Timber Goal Can be Met Without Old Growth Logging Says Study (10/20/05)
Portland/Medford - A new report released today shows that the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can produce more than 1.6 billion board feet (enough to build approximately 160,000 homes) of timber without endangering old-growth forests, yet the agency plans to reverse protection for 700,000 acres of these forests, which provide homes for hundreds of species of rare animals, birds and plants.
For Immediate Release: October 20, 2005
For More Information Contact:
Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D., WWF, 541-482-4878; 541-621-7223 (cell)
Nancy Staus, Conservation Biology Institute, 541-757-0687
Erik Fernandez, Oregon Natural Resources Council, 503 283-6343 X 202
Timber Goal Can be Met Without Old Growth Logging Says Study
Portland/Medford - A new report released today shows that the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can produce more than 1.6 billion board feet (enough to build approximately 160,000 homes) of timber without endangering old-growth forests, yet the agency plans to reverse protection for 700,000 acres of these forests, which provide homes for hundreds of species of rare animals, birds and plants. The BLM manages more than 2.5 million acres of forests in western Oregon. Conservation groups argue that allowing more logging of old-growth forests would shift additional responsibility for species protection onto other federal, state and private forest lands.
"Keeping our remaining old-growth forests intact is the best way to protect imperiled species." said Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, a forest ecologist with the World Wildlife Fund. "Sacrificing these forests for timber production is shortsighted and could lead to unnecessary conflict."
Nancy Staus of the Conservation Biology Institute in Corvallis, Oregon, agreed. "This is the most comprehensive assessment of BLM lands since the Northwest Forest Plan and it shows that the architects of the Plan got it right in setting aside old-growth reserves to avoid extinctions of hundreds of species in western Oregon."
BLM reserves were designated by the agency during the development of the Northwest Forest Plan in 1993 in response to U.S. District Court Judge Dwyer whom would not release a timber injunction on federal lands until the federal agencies could show logging would harm hundreds of species. Judge Dwyer and federal scientists at the time indicated that reserves were the "backbone" to species recovery and the bare minimum needed to avoid extinctions. However, a lawsuit filed by the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) and others against the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior alleged that the Northwest Forest Plan violated the terms of the Oregon & California Act (1937) that predated the Plan and set those areas up for commercial logging. The Secretaries, AFRC, and the O&C counties settled this lawsuit in August of 2003, requiring BLM to revise its Resource Management Plans across western Oregon and to consider the elimination of its old-growth reserves.
According to Erik Fernandez of the Oregon Natural Resources Council, "the BLM can still meet the terms of the settlement agreement with the timber industry by getting the volume they need from overly crowded and flammable tree plantations and the "matrix" where commercial logging is already allowed." Up to 1.6 billion board feet is potentially available outside the reserves, Fernandez said.
The public comment period for the agency's Resource Management Plan revisions, which eliminate protection for old-growth reserves across six districts in western Oregon (Salem, Eugene, Coos Bay, Roseburg, Medford, and Lakeview), closes tomorrow, October 21.
The report was based on computer mapping assessments using published and federal data bases and satellite imagery. Key findings regarding BLM lands in western Oregon include:
- BLM old-growth and riparian (creek-side) reserves form the "backbone" of a reserve network that includes over 739,000 acres (nearly 1/3 of BLM lands in western Oregon) responsible for the protection of hundreds of species and for the proper functioning of streamside areas key to water quality throughout the region.
- BLM lands contain 900,000 acres of old growth (>150 years) and 590,000 acres of mature (80-150 years) forest, nearly 40% of the older forests remaining in western Oregon.
- Any reductions in BLM protections within reserves will need to be offset by greater protections on Forest Service, State, and private lands, particularly where endangered species are a concern. Otherwise, the elimination of reserves by BLM could result in the need to elevate the status of spotted owls and marbled murrelets from threatened to endangered, triggering the potential for greater restrictions on logging of federal, State, and private lands.
- BLM lands are key to the viability of hundreds of rare species - known as "survey and manage" species under the Northwest Forest Plan. Of the 404 survey and manage species recognized by the Plan, 149 species are found on BLM land and 93 are found within BLM reserves. Reserves in the Salem BLM District contain the highest concentration of these species (54), followed by Roseburg (39), and Coos Bay (35). Species include red tree vole (an important food source for owls), and many species of vascular plants, mollusks, lichens, fungi, and bryophytes.
- BLM roadless areas act as salmon strongholds and refugia for sensitive species. A total of 105,700 acres of roadless areas occur within BLM reserves, the majority of which are found within one large reserve adjacent to Wild Rogue Wilderness and Siskiyou National Forest in the Medford BLM District - the Zane Grey Roadless Area - which is threatened by logging.
- Approximately 1.6 billion board feet of small trees (<80 years) are available outside BLM reserves that could meet the terms of the settlement agreement without logging old trees within reserves.
For information about BLM's Western Oregon Plan Revisions:
email@example.com; Alan Hoffmeister, Public Involvement Coordinator - 503-808-6629
Copies of the study are available for download here (1Mb)