Travel management shell game

January 01, 2014 08:57 am

I believe most of us know about the shell game, but in case you never heard of it, let me briefly explain. It’s an uncomplicated game but difficult to win until you learn how to play it. 

You place three cups, or in the old days half walnut shells, down and place a pea under one of the cups/shells. The idea of the game is to track the pea. As the person running the game shuffles the cups/shells around the table, you watch intently to make sure you don’t lose track of the pea in the shuffle so you can win the game. When the shuffling is complete, you are asked to pick which cup/shell the pea is under and you proudly point to your cup/shell. The person running the game lifts up the cup/shell and to your amazement there is no pea, or worse yet, for the first two or three rounds you pick correctly, and once the game runner hooks you, you lose, because the pea was never under your cup/shell at all. 

Travel management has been run like a shell game that we have all been drawn into and now find ourselves trying to follow the pea, which in this case, is access to our forests. The United States Forest Service has used the travel management shell, the collaborative shell and now the forest plan revision shell to “shuffle” our forest access. The pea is placed under one of the shells and the shuffling begins, back and forth, side to side, where is your access, simply follow the pea. You were told access could be found under the travel management shell. Simply participate, tell us what you need and you will have access and find your pea. When the shuffling was complete and the travel management shell lifted, you didn’t find your pea, you found a record of decision cutting your access. 

Then the pea was placed under the collaborative shell and around and around you go. The game master stops, and no pea, only promises from elected officials to discuss identified road closure in project areas through the Natural Resource Advisory Committee process to protect access and that no roads will ever be closed by the collaborative group. However, currently the USFS has roads identified for decommissioning in the Sandbox Project.

Where your access pea truly lays is under the forest plan revision shell. This shell actually functions as one large shell covering the other two, but is treated as one shell to minimize its true impact. Your access pea does not resemble the pea the game runner had to begin with. The game runner started with an untarnished pea, free from the scars and blemishes of restriction and penalty. The pea that comes out after all the shuffling is scarred, reduced and nearly unrecognizable. 

So what is under the forest plan shell that changed your pea so much? That’s a good question.

The forest plan revision proposes a minimum road density of 1-1/2 miles of road per square mile of land base. According to Wallowa Whitman National Forest data, road densities are currently at 2.4 miles of road per square mile of land base outside of the wilderness and national recreation areas. This is an estimate as the WWNF has no updated inventory of actively utilized roads. This equates to a 38 percent reduction of roads across the area, but may be much higher depending on the densities or roads in a given area.

The plan calls for a “desired condition, a mosaic of forage and cover areas with minimal or no motor vehicle access through forage areas exists in landscapes where elk use is promoted, as identified in coordination with state wildlife agencies.”

The plan calls for obliterating 10 to 35 miles of road on the Wallowa Whitman and Malheur national forests, respectively, per year for 15 years.

These are some of the reasons the forest plan revision shell is where you will find your access pea.

Engage and start speaking up. Those are the best ways to keep what you love.


My Voice

John George, 41, of Bates is a natural resources professional. He is a member of Forest Access For All. My Voice columns should be 500 to 700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships.

My Voice columns should be 500 to 700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships. 

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