Defending Science-Based Forest Management in Oregon
The Western Oregon Plan Revisions, known by the acronym WOPR and pronounced “whopper,” has been controversial since 2003, when the second Bush administration settled a long dormant timber industry lawsuit with the promise to issue a new plan that dramatically increased logging.
Issued in late December 2008, WOPR quadrupled old-growth forest logging and eliminated or substantially reduced all wildlife reserves, including the streamside buffers and key watersheds that are integral parts of the Northwest Forest Plan’s salmon and clean water protections, on about 2.6 million acres of federal public forests in Oregon managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), known as O&C Lands.
WELC challenged the Bureau of Land Management for its failure to disclose environmental impacts, and its failure to comply with procedures protecting threatened and endangered species. In March 2012, we won our challenge. The appellate court’s decision, the first to addresses the substance of WOPR, invalidated the management plan on the grounds that – as lawyers for the federal government admitted – it illegally ignored requirements designed to protect endangered species and their forest habitat.
In August of 2016, BLM finalized a new plan, collectively known as the Resource Management Plans for Western Oregon, which eliminates protections for streamside forests, increases clearcutting, and effectively removes 2.6 million acres of federally managed public forests from the requirements of the Northwest Forest Plan.
We aim to prove that BLM’s new resource management plans violate the Oregon and California Lands Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Administrative Procedure Act, and therefore fail to support multiple uses of Oregon forests managed by the BLM.
The BLM plan cuts corners scientifically and legally, and comes with a laundry list of negative environmental effects, including:
- Eliminating 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 wildlife, and aquatic recreational opportunities.
- Introducing loopholes that would increase logging in older forest, termed late-successional reserves, and eliminate survey requirements for sensitive wildlife that depend on old forest habitat to thrive. In addition, the aforementioned 300,000 acres of riparian reserves, which had been intended to grow into old forest and bolster habitat for old forest species, is now fair game for logging.
- Disempowering public input and involvement by removing BLM and the plan from collaborative Adaptive Management Area efforts.
- Enacting the least ambitious carbon sequestration alternative analyzed. Over the next century, the status quo would sequester twice as much carbon.
- Focusing 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.
- Designating additional recreation areas, in many of which logging and off-road motorized use take precedence and could diminish the types of quiet recreation the vast majority of Oregonians enjoy.
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