The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has auctioned and awarded more than 25,000 acres of timber sales to large, private timber companies. All that currently stands in the way is one document from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, called a Biological Opinion, that theoretically states what impacts these timber sales will have on species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Historically, Biological Opinions have been a blank check to move forward with clearcutting. This new Biological Opinion is now required because of a lawsuit filed over the cummulative impacts of these timber sales on the owl. Since 2004, the Oregon BLM has been found guilty of breaking federal law by 9th Circuit federal courts on at least six separate cases involving timber sales in southern Oregon.
The Medford, Roseburg, and Coos Bay BLM districts bear the bulk of these timber sales.
If that isn’t bad enough, the BLM’s new Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR, “Whopper”), enacted on Dec. 31, 2008, was created by the Bush Administration as a payback to Oregon’s timber barons and allows the BLM to renege on its responsibilities under the NW Forest Plan of 1994, a compromise between industry and environmental interests. The WOPR would log 1 million acres of public land in Oregon, including 100,000 acres of old growth; 70% of the logging would be clearcutting. Groups are calling on Obama to rescind the WOPR along with other Bush actions. Although Oregon’s Governor Kulongoski has appealed the WOPR, state legislators are expected to introduce legislation by March 2 in support of the WOPR. Regardless of the WOPR, the BLM will still clearcut old growth this summer, same as usual, unless we take bold action to stop it.
Clearcutting is not the only threat. The BLM and Forest Service plan tens of thousands of acres of “thinning” and understory removal, referred to “fuels reduction” under the false claim of reducing fire risk, in native and old growth forests throughout Oregon. Much of the slash leftover may transported to massive, centralized conversion facilities, which pollute the air especially in poorer neighborhoods, to inefficiently produce electricity or liquid fuel.
Oregon’s timber-dominated Board of Forestry and state legislators who approve them are expected to introduce a bill by March 2 that would make clearcutting the #1 priority for Oregon’s state forests, especially the Tillamook-Clatsop State Forest. Meanwhile, timber barons, like Allyn Ford, CEO of Roseburg Forest Products and Chairman of Umpqua Bank, continue to ravage the Elliot State Forest, which has some of the best endangered species habitat left in the entire Coast Range of Western Oregon and preserves important habitat connectivity.
Impacts of Such Logging
The BLM’s plans threaten the climate and economic security of everyone, not only Oregonians. One reason is that deforestation is the #2 cause of climate change, according to NASA, and Pacific NW Forests store more carbon per acre than any other forests in the world, according to OSU Forest Scientists Mark Harmon and Olga Krankina.
The U.S. has only 5% of its old growth forests remaining, much of them on Oregon’s public lands. Therefore, it is necessary to protect not just the oldest trees but also biodiverse and non-plantation mature forests (future old growth).
Logging and replacing biodiverse forests with tree plantations on public lands makes forests more susceptible to climate change and its effects, including fire and disease. Logging in biodiverse younger forests and the removal of biomass left over from logging for conversion to electricity or liquid fuel threaten the resiliency of our forests that need to adapt rapidly to climate change or be replaced by desert, compromising food security.
The BLM’s and Oregon legislators’ boom-and-bust plans threaten Oregon’s long-term economic security by eliminating merchantable timber, destroying soil and waterways that Oregonians need for food security, depleting local jobs by exporting unprocessed timber, and underpaying and abusing the rights of migrant forest workers. Clearcutting also damages other industries, like fishing, tourism, and recreation, which comprise a greater slice of Oregon’s economy. Moreover, the BLM’s plans are especially damning to responsible ecoforesters. Currently, with a depressed housing market, a flood of old growth logs into the market would render ecoforesters unable to compete. These ecoforesters provide a positive model that local communities support but that the BLM and the Oregon Board of Forestry continue to reject in favor of one dominated by the timber industry’s rush for short-term gain at the public’s expense.
Just like we need to reduce emissions from other sources right now, we need to treat emissions from deforestation as an emergency situation. We need an immediate moratorium on logging of biodiverse mature and old growth forests to allow our forests to work maximally as carbon storage systems and meanwhile work toward achieving carbon and biodiversity reserves on forested public lands. Another solution is to transfer all 2.6 million acres of the BLM’s O&C lands in Western Oregon to the Forest Service. This would save an estimated $50 million in expenditures per year and yield greater forest protection.
Visit http://www.umpqua-watersheds.org for more information on timber sale specifics, and http://www.eco-advocates.org for “thinning” and forest biomass-to-energy conversion information. For previous actions against the WOPR, visit the “cascadiarisingtide” channel at Youtube.com.