CANYON CITY – Forest Service officials provided maps and aired plans for the Big Mosquito Project at last week’s Grant County Court meeting.

The Feb. 18 presentation was the latest of several set to detail the next projects in the Malheur National Forest’s slate of restoration efforts that include logging, thinning, riparian enhancements and habitat improvements.

Blue Mountain Ranger District Ranger Dave Halemeier called Big Mosquito the first broad-based watershed-scale restoration effort undertaken on the Malheur National Forest.

The project area spans 36,000 acres around Galena on the Middle Fork of the John Day River.

The proposed vegetation work is dominated by commercial and precommercial thinning to restore stand resilience.

The proposed activities include:

• Commercial harvest of some 24 million board feet of timber over 8,600 acres.

• Pre-commercial thinning, including biomass and post and pole removal as feasible, over 5,500 acres.

• Prescribed burning on eight blocks to create a mosaic vegetation pattern, conducted in an area of 24,800 acres.

• Aspen restoration over 25 acres.

• Riparian enhancement thinning on 22 reaches and sites.

• An interpretive site, featuring information about the area’s mining history, southeast of Galena.

• Road changes: building 1 mile of new road, decommissioning 9.5 miles of road, opening 7.5 miles of road that’s currently closed, and closing 2.9 miles of road that’s open now.

Halemeier said the agency had as many as 14 alternatives to consider at the outset, but has narrowed the field to two: “no action” and a recommended alternative that he described as logical and science-based.

Acknowledging there will be differing opinions, he noted the process so far has included meetings with the Blue Mountains Forest Partners collaborative group and public outreach including an open house at the airport.

Forest Supervisor Steve Beverlin said the agency also presented a packet of information to Sheriff Glenn Palmer and invited him to a meeting with the interdisciplinary team for the project.

Public comments last week focused on road closures.

Asked if the agency would reconsider any of the road decisions, Halemeier noted that a lot of time already was been spent walking the roads and discussing them, but he would be willing to look at specific roads again.

The Deep Creek road, proposed for decommissioning, drew concern from Billie Jo George. She said people in the Galena area want that road open because it has access to cell phone service for emergencies.

Jim Sproul, chair of the county’s public access advisory board, questioned whether certain roads were closed by an existing order with specific environmental reviews.

Halemeier said that’s being reviewed, but Beverlin cautioned that the same people needed to get the project going are the ones who must do such reviews.

The Big Mosquito discussion followed a similar presentation at the Court’s Feb. 11 meeting on the Wolf Project, proposed for the south end of the forest. Road advocates have asked for an extension of the March 6 deadline to comment on that project, noting the Forest Service outreach focused on Harney County.

Details on the projects are available on the Malheur National Forest website.

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