Wallowa-Whitman putting $12.3 million in stimulus monies to work

By Observer Upload March 23, 2010 02:16 pm

A recent Observer editorial on the nation’s economic recovery effort asked, “Where is the investment in small towns and rural regions?” Speaking for the Forest Service, it’s all over Northeast Oregon.

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has received $12.3 million in American Re-investment and Recovery Act funds. These funds include:

• More than $ 4 million for repairing forest roads

• $4.7 million to reduce wildfire’s threat by removing hazardous fuels

• $1.6 million to repair and maintain our trails

• $1.3 million to improve watersheds for fish and plants and wildlife

• $400,000 for restoring native plants to degraded forest lands

On the La Grande Ranger District, nearly 2,000 acres of hazardous fuels are being removed with a $499,000 Recovery contract. The work began last fall and is more than a third complete. It includes thinning and hand piling of timber slash on a wildland urban interface on Mount  Emily.

Another Recovery project will repair about 10 miles of the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway that brings skiers to the Anthony Lakes Ski Area.  More than $3 million has been set aside for removing potholes and ruts, repaving and fixing slide-prone sections of the road. In addition, a new bridge will be built over the North Fork of Catherine Creek, reopening access to the Buck Creek Trailhead.

A third Recovery effort will put dozens of people to work brushing, logging out and maintaining up to 1,300 miles of trails on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.  These include popular hiking trails in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Elkhorn Mountain backcountry and both sides of Hells Canyon.

The Wallowa-Whitman is pleased to have received funding from this national Recovery program, honored to be helping Northeast Oregonians get and keep jobs, and pleased to be maintaining the people’s land.

Steve Ellis is supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.