JOHN DAY – Local residents met with U.S. Rep. Greg Walden last Friday to talk about travel access on the national forest lands and his new legislation.
Walden stopped in at John Day Polaris after visiting with ranchers in Burns earlier that day. Heading next to Baker City, he was making a 10-county swing over six days.
The roundtable discussion drew about 20 people, including members of the Grant County Snowmobilers and county commissioners Boyd Britton and Chris Labhart.
Walden gave an update on the Forest Access in Rural Communities Act, legislation he introduced to require the Forest Service to get input and consent from affected counties before closing roads.
“For too long, the input and wishes of local citizens have been pushed to the backseat when it comes to decisions about access to our public lands. This common-sense bill will put local communities back in the driver’s seat in the Forest Service’s travel management planning process,” he said.
He said the travel management rule was created to address destructive off-road driving, activity “no one supports.”
However, he said the rule goes beyond that and is limiting recreation options.
Sheriff Glenn Palmer said he didn’t want to get into “agency-bashing,” but he objected to a mentality that favors closures and to the idea that the forest belongs to “the East too –They have no ownership here.”
“What comes off of this (forest) is our livelihood, our business, our future,” he said.
Monty Bond, who works at Polaris, said public resources used to build roads, but now they are used to close roads. He said it shouldn’t be up to one agency to decide to close roads.
Walden is seeking re-election to Congress this year and will be on the May 20 primary election ballot, along with Republican challenger Dennis Linthicum of Klamath Falls. Democrats seeking nomination to the post include Aelea Christofferson and Frank Vulliet.