In Focus: National forests are scheduled for desecration

April 18, 2014 

Every 10 to 15 years, the United States Forest Service is required by Congress to update its forest management plans.

The preferred management plan for the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallawa-Whitman National Forests, dated February 2014, declares on page 97 that wind farms are suitable for construction in the national forests.

The public only has until June 12 to submit comments.

To construct a wind farm, land must be confiscated and quarantined during construction, then permanently isolated from public use. Although not accessible by the public, new roads and developed turbine sites must be reachable year-round for routine and emergency maintenance. The turbines are usually over 200 feet tall and are certain continuous killers of birds and bats, including endangered species. The turbines will forever generate dangerous high and low frequency noise. In compliance with Federal Aviation Agency regulations, the towers must be fitted with flashing red warning lights that are visible for at least 20 miles. Always when spinning, the turbines will produce confusing shifting shadows in addition to potentially harmful shadow flicker.

These characteristics of a wind farm are incompatible with the obvious and stated forest service goal to promote ecological integrity, “a condition that sustains the wholeness or completeness of ecosystem structure, composition and function,’’ and the stated goal to promote social well-being, that is, “contributes to national forest resilience by fostering public use patterns and restoration strategies that support human communities, livelihoods, cultures and social values.”

I do not understand this seizure of public land in the national forests for industrial projects that are noisy, visually intrusive, health harming and wildlife killing. The ongoing killing of eagles, bats and migrating birds on private lands needs more attention, but it’s clear that escalating this practice to public lands must be stopped.

I have always had pleasant experiences with forest service personnel in the forests and at public outreach activities. The recent push for wind farms in the forests appears to come from outside the agency, is purely political and definitely is at odds with long-standing forest management policy.

The USFS has followed their defined process for obtaining public input, but the general public still is not aware of the intent to place wind farms in the national forests, and there has not been widespread media attention to this intent to degrade our national treasures.

However, it’s very certain, unless you personally submit objections to the USFS and elected officials, wind farms will be authorized for construction in the national forests.

Access to the web for submitting comments to the preferred management plan, draft environmental impact statements, and other related material can be made at Additionally, the USFS Plan Revision Team can be contacted by phone at 541-523-1246, or 541-523-1302, or by U.S. mail to Blue Mountains Plan Revision Team, P.O. Box 907, Baker City, OR 97814.

— James L. Peterson and his wife, Laura, own a small farm worked on the Tucannon River near Dayton. He was a computer scientist at Hanford from 1965-95 and served on the Richland School Board for 12 years.

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