The forest plan revision process for the Blue Mountains is starting over.
Objections to revised plans for the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests led Reviewing Officer Chris French to instruct the withdrawal of the draft plans, according to a March 14 letter he sent Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa. The existing plans, as amended, remain in effect.
"Many factors compounded to produce Revised Plans that would be difficult to implement," French said in the letter. "While my review did not identify any specific violations of law, regulation, or policy, significant changes have occurred over the 15 year time period of the planning process that led to my decision."
French said the plan modifications were complex and not well understood, and there were changes in elected officials, stakeholders and Forest Service staff.
The revised plans also failed to "fully account for the unique social and economic needs of the affected communities," he said.
"The resulting plans are very difficult to understand and I am concerned that there will be ongoing confusion and disagreement as to how each Revised plan is to be implemented," he said.
French said he recognized the work by Forest Service employees and the public on the plan over the last 15 years.
"I am confident that the information and data collected and analyzed, as well as the breadth of objection issues, can be used to inform your next steps," he said. "As you proceed, I expect you to engage with local, State, and tribal governments, elected officials, the public, and other interested stakeholders."