The chief of the U.S. Forest Service is coming to Wallowa County next month to find out how is agency is working with local organizations to achieve healthy forests and healthy communities.
Dale N. Bosworth is scheduled to meet with several Wallowa County groups and individuals during a tour of the area scheduled for May 29-30.
While he is in the county he will tour the Buck pilot project near Sled Springs, which is touted as an example of how the Forest Service and the community can work together to achieve positive environmental and economic results.
"He is focusing on seeing how collaboration works and doesn't work," said Diane Snyder, executive director of Wallowa Resources, an Enterprise-based organization that is promoting community based forestry.
Bosworth will also be briefed on the fuel reduction program on Mount Howard and in the Wallowa Lake basin, another project in which collaboration between the community and the Forest Service is taking place.
The chief's visit is being hosted by Wallowa Resources, the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners, the Wallowa County Natural Resources Advisory committee (NRAC), and Sustainable Northwest. In addition, he will meet with members of the media during a press conference scheduled for May 30.
Bosworth, who was appointed chief of the Forest Service two years ago, oversees an organization of more than 30,000 employees and a budget of $4.6 billion. He started his Forest Service career as a forester on the St. Joe National Forest in Northern Idaho and working his way up to regional forester for the Northern Region, which covers Northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and parts of South Dakota. His appointment was hailed by the natural resources community because he was perceived as a professional forester who came up through the ranks rather than a political appointee like many of his predecessors. He has a reputation for working with timber industry interests as well as environmentalists.
Wallowa County groups will be pitching stewardship contracting to the chief, a new way of doing business that allows the agency to break away from traditional timber sales and focus instead on projects that improve forest health and prevent catastrophic wildfires.
The Buck Pilot Project north of Enterprise is a model of the kinds of projects Wallowa Resources and others want the Forest Service to utilize more often in the future, hoping to achieve dual goals of improving the environment and at the same time boosting local economies. Originally planned as a timber sale, it was later modified by Wallowa Valley District Ranger Meg Mitchell and her staff who enlisted a wide range of interest groups to address soil compaction, fire prevention, fish, wildlife, and other values.
"We want to celebrate together what we, the community, and the local Forest Service have accomplished by working together," Snyder said of the chief's visit.