Sept. 30, 2022
By Katy Nesbitt
ENTERPRISE, Ore – To conserve the treasured view of the Wallowa Lake moraines, the plants and wildlife that live there, and the land’s traditional uses, a plan is now guiding the management of the East Moraine Community Forest.
Conveyed into county ownership in January, 2020 by the Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership, the management plan was approved by the Wallowa County commissioners at their Sept. 7 meeting and adopted Sept. 21. Years in the making, the plan will guide forestry and livestock grazing activities as well as habitat and natural resource conservation and recreation.
The Partnership, including Wallowa County, Wallowa Land Trust, Wallowa Resources and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, vowed to maintain the traditional uses of the property – timber and cattle management, while allowing non-motorized recreation such as mountain biking, hiking, cross country skiing and horseback riding. All motorized use, including “e-bikes” is prohibited to provide quiet enjoyment of the more than 1,820-acrecounty property and to protect species like mule deer and Spalding’s catchfly.
“All along we have worked with the public, land use managers and scientists, as well as focus groups, to determine how best to manage this property for multiple uses,” said Wallowa County Commissioner John Hillock, who serves on the Community Forest’s executive committee.
Now that the plan has been approved, the Partnership will develop annual operating plans for each of the Community Forest’s conservation values – forestry, range, habitat, cultural resources and recreation. These plans will use the Forest’s management plan as a guide as well as that year’s climatic condition to best balance all of its uses.
To get a sense of how the Forest is used by recreationists in particular, the Partnership is sponsoring a use study to better understand how public access will affect sensitive habitat, natural resources, and how the different users interact with each other.
User data will be collected through a survey asking how people access the Community Forest, whether on foot, bicycle or horseback; what times of day and seasons are in highest use; what areas are being used; and how many visitors come each year.
Tara Porter is managing the survey, supported by a grant from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Conservation and Fund. She said the visitor use study is a continuation of a 2020 visitor survey that informed the development of the Community Forest’s Management Plan.
Porter said, “The survey for this study will build off the previous one in order to create the best possible visitor experience, while protecting and enhancing the diversity of native plants, animals, and their habitats.”
Katy Nesbitt, Wallowa County Natural Resource and Economic Development Director, will be assisting the Partnership’s executive committee with the management of the Community Forest. She said the use study will be updated periodically to determine any increase in recreational use, the impacts to existing trails as well as the broader landscape.
“This study will be a good baseline on which we will build in the coming years,” Nesbitt said. “In order to reduce conflicts with the Forest’s management and the conservation values, we will continue to monitor our visitors’ use to provide the best public enjoyment of this unique landscape.”
To participate in this survey through June 30, fill out the form on the following webpage: https://arcg.is/1ni0re or access it by scanning the below QR code.
Paper copies will be provided at trailhead locations.
For more information regarding the use study, contact Tara Porter at 541.962.5083, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katy Nesbitt's accolades include the Capital Press, Oregon Cattlemen Association, La Grande Observer, East Oregonian, Wild Horses Thunder (formerly Wallowa Valley Online), and Chief Joseph Days Rodeo.