Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Concerns arise as group eyes special designation
The evolving proposal to designate a Special Management Area in the Aldrich Mountains is sparking controversy among some residents. The critics spoke out after an article about the proposal was printed in the Dec. 22 Blue Mountain Eagle. In that story, Aldrich Mountains Working Group spokesman Mark Bagett outlined the group’s progress toward a proposal over the past year. Concerned residents also contacted the Grant County Court, assuming that it had already taken a stand on the SMA. It hasn’t done so, County Judge Mark Webb stressed last week. The working group says the primary intent in seeking the special designation is to maintain fish and wildlife values for perpetuity, but also to continue traditional uses – such as grazing and forest management – of the land. They seek the land – now under the control of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – to be united by one managing agency and plan. The process was set in motion by Trout Unlimited, a national conservation organization that seeks to restore and preserve cold-water fish habitat. Trout Unlimited hired Bagett, a local outdoorsman, to organize the Aldrich work. The organization’s involvement was a red flag for ranchers Ken Holliday of John Day and Loren Stout of Dayville. They say environmental groups already have stopped salvage logging of fire-burnt timber in the area, and have blocked other economic activity in the region. The SMA “could be a whole new avenue of locking up public land,” said Holliday. The ranchers are concerned that a special designation would interfere with traditional uses such as hunting, cattle grazing and road access. Holliday said he’s met with Bagett five times and has yet to hear a good reason for the designation, which would require Congressional approval. The plan as it stands, would take up an estimated one-fifth of land currently managed by Malheur National Forest, he said.