Government would clear Manistee National Forest land to help butterfly survive

8:44 PM, Oct 14, 2010   |    comments
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  • The U.S. Forest Service may clear thousands of acres in Manistee National Forest.
  • The U.S. Forest Service may clear thousands of acres in Manistee National Forest to help an endangered butterfly to survive.

OTTO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public input on a proposal to clear a portion of the Manistee National Forest to give a butterfly a greater chance of survival.

The plan would also call for closing motorized access to portions of the forest.

Leaders in Otto Township in Oceana County were to hold a community meeting Thursday night to discuss the proposal with neighbors.

"Otto Township alone is made up of over 50% Manistee National Forest and state land," says township supervisor Rhonda Jibson.

The U.S. Forest Service wants to improve habitat for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly.

"This is an area where we have documented occurrence of the Karner Blue butterfly," says Chris Frederick, an environmental planner for the U.S. Forest Service.

In order to improve the habitat, 2,900 acres of the national forest would be cleared, burned and possibly spot-treated with chemicals to create the grassy areas the butterfly needs to survive.

"It would improve the habitat where we know where they are at and to provide corridors for them to expand their range," says Frederick.

But Jibson says the clearing of the forest would ruin one of her township's biggest assets.

"Hunters, fisherman, horseback riders, moto-cross, all terrain vehicles -- all kicked out, so to speak," she says.

Long-time users of the national forest not only disagree with the habitat restoration plan, they oppose the closing of forest service roads that would go along with the plan.  Myrle Phillips says he needs the roads to get to his favorite hunting and fishing spots.

"I have two bad knees, and I cannot walk any distance without them swelling up," says Phillips. "If I have to walk to the river, I'm not going to be able to go fishing."

Frederick says motorized access to much of the land will be available on country roads, but the patchwork of authorized and illegal two-tracks would be closed.

"There are still going to be county roads in that area," Frederick says. "This would just close forest-system roads."

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comment on the proposal through October 25.

Reported by Jon Mills in Oceana County

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