Rep. Greg Walden sent the following letter to Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
Supervisor Monica Schwalbach to urge her to fully engage the public and take
advantage of their knowledge and ability to help the agency craft a new travel
management plan with their input. As Greg has argued, the public should be a
partner in the Travel Management Plan process, not a foe. Read the full letter
below or on Greg’s website here: http://1.usa.gov/KvbeC8
Office of Representative Greg Walden
P: (202) 226-5234
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
PO Box 907
Baker City, OR 97814
Thank you for
withdrawing the travel management plan on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
As you begin to write a new plan, I strongly encourage you and your staff to
take advantage of this second opportunity to meaningfully involve the public.
The citizens who
recreate in and live near these forests remain eager to help the U.S. Forest Service
craft a plan that preserves traditional uses of their public lands. I ask you
to fully engage the public and take advantage of their knowledge and ability to
help the agency with valuable information. The public should be a partner in
this process, not a foe.
In a letter
published in the La Grande Observer on April 18, you cited a "good bit
of confusion” among the public and the need to "(clarify) misinformation” going
forward. While you also rightfully noted some areas of citizen concern that the
Forest Service should address, I want to be clear: the public isn’t confused.
They are tired of volunteering hours upon hours of their valuable time
assisting with the mapping of roads and providing suggestions only to see their
sincere input and suggestions largely ignored in the agency’s final plan. As
you participate in this summer’s public meetings, I urge you not to take a
defensive posture on behalf of the scrapped plan, or assume it is the agency’s
responsibility to re-educate the populace.
In light of
that, I would like to know how comments at these and other meetings will be
officially gathered and recorded for inclusion in the decision making process.
I am also interested in the end result of these meetings. Does the NEPA process
start anew, or does the process simply move into a modified FEIS and Record of
Decision? If the latter, what steps are you taking to ensure sufficient
flexibility to allow the new decision to reflect public input gathered at these
meetings? Also, what steps are being taken to ensure that the choice to exclude
the Eagle Cap Wilderness and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area from the
planning area does not skew the ratio of motorized to non-motorized areas on
The local public
deserves a thorough, deliberate, and transparent process that does not
artificially limit the scope of issues discussed going forward. Instead, the
wide range of the local citizen concerns —access and trails for motorized
recreation, berry and mushroom picking, hunting and game retrieval, fire-fighting
access, access to grazing allotments, mining claims, irrigation diversions,
firewood, and private in-holdings and forest management — should inform the
plan so it reflects their input and use of the forest.
The public also
deserves a plan that utilizes the flexibilities provided to forest supervisors
in this planning process, including the authority to temporarily close roads
when it makes sense instead of permanently placing them off limits. It’s my
understanding that some national forests have taken the road closure effort too
far only to have to re-open roads after the fact, for firefighting, and to
address the needs of the local communities, such as protecting them from
catastrophic wildfire or to provide more recreational access. I think we can
both agree it’s best to avoid this problem.
thank you for withdrawing this plan. I look forward to your continued help in
turning around this troubled process and I stand ready to help as needed.
Member of Congress