Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., today announced he has introduced the Forest Access in Rural Communities Act (H.R. 4272) to stop the problematic travel management rule on national forests in the West and promote local control over future proposals to restrict forest access.

"For too long, the input and wishes of local citizens have been pushed to the backseat when it comes to decisions about access to our public lands. This common-sense bill will put local communities back in the driver's seat in the Forest Service's travel management planning process," Walden said.

"Whether it's for hunting, camping, firewood cutting, berry picking, or just enjoying a ride through the woods in a truck or ATV, accessing our forests is a way of life in rural Oregon. Far too often, though, management decisions are handed down from Washington, D.C., by agencies who have likely only seen the forests on a map. It's time for that to stop. This bill will bring management back where it belongs-local communities with firsthand knowledge about the state and uses of these forests," Walden said.

Walden made the announcement at AC Power Sports in La Grande with local officials and members of the motorized recreation community, including Union County Commissioner Mark Davidson and motorized recreation leader Allan Chase. This legislation is the result of over a year of work with stakeholders like Davidson and Chase.

When the USFS released a travel management plan on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest two years ago, it largely ignored input from local citizens. Walden, local officials and citizens pushed back hard on the plan, eventually forcing the agency to withdraw it.

The Forest Access in Rural Communities Act prohibits the implementation or enforcement of the U.S. Forest Service's (USFS) Travel Management Rule for national forests derived from public domain lands in the West.

It also places restrictions on the USFS before implementing a proposed road closure, decommissioning or change in road densities in forests. In order to do so, the USFS must consult during the planning process with affected counties (a county within which the road closure occurs or an adjacent county). It must also get concurrence from the affected counties before the proposed plan goes into effect.