An historic opportunity for eastern Oregon's forests
Oregon Wild and conservation allies reach broad consensus with timber industry on eastern Oregon forest restoration legislation introduced by Senator Ron Wyden.
UPDATE (12.18.13): Senator Wyden makes dramatic changes to eastern Oregon legislation, drawing conservationist opposition.
After months of negotiations that included Oregon Wild, Senator Wyden announced, in late 2009, sweeping legislation that would usher in a new era for management of eastern Oregon's forests.
The bill - "Oregon Eastside Forest Restoration, Old Growth Protection and Jobs Act of 2009" - was born from the desire of diverse interests to find agreement on how eastern Oregon's forests could be managed to both conserve and restore forests and watersheds, as well as maintain the timber economy of rural Oregon. The result was a new management paradigm based on sound science and ecological restoration principles that will benefit fish, wildlife, and forest health for generations to come.
The public forestlands of eastern Oregon (covering nearly 10 million acres) offer some our our state's most beautiful landscapes - with mountain and desert vistas, huge orange-barked Ponderosa pines, iconic rivers like the John Day and Deschutes, and home to hundreds of species of wildlife, including gray wolves, elk and wild salmon and steelhead.
These forests have also been altered drastically by more than a century of mismanagement and abuse. A legacy of fire suppression, road building and industrial logging, compounded by global warming, has left eastern Oregon's landscapes in desperate need of restoration, and of conservation of the remaining old-growth and the fish and wildlife that depend upon it.
This landmark legislation would:
- Protect old-growth and streams: This legislation expands upon existing protections for trees larger than 21 inches in diameter and aquatic resources, and directs the Forest Service to work to improve forest and watershed health as its primary goal.
- Ensure science guides conservation and restoration: Science-based forest management on the eastside will seek to restore old-growth characteristics to the forest while protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat and reducing the risk of uncharacteristic fire.
- Reduce damage from roads: The legislation will address the numerous problems the Forest Service faces with its crumbling logging road infrastructure, barring the agency from building new roads and requiring a net reduction in roads over time.
- Usher in a new era of collaboration: Beginning with the Siuslaw National Forest more than a decade ago, conservation, industry, and community interests have begun to come together to seek common ground on managing our public lands. This eastside legislation acknowledges the importance of a more collaborative approach to forest management, which allows ecological restoration projects to move forward so that fish and wildlife, water quality, forest health, and local economies all benefit.
- Benefits eastern Oregon's businesses and communities: In addition to forest and watershed health, this legislation will also benefit the struggling rural economies of eastern Oregon. By focusing future forest management on ecological
restoration, the agreement would help end decades of litigation and conflict
over old-growth logging.
Conservation-based thinning projects will mean a more secure supply of
wood for mills and sustainable green jobs for rural communities.
This was a big step for everyone - for Oregon Wild, for our conservation partners, for the National Forests, for public lands policy, for the timber industry, and for our supporters.
New version of legislation makes changes
After hearings in the Senate subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests and a field hearing in Bend in 2010, concerns with the 2009 bill from many parties led to revisions that have been reintroduced in the new Congress of 2011. Some of these changes are improvements Oregon Wild supports, while others are problematic. At this time, given the substantial changes to the bill and in the make-up of Congress, Oregon Wild is evaluating its position on the new bill and our strategies for pursuing both protections for and restoration of Oregon's eastside forests.
For more information on this proposal and why we believe it's time to enter a new era of management in eastern Oregon's forests:
- Read Oregon Wild's press release on the 2009 announcement of this legislation
- Read a short factsheet about the proposed legislation
- Look at a comparison of management under the status-quo and the 2009 bill
- Read press on the proposed legislation
- Read the text of the 2009 bill and text of the 2011 bill.
Photos (top to bottom): Lookout Mountain by Chandra LeGue, Metolius River pines by Justin Lee.