BLM Set to Release Old-Growth Logging Plan
"Western Oregon Plan Revisions" could put some of Oregon's last old-growth forests at risk.
On Thursday, August 9th, the BLM is set to release a draft plan for the Western Oregon Plan Revisions, a Bush administration program aimed at re-opening millions of acres of BLM land to old-growth logging.Portland Aug 08, 2007
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Friday, August 10th is expected to release a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR). The WOPR is a key part of a 2003 legal settlement between the timber industry and Bush Administration to do away with old growth forest reserves, clean water safeguards and other land protections established by the Northwest Forest Plan, the 1994 landmark agreement that largely ended the Northwest timber wars.
There is much at stake for Oregonians’ outdoor, clean water and wildlife heritage. The 2.5 million acres covered by the WOPR encompass much of Oregon’s last, remaining old growth forests, Wild and Scenic rivers, municipal drinking water supplies for cities and towns, some of the state’s most prized fishing and hunting grounds and habitat for myriad rare and imperiled species, including all five species of Pacific salmon.
It won’t be known exactly what BLM will decide until Friday’s announcement, but according to a preliminary analysis of existing information by the Conservation Biology Institute, forest lands currently protected in old growth reserves would be reduced from 739,000 acres to zero under Alternative 3, and current protections for forests along rivers and streams would be reduced from 474,048 acres to 34,287 acres under Alternative 2. (analysis available upon request). Streamside and watershed protections are vital for salmon and other fish and wildlife, including deer and elk.
WOPR part of broader strategy to roll back forest protections
The Bush Administration is working to dismantle longstanding forest protections in other ways, including rolling back Critical Habitat protection for the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet and producing a draft recovery plan for the spotted owl that rejects the body of scientific knowledge demonstrating that the survival of the owl depends on old-growth forests protected in reserves established by the Northwest Forest Plan.
The New York Times last Sunday editorialized saying “The Bush administration — overriding, once again, the advice of its scientists — is trying to shrink the land set aside for the owl’s recovery to free up more of the forest for logging.” http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/05/opinion/05sun3.html
What’s in the WOPR
The alternatives for revising current forest management practices vary significantly, but a preliminary look, based on the BLM’s April 2007 WOPR newsletter, indicate that the WOPR could remove some or all of current protections for old growth forests and weaken protection for water quality and fish and wildlife habitat by allowing logging closer to rivers and streams.
All of the alternatives would create new Timber Management Areas (TMA), designated for “intensive management” including “regeneration harvest in most areas.” Regeneration harvest is also known as clearcut logging. The new TMAs would represent a significant boost in the amount of BLM land, including old growth, designated for logging in the Pacific Northwest.
Following are some of the other changes being considered under the WOPR alternatives:
Alternative 1 would reduce by half the width of buffers along rivers and streams where logging is closely regulated. “In general, the riparian management areas under this alternative are one-half the width of the current riparian reserves.”
Sub Alternative 1 would consider not harvesting mature and old-growth forests, specifically “No harvest of forest stands over 80 years of age,” and “No harvest of forest stands over 200 years of age.” Most public comments made during the comment period according to BLM said “Preserve old-growth stands and focus on small-diameter trees.”
Alternative 2 would weaken protections for water quality in rivers and streams by reducing the size of buffers. Under the Northwest Forest Plan fish-bearing streams and lakes have 100-meter (approx. 300 feet) wide buffers. Under WOPR’s alternative 2 “Perennial and fish-bearing streams would receive protection with a 25-foot no-cut zone on either side of the stream.”
Sub Alternative 2 would substantially increase logging by emulating management practices on timber industry land that seek to maximize timber production. This alternative would “change the rotation age to the short rotations currently used by the timber industry in the area.”
Alternative 3 would open up currently protected old growth forests to logging by eliminating old growth reserves. This alternative would use logging to emulate “catastrophic events” scientifically referred to as natural disturbances. Old growth stands would be logged when they approach the age of 360 years in the north and 240 years in the south.
A better way forward
Oregonians don’t have to choose between a healthy timber industry and their old-growth forest heritage. Oregon’s timber industry has adapted away from cutting old growth, since federal logging was curtailed in the mid-90s. The Western Wood Products Association reports that production in the 13-state Western region in 2005 was its highest since 1990, paced by increased output from mills in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Oregon’s mills don't need old growth to be viable.
Many Oregon forest managers are already moving beyond the conflicts of the past. By focusing on previously logged public forestlands - many of which are now overgrown and in need of thinning - they are providing wood to local mills while actually improving conditions for fish and wildlife and keeping saws out of old growth forests.
Collaborative groups like those on the Siuslaw National Forest bring together loggers, local governments, conservation groups and to design projects with broad community support. The Siuslaw is consistently among the largest timber producers of any national forest in Oregon.
More information on the BLM's old-growth forests in Western Oregon.Why logging old-growth is unnecessary.
Contacts for further information:
Lesley Adams – Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, (541) 488-5789
Francis Eatherington – Umpqua Watersheds, (541) 672-7065
Peg Reagan – Conservations Leaders Network, (541) 247-8079
Josh Laughlin – Cascadia Wildlands Project, (541) 434-1463
Steve Pedery – Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343x212