CONCORD, N.H. -- After nearly a decade of planning, Congress will be asked to approve a new management plan for the White Mountain National Forest that calls for expanding wilderness areas and keeping logging at roughly its current level.
The 15-year plan for the 800,000-acre forest would continue to prohibit the use of all-terrain vehicles, except on designated winter trails and on open roads where they meet state motor vehicle standards. ATV groups had been pushing for summer trails.
Although the plan issued Friday would reduce the amount of timber than can be harvested each year from 35 million board feet to 24 million board feet, officials said the amount still is higher than what is typically harvested. Logging interests wanted to maintain the current limit.
Some conservation groups, meanwhile, pushed to have as many as 100,000 additional acres added to the 114,000 designed as wilderness areas. The new plan calls for designating about 34,500 acres as wilderness areas that cannot be developed.
The Forest Service held more than 100 public meetings and collected about 6,000 written comments about the plan since it began the updating process in 1997. Under the final proposal, 47 percent of the forest could be used for campgrounds, trails, ski areas, snowmobiles, and other high-impact activities. ''Dispersed recreation," such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking, would be protected in 53 percent of the forest.
Most of those who participated got something they wanted, said Charlie Niebling of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
''The nature of public land management is fundamentally one of compromise," he said. ''You've got to strike a balance."
''I think they've really balanced the whole concept of multiuse," US Representative Jeb Bradley said.