle use must conform to paragraph IV.B.6b. of the Comprehensive Plan.
Pelham Lake to Trout Lake (MA 5.1). For reasons of scenery management, timber harvesting and associated road construction should ordinarily not be allowed within the CDNST management area. (See FSM 2353.44b 7.) Livestock grazing, however, might be permitted. The Trail should be relocated off motorized routes (in accordance with Goal 2. for the CDNST).
Access to Sheridan Pass (MA 3.5). We assume that motorized vehicle use conforms to the Comprehensive Plan here, but this should be verified.
Sheridan Pass to Leeds Creek (MA 3.3B). Motorized winter use must conform to paragraph IV.B.6b. of the Comprehensive Plan.
Leeds Creek drainage (in Bridger-Teton National Forest). Coordinate with BTNF.
West of Lake of the Woods (MA 5.1 and 3.3A). See comments above related to MA 5.1. The CDNST in the Salt Creek basin would be restricted to nonmotorized use.
Little Pine Creek (MA 5.1 and 3.3A). See comments above.
Map 41 Relocation – Western Option
Brooks Lake to U.S. 26/287 Corridor (MA 3.3B). The outstanding scenery and unroaded setting call for management that will preserve the qualities of quiet and a high degree of solitude here. Although some pack use is to be expected in summer, neither motorized nor mechanical (bicycle) use should be authorized at any time.
U.S. 26/287 corridor (MA 4.2). Motorized vehicle use must conform to paragraph IV.B.6b. of the Comprehensive Plan.
U.S. 26/287 corridor to Pelham Lake (MA 5.1). With the construction of new trail along the Continental Divide, a substantial portion of this section needs to be nonmotorized. (Any existing motorized use might continue only if allowable under paragraph IV.B.6b of the Comprehensive Plan.)
[An alternate route west of the Divide, down Pink Creek and past Moccasin Basin, as described in our comments of January 30, 2012, would also merit consideration, in consultation with the Bridger-Teton National Forest.]
Pelham Lake to Sheridan Pass (MA 3.3B). Motorized winter use must conform to paragraph IV.B.6b.(6) of the Comprehensive Plan.
Ideally, the DLMP would be revised, first, to expressly establish the management area and, second, to identify the segments of the area geographically and provide prescriptions for trail class, managed uses, etc. with respect to each of these segments.
We anticipate, however, that the Forest Service may only address the first of these tasks – by including a textual description of MA 3.6A but failing to delineate its location on the maps in the LMP.
This would leave a very unsatisfactory situation, since there will be no assurance that management under the approved MAs (as shown on maps of the selected alternative) will in fact serve the nature and purposes of the CDNST.
Under these circumstances, the Forest Service needs to include in its record of decision a directive to initiate without delay the preparation of a unit plan that will define the location of the CDNST corridor and provide the necessary prescriptions for its management. The record of decision should also make it clear that such prescriptions, when adopted, will operate as an amendment that will substitute the MA 3.6A corridor for the corresponding areas appearing in the LMP. Further, the Forest Service should take appropriate measures to ensure that any projects approved before the CDNST unit plan is adopted will be consistent with the nature and purposes of the Trail, including the routes appearing on Map 41 as well as the existing route.
The National Trails System Act provides the context for planning the CDNST – “to provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential and for conservation and enjoyment of the nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, or cultural qualities of the areas through which such trails may pass.” In establishing the Trail, Congress had before it the 1976 Study Report of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, which provided, in part:
One of the primary purposes for establishing the CDNST would be to provide hiking and horseback access to those lands where the environment remains relatively unaltered. Therefore, the protection of the land resource must remain a paramount consideration in establishing and managing the trail. There must be sufficient environmental controls to assure that the values for which the trail is established are not jeopardized…. The basic goal of the trail is to provide the hiker and rider an entrée to the diverse country along the Continental Divide in a manner which will assure a high quality recreation experience while maintaining a constant respect for the natural environment.
Our comments today are intended to assist the Forest Service to manage the CDNST true to this vision. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our suggestions and invite you to contact us at any time by phone or e-mail. We wish to stress, however, the need to prepare a unit plan without delay in order to assure that the nature and purposes of the Trail will be respected in the Shoshone National Forest’s stewardship of this important resource.
CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL SOCIETY
James R. Wolf, Director
3704 N. Charles St. (#601)
Baltimore MD 21218
 The mission of the Continental Divide Trail Society, established in 1978, is to help in the planning, development, and maintenance of the CDNST as a silent trail and to assist users plan and enjoy their experiences along the route. We have approximately 250 members, from all parts of the United States and several countries overseas. Many of our members hike the CDNST, including the portion in the Shoshone National Forest, every year.
 The “Setting” overlooks segments located on trails (e.g. Cub Creek Pass to Brooks Lake), not on roads; so, currently “the Trail follows a mixture of non-motorized trails and motorized primitive roadways.” Also, motorized use is to be allowed only (1) on a road constructed by [November 10,] 1978, or (2) otherwise, if the vehicle class and width were allowed on a segment in 1978 and the use will not substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of the CDNST. (See FSM 2353.44b 11.) Suggested rewording: “Motorized use is allowed on roads constructed before 1978. Motorized use, where allowed in 1978, may also be allowed on other segments, to the extent provided in the Comprehensive Plan, if the use will not substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of the Trail.” (The “vehicle class and width” language might be quoted here instead of the more general reference in the Comprehensive Plan.)
 Suggested revision: “Non-motorized recreation opportunities may be provided if they will not substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of the Trail.”
 Other routing proposals might also be considered. For example, as suggested in our 2010 and 2012 comment, an alignment south from Togwotee Pass to Sheridan Pass via Pink Creek and Moccasin Basin, and continuing south along the general location of the Continental Divide, might prove to be desirable.
 The “existing route” is not described in the DLMP/DEIS. Nor do we have any documentation of a final selection of any particular route. For present purposes, the “existing route” is taken to be Alternative A of the 1998 environmental assessment. However, the map depicting this location states that “Final route to be determined.”