Mission and History
“Blue Mountains Forest Partners is a diverse group of stakeholders who work together to create and implement a shared vision to improve the resilience and well-being of forests and communities in the Blue Mountains.”
Prior to Blue Mountains Forest Partners’ inception, management of the Malheur National Forest was plagued by gridlock. Not only did this have a negative impact on the local economy, it also prevented forest restoration work. In response, a Grant County Commissioner invited an environmental attorney to join a small group of diverse individuals in the county for a candid discussion of their hopes and fears for the forest and the communities that depended on it for their livelihoods.
Common ground existed among those present, however there were also areas of serious disagreement. Seeing the value of overcoming disagreements and promoting forest restoration, members of this group continued to meet, gradually involving more stakeholders within the community.
In 2006, Blue Mountains Forest Partners (BMFP) emerged from these conversations and evolved into an operating organization with the assistance of Sustainable Northwest. BMFP members include loggers, environmentalists, ranchers, landowners, timber industry representatives, elected government officials and federal land managers. Together, members have developed science-based zones of agreement for forest restoration on the Malheur, resulting in the increased resiliency for thousands of acres of national forest and increased work for the 7,300 residents of Grant County that depend on natural resources. The work benefits stakeholders across the state as BMFP creates a healthy forest legacy for generations to come.
The Need for Blue Mountains Forest Partners
Restoring the resilience and health of the forests in the Blue Mountains is more than an ecological issue. People are at the heart of the changing management practices to promote the long-term well-being of the forest. Without the social acceptance of appropriate forest management, little will change.
The forests of the Blue Mountains are widely known to be severely departed from historic conditions in ways that increase the likelihood of catastrophic wildfire and damage from insect and disease infestations. The forests’ declining condition is largely due to a combination of fire suppression, social and legal gridlock that arose as a result of dissenting stakeholder views, and sharply curtailed silvicultural management, outcomes of well-intentioned policies and advocacies that have produced a myriad of unforeseen and unintended negative consequences.
It is now broadly realized that long-term, sustainable resiliency of these forests can only be restored by a well-informed public ready to engage in prudent, knowledgeable management. As the only organization in Grant County focused on collaboratively engaging the public in the resolution of these issues, BMFP’s role is crucially important in the region.
Our regular program of work includes hosting learning forums in which forestry and research scientists share with our diverse membership the most recent research on forest management practices. We also hold field tours, taking scientists, BMFP members, USFS staff, and the visiting public to see and discuss forest management in the field. Field tours are also opportunities for USFS resource specialists to describe and discuss possible treatment options and field input from BMFP members. During our monthly collaborative meetings and additional committee meetings, we forge collaborative agreement on specific treatment prescriptions for upcoming USFS on-the-ground projects. These “zones of agreement” form the basis for our ongoing work, integrating best-available science and reflecting our members’ input and concerns. We share our collaboratively created “proposed treatments” with USFS staff, who utilize them in their planning and implementation process, lessening the likelihood of litigation.
BMFP welcomes all interested parties as members. Our members and participants include local and regional conservation organizations, the local forest products industry sector, forest contractors and consultants, community residents, private forest owners, ranchers, other landowners, forest scientists and natural resource sociologists, elected officials, and representatives from tribal, federal, state and county land management agencies. Organizational leadership is provided by an eight-member Board of Directors elected by the general membership. The organization employs one permanent, full-time employee, Mark Webb, to serve as executive director providing strategic leadership as well as meeting facilitation, logistical assistance and support for BMFP’s organizational development. Scientific consultants are also hired on as as-needed basis to provide high-quality assistance with specific projects. BMFP member volunteers also provide a vast array of support.