Chase: Distressed by the USFS Blue Mountains plan

To the Editor:

I was shocked when I read the editorial to “Friends of the Blue Mountains” tendered by the U.S. Forest Service supervisors (Aug. 17, The Observer).

The proposed revised forest plan has approximately 6,000 pages and was just recently released. The comment period is 60 days. I challenge anyone to read government verbiage at the rate of 100 pages a day. So I will just point out a few of the things I have gleaned from reading a summary of the revised plan.

The Wallowa Whitman National Forest will go from being an open forest to a
virtually closed forest. The only roads that will be traveled on will be designated main roads, and most secondary roads will be closed. If secondary roads are closed, the chances of wildfire control would decrease since those roads would be gated or tank trapped and eventually would be overgrown and non-accessible. If you are caught off a
designated road, on the first offense you could be fined $5,000. A second offense could bring jail time and confiscation of your vehicle.

Another recommendation of the “plan” is an increase of 70,000 acres of new wilderness. In addition, they propose wilderness study areas throughout the forest that will be off limits to any type of activity while these studies take place, which could take years.

I am distressed about the mismanagement of the forest now. Thirty or so years ago, logging occurred,
grazing was taking place, roads were maintained. The motto of the forest service was “the land of many uses.” Now I see dead and dying trees, very little logging, dense undergrowth (a major fire fuel), noxious weeds and no or very little thinning.

Can we really expect an organization that has grossly mismanaged our resources to submit a document that explains how a forest should be operated?

The USFS seems to think it possesses the answers about the forest the community does not. This mentality has led to a plan that is heavy on environmental ideology and light on socio-economic development of rural communities.

Allan Chase