Which roads to sacrifice?

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board June 29, 2012 09:50 am

Local Forest Service officials want to hear what you have to say about the plan to ban motor vehicles on some roads on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

We recommend you take them up on the offer.

Although we doubt many people will need much prodding to make themselves heard on this matter.

The Wallowa-Whitman’s pending Travel Management Plan already has provoked more comments than any proposal on the forest in the past 20 years.

And more anger.

We understand why so many people were dismayed by the plan that Wallowa-Whitman Supervisor announced in March.

That plan — which Schwalbach canceled the next month — called for prohibiting motor vehicles (except snowmobiles) from about 3,900 miles of forest roads. That’s about 64 percent of the roads currently open.

The withdrawn travel plan was so vastly different from widespread sentiment — 6,000 people signed a petition advocating for no roads to be closed to vehicles — that it’s hardly surprising Schwalbach’s announcement galvanized groups opposed to such restrictions.

All that said, we believe that road closure foes are more likely to be pleased with Schwalbach’s revised decision — or less disappointed by it, at any rate — if they indulge the Forest Service and show up to public meetings later this summer ready to advocate, with precision as well as passion, for the roads they travel most often.

Although we respect those who insist that favoring any road over another equates to surrender, we don’t believe that’s a realistic stance.

Some roads that are technically “open” now will not be so in the future. Even vehement critics of the travel plan acknowledge that certain of these roads aren’t being traveled by vehicles.

Critics would do well to make sure forest officials not only have an accurate list of those roads, but, equally important, which roads residents consider integral to their use and enjoyment of public lands.