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A year later, E. Oregon forest road plan on shelf

Corvallis Gazette-Times

Posted 5/30/2013

A U.S. Forest Service plan to close thousands of miles of roads in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in northeastern Oregon remains in limbo a year after the agency shelved the idea.

There may be no change in the forest’s road plan until at least 2016, the Baker City Herald (http://bit.ly/133SDY9) reported.

The plan released in March 2012 led to protests. Residents said closures would hinder four-wheelers, hunting and firewood cutting.

Crowds paraded on Baker City streets to protest it, and opponents packed town hall meetings with Oregon’s members of Congress.

The plan was withdrawn after a month.

There is no deadline for coming up with a new plan, the Herald reported. The only pending deadline is in 2015, for the forest to describe the network of roads needed for manage the forest. That wouldn’t restrict vehicles anywhere in the 1.3 million acres the plan covers.

The Forest Service this week released an analysis of responses to the plan _ about 3,300 letters. It said most were form letters in favor of the closures, and many of the rest were detailed objections to closures.

Even though the responses deal with a plan that’s been withdrawn, they provide information about which roads are most popular, said Jodi Kramer, the forest’s public affairs officer.

“Every single letter is important, but the whole goal is to get really good, substantive comments,” Kramer said. “We know that form letters are out there, but specific comments are what we’re looking for.”

The plan would have closed about 3,600 miles of roads. At the time, forest officials said it had about 9,000 miles, but much was overgrown or impassable, leaving about 4,700 miles open to the public.

The Forest Service says its next step will be to draw up more accurate maps of the roads and hold public meetings to ask for contributions to the mapping.

“We need to have an accurate map that everybody agrees represents what’s out there on the ground,” said Kramer. “We need that baseline.”

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Information from: Baker City Herald, http://www.bakercityherald.com/

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