Editorial: Forest Service needed to start over


The U.S. Forest Service goofed with its plan for roads and trails that might be closed to motor vehicle use in the Wallowa-Whitman Forest.

The Forest Service says it goofed, because its maps were wrong and didn’t accurately show what was on the ground. It needed to start over.

People who live in the area and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, said the Forest Service goofed, because it didn’t listen to public input. It needed to start over.

Walden wrote that the way the Forest Service developed its plan “amounts to an assault on good process, the public’s ability to enjoy their natural resources, and rural traditions on public lands. That is unacceptable.”

To the Forest Service’s credit, it has started over. A committee of Forest Service personnel is revising maps to ensure they are more accurate. When that is done, it is going to take them to the public and gather input to ensure they are correct. There is no deadline to come up with what is called a “travel management plan” for the forest.

This week, Walden is holding town hall meetings in Eastern Oregon to get an update from the public on the Forest Service plan and other issues. He intends to introduce legislation that would prevent the Forest Service from implementing a travel plan without concurrence from the local community.

Whatever happens with that bill, it won’t be easy for the Forest Service to reach an agreement about what roads and trails should be closed to motor vehicles. Walden says some 70 percent of U.S. Forest Service lands in Wallowa County are already dedicated to non-motorized recreation. Closing off more, even for good environmental reasons, could be bad for economic and recreation reasons.

But this time around, the Forest Service must truly do as it has pledged: Conduct an open process. Incorporate what the public says into the plan.