I guess this is a bookend to Sharon’s “Friday News Roundup.”
I recently provided an update on the status of the Blue Mountains forest plan revisions here. And here’s a little more detail on that, especially on the question of “access.” (This term gets used for a couple of different things, and this one is about closing roads on national forests rather than creating access across private property to reach public lands.)
One group says its leading the charge to fight for what they call “original rights” is Forest Access for All. “We defend the rights that we’ve had since Oregon was a territory, free reign where we go and utilize the forests which are public lands,” says Bill Harvey, a group member and former Baker County Commissioner. “A couple decades ago the Forest Service began closing off sections of the forest and that’s when Forest Access for All was formed.” Harvey says his group’s particular ire is at the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (WWNF), which he claims “have closed thousands of miles of roads in the forest the last twenty years.”
The group also has other “conflicts” with the Forest Service include the need for more vegetation management, economic benefits of (motorized) recreation, and better public engagement.
“By law right now, we have an open forest. They will admit it, everybody admits it, and it’s in the books, I’ve seen it a million times. It is an open access forest,” says Harvey. “Why in God’s name would we want to give that up? Nothing benefits us to give up our rights that we have currently. We’re not asking for more rights, we’re asking for the existing rights to stay in place.
I’m going to disagree with him on this one, and I hope the Forest Service does, too (although it looks like they could have done a better job of setting the locals straight on this before now). In 2005, Subpart B of the Travel Management Rule changed the culture of motor vehicle use on roads, trails, and areas from “Open unless closed” to a system of designated routes. As for why? The goal was to reduce resource damage from unmanaged motor vehicle use off that road system.
Newly revealed emails show that the Flathead National Forest under then supervisor Kurt Steele looked to keep a proposal of a tram up Columbia Mountain from public view for more than year prior to it being first proposed.
Does this sound familiar? It sounds to me like the “Holland Lake Model” that got the forest supervisor a “promotion” to forest planning. In this case the Forest properly rejected the proposal as inconsistent with its forest plan (thank you forest plan!). But it does suggest a pattern of incentives and behavior that may be broader than the Flathead National Forest.
“The process where the public comes into play is when it becomes the NEPA process,” Flathead Forest spokesperson Kira Powell said about the emails.
“Bringing you into the conversation about this potential project on the Flathead NF because it’s coming from investors who apparently have the financial resources to build a tramway, meaning they likely have political savvy also … wrote Keith Lannom, who was deputy regional forester for Region 1 at the time …”
This account offers a window into the role of “political savvy” in Forest Service decision-making.
ORGAN MOUNTAINS – DESERT PEAKS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Since President Barack Obama created the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in 2014, visitation has tripled and the national monument has spurred economic growth in the Las Cruces area as well as other communities near the national monument, according to a new report.
According to this overview, the report looks at the various factors that made this particular monument so successful, including its location relative to population centers and the uses it caters to. Also local community support.
“We have always recognized that the establishment of the monument was due in large part to the grassroots effort at the local community organizations and individuals,” Melanie Barnes, the state BLM director, said. “And due to this engaged and proud community, the monument has seen an increase in visitation.”
She said the BLM is working on a resource management plan that will address land use and resource protection. The public scoping period for that plan recently ended.