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Public Statements

Letter to Regional Forester Connaughton

Letter

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Date:
Location: Unknown

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) today called on the U.S. Forest Service to start over on its Travel Management Plan for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. He said the plan is the product of a flawed public process that failed to protect the public's ability to enjoy their natural resources.

Walden today spoke on the phone with Kent Connaughton, the Regional Forester for the USFS' Pacific Northwest Region. Walden followed up the conversation with a letter.

"Despite their efforts to participate, many groups and communities feel they were largely, if not entirely, ignored by the U.S. Forest Service," Walden wrote in the letter. "This amounts to an assault on good process and the public's ability to enjoy their natural resources. That is unacceptable."

"Start over," Walden wrote. "Put people in charge who will value the suggestions of eastern Oregon's citizens. And then go meet with the local residents and make sure that rural Oregon's voice is reflected in the final plan."

At recent town halls in Union, Wallowa, and Baker counties, Walden heard from many residents who felt that their concerns and the views of their community were ignored during the planning process.

"Throughout the process, I encouraged communities and user groups to tell their side of the story," Walden wrote in today's letter. "Unfortunately, I am told by individuals and the counties that most, if not all, of these key areas of concern were not included in the final plan. Failure to include local input results in poorly crafted plans and rules that significantly impact our rural communities."

The full text of the letter is below:

April 16, 2012

Mr. Kent Connaughton
Regional Forester
United States Forest Service, Region 6
P.O. Box 3623
Portland, OR 97204-3440

Dear Regional Forester Connaughton:

I appreciate you taking my call earlier today. As we discussed, I strongly urge you to scrap the proposed Travel Management Plan on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and start over with a process that actually takes into consideration the input of eastern Oregon's local citizens.

The plan for the Wallowa-Whitman proposes major changes that will impact eastern Oregonians' ability to recreate, hunt, cut wood, pick berries, and perform other activities that are so important to the region's rural economy and lifestyle. Throughout the process, I encouraged communities and user groups to tell their side of the story. Many volunteers donated their time in Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties to participate in this process and provide an accurate inventory of roads to the Forest Service. These inventories formed the basis of the counties' submitted comments and recommendations that unused and overgrown roads be closed, while popular and economically valuable roads remain open. Unfortunately, I am told by individuals and the counties that most, if not all, of these key areas of concern were not included in the final plan. Failure to include local input results in poorly crafted plans and rules that significantly impact our rural communities.

Despite their efforts to participate, many groups and communities feel they were largely, if not entirely, ignored by the U.S. Forest Service. This 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.

Furthermore, I understand that the Wallowa-Whitman did not include certain National Recreation and Wilderness areas in the planning process. As a result, the planning area reflected an artificially high percentage of land suitable for motorized recreation than is actually the case over the entire forest. When the Wallowa-Whitman is taken as a whole, with National Recreation and Wilderness areas included, more than 70% of USFS lands in Wallowa County are already dedicated to non-motorized "quiet" recreation.

Start over. Put people in charge who will value the suggestions of eastern Oregon's citizens. And then go meet with the local residents and make sure that rural Oregon's voice is reflected in the final plan.

Best regards,
Greg Walden


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