Take a breath

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board April 20, 2012 10:13 am

So now everyone embroiled in the debate over the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s Travel Management Plan (TMP) can take a deep breath.

Wallowa-Whitman Supervisor Monica Schwalbach on Tuesday withdrew her decision, announced March 15, to ban motor vehicles from about 3,600 miles on 1.3 million acres of the forest.

A wise choice.

It quickly became apparent that the alternative Schwalbach picked back in March would have banned rigs from a lot more roads than many local residents expected.

Too many roads, we believe.

The pertinent issue, though, is which roads should be taken off that original closure list.

Fred Warner Jr., chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners, pointed out that, based on the diligent work of local volunteers who inventoried roads, about 30 percent of the forest roads in Baker County aren’t being used by motor vehicles.

“Closing” those roads would have a theoretical rather than an actual effect on the public. And indeed, most of those roads were slated to be closed in the postponed TMP.

But the plan also closed, in some areas, not only redundant roads, which roughly parallel a nearby road, but both of those roads.

The revised plan should be based on Alternative 3 in the final environmental impact statement. That option would close about 1,800 miles, roughly half the mileage in Schwalbach’s initial decision.

That’s still a lot of roads. But it’s an option that comes much closer to achieving the “balance”  between preserving motorized access, and reducing its effects on wildlife and habitat, that Schwalbach is aiming for.