Science & Environment

US Forest Service starts revision to Blue Mountains Forest Plan — again

By Sage Van Wing (OPB)
May 29, 2023 1 p.m.

The Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests, collectively known as the Blue Mountains, have been operating under a forest management plan developed over 30 years ago.

The most recent effort to revise the plan failed in 2019. Now, the U.S. Forest Service is restarting the process.

The company that owns the last remaining lumber mill in Oregon's Grant County says it intends to invest in once-threatened mill. The announcement comes now that a 10-year stewardship contract has been awarded to manage Malheur National Forest.

The Blue Mountains make up over a third of the national forest land in Oregon.

U.S. Forest Service

Eric Watrud, the Umatilla National Forest supervisor, says it’s important to honor the time and effort that was put into creating previous draft plans.


“The 15 years of investment that went into the prior effort, which was withdrawn, really just kind of doubles down on why it’s so important to get it right this time,” he said.

The National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires that the Forest Service develop and revise a Land and Resource Management Plan for every national forest every 15 years. The plans broadly cover everything from grazing, logging, fire management, tribal use and recreation.

“The Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman are very important to the communities, to the economies, to the cultural history of the area,” Watrud said. “It’s a big deal. And it’s important that we do that in the right way — engaging with people to get their ideas for how we move forward and manage them in the future.”

The Forest Service will begin an assessment process this June and will open that assessment up to public comment before next fall.

“You can’t accomplish every objective on every acre, but you can accomplish objectives overall,” Watrud said. “We’re looking at, across the three national forests, 5.5 million acres. And so really finding the right way with these forest plans to help guide that management across the entire landscape, so that everyone in the communities can see themselves represented in the outcomes … Being able to implement that, to me, is a key measure of success.”

The Forest Service aims to complete the forest plan revision process for the Blue Mountains within three years.