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- Brian Addison
- 02/05/2009

The people of northeastern Oregon overwhelmingly oppose the Forest Service Travel Management Plan in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, and this despite claims made by public officials or those assuming advisory positions on public committees.

A document released during a Baker County Travel Management Plan Advisory Committee meeting gives the totals of all the public responses received by the Forest Service during the public comment period:

The FS received 6,500 comments and signatures from local people opposing the proposed road closure policy and advocating for a continued open use policy in the WWNF. Conversely, the FS received 200 comments and signatures from local people in favor of the FS proposed road closure policy in the WWNF. That's 97-percent of the local response opposing the FS road closure proposal and 3-percent supporting the closures; a ratio of 32 to 1.

It is important to keep these numbers in mind because local officials and state agency advisors have led the public to believe something other than the truth. Nick Myatt of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) was assigned an advisory role on the Baker County Travel Mangement Plan Advisory Committee. During one of the committee meetings, Myatt argued that half of the local people favor the road closures. He was immediately challenged upon making the statement and left the meeting in a huff a few moments later. When an agency official is assigned an advisory role on a public committee, then strict adherence to the truth is essential because the public looks to this person for information.

During a county meeting in 2008, a member of the public reminded Baker County Commission Chairman Fred Warner Jr., that over 6,000 local residents had signed a petition in opposition to the FS road closure proposal. Commissioner Warner made the ill-advised response, But I could recieve 300,000 letters from the Sierra Club tommorrow supporting the road closures. A member of the public quickly put the Commissioner in check by asking, Are any of those (300,000) local voters? The Commissioner should be reminded that the total number of form letters supporting the closure proposal received from all across the US, environmentalist organizations included, totaled only 1,160.

The statements made by these two public officials are misleading, but that is only the surface of the problem created by this type of communication. By falsely claiming publicly that half the local people favor the FS road closure proposal when this is absolutely false, or by leading people to believe that the county commissioners might recieve an avalanche of mail from environmental oranizations when the facts show something else entirely, these public officials betray the public's trust.