All but one of the nearly 30 people who spoke at a "listening session" Thursday night on a proposal to log Boulder Mountain and implement a predator-control program in the Dixie National Forest spoke against the plans.
Dixie forest manager Hugh Thompson explained the issues at hand were not voting issues. However, the opinions did register with forest officials."I think I heard a pretty clear message . . . telling us to look more at the amenities side of values and not be so commodities-oriented," said Thompson at the end of the session.
Thompson was part of a Forest Service team that traveled from southern Utah to conduct an unprecedented hearing - which the federal agency has been calling "listening sessions" rather than hearings - on the planned Noon Timber Sale. About 130 people attended the session, held at the Olympus Hotel in Salt Lake City.
Scheduled to occur before 1993, the Noon sale would cover 3,000 acres on Boulder Mountain and harvest 3.5 million board feet of timber. It has drawn the ire of a number of environmental groups and private citizens throughout the state of Utah and across the nation.
The Forest Service says the timber harvest is needed to ensure the health of both the Boulder Mountain forest and the local timber-related economy. But those who spoke at the meeting argued that tourism is a valuable economy that ought to be considered along with logging concerns.
Bill Patric, representing the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said the Forest Service should stop plunging ahead with site-specific projects and instead conduct an areawide analysis of the region's ecosystem. And Wayne County resident Ward Roylance argued that the decision should not be made just by the Dixie forest managers, adding that the proposed timber sale is "on the order of plunder."
The session also addressed a proposed predator-control program. It's prime purpose would be to limit the amount of domestic livestock lost to southern Utah ranchers.
If approved, the program would involve both lethal and non-lethal components, said forest service spokesman Mark Van Every.
Of particular concern to those at the hearing were the lethal methods, which could include spring-loaded traps baited with cyanide that releases when bitten by a carnivore.
Michael Bogart, whose family dog died in less than six minutes after she wandered away from Bogart's truck and bit one of the traps, said the agency contracted by the Forest Service to implement the predator-control program is "shoddily run."
Lisa Treadwell described a night she and her husband camped on Boulder Mountain. A sheepherder dropped off his herd near them, set up a portable fence and then left. There was no control of the herd nor any attempt to discourage predators, she said. "I could have strangled those sheep with my bare hands."
Gene Ekenstam, representing the Tooele County Wildlife Federation, argued against both the timber sale and the predator-control proposal, saying that neither were cost-effective. "To subsidize a few rural communities (with) that timber is nothing short of criminal," he said, adding that with the amount of money the predator-control program would cost, "you could buy the damn sheep and save us all the trouble."
The lone Forest Service proponent, consulting forester Dave Fordyce, commended the Dixie Forest managers' concern for the local economy. "Rural America is at risk," he said. "I think we need our rural communities."
The draft evironmental impact statement on the Noon sale is expected early this summer. People who wish to submit written comments may send them to the forest supervisor of the Dixie National Forest, P.O. Box 580, Cedar City, UT 84721-0580.