Almost every fall since childhood, I have headed into the Blue Mountains to hunt big game. As the decades pass, I spend more and more time here, hunting black bears and turkeys in the spring and fishing the many rivers throughout the year. The Blue Mountains provide some of the best hunting and fishing anywhere in Oregon and contain more than 5.5. million acres of public lands across three national forests: the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman.

Finding the appropriate balance of multiple uses on 5.5 million acres is no easy task. The efforts to find that balance have been ongoing for nearly 20 years through the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision process. A draft plan has already been completed twice, but they both received widespread objections and were never finalized. These forest plans determine the social, economic and ecological goals on public lands and provide a framework for future management decisions.

Strong voices and comments from sportsmen and women will be critical to ensure the final management plans contain ample fish and wildlife habitat protections. Identifying and conserving big game migration corridors, reducing road densities in certain areas and actively managing forest and stream restoration projects should be priorities in the next plan revision, all while continuing to provide for local socioeconomic priorities. Proper management of fish and wildlife habitat will help to recover struggling mule deer herds and ensure the robust elk populations spend more time on public lands to minimize increasing damage concerns on private lands.

Michael O'Casey


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