A part of the Great Western Trail, which extends from Canada to Mexico, is being relocated in the Fishlake National Forest, said ranger Ted Fitzgerald of the Richfield Ranger District. Plans for prescribed burning on some 8,500 acres of forest lands have also been announced.
Safety was the key concern that led to the trail decision."The trail currently uses the Gooseberry Road and, due to the mixture of hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and ATVs along this busy road, a significant safety hazard exists," he said.
Relocating the trail will also reduce soil erosion and sediment in Niotch Creek.
Fitzgerald said that circumstances which would require an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement are nonexistent. Therefore, there will be no further analysis and the project is getting underway this year.
It will involve construction of about four miles of new trail between the south end of Oak Ridge and Niotch Creek. A new trail head, parking area, toilet, information signs and some fencing along the Brown's Hole Road will be completed.
Fitzgerald said a short segment of new trail between Dead Horse Ridge and lower Brown's Hole will afford users a loop route and stop indiscriminate cross country travel. Two roads will be closed to full-sized vehicles, one in the bottom of Antone Hollow and the other in Niotch Creek.
The project will also consist of a hiking trail between Abe's Reservoir and Gooseberry Campground, the ranger said.
More information may be obtained by calling the ranger at 1-435-896-9233 or Forest Recreation Staff Officer Max Reid at 1-435-896-8404 or by writing to them at the Fishlake National Forest, 115 E. 900 North, Richfield, UT 84701.
Meanwhile, prescribed burning of about 8,500 acres in the Red Creek, Clear Creek and Horse Fork areas has been proposed. Some 2,100 acres would be burned each year over a four-year period, Fitzgerald said.
"The purpose of the burn is to increase forage production, stimulate browse species, reduce dead fuels, regenerate aspen and primarily reintroduce a fire regime into the ecosystem to achieve a healthy, vigorous vegetative mix throughout the project area," Fitzgerald said, adding that "conifers are increasing in the aspen stands such that the trees are becoming a minor component of what historically used to be pure aspen stands." Dense pinyon-juniper stands cover much of the lower elevations. The burn pattern would treat 20 to 500 contiguous acres scattered throughout a 24,000-acre area.