Comments on the USFS Draft Alternatives of 3/29/03
Prepared by the Friends of Sandwich Range - Last updated on 7/7/03
On March 29, 2003 the US Forest Service released the long-awaited Draft Alternatives for the WMNF. Each of the four alternatives describes a different scenario under which the lands of the WMNF could be managed. Although the alternatives cover a wide range of issues and management areas, this document will focus primarily on the Wilderness Recommendations within the Sandwich Range:
Alternative 1 represents the current management of the WMNF, and does not recommend any additional Wilderness anywhere in the WMNF. (Since a "need for change" has already been determined, this alternative is primarily for comparison, and is not likely to be selected.) The following map shows Alternative 1, with the existing Sandwich Range Wilderness (SRW) shown in medium green. The dark green areas (which may appear as black) are designated for winter motorized use (snow mobiles), including the East Pond Trail across Scar Ridge, and the area south of Flat Mountain and Flat Mountain Ponds.
Alternative 2 recommends some additions to the SRW in the areas of Black Mountain Pond, Jenning's Peak to Lost Pass, Mt Potash to Passaconaway, plus a small area traversed by the Tilton Spring Trail. These areas are shown in dark blue in the map below, with the existing SRW shown in medium green. The black/red checkerboard (which may appear mostly black) is the bowl research natural area, which is expanded to include the eastern headwaters of the Wonalancet River.
Alternative 3 includes all recommendations from Alternative 2, plus a significant area running west of the current SRW, along Scar Ridge to the East Pond Trail. Alternative 3 recommends more Wilderness than the other alternatives, and is supported by the Friend's of Sandwich Range as a starting point for the final Wilderness recommendation.
Alternative 4 does not recommend any additional Wilderness in the entire WMNF except for the core area of Wild River. The following map shows the current SRW as it would remain in Alternative 4. Note the light grey perimeter of the tentative roadless inventory. Although roadless status is not an absolute requirement for Wilderness, it is generally the starting part for USFS Wilderness recommendations.
Comparison with the Friends of Sandwich Range proposal
The FSR has recommended eight specific extensions to the Sandwich Range Wilderness, as detailed in our proposal. The FSR extensions are numbered clockwise around the current SRW as shown on the following map. Below the map is a preliminary comparison of the FSR proposal and the Draft Alternatives.
Extension 1 (Black Mt Pond) is partly included in Alternatives 2 and 3, plus an additional segment towards Bald Knob. However, the alternatives fail to include the western portion of the FSR proposal, plus a sizeable roadless area between the Guinea Pond Trail and the southern edge of the current SRW. The FSR suggests that both of the omitted areas be added to Alternatives 2 and 3.
Extension 2 (Jenning's Peak) is fully included in Alternatives 2 and 3. In fact, both alternatives recommend a somewhat larger area, extending to the tentative roadless boundary. The FSR fully supports this recommendation in Alternatives 2 and 3.
Extension 3 (Lost Pass) is almost entirely included in Alternatives 2 and 3, which also recommends additional Wilderness on the western side. The FSR supports this recommendation in Alternatives 2 and 3.
Extension 4 (Scar Ridge) is partially included in Alternative 3, and completely absent from from Alternatives 2 and 4. Alternate 3 is bounded on the west by the winter motorized recreation corridor surrounding the East Pond Trail, which also appears to have excluded the western portion of the ridge from consideration, despite its inclusion in the tentative roadless inventory. Alternative 3 also recommends significantly less width in the north-south direction, apparently due to the boundaries of the roadless inventory. The overall effect is that less than 50% of the FSR proposal is included in Alternative 3. The FSR recommends (1) that the designation of the winter motorized corridor be reconsidered in light of ongoing non-use, and the infeasibility of connecting the north end to any trailhead or other motorized trail (2) that the western end of Scar ridge be recommended as Wilderness, regardless of the status of the East Pond Trail (3) that the north and south boundaries be expanded to include all roadless areas, despite their omission from the tentative roadless inventory (4) that the current Greeley Ponds Scenic area be retained as non-Wilderness, so as to avoid usage conflicts that would result from Wilderness designation of this high-use area.
Extension 5 (Square Ledge) and Extension 6 (Mt Paugus) are mostly included in Alternatives 2 and 3. Although some areas at the eastern end are omitted, additional lands are recommended on the northern edge around Mt Hedgehog. The FSR supports this recommendation in Alternatives 2 and 3. This is a vital extension that helps to fill-in the narrow connection to the eastern end of the existing SRW, as well as protecting some of the most significant features of the Sandwich Range.
Extension 7 (Wonalancet) is not recommended for Wilderness in any of the Alternatives, despite the fact that about half of the area is included in the new Roadless inventory. The FSR supports the designation of all WMNF lands in the Wonalancet area as Wilderness, except for the lands immediately surrounding the maintained portions of Forest Road 337. We also recommend a complete review of the tentative Roadless inventory in this area, which appears to exclude significant roadless areas, extending even to the ridgeline of the Wonalancet Range.
Note: Alternative 3 does recommend a small area of Wilderness at the edge of the WMNF in the vicinity of the McCrillis Path and Tilton Spring trail. The FSR strongly supports the designation of this tract, which may have been excluded from the 1984 Wilderness designation due to a mapping error.
Extension 8 (Flat Mountain) is entirely absent from all the Alternatives. This area contains significant natural features, and would contribute to the integrity of the existing SRW. The FSR recommends (1) Wilderness designation for virtually all WMNF lands in this area, with the primary exception of the existing winter motorized trail to Flat Mountain Pond, (2) that other winter motorized designation in the vicinity of Pond Brook be reconsidered, given the extremely rugged terrain, limited access, and lack of use other than the existing FMP trail.
A Sandwich Notch Historic Area has also been recommended by the FSR, but is absent from all the Alternatives. A historic designation would protect the significant historic and cultural features of the Notch, while allowing for continued recreational use in the vicinity of the Sandwich Notch Road. Given the thousands of people who supported the "Save the Notch" petition, the FSR continues to support the designation of a Sandwich Notch Historic Area.