National and state park officials are seeking public comment on efforts to restore the Mill Creek area of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.

The rehabilitation project seeks to accelerate the development of old growth forest conditions on former timberland by reducing tree density, removing abandoned logging roads and restoring aquatic habitat to over 30,350 acres in the state park with a portion in neighboring Redwood National Park, according to a press release from Redwood National and State Parks.

Two open house style meetings will be held, one in Crescent City on Wednesday and another in Arcata on Thursday, according to the press release. Public comment will be accepted through Sept. 7.

The Greater Mill Creek Ecosystem Restoration Project is part of a collaborative effort, dubbed Redwoods Rising, between the National Park Service, the California Department of Parks and Recreation and Save the Redwoods League. The nonprofit and two agencies announced their partnership in May.

According to the press release, the collaboration builds on previous restoration work by Redwood National and State Parks.

According to Amber Transou, supervising senior environmental scientist for California State Parks North Coast Redwoods Sector, more than 27,000 acres of what is now Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park was commercially logged through the year 2000. Much of that area was also aerially seeded with Douglas fir, which doesn’t occur naturally in that area, she said.

“Where historically there were redwood stands, now you’ve got Doug fir,” Transou said. “We want to be able to provide for resilience and not just a monoculture.”

The proposed project would include a variety of vegetation management techniques including forest thinning, prescribed fire, the creation of snags, crown manipulation, tree planting and manual and mechanical vegetation removal, according to the press release. Other proposed management techniques include flaming and torching, mowing, solarization and covering to manage invasive species. Girdling and fuels reduction may also be part of the project, according to the press release.

While the environmental documents for the Greater Mill Creek Ecosystem Restoration project mentions prescribed burning, Transou said there will be a second permitting process, including another environmental impact statement, for any prescribed burning proposed for the area. A forest restoration plan, exotic management plan and a burn plan will be separate documents, she said.

Abandoned roads and other infrastructure that threaten streams will be removed, according to the press release. Other roads will be retained and maintained. Temporary roads built to access restoration areas would be removed after the project is finished, according to the release. Proposed aquatic restoration would include placement of large woody debris in streams.

According to Leonel Arguello, Redwood National and State Parks’ joint chief of resource management and science, the restoration work proposed for the Mill Creek area is similar to restoration work proposed for an area along Prairie Creek near Orick, which is also part of Redwoods Rising.

“Our mission is to effect restoration and to bring back some of that old-growth forest, to remove some of those sediment threats from roads and to protect and enhance the aquatic ecosystem,” he said.

Wednesday’s meeting is intended to allow the public a chance to provide early input on the Mill Creek restoration project, Arguello said.

A draft environmental assessment and impact statement is expected to be released early next year, according to a brochure about the project. Arguello said the actual project could start in late 2019 or in 2020.

“We just want the public to know what we’re doing and to give them a voice early on in order for us to understand what their thoughts might be,” he said.

The Crescent City scoping meeting will be held 6–8 p.m. Wednesday at the Crescent Fire Protection District, 255 W. Washington Blvd. The Arcata meeting will be held from 6–8 p.m. in the Arts and Crafts Room at the Arcata Community Center, 321 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway in Arcata.

Comments can also be submitted online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/GreaterMillCreek or mailed by Sept. 7 to National Park Service South Operations Center Attn.: Leonel Arguello PO Box 7 Orick, CA 95555.

For more information, visit the project home page at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/GreaterMillCreek.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .

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