LEWISTON, Idaho — The U.S. Forest Service has rejected the recently completed management plans for three national forests in the Pacific Northwest, restarting the 15-year process to revise the plans.
The plans for the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests were issued last summer, promising to support more than 2,800 jobs and provide about $133 million in annual income, the Lewiston Tribune reported Wednesday.
The plans guide management of the forests that cover more than 7,800 square miles in the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington state and northeastern Oregon.
Objections to the plans were filed by more than 300 organizations and individuals, including representatives from timber and livestock industries, environmental groups, state wildlife management agencies, and the Nez Perce and Umatilla tribes.
The plans follow regulations, but they are confusing and could lead to fights over forest management, acting Forest Service Deputy Chief Christopher B. French wrote in a letter to agency officials.
"The revised plans also did not fully account for the unique social and economic needs of the affected communities," French wrote. "The resulting plans are difficult to understand, and I am concerned that there will be ongoing confusion and disagreement as to how each revised plan is to be implemented."
The agency aims to map out a path forward over the next several months, said Eric Watrud, supervisor of the Umatilla National Forest. A timeline has not yet been set for fixing the issues in the plans.
"The purpose in the end is to have durable plans that can be implemented over the course of the next decade or more in a way that is successful and meets the needs of the landscape and the local communities as well," Watrud said.