A segment of the lower White Salmon River was designated as “scenic” in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act of 1986. The designation was instantaneous, meaning that neither an eligibility nor a suitability study was performed prior to designation. The US Forest Service was designated as the managing agency.
The designation was highly controversial locally. Consequently, the USFS decided to develop an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the effects of management alternatives. An extensive public process ensued, and this process succeeded in involving many diverse viewpoints in the development of five management plan alternatives, presented in a Draft Environment Impact Statement.
After public comment on the DEIS, the final EIS was selected with Alternative 6 as the preferred alternative. The FEIS document states, page S-7 “A key aspect of Alternative 6 is a tentative agreement with SDS Lumber Company for the Forest Service to acquire all SDS lands within the boundary through exchange – almost 40% of the land within the boundary.
Negotiations on the exchange proceeded, including the 1997 identification of 803 acres owned by SDS to be exchanged for 1582 acres of National Forest System lands. Of the 803 acres of SDS land, 723 were in the White Salmon W&S boundary, and 80 were in Hood River.
See the 1997 Scoping Notice.
Sometime after 1997, negotiations broke down when the official appraisals of the SDS land in the White Salmon W&S were not high enough to satisfy the company. This issue, along with other management plan implementation issues, has been raised from time to time with the UFSF Scenic Area office, but without result.