Whether or not to order a prescribed burn for dying timber above 6,400 ft. elevation on the Mt. Howard area around Wallowa Lake will be one of the topics of discussion Wednesday, Dec. 11, when the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners and the Wallowa County Natural Resources Advisory Committee (NRAC) hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Joseph Community Center.
Such a burn would negatively impact the view from the top of the gondola ride on Mt. Howard, a view which is already impacted by a high percentage of old growth timber that is dead and dying.
Insects, as is the course of nature, are inhabiting the dying trees and fast generating a fire hazard.
Aware of the problem on federal land, the U.S. Forest Service officially asked the NRAC on Sept. 24 to delve into the problem and come up with recommendations.
Part of NRAC's solution is to open discussion to the public. They have done so by addressing a number of civic organizations about the dilemma, and are now holding a public hearing.
It is estimated that 80 percent of the standing trees above the 6,400 foot elevation level in the 2,000 acre targeted area at Mt. Howard are dead and dying. A high percentage of trees below that elevation mark in the same 2,000 acres are also diseased.
The Forest Service estimates that the fire danger is compounded by the presence of 40 tons of ground fuel per acre above the 6,400 foot elevation mark and 60 tons per acre below that mark.
Though invitations had not officially been extended, it was the intent of the NRAC to asked Andy White of the Oregon Department of Forestry, Floyd Hoofard of the Wallowa Lake Homeowners Association and both Nick Lunde and Paul Survis of the Forest Service to sit on a panel Dec. 11.
The agenda, as laid out by NRAC Chairman Bruce Dunn, would include presentations from the panel members followed by a question and answer session. If the attendance is higher than 30 to 40 persons, said Dunn, discussion groups would be formed prior to meeting in one large group session.