Walton Lake project pushback makes no sense
A battle over the forests often seems unending. On one side are those whose livelihoods benefit from the harvesting of timber and other woody biomass for everything from lumber and other wood products to electricity production. On another side are conservation organizations that are trying to preserve as much of the forestland as possible and keep it as healthy and close to its natural state as possible.
Included in the mix is the U.S. Forest Service, which is tasked with managing all of the federal forestland, and Oregon Department of Forestry, an organization that oversees management of state forestland. Meanwhile, county officials have developed a natural resource committee to influence the use of public lands in Crook County, and local government members have joined timber executives and conservation group members to form a collaborative that seeks to find forest management solutions agreeable to multiple points of view.
With this many conflicting goals and viewpoints, it isn't hard to understand why people would want to solve similar forest issues in different ways. While one side might want to harvest certain trees, it isn't a reach to expect another side would want to block it from happening.
But there is one instance where it is hard to support a different viewpoint. Much of the forested area surrounding the Walton Lake area is facing a laminated root rot problem. Essentially, there are a number of trees in the popular recreation area that are rotting from the inside out and could fall at any moment.
This is a clear safety issue, and Ochoco National Forest personnel have responded by closing off the portions of forestland that are a danger to visitors. This is a temporary solution until they launch a project to remove all of the infected trees and reopen the land.
Seems reasonable, right? Get rid of dangerous, rotten trees, prevent the spread of infection, and let people enjoy the area. Apparently not. The tree removal plan has faced continual pushback, most recently in the form of a July 2018 lawsuit by League of Oregon Wilderness Defenders/Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project.
Forest leaders opted to pull back their decision memo approving the project to engage partners and the public. In addition, they reached out to the Ochoco Forest Restoration Collaborative for their help on developing a plan for the area.
Resistance to the tree removal project simply doesn't make sense. A visit to the area and a look at the trees, rotting at their base, sporting ominous signs warning that they could fall at any moment, will prove that point. What advantage could there possibly be in leaving this problem unchecked?
Hopefully, public input — whether it be in the form of the photo contest or in other forms of official public comment — will tip the scales in favor of common sense and allow this project to finally gain approval and move forward.
The Walton Lake is known for its beauty and recreational options. Let's hope it never becomes known for its problem with falling trees and safety risks.
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