WEST PLAINS -- National Forest Service officials called it an open house, but some of the local residents who were there seeking an explanation for closed access roads and other information turned it into a question and answer meeting.
Approximately 150 to 175 people from across the area filled the West Plains Civic Center Feb. 22 for the Forest Service to take comments on their most recent proposed forest management plan. The Forest Service representatives at the meeting promoted the plan as a balanced approach to managing the forest, but the plan received both good and bad comments from the crowd of Oregon, Howell, Ripley and Shannon County residents gathered.
Forest Service Supervisor Ronnie Raum presided over the meeting. Alton resident Junior Williams complained that the forest service had already decided on its plan.
The plan will govern the management of the Mark Twain National Forest for the next 10 to 15 years. The Forest Service manages 5 million acres of public land in southern and south central Missouri, including 105,607 acres of land in Oregon County, more Forest Service land than in other county in the state.
Williams said he does not buy into the forest service idea that its preferred plan is balanced. He contends that the Forest Service is making the forest into a recreation area. The Williams family owns land that joins the Mark Twain National Forest.
Raum said the plan not only benefits loggers and provides lumber but stresses restoration of sensitive environments that would protect a variety of wildlife.
The next Forest Service meeting is set for March 22 at the Library Center in Springfield. May 5 is the public comment deadline.