Umatilla National Forest Supervisor Kevin Martin is taking the helm of the embattled Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, focus of a lingering dispute over forest roads and vehicle use.

Regional Forester Kent Connaughton announced the appointment Friday, saying Martin will become Wallowa-Whitman supervisor “until further notice.

Martin succeeds Monica Schwalbach, who has taken a new assignment with the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland.

The Wallowa Whitman has been embroiled in controversy regarding its proposed travel management plan, which would have closed some 3,600 miles of roads and trails to motor vehicle use. Schwalbach, at the center of the controversy, withdrew the plan in midstream last spring due to strong public protests over the closures and the process.

Martin said he looks forward to meeting with the forest employees and the public, and listening to their concerns.

“I believe good communications and understanding of one another’s needs will lead us to achieve great things,” he said.

Martin has been Umatilla supervisor in Pendleton for eight years. A graduate of both Iowa State University and Oregon State University, he holds degrees in animal ecology, entomology and wildlife science.

“Kevin believes in strong relationships, and is well known for his work with both external community groups and the internal workforce on the Umatilla National Forest,” said Connaughton. “Kevin’s strength of skills, in both natural resources work and community engagement, will be strong assets for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.”

Martin takes the helm as the forest staff gears up for community workshops on travel management in September. The meetings are set for Sept. 11 in Enterprise, Sept. 13 in La Grande, Sept. 18 in Baker City, Sept. 20 in Halfway, Sept. 24 in Pendleton, and Sept. 27 in Ontario.

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