Glad forest plan pulled

April 24, 2012 01:26 pm

La Grande City Council wants concerns addressed

We would like to applaud the decision of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest supervisor to withdraw the forest travel management plan that called for closing significant portions of the developed forest roads in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest to motorized access.

Until now, the La Grande City Council had not addressed the proposal and the impacts to the residents of La Grande and the surrounding counties, but at the council’s April meeting we discussed the need to weigh in on the issue.

With the city being somewhat disconnected from the forested area one would have to wonder how the proposed road closures can affect the urbanized area of La Grande and the surrounding area.

The proposed road closures would have impacted the city in three major ways. 

The first impact is that the city, yes the taxpayers of La Grande, own 160 acres located 15 miles south of town in the
middle of the Forest Service-controlled area with only one developed access.

This access road was proposed to be closed and the only way to get to the property would be to obtain a permit each and every time the city needed to go into that property. The process for obtaining these permits was unclear.

The second major impact to the city was the access to the La Grande Watershed along with the water transmission line to the city.

The city has operated and maintained this water source for over 100 years with a Special Use Permit authorized by the Forest Service.

The city has made major investments of millions of dollars (and continues to make these investments) to develop this water source with the acquisition of water rights, pipeline maintenance, intake structures for collecting the water, a bunk house for maintenance crews, and a caretaker’s residence along with outbuildings for maintenance equipment.

At this time, a fish passage structure is being planned for the migratory fish to expand their habitat area.

Currently, the city has access through a locked gate that doesn’t require a special access permit to do the necessary work to assure this water source to be properly maintained and useable when the demand for it is needed.

The third impact was of an economic nature. A large number of users rely on the forest roads for accessing camping areas, developed mountain biking trails which are usually road grades that have been abandoned, traveling to fishing areas, berry and mushroom picking, getting to hiking and backpacking areas, accessing hunting areas, getting to wood cutting areas which eliminates fuels for forest fires, and just to go for a mountain drive.

The people that enjoy these benefits of rural Oregon life result in large numbers of tourists bringing the financial benefits to our economy by shopping at our local markets, eating in our restaurants, staying in our motels, buying gas at the local gas stations, visiting the local markets, and spending money locally as they enjoy the things we enjoy daily and results in
millions of dollars of local revenue. 

We, the undersigned members of the La Grande City Council, cannot support any forest travel management plan for the Wallowa-Whitman Forest that does not address the impacts above.

We ask the Forest Supervisor to take this into account while working on a revised travel management plan. 

Mayor Daniel Pokorney

Councilor John Bozarth

Councilor Mary Ann Miesner

Councilor Gary Lillard

Councilor Jerry Sebestyen