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U.S. Forest Service seeks comment from public on Somerset project

If you have questions or would like more information about the Somerset Integrated Resource Project proposal, the public open house, or how to submit comments, contact National Environmental Policy Act Coordinator/Forest Planner Jay Strand at 802-767-4261, ext. 5522, or jay.strand@usda.gov.

The U.S. Forest Service seeks public comment for the proposed Somerset Integrated Resource Project on the Manchester Ranger District of the Green Mountain National Forest and is planning an open house to discuss the contemplated changes.

This step is part of the environmental assessment phase of the project, which would add and improve trails. It would also address issues with diversity of species in forests, timber management, stream habitat, floodplain function, soil erosion, maintain and restore vistas, maintain access roads, and replace a bridge.

The nearly-71,000-acre project area includes National Forest System lands primarily in Dover, Glastenbury, Searsburg, Somerset, Stratton, Wilmington, and Woodford, but also includes small portions of Sunderland and Wardsboro within Bennington and Windham counties.

In a news release, the Forest Service said that the proposal is now available for public review and that the agency seeks public comment before preparing an environmental assessment.

Written comments will be accepted during the 30-day public comment period ending Monday, April 29. According to a public invitation to the open house from District Ranger David Francomb, “in order to be eligible to submit an objection for the project prior to a final decision and implementation, you will need to provide timely specific written comments during any period designated for public comment. This 30-day comment period is the only designated opportunity for public comment that fulfills this purpose.”

A detailed description of the Somerset project proposed action, associated maps and direction on how to submit comments can be found on the project website at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=53706.

An informal public open house will let the public ask Forest Service staff questions and learn more about the project proposal. It is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, April 11, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., at the Manchester Community Library, 138 Cemetery Ave. (Route 7A) in Manchester Center.

Maps and information will also be available for review.

The Forest Service says that the Somerset project is the culmination of more than two years of field inventory and public involvement conducted by Forest Service staff and is designed “to move the forest landscape toward desired resource conditions within the project area and provide goods and services to the public.”

Included in the proposal are “activities to improve wildlife and fish habitat, restore soil and water conditions, increase recreation and scenery viewing opportunities, and improve the trail and road network.”

The proposal also includes the harvesting of timber “to provide wood products to the local and regional economy, enhance forest health and diversity, and create more diverse plant and wildlife habitat.”

The Forest Service, noting that public comments will help focus the environmental analysis on resource issues of concern, anticipates an environmental assessment by the end of the summer, followed by a draft decision notice.

A 45-day objection period for the draft decision notice will be provided to those who have objection standing.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #505 (Wednesday, April 10, 2019). This story appeared on page C2.

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