June Report from USFS District Ranger
Lower Cowpasture Project Update. The Warm Springs and James River Ranger Districts have issued the draft environmental assessment for the Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management project and are soliciting public comments. A final environmental assessment with a draft decision notice will be released in July. If no objections are raised, the project will be approved t in September. The purpose of this effort is to identify projects that can advance the natural resource goals for the area. The project area encompasses approximately 100,000 acres of the eastern portions of Alleghany and Bath counties and proposes a wide array of land management activities to occur in the next ten years. The preferred alternative includes: approximately 1,003 acres of regeneration harvest, 746 acres of thinning, 220 acres of restoration treatments, 1,467 acres of non-commercial timber stand improvements, allows biomass removal on up to 1,217 acres, 297 acres of wildlife clearings, 22 waterhole developments, 11,971 acres of prescribed burning, stabilizing slope failure in Simpson Creek, 15 culvert replacements, removing culverts from Slicky Slide road, large woody debris placement in 8 streams, reconstruct National Forest System Road (FSR) 194 in entrenched section, close 19 unauthorized roads, decommission 0.9 miles of FSR 125S (this road is currently closed to the public), construct 14.6 miles of National Forest System trails, plant 16 acres of Chestnut, and stabilize Wilson Creek dam. A significant aspect of the project has been the broad group of public stakeholders that has participated in the process since its inception two years ago.
In The Woods. Warm Springs and James River employees are in the woods conducting field work which includes: trail maintenance, noncommercial timber stand thinning, boundary line marking, prescribed burn monitoring, road maintenance, and special use permit administration.
National Wildfire Forecast and El Nino. Wildfire occurrence is expected to be at normal levels in our part of Virginia and the southeast, and well above normal in large portions of the west. The seasonal weather forecasts for the period June through September suggest that El Nino conditions are present and strengthening, and will likely continue through the rest of 2015. What are el Ninos? El Nino conditions are associated with a very large band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. Because El Ninos warm pool of water feeds thunderstorms above, it can affect the track of the jet stream across the US, which affects temperature and rainfall across the country. El Nino conditions typically increases precipitation across the southern U.S. in the winter and spring. A strengthening El Nino during the summer could also have the same effect with more tropical moisture available for precipitation across the southeast. For June through September, there is also a high probability that warmer-than-normal temperatures will be observed throughout the south along with above average precipitation. In the western states, extreme to exceptional drought is expected to hold over California, western Nevada, and parts of Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and New Mexico