Category Archives: Washington Office

USDA Forest Service releases final instructions on objections for Blue Mountains Forest Plan revisions

PORTLAND, Ore. – March 14, 2019 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service has released final objection instructions for the Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman Forest Plan Revisions.

The Regional Forester has been instructed to withdraw the draft Record of Decision, Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and the three Revised Plans.

Forest Service Acting Deputy Chief and Reviewing Officer Chris French issued a letter to Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa explaining his instruction.

“Many factors compounded to produce revised plans that would be difficult to implement,” French wrote. “While my review did not identify any specific violations of law, regulation, or policy, significant changes occurred over the 15-year time period of the planning process.”

French said that a number of plan modifications occurred that were often complex and not well understood, and there were a number of changes in organizations, stakeholders, and key Forest Service staff.

The Revised Plans also did not fully account for the unique social and economic needs of local communities in the area.

“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,” French said.

The Forest Plans for the Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman have been under revision for nearly 15 years.

The Final EIS, three Revised Plans, and the draft Record of Decision were released in June 2018 for the pre-decisional objection process.

Approximately 350 objections were filed on a variety of issues, most significant being access and travel management, impacts of the plan decisions on local communities, the Aquatic and Riparian Conservation Strategy, wildlife issues, and forest management.

Objection resolution meetings were held in five different communities in November and December of 2018. Over 300 people participated voicing concerns and clarifying objections on a wide variety of issues.

“I recognize the hard work and commitment of your employees over the last 15 years,” French wrote. “I also realize how much dedication, energy, time, and effort that the public has put into this process. I am confident that the information and data collected and analyzed, as well as the breadth of objection issues, can be used to inform our next steps.”

Existing Land and Resource Management Plans, as amended, will remain in place as the Forest Service determines next steps for the Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.

In the coming months, Forest Service officials will engage stakeholders to explore ways of working together to support a path forward on shared priorities including strengthening local economies, reducing wildfire risk, ensuring access, and supporting healthier watersheds.

“We are committed to the responsible stewardship of National Forest System lands and confident that we can find common ground for the long-term sustainable management of these forests,” said Regional Forester Casamassa. “I look forward to joining local and state officials, partners, Tribes, and members of the public to explore how we can best work together in shared stewardship to pursue common objectives.”

More information on the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision Objection and Resolution Process can be found here.


Source information: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region staff (press release)

In the News: Capitol Christmas Tree-lighting

Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen gives a speech during the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Capitol Building in Washington DC, December 6, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo

In keeping with tradition, the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree, harvested from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, was lit by the Speaker of the House (with help from Oregon 4th grader Bridgette Harrington) Dec. 6.

“This tree traveled 3,000 miles from Oregon, involving many different people of all ages and all walks of life, with events in many different communities, with celebrations along the way,” Vicki Christiansen, chief of the USDA Forest Service, said.

“Indeed, the entire journey, from the selection of the tree to its arrival in Washington DC reminds us of what we can accomplish if we unite for a common purpose. If we work together to sustain our nation’s forests, we can produce trees like this for generations to come.”

Below is roundup of media coverage as the tree completed it’s journey from Sweet Home, Ore. to Washington D.C., and the tree-lighting event.

Washington Post:

USA Today:

Albany Democrat-Herald:

Salem Statesman-Journal

The Oregonian / OregonLive: