Seven different program managers or representatives addressed an audience of 50 people Monday afternoon when the U.S. Forest Service presented what it hopes to become its first annual accomplishment report to the public, this one from Oct. 2001 to Oct. 2002. An overview of what each program hopes to accomplish in the following year was included with each report.
Representing their respective programs were Jeff Stein for road management, Rick Smith for range management and invasive weeds, Bill Smergut for restoration, fuels and fire management, Paul Survis for forest management and silviculture, Ken Bronec for aquatic management, Jerry Hustafa for terrestrial management (wildlife and botany), and Leigh Dawson for wilderness, recreation and trail maintenance.
The presentations and booklets which were handed out were informative, but in the question and answer segment that followed where issues were really laid out on the table.
Paul Sisson from the Western Counties Association from Jackson, Wyo., suggested that the Forest Service was not doing its job if unemployment figures remain high in the community. He specifically stated that range resources and forest resources need be used to put people back to work. Wallowa Valley District Ranger Meg Mitchell responded by saying "we are small fish in a big pond", then went on to say that the local district is trying to do more contracting work to address the problem.
"I urge rangers and administration to be very aggressive for economics," said County Commissioner Ben Boswell from the audience.
"Our budgets are not looking particularly good this year," said Mitchell. She said after the meeting that she expects the budget on the Wallowa-Whitman Forest to be down $3 to $4 million below what it was last year. "It may not be enough, but we are doing everything we can do," she said.
Mitchell also mentioned a lynx lawsuit which has proven to be a "setback" to proposed timber sales.
Diane Snyder of Wallowa Resources was one who applauded the efforts and accomplishments made in the last year by the Forest Service. Sara Miller of the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District heaped praise on the Visitor Center portion of the Forest Service complex in Enterprise, a portion of the complex not covered in the accomplishment report.
Mitchell and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Eagle Cap Wilderness District Ranger Kendall Clark were very specific about thanking partners the Forest Service has worked with to achieve objectives this year. Included in that group were Wallowa Resources, the Nez Perce Tribe, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Natural Resources Advisory Committee, the Weed Board, The Nature Conservancy and the Grande Ronde Model Watershed.
A sample of the many accomplishments noted by the seven presenters would include the completion of 220 miles of road maintenance and the completion of a forest All Terrain Vehicle assessment by Stein's department; the administration of 54 active range management allotments with 37 grazing permittees, plus the treatment of 1,382 acres of invasive weeds, covered in Smith's presentation; and the organizational and funding components (along with Wallowa Resources and the ODF) to contract 150 acres of wildland-urban interface fuel reduction work to protect Wallowa Lake residences, and the fire management of 59 fires last summer consuming 468 acres as reported by Smergut. Survis spoke about the removal of eight million board feet of timber from three forest thinning contracts, thinning on average 8" diameter trees from 2,538 acres of land.
Bronec spoke of a bull trout telemetry project where bull trout were tagged and tracked. He also spoke of cooperative redd counts being done for steelhead, chinook salmon and bull trout. One portion of the terrestrial management presentation made by Hustafa included the Swamp Creek wetland restoration partnership project to restore nearly 600 acres of riparian wetlands and beaver swamps. The project included the restoration of native shrubs, fencing and planting.