Federal Public Forest Management
Describes how federal forestlands in Western Oregon are managed, including environmental laws and the Northwest Forest Plan.
Traveling through any National Forest or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forest in Oregon will reveal diverse management practices. Unlike National Parks or congressionally-designated Wilderness areas, most National Forests and BLM forests are open to logging and road-building.
In 1969, growing concern over environmental degradation led to the creation of one the country’s most important environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA mandates that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS, the management agency for National Forests) and BLM create documents analyzing potential impacts to the environment, society, or other resources, for any proposed project. It requires analysis of alternatives to the proposed action and gathering public comments. The agency analysis and public comments guide the USFS or BLM decision on the size, degree, and method of logging. Following this decision, the trees are auctioned off to the highest bidder in the timber industry to be logged according to the project guidelines.
In the early 1990’s logging on federal lands declined from the reckless levels of the previous decade, the result of changing economics and growing environmental problems. Forest Service and BLM logging practices were violating laws like NEPA, the federal Endangered Species Act, and the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (which requires the Forest Service to manage lands for the survival of wildlife, fish, and plants in addition to logging). Public opposition to the logging of dwindling old-growth forests, and its effect on threatened Northern spotted owls and other wildlife, forced federal agencies to change course.
In an effort to address concerns for protecting both logging jobs and wildlife dependant upon old- growth forests, a team of 600 specialists drafted the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP), officially adopted in 1993. USFS and BLM lands within the range of the Northern spotted owl (mostly West of the Cascades, including Washington, Oregon, and Northern California) are now governed by the NWFP’s rules.
Essentially, the Northwest Forest Plan outlines management policies for the land areas it defined: Late Successional Reserves (LSR), Riparian Reserves (RR), Matrix, and Adaptive Management Areas (AMA).
To learn more about management under the Northwest Forest Plan, it's other programs to protect fish and wildlife, and the many efforts by the timber industry and Bush administration to weaken or eliminate it, click here.
Public forests east of the Cascades and outside the range of the Northern spotted owl are not subject to the Northwest Forest Plan.