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Congress directed the U.S. Forest Service to develop plans for its national forests with the National Forest Management Act in 1976, but the process has become cumbersome and slow.
Development of a 15-year plan to replace the 1990 plans for the Blue Mountains region began in earnest in 2004, with a draft issued 10 years later.
Facing strong public criticism — more than 1,000 letters with more than 4,000 comments — the Forest Service opted to re-engage the public in 2015-2016.
A new revised plan was released June 29 for the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests — which will be separated into three forest-specific plans providing guidance for future project and activity decision-making.
Its publication kicked off a 60-day period for people to object to the plan, followed by a 90-day period in which the Forest Service would attempt to address those objections.
To accommodate in-person discussions with the large number of objectors and issues, the Forest Service arranged public meetings in John Day, Pendleton, Wallowa and Baker City. The timber and vegetation management and forest access sessions were well attended at the John Day meeting.
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