CANYON CITY – Grant County Commissioner Boyd Britton wants the Blue Mountains Forest Partners to step in and write a new, workable alternative for the ongoing regional forest plan revision.
But while the Forest Service’s proposed revision would cover three national forests, Britton’s idea is to draft an alternative that applies just to the Malheur National Forest.
Presenting his proposal to the County Court Feb. 18, Britton said the two local collaborative groups – the Forest Partners and the Harney County Collaborative – would be uniquely suited to the task.
He noted they already have involved stakeholders from the community, industry, county government and the conservation community to find agreement on projects that benefit the forest and the economy.
In a written proposal to County Judge Scott Myers and Commissioner Chris Labhart, Britton called the collaborative process “arguably the most effective method of dealing with and working with our federal land management partners to date.”
Britton said the Forest Service’s proposed forest plan revision “was a wreck to begin with,” as it was developed over more than a decade while key elements changed.
Unveiled to the public in early 2014, the proposed revision drew criticism from a range of stakeholders – for a range of reasons.
Given the volume of concerns, the Forest Service has been meeting with county officials in the region in recent months to try to chart a course to move the plan revision forward.
In Grant and Harney counties, critics worry a broad three-forest plan will roll back advances under way through collaboration on the Malheur National Forest. The Malheur’s 10-year stewardship contract is underway, helping to boost the timber harvest to 65 million board feet last year, with another increase planned for this year.
“We need, in my opinion, our own plan,” Britton said.
His proposal calls for the collaboratives to come up with new language primarily concerning vegetation management issues, as well as “an appropriate percentage of grazing and access issues.”
The rest of the Court gave Britton the go-ahead to forward the proposal to the Forest Partners at their next meeting.
The Forest Partners, meanwhile, have already been discussing whether and how to get involved with the forest plan revision.
In their Feb. 19 meeting, the group didn’t address the specifics of Britton’s proposal, but did discuss the Forest Service’s willingness to do additional analysis and create a new alternative for the revision. Some members cautioned that they should stick to what they know best, namely vegetation management, while others saw a golden opportunity to provide solid proposals for the plan revision.
The Partners made no decision on a role in the process, but decided to form a subcommittee to consider the possibilities and look at next steps.