Alaska, Moose Pass News, Outdoors

District Ranger Answers SCN Questions and Announces Selection of Special Tree

Tom Malacek, new Seward District Ranger for the Chugach National Forest, introduces himself to residents who attended the recent forest plan  meeting. Heidi Zemach photo
Tom Malacek, Seward District Ranger for the Chugach National Forest, at a previous forest plan meeting. SCN file photo by Heidi Zemach .

By Rick Smeriglio for SCN — After a recent meeting in Moose Pass concerning revisions to the Chugach National Forest management plan, USDA Forest Service district ranger Tom Malecek agreed to a recorded, sit-down interview with SCN. Part of what Ranger Malecek said appears below.

SCN: What have you heard about motorized versus non-motorized use on the Chugach? What has been the public input so far in the revision process?

Malecek: I have heard individually that certain individuals like to cross-country ski in certain areas and if there’s motorized snowmachines in the area, they wish they would go across the way… Non-motorized people like to recreate in non-motorized areas and motorized people don’t necessarily have that same attitude; they can recreate where there’re non-motorized [users in the area]. If you’re looking for something like 80 percent of the people wanting it motorized versus 20 percent wanting it non-motorized, I haven’t heard that at all… Based on the 2002 revision when there was overwhelming concern about trying to put some parameters on motorized versus non-motorized… [Seward Ranger District] tried, primarily for winter, to accommodate the wide variety of uses by splitting them up into different areas.

SCN: Can you explain to a lay person, how the Roadless Rule will affect Forest Service decision making in regard to the DOT proposed bypass of Cooper Landing, the highway?

Malecek: No I can’t because I don’t know. One thing we can say, is that there is only one alternative of the Sterling Highway that does not substantially impact roadless [areas subject to the Roadless Rule]. Whereas roadless would be a constraint for the Forest Service nationally, for the Federal Highway [Administration], if they are proposing a highway through roadless, to alleviate safety concerns from the current highway, ‘How does that play out?’; I don’t know. That’s one of the questions we want to have answered… We’re anxious and we’re certainly displaying, in our comments [to DOT], that there is only one alternative that pretty much stays away from roadless. We don’t have the authority [to build a road in a roadless area]… The Federal Highway [Administration] plays by different rules… All I can say at this point is that … three of the alternatives travel through substantial areas of roadless and one of them does not.

Roadless designation is outside the scope of the forest plan process. Changing it is not within our purview.

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SCN: On the Iditarod Trail corridor where the Forest Service has an easement across state lands that conveyed to the Kenai Peninsula Borough, does the borough’s recreation classification satisfy Forest Service management intent? What is Forest Service management intent for the Iditarod Trail corridor between Lower Trail Lake and Grant Lake?

Malecek: I would need to refer that to John [Eavis] … I certainly rely on the strength of my staff…on all things Iditarod related.

With Tom Malecek present, John Eavis said, “Our intention would be [to comply] with the Kenai Area Plan … which is pretty prescriptive, for the Iditarod corridor… If those [state] lands transfer to the borough, it is my understanding that those prescriptions would transfer with them… The classification of recreation, I don’t know… I would assume that it should be compatible… If it’s true to the intent of the management direction provided by the Kenai Area Plan, then the Iditarod Trail would be fine… It [KAP] talks about road building, that that not be along the trail…If a proposal ran a road concurrent with a distance of the Iditarod Trail, that would not be consistent with what our management intent would desire.”

SCN: Will the US Capitol Christmas Tree* be a Sitka spruce (the state tree) a white spruce (a common species) or a Lutz spruce (hybrid of Sitka and white or black spruce)?

Malecek with a broad smile: It’ll be the hybrid. That has already been determined… Some Sitka spruce exists on the Forest [locally], but very few, very little…We can pretty much tell you that, since we [district personnel] just agreed as a group, which tree is our Capitol Christmas Tree.

*Editor’s note: The USDA Forest Service, Region 10, Chugach National Forest, Seward Ranger District, has the honor of providing America’s tree for 2015, which will go on display on the west lawn of the US Capitol. The Forest Service will fell the tree in late October.

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