Common Sense Vision for Oregon Forests

Oregon’s legacy of unsustainable logging practices in western Oregon

Forest panorama

From the 1950s through the 1980s, clearcut logging on our National Forest lands went from small scale and haphazard to widespread and systematic. On the Willamette National Forest alone, there are 3,994 individual clearcuts today.

This unsustainable amount of clearcut logging perpetuated the boom and bust economic cycles in many rural communities in Oregon. It also wreaked havoc on populations of fish and wildlife and shrank Oregon's wildlands, harming opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, and other activities.

But this legacy now provides us with an opportunity. Over the years these previously clearcut lands have grown back as dense "tree plantations." These plantations lack the diversity of species and ages of trees found in forests that have not been clearcut, and fail to provide good habitat for many kinds of fish and wildlife.

Oregon Wild supports a responsible program to thin these dense tree plantations while setting aside our state's remaining old growth as a legacy for future generations.

Striking a responsible balance

Unthinned forest

Over 90% of Oregon's old-growth forests have already been logged. Those that remain provide us with some of our cleanest sources of drinking water and best habitat for fish and wildlife.

These old-growth stands are also the forestlands most resistant to wildfires. In recent years conservationists, community groups, hunters, anglers, and others have come together to call for an end to old growth logging, and have strongly opposed proposals that would log Oregon's remaining stands of old growth.

However, the trees within the hundreds of thousands of acres of former clearcuts are now reaching marketable size, and could offer a responsible alternative to logging our remaining old-growth and mature forests.

A common sense solution

Oregon Wild supports a responsible program to thin these dense tree plantations while setting aside our state's remaining old growth as a legacy for future generations.

Doing so would promote more diverse and complex forests in these tree plantations, provide long term employment for logging contractors, and produce a certain and sustainable supply of logs for decades to come - all without destroying Oregon's precious few remaining stands of old growth forest or opening up roadless wild lands to new logging projects.

Local Forest Service and BLM district offices have now successfully planned and implemented numerous projects that focus on the thinning of tree plantations in former clearcuts.

These projects have resulted in hundreds of millions of board feet of timber produced and tens of thousands of acres of plantations thinned with the restoration of diversity and complexity to the forest as the project's principle objective.

Such projects restore a healthier environment for fish and wildlife and create a forest landscape that is better able to respond to forest fire and support more recreation.

A successful model

The Siuslaw National Forest in western Oregon could serve as a model for plantation thinning and other restoration.

The Siuslaw has won three national awards, including "Breaking the Gridlock" and "Rise to the Future." for their thinning program; and the 2010 Two Chiefs Award for partnerships in restoration. They have only seen one timber sale appealed since 1997, and yet they consistently produce as much timber as any other National Forest in western Oregon.

The Siuslaw's work has also built trust among forest stakeholders and led to expanded restoration opportunities in and near federal forest lands through the federal Stewardship Authority. 

Oregon Wild believes that thinning plantations in moist forests of western Oregon holds tremendous promise for ending the timber wars with a win-win solution that balances logging with the need to protect our few remaining stands of old-growth forest for all Oregonians.

Photos (top to bottom): Forest panorama (Jim Maddry); unthinned plantation forest on the Siuslaw National Forest (Chandra LeGue); flow chart (Sean Stevens).