Oregon’s Malheur National Forest: Blue Mountains Forest Partners
WELC is a committed participant of the Blue Mountains Forest Partners (BMFP), a collaborative group with members from diverse backgrounds who work together to enhance forest ecosystem health, economic opportunities, and public safety in Grant County, Oregon.
Historically, the Malheur National Forest in Eastern Oregon saw some of the highest timber harvest rates in the country. Consequently, much of the majestic, fire-resistant old growth yellow-bellied ponderosa pines are gone (and the dependent wildlife, such as goshawk and pronghorn), replaced with fire-prone stands of fir that have grown up during the past seven decades of fire suppression. The result is a forest that is ecologically dysfunctional, and will not be able to successfully respond and adapt to climate change.
As goes the forest, so do the rural communities that surround it. The communities within Grant County, which were once dependent on federal timber harvests for their socioeconomic well-being, have experienced precipitous declines in income, stability, and population. Thus, if we are to restore the forests, we must also work to restore the rural communities and their infrastructure.
The BMFP was convened by Grant County residents, and participants include elected officials, representatives from the local forest products sector, local and regional conservation organizations, forest contractors, community residents and landowners, and tribal and federal land management agency representatives. WELC Attorney Susan Jane Brown, a founding member of the collaborative, sits on the board of directors and is now leads the projects subcommittee.
In 2012, the U.S. Forest Service announced that the Blue Mountains Forest Partners’ Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act (CFLRA) proposal, developed by WELC Attorney Susan Jane Brown in collaboration with a diverse group of conservationists, ranchers, timber companies, county governments and others, will receive $2.5 million for the next 10 years through the Collaborative Forest Restoration Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). The Southern Blues Restoration Coalition project will result in 154 new jobs, restore almost 272,000 acres of wildlife habitat, and produce significant economic benefits in Grant and Harney Counties.
In 2013, the Forest Service awarded a 10-year stewardship contract to Iron Triangle, a logging contractor located in Grant County and a member of the Blue Mountains Forest Partners. This contract represents 86 percent of the private employment in Grant and Harney Counties, and will result in the restoration of thousands of acres of terrestrial and aquatic habitat.
Report Released on Helping Collaborative Groups
In 2015, WELC and Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute released a report that provides collaborative organizations or groups with information about the Forest Service’s administrative review process, judicial review process, and opportunities for engagement at both levels. It is a resource for collaborative groups to educate themselves on the laws and procedures surrounding administrative and judicial reviews of Forest Service collaborative forest restoration projects.
WELC is also involved in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Collaborative.