Politicians Can't Clearcut to Prosperity

Politicians in western Oregon counties have been complaining for years that tax dollars are scarce and they can’t balance their budgets. Their solution? Flush those scarce tax dollars down the toilet on a harebrained scheme to sue the federal government and increase clearcutting on public lands.

This week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) unveiled a new plan for 2.6 million acres of national public lands in western Oregon. We’re currently sifting through the 1500 page document so we can break down its ramifications, and will be sharing our summary soon, but the short story is that the BLM’s plan weakens protections for old growth forests and streams in order to increase logging levels by 37%.

Western Oregon politicians who value timber industry campaign contributions over clean water, healthy communities, wildlife, and the hundreds of millions of dollars generated by recreation on BLM lands are outraged. They are arguing for an unrealistic plan that would increase logging by more than double current levels and be completely incompatible with bedrock environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act. The counties have hired a high-powered Portland law firm, and anticipate the legal fees will be $530,000. Lane County has opted in for $84,000, and other counties are lining up to join in too.

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We can’t help but wonder what better uses those funds could go towards.

As Oregon’s economy continues to transform from resource-extraction based industries to more modern sectors like technology and recreation, and as its demographics shift, a return to the days of the clearcut epidemic on public lands is not the answer to county budget woes.

County politicians need to hear from you. Please consider submitting a letter to the editor or guest opinion piece to your local newspaper on the value of our backyard BLM forests. Here are some guidelines and contact information for submitting a letter to your local newspaper. We encourage you to make your letter your own - just remember to make it concise.

Some talking points to consider including:

  • I’m disappointed to see that the BLM’s proposed management plan shortchanges wildlife, clean water, and ancient forests, while increasing intense logging that harms streams and scars the landscape.
     
  • Our County Commissioners are allocating precious budget resources to litigating the BLM plan that increases logging by 37% and doubles county income from logging. Instead of calling for increased clearcutting that will negatively impact our property values, clean water, recreational opportunities, and fish and wildlife, the County should be working on diversifying our local economy and finding a way to balance the budget without pillaging our public forests.
     
  • Our BLM backyard forests belong to all of us - not just the few who want to make a buck. These forests, the streams that run through them, and the fish and wildlife that call them home are a public resource enjoyed for their many benefits like clean water, scenic beauty, and a variety of forms of recreation.
Photo Credits: 
BLM's "Buck Rising" clearcut project. Photo by Francis Eatherington.