Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest's long-anticipated plan governing where motorized vehicles are allowed will be released to the public within the next couple of weeks, according to a letter Forest Supervisor Monica Schwalbach submitted to the Baker City Herald today.

Schwalbach's letter will be published in Friday's edition of the Herald.

She didn't include any details about the plan. Schwalbach wrote that the plan "creates a balance between providing motor vehicle-based recreation opportunities and reducing damaging effects to natural resources."

Wallowa-Whitman officials started working on the travel plan under Schwalbach's predecessor, Steve Ellis, in the spring of 2007.

Former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth had named unregulated motor vehicle use as one of the four biggest threats to the national forest system.

He directed all forest supervisors to write new plans that lay out, in detail, where motor vehicles are allowed. (The plans don't apply to snowmobiles.)

Under the Wallowa-Whitman's current policy, motor vehicles are allowed on all forest roads, and cross-country travel is legal on a majority of the forest as well.

The new plan likely will greatly reduce the area where off-road travel is allowed, as well as prohibit motor vehicles from many roads.

Schwalbach wrote that the new Wallowa-Whitman travel maps - a key part of this project - should be available, for free, by June.

The Herald will cover the public release of the travel management plan in detail.