Despite Protest, Final Plan Sacrifices Clean Water, Healthy Fish, Carbon Sequestration, Recreation Economy
Location:

Portland, Ore.

Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) signed a management plan for western Oregon, largely ignoring a formal protest from 22 conservation and fishing groups. On a BLM media call, the agency conveyed that it did not appreciably change the plan from the proposed draft. The BLM plan eliminates protections for streamside forests, increases clearcutting, and removes 2.6 million acres of federally managed public forests from the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan.

The plan proposes to increase logging levels by 37 percent, which could boost carbon emissions and make the forest less resilient to climate change and other disturbances. In addition, the plan fails to recognize healthy forests’ non-timber economic benefits to the state, such as Oregon’s $12.8 billion annual outdoor recreation industry, which supports 141,000 jobs and $955 million in state and local tax revenue. Fishing organizations are highly concerned about the reduction in streamside forest protection.

“The last, best salmon habitat in Oregon is within these BLM-managed forests,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), a major fishing industry trade association that also joined the petition.  “Productive salmon streams are far more valuable for the salmon-related jobs they create than for the market value of the lumber you could generate from logging them. Stronger stream protection makes excellent economic sense, logging them does not!”

“We need common-sense management that protects our water sources, stores carbon in ancient forests, and keeps the public at the table,” said Joseph Vaile of the southern Oregon-based KS Wild.

In southern Oregon, the BLM plan would remove the Applegate Adaptive Management Area that has enabled community input in land management.

BLM first attempted to revise its resource management plans in 2008. That plan, called the Western Oregon Plan Revision (WOPR and pronounced “whopper”), was the result of a sweetheart settlement between the Bush administration and the timber industry and was withdrawn by the Obama administration in 2009, resurrected by a federal judge in 2011 in response to a timber industry lawsuit, and finally rejected by a second federal judge in 2012.

“This plan would impact the quality of life of rural residents, drinking water quality, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage,” said Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We need to get this right. We must protect special places that Oregonians love while we work to restore forests and watersheds. A holistic view should drive our public land decisions – not simply finding ways to maximize logging.”

The BLM’s new management plan revision cuts corners scientifically and legally. It has significant problems, including:

  • The plan eliminates the strong water quality and habitat provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, reducing streamside no-logging buffers by half or more (a loss of 300,000 acres of streamside reserves). These reductions threaten wild native fish, water quality, terrestrial species, and aquatic recreational opportunities.
  • The plan leaves many mature and old-growth forests and habitat unprotected. It includes loopholes for logging large and old trees, and would reduce buffers or eliminate survey requirements for sensitive wildlife that depend on old forest habitat.
  • BLM’s chosen plan represents the least ambitious carbon sequestration alternative analyzed. Over the next century, the status quo would sequester twice as much carbon.
  • BLM’s plan focuses on more intensive, clearcut-style logging on nearly half a million acres of forests, abandoning the direction towards restoration of forests and watersheds under the Northwest Forest Plan.
  • While additional recreation areas are designated under the plan, in many of these areas logging and off-road motorized use take precedence and could diminish the types of recreation the vast majority of Oregonians enjoy.

“The best available science shows that unsustainable logging of our public forests has harmed clean water and healthy streams, pushed wildlife toward extinction, contributed to global warming, and destroyed much of Oregon’s old-growth forests,” said Oregon Wild’s Doug Heiken. “BLM’s plan is a throwback to this terrible legacy. Today, our public forests should be preserved to address new realities — the need to mitigate global warming, recover endangered species, protect clean water, and restore ecosystem function and resilience.”

“Over 1.8 million Oregonians rely on BLM lands for their drinking water,” said John Kober of Pacific Rivers. “Many of Oregon’s most iconic rivers, such as the Rogue, Umpqua and McKenzie are sustained by the highly effective aquatic protections that have been in place for over 20 years. Scrapping proven stream protections in order to increase timber harvest is simply too risky given the benefits that our rivers provide.”

A copy of the Record of Decision for the BLM plan is available here.

A copy of our protest is available here.

Contacts: 
Todd True, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340, ext. 1030,  
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-488-5789,  
Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, 541-689-2000, Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7490,  
John Kober, Pacific Rivers, 503-915-6677,  
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-680-5513,  

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