Letters and comments for April 25, 2012

By Observer Upload April 25, 2012 12:50 pm


Forest weeds problem


To the Editor:

I support the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s Travel Management Plan, leaving open 3,065 miles of roads and motorized trails on our public lands — enough road to drive across the United States.

The plan doesn’t even consider certain areas with special management plans like Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. When the entire forest is considered, 4,300 miles of road are available for motorized use. That amount of roads in this little corner of Northeast Oregon is mind-boggling.

Opponents of the plan argue 7,000 miles of road should remain open (in addition to the 1,250 miles of road in the special management areas). They claim managing these roads and the associated motorized use will not cost taxpayers more money than managing only 3,065 miles. This is untrue.

Closing roads will dramatically slow the spread of noxious weeds on the forest. If a motorized vehicle goes through an
infestation, it is likely to pick up the seeds in its tread or undercarriage and distribute the seeds to unaffected areas miles away.

We are fortunate not to have the weed problems of Montana or Idaho, but if we don’t take steps to prevent the spread it will be inevitable. Infestations render areas useless for wildlife and cattle grazing, degrade riparian areas and ruin recreational and hunting opportunities.

Idaho Soil Conservation Districts states that we can expect to spend “$30 to $70 per acre for management of infested areas or in higher taxes for their management on public lands.” Montana State Extension Services explain that in Montana, control of spotted knapweed costs $42 million each year.

For infestations on the Wallowa-Whitman Forest, it will be all taxpayers, not just those arguing for 7,000 miles of open road, that have to pay for controlling noxious weed infestations. If the Forest Service decides to leave open additional roads based on negotiations with the county commissioners, the counties should be required to sign a contract promising to pay for all control of noxious weed infestations into these roaded areas that would otherwise be closed under the proposed Travel Management Plan.

Jennifer S. Williams

La Grande 




Keep forest open 


To the Editor:

The problem I have with the Forest Service closing roads that have been used for years by everyone from hunters and campers to berry pickers and wood cutters is that you are consolidating more and more people into smaller and smaller areas. We are used to going into the woods to get away from people, not to rub shoulders with others competing for the same berry patch, or the same stand of trees or the same camping spot. 

If the argument for closing roads is that they don’t have enough money to maintain all these roads, I say BS, they haven’t been maintained very well in the past. In fact, “we the people” who use these roads do most of the maintenance. When a tree falls in the road, we cut it out. When a boulder rolls into the road, we move it. We do not expect the Forest Service to keep the roads maintained like a highway. That takes away some of the challenges that we who use the forest roads enjoy. 

I have no problem when a logging operation opens up a road for their use and closes it as soon as they are done, but roads that have been used by folks for decades should not be closed. The Forest Service has already illegally closed many of the roads and camping spots without good reason that we used to use and we are supposed to just sit on our hands and take it some more? I don’t think so.

I would say, before you apply for your hunting tags this year, you should wait to see if the area you plan on hunting in isn’t in one of the road closures. That would be a real surprise.

I say no more road closures.

Jack Aldrich



No forest changes


To the Editor:

An organization of four people (Citizens for Open Forests) circulated a petition that shortly gathered over 6,000 signatures, stipulating, “no more road closures in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.” We had help from committed individuals and organizations. Our message to the USFS remains the same.

“Open forest” has served Eastern Oregon very well over the years. Closing the forest will have the greatest impact on local residents. The remaining roadbeds from the heyday of logging are heavily utilized by all recreationalists, most
notable, gathering of winter firewood. Loss of an “open forest” is a significant change. 

If the new plan is implemented, motorized use of any of the deserted old roadbeds not on the Forest Service map will be illegal. The implication is, you are traveling cross country if the road isn’t on the official map. The historical, cultural and economic impact will be felt by everyone in Eastern Oregon.

I’m sure many people think all I do is sit on my four-wheeler and wreak havoc on public domain. Quite the contrary. 

Roaming public domain on these miraculous machines came with retirement. A good deal of our time is spent gathering 20 cords of firewood every summer. Historically, we have traveled about in various vehicles, horseback and watched our feet trek into numerous high lakes. 

We struggled with a two-wheel-drive pickup for many years, not much good during a winter elk hunt. Finally a four-wheel-drive Scout — my husband spent as much time wrenching on that relic as we did enjoying the great outdoors. We pretty much did and do it all. I will not take a defensive stance for my enjoyment and enthusiasm where it concerns ATVs.

The USFS has a selected alternative for the Travel Management Plan. If implemented, this plan will practically destroy not only my lifestyle, but countless others. 

Everyone needs to encourage strong opposition to the selected alternative that obliterates open forests and thousands of miles of roads. Nothing has changed. The only acceptable alternative is No. 1, “no change.”

Wanda Ballard

Baker City


Watch this video


To the Editor:

I am repeatedly asked why the closures are happening on the Wallowa-Whitman, and as somone who has watched this unfold in all the other national forests across America over the years, I think it could best be explained by simply watching this short video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVTGK1uYqJo.

If this makes sense to you, then please send it on to others so we can begin to show America what has happened.

J.R. Kauffman

La Grande


Letters From Readers

The Observer welcomes letters to the editor. Letters can be no more than 350 words. All letters must be signed by the author and carry the address of the sender.

The Observer edits letters for brevity, grammar, taste and legal reasons. We will not publish consumer complaints against businesses or personal attacks against private individuals.

Include a telephone number and address for verification purposes only. Letter writers are limited to one letter every two weeks. Send your letters to: The Observer, 1406 Fifth St., La Grande, OR 97850, or they can be emailed to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , or faxed to 541-963-7804.