Environmental controversies that have been simmering about Dixie National Forest will result in a public comment session in Salt Lake City Thursday.
A "listening session," during which U.S. Forest Service officials will hear comments about managing the southern Utah forest, is scheduled 7 p.m. at the Olympus Hotel, 161 W. 600 South. A meeting on the topic is also scheduled for Las Vegas April 8.Among the fiercely debated issues are predator control and the planned Noon Timber Sale.
"The Dixie National Forest belongs to all of us, and we want to give everyone the chance to present their comments on the management of their national forest," said forest supervisor Hugh Thompson. "We cannot meet all of the diverse needs completely, but we are listening and will do our best to meet these needs, when possible, while still protecting the resources."
Those unable to attend the session can express their opinions in writing, by phone or in person before the meeting. For more information, call Mark Van Every at 865-3744.
Environmentalists concerned about the management of Dixie National Forest had been calling for the meetings, which the Forest Service has labeled as "listening sessions" rather than "hearings."
"I think generally the Dixie has been responsive only to a very small percentage of the public, a minority," said Ken Rait, issues coordinator for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Those minority interests include grazing and timber-cutting, according to conservationists.
"This is the first real opportunity that people with other types of interests, such as recreation or wildlife interests, have an opportunity to participate and speak out about what's going on," Rait said.
According to Rait, forest officials are considering amending the plan under which Dixie National Forest is managed, to allow for the use of M-44s - devices that use cyanide to kill coyotes.
"The public needs to be reminded that not only are we subsidizing the livestock industry with below-cost permit fees, but we're also subsidizing them through the public's wildlife," killed through predator control efforts, he said.
Bill Patric, national forests advocate for the Utah Wilderness Coalition, said timber sales are also a concern to environmentalists. The Noon sale, which would be the first on the top part of Boulder Mountain called Boulder Top, "has now received more letters of protest from than any other single issue that the forest has raised," he said.
Patric said protests have originated nationwide.