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Monday, September 12, 2011

Eastern WA Forests - Change of Plans!


Forest management is about to change for important areas in Eastern Washington. The Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests are in the process of updating their forest plans, which will determine how these eastern Washington wild lands will be managed for the next two decades. Every 10-15 years or so, National Forests like the Wenatchee-Okanogan and Colville National Forests are required to undergo revision, under the 1976 National Forest Management Act. A proposed action for the forest plan was recently released and is available for public comment through September 28, 2011.

So why should we care about an Eastern Washington forest plan? The updated plans will cover more than 5 million acres of land, including several designated Wilderness areas. It will also include important management issues, such as additional Wilderness recommendations, inventoried Roadless areas, off-road vehicle travel and land designations which could impact wildlife habitat. For me, however, an important reason is my annual summer escapes to the great weather and endless backpacking opportunities I get to enjoy there. Eastern Washington is the perfect little 3-day weekend escape for us Western Washington residents. I want to know that the plans for the next 15 years in these forest areas will preserve the natural beauty I have the privilege to enjoy when I travel east. No matter what part of Washington we call home, we all are affected by what goes on in any part of our state.

My feelings for eastern Washington run deep – my favorite getaway is Banks Lake, near the Grand Coulee Dam and just west of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The camping here is less populated then Lake Chelan, but still offers sunny weather, nearby hiking, and any water activity you could ask for. It is the perfect location for my family summer vacation- a tradition proudly carried on throughout the last 5 years. Our favorite camping spot just happens to be on a hill top, where we have the most privacy. The only problem with this location is that the winds at night turn into furious gusts, which like to blow from all angles at my very tiny 2-man tent. Every year, I fall asleep at night to the soft touch of my tent walls crumbling down on top of me. Oh, the joy of desert camping!

These upcoming forest plan revisions are quite significant – in the 1984 Washington Wilderness Act, legislation added that the Forest Service was not allowed to recommend wilderness areas in the first round of Forest planning. Therefore, the upcoming forest plan is the first time (in Washington State) that the Forest Service will make recommendations for wilderness-quality lands for Congress to consider. This is truly a chance to set the precedent for wilderness designations and give more deserving places the chance to be permanently protected for current and future generations to enjoy.

The public comment period for the Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests Forest Plan Revision Proposed Action has been extended to September 28th. To submit your comments and see WWC’s recommendations for the proposed action, please visit our web site.

Terra Miller is WWC's conservation outreach intern for the summer of 2011. She can be reached at terra@wawild.org.

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