Category Archives: Regional Forester

Open letter to Blue Mountains communities: First round of objection-resolution meetings a positive step

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

On Dec. 14, 2018, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa released the following “open letter” to the communities affected by the proposed Blue Mountains revised forest plan (Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests), including those who submitted formal objections or participated in objections resolutions meetings as part of the ongoing plan revision process.

See also:

https://yournorthwestforests.org/2018/11/21/forest-service-looking-to-listen-and-work-towards-resolution-in-blues-meetings/ 

***

chris_french_baker_city

Chris French, Acting Deputy Chief, National Forest System, USDA Forest Service, listens to a participant in Blue Mountains Forest Plan revision objections resolution meeting at High School in Baker City, Ore. USDA Forest Service photo by Travis Mason-Bushman.

Dear Objectors, Interested Persons, and Blue Mountains Community Members,

I recently had the privilege of meeting many of you during the first round of objection-resolution meetings for the Blue Mountains Revised Forest Plans.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who participated.

Over 300 Objectors, Interested Persons, and public observers attended meetings in John Day, Pendleton, Wallowa, Baker City, and La Grande, Oregon.

I am grateful for the time and effort invested by each of you. I hope you will agree that this first round of resolution meetings was a positive step.

The meetings were led by objection reviewing officers based in Washington, D.C., with support and coordination from the Pacific Northwest Regional Office as well as the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.

The goal for these initial meetings was to bring clarity and mutual understanding to the Blue Mountain Forest Plan objection issues.

The dialogue helped Forest Service leadership and staff to better understand your values, concerns, and views.

Spending time in Eastern Oregon improved much more than our understanding of the issues identified in the objections, though.

Through our initial discussions we also gained a deeper appreciation of local residents’ special relationships with the land.

We had it affirmed that, for many of those who live in and around the Blue Mountains, these national forests are not just places to visit and recreate – the forests are a vital part of your community life, identity, heritage, and livelihoods.

The Forest Service is striving to honor these special relationships in the Blue Mountain Forest Plan’s resolution process.

In doing so, we will better respect the views of many different community members – including our Tribal neighbors, the States of Oregon and Washington, County and other local government representatives, user groups, environmental groups, industry, and business – all of whom seek assurances that the Forest Service will protect their priority resources.

During the initial meetings the Forest Service heard a lot about a wide range of topics, including access; aquatic and riparian conservation; elk security and bighorn sheep; fire and fuels; fish, wildlife, and plants; livestock grazing; local government cooperation and coordination; public participation; social and economic issues; timber and vegetation; and wilderness, backcountry, and other special areas.

Digging into these topics in person gave the Forest Service the opportunity to explore issues that were not as prominent in the written objection letters.  From the dialogue, some issues appear to be close to resolution while others will require further discussion, so there will be more steps to take in this process.

The Forest Service knows that many topics are interrelated, and we will work to pull together the related topics for discussion in future meetings, so all of us can better see the connections and consider the trade-offs of potential resolutions.

The Forest Service also understands that not all Objectors and Interested Persons were able to attend the first round of meetings or have their voices represented by others.

So, as we navigate these next steps, the Forest Service will work ensure we are as inclusive as possible in future objections-resolutions meetings.

Over the coming weeks the reviewing officers will be studying the notes and reflecting on what we heard in the first round of resolution meetings and we will be helping the Washington Office in scheduling the next round of objections-resolutions meetings. We will be in touch again to announce the next steps.

Thank you for your contributions, and I look forward to making more progress together in the near future.

Kind regards,
Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester 



Source Information: Glenn Casamassa is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, supervising operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Oregon and Washington State. For more information about the Blue Mountains Forest Plan planning process and scheduled objections resolution meetings, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r6/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fseprd584707&width=full

Regional Forester: Forest Service looking to listen and work towards resolution in Blues’ meetings

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

By Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester  –

Next week, I will be participating with a team of folks from the Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., in Objections Resolution meetings for the Revised Forest Plans for the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests. We will also be joined by other representatives from the Regional Office in Portland, Ore., and the involved National Forests.

Throughout this process, we received about 350 objection letters and have invited objectors from across the communities of Eastern Oregon to join us to discuss them.

I have worked closely with the Reviewing Officer, Chris French, for years and I know he and the team are as deeply committed to understanding your concerns as we are in the region.

We are coming to listen and hopefully begin the process of resolving your concerns and refining a shared vision for the future of these forests we all value.

It is important to all of us that we get to just sit down and talk with objectors and interested persons face-to-face.

The team has reviewed the objections and now, with this first round of meetings, we will all have an opportunity to work toward resolution—not in a room back in D.C., but rather there in the communities with you as citizens and stakeholders directly.

We hope to engage in meaningful dialogue and really listen to the issues of concern and to understand the underlying values that are important to each of you, your neighbors and the communities at large.

We’re committed to openness and are looking forward to the dialogue and opportunities for resolution that may surface.

I have had the opportunity to meet with several of your elected officials and our Forest Service partners thus far, and I have been moved by their commitment to the land and all of you.

Your communities are proud and resilient.

We want you to know that the team and I will be engaging directly with those who submitted objections during this process and we are ready to listen.

I hope to meet many of you next week.

Kind regards,

Glenn Casamassa
Regional Forester;
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region


Source Information: Glenn Casamassa is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, supervising operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Oregon and Washington State. For more information about the Blue Mountains Forest Plan planning process and scheduled objections resolution meetings, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r6/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fseprd584707&width=full

 

In the news: Can ‘Moneyball’ fix how the West manages wildfire?

flames and smoke are visible along a tree-lined ridge in a photo taken from a vehicle window

“Can ‘Moneyball’ Fix How The West Manages Wildfire?” That’s the question posed by EarthFix reporter Tony Schick in a story posted today to Oregon Public Radio’s website.

He follows USDA Forest Service researchers, employees, and partners on their dive deep into the data for western wildfires, exploring the many factors that influence decisions pressures on when to fight fires, when to let them do their ecological work, and why it’s often hard for land managers to make that call.

Read more, at OPB.org: https://www.opb.org/news/article/fire-wildfire-west-management-science-data-risk-moneyball/

National Forest recreation contributes millions to Pacific NW communities

Recreationists snowshoe past a Forest Service shield and Mt. Hood Wilderness mounted on a tree beside the trail.

PORTLAND, Ore. – March 15, 2018 – Recreation visitors to national forest lands provide significant economic contributions to local communities in Washington, according to a recent report by the USDA Forest Service.

National Forests in Oregon receive more than nine million visitors each year, and those in Washington receive more than 6.3 million annually.

stats1Visitors spend approximately $448 million annually in communities near national forests in Oregon, and $290 million annually in communities near national forests in Washington State. This spending supports approximately 4,000 jobs in Oregon, and 2,100 in Washington, many in rural communities, and generates approximately $210 million in labor income for businesses and employees of these two states.

“National forests play an important role in the working economies of communities across the Pacific Northwest,” said Jim Peña, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. “The numbers in this economic report demonstrate how important these public lands are to both forest visitors and local communities. The Forest Service is proud to work with partners, permittees, and local officials to connect visitors to their public lands and support the growing outdoor recreation economy.”

mapIn the Pacific Northwest, hiking/walking (25% of visits), downhill skiing/snowboarding (16% of visits) and viewing natural features (14% of visits) are the most common recreation activities. About half of visits come from those who live within 60 miles of the forest boundary. Visitors from outside the local area spend between three and five nights away from home engaging in recreation activities and spending money in the area where they are staying.

The report, “Spending Patterns of Outdoor Recreation Visitors to National Forests,” published by the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, compiles research based on survey data collected as part of the Forest Service’s National Visitor Use Monitoring program. This information is used to estimate the average spending per trip, the share of recreation visits, average people per party, various types of recreation activities, and other visit characteristics to assist in economic analysis of outdoor recreation use.

Read the full report: https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr961.pdf
Plan your next national forest recreation visit: https://www.fs.fed.us/ivm/

By Stephen Baker, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

stats2

R6 Forester: Soaring fire costs limit funds for other work

Leadership Corner: Jim Peña; Regional Forester, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region

By Jim Peña, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester  – 

Firefighters burn grass and brush along a dirt road to block oncoming fire

Firefighters conduct burnout operations to establish a fire line while fighting the 2017 Chetco Bar fire on Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon. USDA Forest Service photo (via InciWeb)

The 2017 wildfire season was unprecedented in terms of dollars spent, acres burned, and the increased duration of wildfires. Even now, months later, we’re still feeling the impacts from these fires, especially financially.

As wildfires grow more severe – and costly – the USDA Forest Service is struggling to adequately fund projects that are important to our communities because of soaring firefighting costs.

Each year, firefighting costs consume more and more of the USDA Forest Service’s budget. In 1995, firefighting costs accounted for 15% of the USDA Forest Service budget. In 2017, it was 57%. At the rate things are going, firefighting will consume 67% of our budget by 2021. This means less money for other priority USDA Forest Service programs and services, including recreation, visitor services, and much-needed fire prevention work that reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires in the first place.

The USDA Forest Service is the only federal agency that is required to fund its entire emergency management program through its regular appropriations. This includes wildfires that are truly natural disasters—lightning starts rapidly driven by wind that burn faster and more intensely than firefighters can control.

Two chinook helicopters fly over a field with water buckets dangling below each aircraft.

Chinook Helicopters from the Oregon Army National Guard use hanging buckets to collect water for aerial drops in support of fire fighting efforts on the Chetco Bar Fire in Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest September 13, 2017. U.S. Government Photo (via Inciweb)

In the Pacific Northwest, this funding model means that projects designed to actually decrease the severity of wildfire are being delayed, deferred maintenance is growing for recreation sites and critical infrastructure, and roads damaged from fire or storms are going un-repaired.

This means that trash goes un-emptied, toilets uncleaned, and we are forced to make hard decisions on whether we can safely keep roads and recreation sites open. These funding challenges directly impact our ability to provide excellent and safe visitor experiences.

The USDA Forest Service is dedicated to fostering the productive and sustainable use of your national forests and grasslands. If you can’t use and enjoy your public lands to the fullest, that’s a problem.

While the USDA Forest Service is working more closely with partners and volunteers to leverage resources and accomplish more than we could by ourselves, our current fiscal path is simply unsustainable.

The USDA Forest Service deeply appreciates the ongoing work of Congress to pass new legislation to reform the way wildfire suppression is funded. A commonsense approach would let us get back to the work we care about most – meeting the many different needs of the communities we serve, for the benefit of generations to come.


Source Information: Jim Peña is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region. He supervises operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Washington State and Oregon.