Rep. Greg Walden announced Monday he has introduced a bill to Congress that would give local governments more control of federal forests. The bill would halt travel management plans and require consensus before roads are closed. (KELLY DUCOTE/The Observer)
Local officials, residents back Walden’s bill, introduced last Friday
Residents and officials voiced support for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden’s Forest Access in Rural Communities Act Monday morning.
Walden, R-Ore., on Monday announced he introduced H.R. 4272 Friday to halt the travel management rule on national forests in the West and to promote local control over future proposals to restrict forest access.
Walden said the bill does two major things.
“One, it puts a hold on travel management plans across the country,” he said. “The second thing it does is require, when it comes to discussion about roads and trail closures and all, when the agencies go through their work they have to consult the local government, which means your representatives.”
The bill slows forest plan implementation by prohibiting the Forest Service from spending money to enforce travel management plans, he said. If they do spend money for enforcement, it must be in consultation with local county government.
“We have lost this partnership between the federal agencies and local people,” Walden said.
Walden made the announcement at AC Power Sports in La Grande with local officials and members of the motorized recreation community, including Union County Commissioner Mark Davidson and Forest Access for All representatives Allan Chase and Larry Cribbs.
This bill, Davidson said, re-affirms the idea that forests are an integral part of peoples’ lives, both for industrial and recreational use.
“I fully support it. I think this is the kind of relationship that we always should have had,” he said.
While the other two Union County commissioners were not present, he said they also support the legislation.
“They’re absolutely supportive,” he said. “We’re unified in our support for this bill and our opposition to travel management.”
Davidson added that a consultant is helping co-conveners put together their position on their preferred alternative and said the group “very likely will litigate if we have to.”
“It’s that important. This plan is integral to the future of our community,” Davidson said.
Cribbs said public input was considered when the bill was drafted.
“This legislation is put together with our thoughts, our comments, our opportunity up front, and they listened to everything we said,” Cribbs said.
Walden said input from local governments isn’t currently mandatory.
“That’s not law today,” Walden said. “This bill will create a different playing field (that is) a lot more level than it is today.”
His bill states that the Forest Service can’t take any “travel management action” until it “obtains the concurrence of each affected county.”
Although the bill doesn’t define “concurrence,” Andrew Malcolm, Walden’s communications director, said Tuesday that the idea is that commissioners in each county would have to approve a resolution supporting a proposed Forest Service action before the agency could take that action.