Commissioners approve forest plan

By Katy Nesbitt February 24, 2014 12:01 pm

ENTERPRISE — Wallowa County commissioners, paving the way for the release of the forest revision plan, approved a plan last week outlining how the county will work with the U.S. Forest Service.

The Wallowa County Comprehensive Management Plan was approved at Tuesday’s meeting and will be used as the template for comments during the 90-day comment period following the publication of the forest plan that covers three forests and five Eastern Oregon counties.

“When the federal government is going to do a project or a plan, they need to coordinate their plan with any county plan,” said Mike Hayward, Wallowa County Board of Commissioners chairman.

Hayward used road closures for an example.

“If they come out with something in the forest plan revision that calls for the closure of a bunch of roads that we don’t think should be closed, and we don’t have them closed in our plan, they need to explain why they need to close those roads and why their plan has to be implemented — based on science. The comprehensive management plan is another attempt for them to incorporate their plan with ours.”

Bruce Dunn, president of the county’s natural resource advisory committee, was one of the authors of the county’s plan. 

He said federal agencies are charged to cooperate with local government to avoid duplication. 

“Environmental Assessments must discuss any inconsistencies with any approved state or county laws,” Dunn said.

To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the forest service has to align its plan with the county’s plan, Dunn said. 

The county’s plan is one of a long list of documents produced per its cooperating agency status with federal agencies. In response to a potential listing of Chinook salmon, in 1992, the county started writing its Salmon Recovery Plan along with the Nez Perce Tribe and finished it in 1993. With their legs under them, the county started a 20-year process of coordinating its desires for management on public lands.

In 1999, the county wrote its “Alternative ‘W’” in response to the forest service’s

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Conservation Management Plan.

“When we responded to the Forest Service’s comprehensive management plan for the Hells Canyon NRA we wrote our own alternative,” said John Williams, the county’s Oregon State University Extension agent and member of the county’s natural resource advisory committee. “We held public meetings around the county and there was a desire from (everyone) we spoke to that we really ought to have a plan on how public lands are managed for the whole county.”

Alternative W came out of input from those meetings. The natural resource advisory committee worked on the alternative with help from the forest service, Natural Resource Conservation Service and other agencies to get the technical information they needed.

Williams said he is cautiously optimistic that the USFS will consider the comprehensive management plan when writing their final environmental assessment. 

“This is our land-use plan for forest lands,” he said. “Hopefully, they will use our plan when writing the alternatives.”

New meeting

A public meeting to discuss the Blue Mountain Forest Revision Plan is set for March 20 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Wallowa County Fairground’s Cloverleaf Hall. 

Contact Katy Nesbitt at 541-786-4235 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Katy on Twitter @lgoNesbitt.