Forest Service wants feedback

The U.S. Forest Service is developing a plan for the Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur national forests, which includes Jubilee Lake Campground in the Walla Walla District of the Umatilla National Forest. The plan will designate certain areas as wilderness and others for trail or motorized vehicles.<br><i>EO file photo</i>

The U.S. Forest Service has been working for the better part of a decade to develop a plan for the Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur National Forests. It released a draft of that plan at the end of March, and now the agency wants feedback from everyday people.

The formal comment period lasts 60 days, and concerns must be received by May 28. Those comments will be used to come up with alternatives to the plan.

The forest service held a meeting in Pendleton Tuesday evening, where about a dozen people attended. Future meetings are scheduled for Heppner, Baker City, La Grande, Joseph, Portland and Dayton and Pasco, Wash. The forest service already held meetings in John Day and Burns.

The forest plan is similar to a zoning plan in a county.

"It says what kind of activities should happen where,"?said Katie Countryman, the leader of the forst plan team.

The plan provides a broader criteria for individual projects in the forest to follow.

"It's a vision for the national forest," Countryman said. "It's what do we want and where do we want it."

It designates parts of the three national forests that are wilderness, which are recommended for wild and scenic river areas and which are trail areas or motorized vehicle areas.

It also names amounts of trails and roads that will be maintained, but Countryman and others noted those numbers are not a cap on what the forest service will work on. It's just a number the budget can support at this time. For instance, the plan says it will maintain 350 to 775 miles of summer motor vehicle trails per year.

Countryman said so far there haven't been any big concerns raised.

Some people have written in, asking to change laws already in place, which the plan can't do, Countryman said. For instance, she received one letter in which someone asked to allow hunting cougar and bear with dogs, which is illegal in?Oregon.

The forest plan is a revision effort. The last plan was written 20 years ago this month, Countryman said. The plan is expected to updated every 10 to 15 years. The forest service expects to have a final draft of this plan finished by 2012.

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