December 2, 2009

National Forest Update

It has been a while since I’ve posted on this blog and I apologize for that.  It seems this summer and fall got quite complicated for me and this is one area that suffered.  I’m hoping to keep up at least once a week from now on, though the holidays might see some delays.  So I thought I’d update on a few things going on within the Superior National Forest.

Our Forest Supervisor on November 19 signed the revised decision for our “Travel Management Plan” which outlines travel routes for motor vehicles including ATVs.  This has been in the works for quite a while now and if you’ve been following this process, you’ll remember that a decision was signed about a year ago but then that was remanded upon appeal.  We have filled in the gaps that were missing from the original EA and have confidence this will stand.  Of course our goal is that since we have spend many hours and many meetings with the public that though the decision may not be exactly what everyone is looking for, people will understand that it was very much a collaborative effort and will not attempt to block implementation.  As with every project, we will monitor implementation of this plan and adapt when necessary.

Another project that has been going on for quite a while is the planning effort for a safe snowmobile route to South Fowl Lake on the eastern end of the National Forest.  The Judge from the District Court ruled in our favor on all but one issue and directed us to prepare and environmental impact statement (EIS) to cover the impacts of sound to the wilderness.  The plaintiffs then took us to the appeals court challenging the parts of the District Court decision that was in our favor.  We were upheld at the Appeals level and now are at work on the EIS.  To ensure we can complete that in a timely manner, we have contracted with a private company to help us prepare that document.  The first part of the public participation is complete and the company is working on the EIS.  I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, We also will be working on some road work and culvert replacements later this year that some construction companies may be interested in.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, this is the stimulus bill that was passed early this year.  The Superior National Forest was awarded about 13 million dollars worth of projects, some of which are being implemented and some are out for bid.  One of the first projects involved hiring MCC (Minnesota Conservation Corps) to work on our trail maintenance.  Our partners have mentioned several times that the work done by these crews has really helped on the backlog of maintenance needs.  Recently we found that we received funding to keep the crews going for the next year or two.  Some of the work that is out for bid includes hand release of our plantations where a person generally uses a brush saw to cut brush and competing vegetation from around planted trees.  Another project will involve use of machinery to cut and pile understory fuels around some areas where there is concentration of homes.  While home owners are encouraged to ensure they have completed firewise work on their property, our fuels work will help with adjacent National Forest lands.   We also will be working on some road work and culvert replacements later this year that some construction companies may be interested in.

I’m going to include some instructions on how to find these projects online and bid if anyone is interested.  I’ll admit that since we are a Federal agency, this can be a bit intimidating but people do find a way to work through the process and bid.  I just went to the site and was able to fairly quickly find all the projects listed for Minnesota and those included all contract bid items over $25,000.  Time may be short so if you are interested in current projects, you should act quickly.

How to locate ForestService contracts advertised on the FedBizOpps website.

Step 1 - Log on to www.fbo.gov

Step 2 – Select the Opportunities link.

Step 3 - Select the Advanced Search link.

Step 4 - Under Agency/Office/Locations, click the circle next to Specific Agency/Office/Locations.

Step 5 - Under Agency/Office(s):, hit the drop down arrow and place the cursor over Department of Agriculture, then select Forest Service at the right.

Step 6 - Click on the Show/Update Office Locations For Selected Agencies

Step 7 - Click on the box next to Forest Service/Eroc East.

Step 8 - Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Search.

 

For regular contract advertisements for the Superior and Chippewa National Forests, click the box next to Forest Service/R-9 Minnesota Shared Services Contracting Unit in place of step 7.

Maybe the last thing I’ll mention on this post is the work the County is doing in preparing for emergencies.  There is a team that meets at least once per month and it’s called the Cook County Emergency Preparedness Committee.  Several of the emergency response agencies from the County, State and Forest Service continually discuss and prepare for a variety of potential emergencies that could affect Cook County Citizens.  This could range from wildfire to our latest planning effort for H1N1 with the thought of ensuring this County has thought through the necessary preparations in the event a large percentage of the County is affected.  I have contacts from across the nation and from what I’ve been told, Cook County is among the leaders in emergency preparation.  For a small County that is pretty good and I’m hoping each of us appreciates the work these folks do for all of us.