The revision of the three national forest plans encompassing the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon and Washington is becoming a poster child for failing to finish forest planning.
Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa announced in March 2019 the Forest Service was scrapping the proposed Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision, which includes the Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur. A final draft of the plans had been released in June 2018. It was not the first time the Blue Mountain Forest Plan had been paused.A draft version of the plans was completed in 2014, and received so much backlash that local forest supervisors decided to develop new plan alternatives.
So they’re trying something new:
The Blues Intergovernmental Council has been formed to help frame the process of developing a new methodology for forest planning for the Wallowa-Whitman, Malheur and Umatilla national forests. A series of meetings between county commissioners and key Forest Service personnel have been held across the Blue Mountain region over the past year to help kickstart a framework for cross-jurisdiction work.
“The underlying intent is to ensure that we can develop plans for the three national forests that would provide the opportunity for durable relationships with our communities and to make an important difference on the landscape for the long term,” said Eric Watrud, the forest supervisor on the Umatilla National Forest. Watrud said the council includes state and county representatives in Oregon and Washington, four treaty tribes and regulatory agencies, in addition to the Forest Service.
“The attempt here is to create just a more open, inclusive approach where the Forest Service is working closely with our communities in order to make sure that we are developing a plan that is gonna stand the test of time,” he said. “We have the responsibility of stewarding the management of these three national forests, which are a national and local treasure. And so there’s a tremendous amount of interest, and our intent is to make sure that we’re incorporating that feedback, incorporating those ideas and local suggestions in order to make sure that we accomplish that goal.”
A better process for local input – that’s ok. But this is obviously “inclusive” of only “local” “communities.” I assume this is only part of the story (as suggested by the forest supervisor’s careful reference to “a national and local treasure”), but I hope they aren’t (maybe again) setting up expectations that won’t be met.