The waters of the main and west Eagle Creek are clear, but the future of the area they run through is clouded by an ominous threat.

The project area, which is in southeast Union County, is at risk of being hit by a major wildfire or insect infestation because of vegetation patterns shaped by past forest management and wildfire suppression according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

“There is an elevated risk of wildfire and other disturbances including insect infestations,” said the U.S. Forest Service’s Bill Gamble, the district ranger for the La Grande Ranger District, which is part of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

To address this risk, the Forest Service is developing a plan, the Two Eagle Vegetation Management Project, for reducing the likelihood of a large wildfire or insect infestation.

The objective of the Two Eagle project is to turn back the clock and restore the area to what it looked like before man began altering its natural state more than 150 years ago. This was a time before governmental wildfire suppression began, when low-intensity wildfires would periodically sweep through the area, preventing the buildup of fuels like shrubs and intermediate-sized trees. Today, there is an abundance of these fuels in the area, which means if there were a wildfire it would burn with high intensity and be more destructive, Gamble said.

 See complete story in Monday's Observer