We can influence the feds

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board April 21, 2014 01:25 pm

The federal government, it turns out, isn’t quite the inflexible monolith it’s often purported to be.

Last week the U.S. Forest Service decided to give the public an extra 60 days to comment on the draft version of new forest management plans for the Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla and Malheur national forests.

This was a welcome concession.

Although mandatory seems to us the more appropriate adjective, considering the various documents the Forest Service released to the public in March exceed 1,000 pages.

And this is not light reading, in the figurative or the literal sense.

Ninety days, the standard public comment period, was woefully insufficient.

Now that the feds have acceded to the public’s request for more time, we encourage residents to make good use of the extra two months.

Specifically, we hope people who have an interest in the matter — a group which ought to include anyone who ever visits one of these three national forests — to gain at least a passing familiarity with the documents and then send in comments.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that anyone’s ideas will be adopted wholesale into the final version of the forest plans.

But that doesn’t mean your opinions and ideas aren’t important, or that they don’t have the potential to make sure the needs of local residents — those who not only use but in some case rely on these public forests — are taken into consideration.

Public sentiment, after all, got us all 60 more days to try to absorb a massive amount of information.

Now we just need to use that time to help create a management plan that will benefit our communities, and our forests, for the next couple of decades.