Wallowa County Commissioner Susan Roberts says exact dates have yet to be identified when the United States Forest Service and forest users will re-enter Travel Management Plan (TMP) negotiations regarding the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
Earlier this year, W-W Forest Supervisor Monica Schwalbach introduced a TMP that later was withdrawn due to heavy opposition both from people who commonly access forest service land and from several legislators.
Roberts says midweek public meetings in Joseph, Enterprise, and Wallowa will be held during one week in September with specific geographical areas of the Wallowa-Whitman aired on advertised nights to avoid repeat testimony. If necessary, said Roberts at the commissioners public meeting Monday morning, the board would request additional meetings if needed.
Don Bronson, of Joseph, shared concerns about the TMP by stating he had heard a local private company had been contracted by the forest service to begin closing roads in the Imnaha area.
Roberts was of the opinion that Bronsons concerns were applicable to news shed heard at a recent Wallowa County Natural Resources Advisory Committee meeting.
Although the name Bronson mentioned as the company hired to do the work was news to Commissioner Roberts, her explanation was the USFS, supposedly for safety purposes, was closing wide spots along the road near Upper Imnaha. Their reasoning, she said, was to discourage people from camping at those wide spots of the road and redirect campers toward designated campsites.
It seems the forest service has no money to do anything, but always has enough money to close roads, Bronson said.
Contacted by phone outside the meeting, Wallowa-Whitman public affairs specialist Matthew Burks was adamant the TMP plan was on hold and no roads were being closed in relation to that federal mandate. In regards to local projects, Burks suggested contacting Wallowa Valley Forest Ranger Ken Gebhardt, who did not return a call to the Chieftain as of Tuesday morning, Aug. 7.
Burks said new TMP information including PDF maps, explanatory descriptors, and schedules is being posted on the Internet with more information to come. To access that information, go to Wallowa-Whitman National Forestís home page on your computer and click on links taking you directly to updated TMP data.
Implementing a plan to limit road access into federal Forest Service land, not a popular concept with the vocal majority in Wallowa County, is not merely optional but required. The federal government has mandated that Travel Management Plans based on that general directive be drafted, approved, and adhered to on every U.S. national forest.