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Home arrow Wallowa Life arrow Forest plan team meets with Wallowa County Thursday

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Forest plan team meets with Wallowa County Thursday

The Wallowa-Whitman forest revision team meets with the Wallowa County public from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Wallowa Fairgrounds’ Cloverleaf Hall.

Wallowa-Whitman Supervisor John Laurence will introduce the process for updating the plan that serves not only the Wallowa-Whitman, but the Umatilla, Malheur and part of the Ochoco national forests.

“It’s a way to lay out a complex document and its briefing papers and to explain where to find the different sections,” Laurence said. “The first half-hour will be a meet and greet. The second half hour is a presentation followed by an hour scheduled for questions.”

Another hour is set aside for people to meet one-on-one with members of the revision team, Laurence said, to talk about specifics such as ecosystem restoration and forest access. 

Each of the proposed alternatives in the 1,200-page draft environmental impact statement will be discussed. Laurence and the team will drill into the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest specifics and the strategic vision based on the Forest Service’s preferred alternative.

Laurence said the team crafted alternatives to try and address the comments and give decision-makers an approach that balances social and economic needs. The ensuing comment period will be open for at least 90 days, ending at the earliest June 9. If the supervisors determine more time is needed, that date can be extended.

An objection period will follow. A team from the agency’s Washington office will work to resolve objections before the final plan is signed, Laurence said.

In the spring of 2010, members of the revision team presented a draft at a public meeting in Joseph. Most of the conversation revolved around wilderness. While there is a proposal to add Huckleberry Mountain in the Bear Creek drainage outside of Wallowa into the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Laurence said it is merely a proposal. Only Congress can create new wilderness areas.

Over the last four years, the team analyzed a series of issues that arose from those meetings as well as comments submitted by citizens and other agencies, Laurence said.

Along with wilderness, forest access, ecosystem restoration and old-growth forests were major issues raised by the public, Laurence said.

Lawsuits have contributed to the process that has taken well over a decade to complete. There’s also been turnover on the plan’s team due to retirement and members taking other positions.

“It’s been a rocky road,” Laurence said.

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