Ellis to leave top W-W post

Steve Ellis

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest supervisor Steve Ellis is leaving his position to take a new job as the Bureau of Land Management's Idaho state director. Ellis, 56, takes the new post Oct. 11.

Ellis accepted the Idaho state director position after a 31-year federal career spent mostly with the BLM. He began as a forester with the BLM in 1979 and has served in several positions with the agency. He has held the WWNF supervisor position since 2004.

Ellis' departure comes as the WWNF is in the midst of two major land use management projects, the Travel Management Plan and the Blue Mountain Forest Plan revision

The new forest supervisor will take over and be responsible for making final decisions on both of those land use management projects, according to USFS spokesperson Judy Wing. USFS teams are currently working on both plans and Ellis leaving will not affect the progress of those projects, said Wing.

The Travel Management Plan has been controversial since being introduced to the public in March of 2007, and more than 6,000 residents from the mountainous region of northeast Oregon have signed a petition to protest the agency's blanket road closure proposal.

The initial USFS alternative proposes to change access regulations on forest road from an "open unless designated closed" to a "closed unless designated open" policy and would do away with all cross-country travel. The proposed action looks to eliminate about 4,300 miles of the lowest maintenance roads and to close the remaining approximate 5,000 miles, after which certain roads would then be designated as open.

The USFS team is now preparing the biological assessment for the TMP and will send that report to the regulatory agencies, according to Wing. The new forest supervisor is expected to issue a final decision on the TMP sometime next spring.

The Blue Mountain Forest Plan revision is underway and the USFS proposed action has been released for public comment. The Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla and Malheur National Forests are joining efforts to revise their guiding land management document after current plans have reached the end of their intended15-year purpose.

The plans are being revised to "address the substantial resource and social changes on the three Forests and new scientific information," according to the USFS.

The proposed action on the forest revision has been released for public comment, which triggers the beginning of the National Environmental Policy Act process. The USFS will use public comment to develop new alternatives to their proposed action and to analyze environmental impacts from the proposal and the alternatives.

The USFS is expected to release the draft Environmental Impact Statement sometime in 2011 and the new forest supervisor is expected to issue a final decision on the forest plan revision in 2012.

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