Following an objection by Wilderness Watch, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest withdrew a draft decision on a proposal to conduct a “prescribed fire” on up to 9,557 acres of the North Fork John Day Wilderness. Wilderness Watch, with Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, led a formal administrative objection to the Ten Cent Community Fire Protection Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The Forest Supervisor’s decision ended the objection process.
In our objection we noted several key points, including:
• Human-ignited fires are inconsistent with the Wilderness Act which states Wilderness should exist “in contrast” to areas where humans dominate the landscape. They also tend to burn differently than natural fires.
• The Forest Service failed to show this project was necessary for preservation of the area as Wilderness. Such intentional human manipulation would harm the area’s wild character.
• The Ten Cent project demonstrates the resistance of many wilderness managers to let nature be.
While the agency gave no specific reasons for withdrawing the draft decision, the points we raised certainly played a role in that decision. For the time being, the Forest Service will not subject this portion of the North Fork John Day Wilderness to intensive ecological manipulation.
Photo: Leon Werdinger Photography