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Are wind farms on the way for our local national forests?

TRI-CITIES, Wash. – If you’re one of the thousands of people who hike, hunt or camp in the national forests just south of here, you might see trees replaced with wind turbines.

The U.S. Forest Service is drafting a plan that would deem more than half of the land prime for wind farms.

At the headquarters for the Umatilla National Forest, Supervisor Kevin Martin looks over the newest draft on how to manage the land. The plan hasn’t been changed since the early 80s.

“After so many years, they get stale, and we need to update them,” he said.

Those updates include proposals following several studies on the Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur National Forests.

Buried deep in that new document are tables that deem half of the 5 million acres of land are suitable for wind farms, something that may not be popular with visitors.

“Sooner or later, somebody’s going to look at the national forests to see if there’s an opportunity for wind production, energy production, and we thought, before we did that, before that occurred, let’s take a look at places that it might be appropriate and places it might not be suitable,” Martin said.

Raymond Smith used to camp in the Umatilla National Forest.
He worries about what a bunch of wind turbines might do to the landscape.

“Takes away from the scenery, and if you like to go out and hunt, you kind of like to have the woods look like they originally were a long time ago,” he said.

On the other hand, hunter Tony Cool isn’t necessarily against the wind farms, but wants it to be done with public input.

“It does sound like a large amount of land, but to be honest, green energy will work if we manage to stay away from affecting the native inhabitants,” he said.

The public will have the chance to weigh in: The plan won’t be finalized until next year.

The plan would allow for private companies to lease land parcels with the general forest category.

If you want to make a public comment, you can go to the Forest Service website. They’ve extended the deadline for public comment until August 15.