By David Mildrexler
A Forest Plan is a document that guides the overall land management direction of a National Forest for a period of about 15 to 20 years. It is a strategic document that establishes Management Areas (MAs), and develops goals, objectives, standards, and guidelines for resource management within each of these MAs. A Forest Plan can be likened to a zoning plan that establishes the various approaches to land use on our private lands. Just as the zoning of private lands is critical to protecting Oregon’s incredible natural heritage and rural areas from unchecked development, the zoning of our National Forests is equally important for protecting the precious natural resources they provide, and biodiversity they support. At the end of a Forest Plan’s life, these documents are out of date. For example, on issues like climate change, watershed protection and restoration, and wildlife corridors, science can inform management much different today than it did 20 years ago. Likewise, a growing human population and technological advancements are placing more and different pressures on our National Forest Lands.
While a description of a Forest Plan might come across as a little dry, let me add these key words to the description; Wild and Scenic Rivers, old growth forests, wildlife corridors and connectivity, Wilderness areas, roadless forests, native fisheries, research, scenery, restoration economy, and the application of best available science to restore our National Forests. The Forest Plan is the time and place to advocate for the things you love and would like to see on your National Forest.
The Forest Service is combining the Forest Plan Revision for three National Forests within the Blue Mountains, the Wallowa-Whitman, the Umatilla, and the Malheur. Together these forests span 5.5 million acres, approximately 2.5 times the land mass of Yellowstone National Park. The Proposed Action was released and HCPC has submitted our initial comments. Now, the Forest Service is developing specific alternatives that the Public will have opportunity to comment on this Spring.
With respect to Wilderness, HCPC and 11 conservation partners have identified 1.8 million acres of potential new Wilderness on public lands in northeast Oregon, including Joseph Canyon, the birthplace of Chief Joseph. These lands form an irreplaceable web of habitats and wildlife corridors connecting 3 giant eco-regions—the Northern Rockies, the Northern Basin and Range, and the Pacific Northwest. Think wolves, lynx, moose, bighorns, sockeye salmon, bull trout, and someday even the magnificent California Condor with its 9-foot wingspan. Despite this incredible opportunity to safeguard these remaining roadless lands, so far, the Forest Service is willing to consider less than 17 thousand acres of new wilderness, less than 1% of the potential Wilderness lands. One percent is not enough!
The time is now to advocate for the protection of our last stands of old growth forests. We need standards and guidelines that maintain healthy and productive soils, protect riparian areas and water quality, and end post fire logging. It’s time for management that protects all of the plants, fish and wildlife that call our beautiful National Forests home. This is your chance to talk about the big picture issues. Don’t hesitate and don’t be intimidated. Express your voice to reflect your issues!
Attend one of HCPC’s House Parties and learn how to write effective comments!
La Grande - Wednesday July 30th
Portland - Thursday July 31st
Portland - Thursday July 31st
For more information about the house parties, check out our website or our HCPC FaceBook page!
Here are some suggested points to include in your letter:
- What will be the specific designation for old growth forests that protects all old growth forests from commercial logging?
- How will you protect all roadless areas from logging and keep them non-motorized? (Keep Roadless Areas Roadless!)
- Out of 1.8 million acres of existing wild backcountry that qualifies as potential Wilderness, why is the Forest Service only able to find 16,350 acres of recommended Wilderness, less than 1%?
- How are wildlife corridors and connectivity going to be mapped and protected across the landscape?
- What enforceable standards will be used to protect ecologically foundational forest soils?
- What is your plan to protect and restore water quality, riparian habitat and salmon waterways?
“It does not require many words to speak truth” – Chief Joseph, Nez Perce