By Brian Jennings
When the U.S. Forest Service was formed in 1905, it was charged with managing our public forests for the greater good of all. We all own them and have a right to use them. But the Forest Service is also charged with protecting the natural resources in our forests, and sometimes that means policy decisions don’t square with the wishes of everyone. A prime example concerns off-road travel on public lands in Northeast Oregon. Those who prefer OHV travel in the forests often clash with those who don’t, and in 2014 the USFS finds itself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to managing travel in Oregon’s largest national forest – the Wallowa Whitman. When forest supervisors rolled out a plan to close nearly half of the forest’s 9,100 miles of roads in 2012, local citizens objected so strongly the plan was rescinded. So, it’s back to square one, and a new process to develop a travel management plan is underway. In the meantime, cross - country travel is basically unrestricted in the Wallowa Whitman. Such travel often leads to habitat degradation. I saw it firsthand in a weeklong trip through the Blue Mountains while touring both the Umatilla and Wallowa Whitman National Forests.
Listen to this great two-part radio interview from KBND, with Oregon BHA's Sportsmen's Outreach Coordinator, Brian Jennings. Brian discusses BHA's focus on protecting backcountry habitat and access, legislation regarding the management of O&C lands, and a public access project along the Crooked River that would benefit from LWCF.
Part 1 - What BHA's all about and the Crooked River project
Part 2: O&C Legislation
The following Op-Ed by Brian Jennings was orginally published in the Bend Bulletin on February 2, 2014.
Since 2008, the Trust for Public Land has been quietly working to transfer a privately held 101-acre parcel of land along the Crooked River Canyon to the Bureau of Land Management. The transfer, using money from the Land & Water Conservation Fund, would provide a seamless access point for outdoor enthusiasts, thus allowing greater public access to this Central Oregon treasure. For anglers, hunters, hikers and all outdoor enthusiasts, this is a big win if approved.
The cost of the land transfer to the BLM would be approximately $1 million. But, it’s important to know that using LWCF funds does not use taxpayer money. LWCF is funded by offshore oil and mineral exploration fees. Now in its 50th year, LWCF was set up to protect public lands throughout America. In Oregon alone, the fund has fueled more than $300 million in public lands investment. The funds have been used to help protect an impressive list of public lands in Oregon, including projects on the upper John Day River, the Blue Mountains, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the Rogue River and others. Now, the Crooked River Canyon project has become the BLM’s top priority in Oregon to fund this private land transfer to the public domain. There are other benefits making this transfer worthy of approval.
The following Op-Ed was published by the Oregonian on December 9th. The online version of the article can be found here.
As one of many stakeholders of the 2.1 million acres called the O&C lands in western Oregon, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has been actively engaged in helping shape this legislation which Senator Wyden hopes will become law. BHA is a boots-on-the ground conservation organization of backcountry hunters & anglers who work to protect wild public lands, waters, and wildlife. This legislative approach to a complex issue provides a chance for modern management of these lands. For 18 economically depressed counties, this proposed legislation also provides the opportunity for new jobs and a steady stream of revenue by increasing timber harvests in a scientific, sustainable, and ecological way. For sportsmen, it has many upsides as well.
The fact that half these lands will be set aside for conservation is encouraging news for thousands of people who make their living from hunting and fishing. Outdoor recreation jobs are big business in Oregon - supporting nearly 141,000 jobs and generating nearly $13 billion dollars in revenue according to the Outdoor Industry Association. The nearly one million acres set aside in this legislation represents the biggest protection of public lands for sportsmen in decades in Oregon.
The following article was orginally published here.
I've just concluded a 1300 mile tour of Southeast Oregon on behalf of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. SE Oregon is mostly public land managed by the BLM. It is an ancient land under attack by modern encroachment that is threatening wildlife habitat. Mule Deer herds have been declining for over 30 years and the Sage Grouse is under consideration for listing as an endangered species. Such a listing would severely impact public access to these lands. Fires that have decimated nearly a million acres of habitat have been a major problem, but another is illegal off-road motorized use of these public lands. I witnessed much damage in sensitive core areas supporting the Sage Grouse and photographed examples of disregard in the backcountry including trashed campsites and decimation of public lands by motorized vehicles tearing up the habitat. Public lands are not a public dump or a drag strip! Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is not an anti-ATV organization either. We are a boots-on-the-ground conservation organization working to protect our wild public lands, water, and wildlife. We also use motorized vehicles but we strongly advocate remaining on designated trails and where the road ends we hike or pack into the areas we fish and hunt.