March 09, 2001 11:00 pm

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE Citizens have asked the U.S. Forest Service to more strictly enforce its existing regulations rather than further restrict party sizes and some camp spots to protect the land.

The mutual conclusion of the public and Forest Service was that only a small number of visitors abuse the wilderness. Therefore an effort will be made to educate, influence and if necessary, fine those individuals.

Experienced visitors tend to be good stewards, but young novices are sometimes hard on the land, Forest Service officials said

One idea to help educate them is to enlist the aid of volunteers to encourage others to practice leave-no-trace stewardship techniques.

Volunteers would be provided with a radio, restoration tools and expense reimbursement for fuel and food.

For three weeks, the Forest Service took public comment on several new regulations, but is only going to pursue the ones supported by public input, said Eagle Cap and Hells Canyon Wilderness ranger Kendall Clark.

Twenty-two individuals and three back country organizations representing thousand of people, responded to media ads and a questionnaire sent to those on the Forest Services mailing list.

Consensus was reached that later this year in the Hells Canyon Wilderness, the tying of horses to live trees (for a prolonged time) at campsites will be prohibited. This is to keep horses from pawing and digging around trees, sometimes exposing the roots.

A law already in effect in the Eagle Cap Wilderness since 1995 will be expanded later this year to include the entire Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Under that regulation, it will be illegal to possess, store or transport livestock feed that is not free from noxious weed seeds.

The proposed Eagle Cap and Hells Canyon regulations that will now not be pursued included a reduction in the size of groups, unless additional members took a leave-no-trace class.

Another new rule that is

not being pursued would have prohibited camping with livestock within the Lakes Basin Management Area, except in designated campsites.