BETHEL – Federal forest service specialists will hold an open house from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday to gather comments and concerns about proposed forest management changes in Albany and Mason townships.

The meeting will be held in the Evans Notch Ranger Station on Route 2. The Four Ponds Management Project area includes national forest land in the Patte Brook area southwest of Bethel and in the vicinity of Albany Mountain and Crocker Pond Campground.

According to a White Mountain National Forest report, the U.S. Forest Service has proposed to harvest timber there, improve watershed and wildlife habitat, conduct prescribed burns, replace the Broken Bridge Pond Dam, change dispersed and developed campsites, and relocate hiking and snowmobile trails.

Other projects include evaluation of potential gravel sources, road work and changes to access on Patte Brook Road.

According to project leader Gail Wigler, some activities such as timber harvest will be incorporated into the Patte Brook Auto Tour, which provides conservation education at 11 stops in the project area.

The auto tour will also be revised to better interpret land management and the area’s cultural and natural history.

All activities are intended to implement the forest service’s 2005 land and resource management plan.

Wigler stated in the report that public review and comment is necessary and valuable in the early stage of designing activities.

The forest service will use public comments to refine proposals. It will then conduct an analysis to predict effects on soil, water, recreational activities, vegetation, air quality, wildlife and other natural, social and economic resources, Wigler said.

A final decision on the Four Ponds Management Project is expected in June 2009 after an environmental analysis and further public review and comments are completed.

If unable to attend the open house, information about the project can be obtained by contacting Wigler at the Androscoggin Ranger District in Gorham, N.H., at 603-466-2713 extension 230, or by e-mail at [email protected]

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