The Bureau of Land Management today released new plans that guide recreation, wildlife habitat protection, water quality, and logging on 2.6-million acres of federal forests in western Oregon. Home to salmon and ancient forests, these public lands also provide drinking water for nearly 1.8-million Oregonians. If made final, the Proposed Resource Management Plan would weaken key protections of the Northwest Forest Plan that has guided management and ecosystem restoration on these forests for the past two decades.
“The Obama administration has an opportunity to embrace recreation, clean drinking water, and carbon sequestration to fight global warming with these plans,” said Doug Heiken from Oregon Wild. “But instead we see weakened stream buffers, no recognition of the importance of forest carbon, and key measures to protect salmon and other endangered wildlife being thrown out.”
The Northwest Forest Plan took a science-based ecosystem management approach to forest management to protect rivers, old-growth forests, and populations of native plants and animals that were decimated by decades of unsustainable logging. Twenty-year monitoring reports released in 2015 revealed the Northwest Forest Plan is restoring watersheds and the old-growth ecosystem as intended, something the new BLM plan will set back.
Under the new plan, streamside reserves essential for salmon recovery will be cut in half, protections for the reserve network for old-growth habitat will be significantly reduced, and a program to protect rare species, known as Survey and Manage, will be eliminated entirely.
A key principle of the Northwest Forest Plan is the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS), which includes designated buffers around streams where logging is not allowed and other important provisions to protect streamside forests, clean water, and fish. The proposed new plan cuts this buffer zone in half, with impacts to water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat.
“The forests and rivers managed by the BLM are essential to clean drinking water and native salmon runs. Desire has never been higher to protect these public resources, so it is unthinkable that the BLM would slash the buffers in half that protect water quality,” says Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands.
The proposed plan would log 278 million board feet a year – a 37% increase over current annual harvest levels. Increased logging will likely have negative impacts on public recreation values and ignores a the growing recreation-based economy in the state.
The BLM’s new plan does not place as much of an emphasis on recreation as many in the public are demanding. According to a recent study on the economic impact of “quiet recreation” on BLM lands, activities like camping, hunting, and fishing contribute $214 million to Oregon communities and support 2,322 jobs. BLM timber, wood, and non-wood product sales generate only $58 million.
“We should embrace the role of the expanding recreation economy in Oregon,” said Joseph Vaile from the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “People from all over the world are visiting our state to celebrate its natural beauty. If the BLM caves to political pressure from the timber industry, this plan will put our growing recreation economy at risk.”