WHAT ARE THE O&C LANDS?
The O&C lands are forests currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 1866, the land was granted to various railroad companies to build a railroad from Portland to San Francisco. It quickly became clear that the land was more valuable as timber than railroad and soon much of it was embezzled to timber companies and developers. Eventually, the Federal government successfully sued for control of the lands and agreed to pay the counties with O&C lands tax revenue from the lands stolen. Now the economies of O&C counties rely on these government tax subsidies for health, law enforcement and other social services funding.
WHERE ARE THE O&C LANDS?
The O&C lands are a checkerboard pattern of one mile zones 30 miles east and west of the old proposed railroad. The O&C Lands are found in eighteen different counties generally located along the I-5 route. There is an estimated 2,600,000 acres of forest, with an estimated 350,000 acres of native forest.
SO WHATS THE PROBLEM?
As timber revenues declined on the O&C lands in the early 1990s (most of the old growth had been cut and species were going extinct), Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools Act, which gave O&C counties direct payment instead of taxes on revenue, separating the funding for county governments from timber. The Federal government has voted to continue paying these subsidies through 2013. As the deadline nears for funding, counties and politicians are scheming ways to make up the deficit. These plans involve cutting even more forests while not solving the fundamental issues of an unsustainable timber economy.
DEFAZIO, SCHRADER, WALDEN PLAN
Oregon representatives Peter Defazio, Greg Walden, Kurt Schrader have proposed returning county funding to taxes on timber harvests and to dramatically increase logging on O&C Lands. DeFazio’s bill would take about half of BLM lands, 1.5 million acres that are 120 years old or less with legacy trees scattered throughout and create a board of trustees comprised of timber representative that would authorize logging.
Follow the link to read a letter of opposition to Wyden’s O&C legislation signed by 21 Oregon conservation groups: Letter
WHY IS THIS A BAD IDEA?
These lands would be exempt from crucial environmental protections like the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Older forests previously protected would be clearcut. 1.5 million acres privitized and sold to the highest bidders. We have consistently seen that a forest owned by a private timber company will simply be clearcut – we have no reason to believe that because a company owns more land, it will manage it any differently.
Another proposal to increase the cut, this one proposed by two BLM scientists, Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin are the ‘pilot projects’. These two scientists have apparently proved that habitat for endangered species is improved by creating young forest around their homes, called a ‘Variable Retention Harvest'(VRH). This translates to a clearcut will create habitat for endangered species. The BLM claims that VRH are regenerating habitat while enabling increased timber production. We think they are just cutting some of the last old forests.
WHATS IN DANGER RIGHT NOW
Located outside of Myrtle Creek, near Roseburg is the White Castle Variable Retention Harvest. Many of the trees in the sale are over a hundred years old, with remnant trees that are much much older. Within the sale boundaries are fens, lowland marshes, which are rare to find. The project will log 42 acres, in three separate Northern Spotted Owl ranges, furthering the decline of an endangered species, in fact all of the forest to be logged in White Castle are considered critical habitat of the Northern Spotted Owl. White Castle is finished with the NEPA process, all legal avenues and protests have been exhausted and it could be logged any day.
There are other variable retentions harvest planned across Oregon, including one near Shotgun Creek in the Eugene BLM.
WHAT DOES CFD THINK SHOULD BE DONE?
Cascadia Forest Defenders believe that because of the state of Cascadia forests and how little old habitat remains, that there should be no logging in any ecosystem that has not been logged. The O&C lands should be placed permanently protected from logging, for the health of the ecosystems, the survival of species, for carbon reserves and for their own intrinsic value. As far jobs go, more jobs are lost by private companies exporting logs and by the automation of the timber industry by far then through environmental legislation. None of the mill jobs nor raw logs should be exported and thinning on younger, denser second growth stands would provide far more jobs then clearcuts. We also think the Johnson / Franklin Variable Retention Harvests are complete idiocy and should never be implemented.
White Castle Tree Sit
From June 2013 to February 2014, we occupied unit 8 of the White Castle Timber Sale. We set up a tree-sit and physically blockaded logging of this ecosystem because we are opposed to the destruction of native forests in the name of bad science, clearcutting and what this timber sale proposed for the future of forestry practices in Oregon.
Please watch the following video put together by CFD and Forest Web of Cottage Grove. We made this video to try to explain in depth why White Castle is so important. Feel free to share and spread around this video! We hope that as many people as possible will see it.
Also check out this video with Norm Johnson, half of the scientist duo behind the logging plan for White Castle. He came out to visit the site to try to ‘talk some sense into us’. He was unsuccessful.
Earthfix published a solid concise article about White Castle and how it is a microcosm for the wider fight to protect public forests and the role of variable retention harvests in O&C Legislation:
*** The Latest ***
The long-awaited closure began on Dec. 24th. It was immediately appealed by several different parties, meaning that we now have a 45- day period where logging is still illegal while they consider appeals. This could go a couple of different directions: One of the appeals could be accepted and BLM would have to start planning the whole project over, which would be a temporary victory as they would spend a significant period of time putting together a new plan. The appeals could as not be accepted and logging could begin imediately. OR none of the appeals could be accepted but logging may not begin immediately owing to bad weather, bad political climate etc.
Regardless, we are asking our supporters to be on their guard. It is very unclear exactly how the next few months could go. We are mobilizing to put more folks in the woods and are going to be up pressure on the scientists responsible for the logging plan and the company that intends to log. We ask supporters to keep educating themselves on Variable Retention Harvests, the O&C Land Swap and the practices of private timber companies like Roseburg Forest Products.
We will stay until the timber sale is dropped and the forest is protected. The weather and law enforcement are likely to get less friendlier but we will persevere. Too much is already gone to not fight for what remains. And we need your help! We need folks to join us in the woods, help us collect and transport supplies and we need folks to keep spreading the word.
The White Castle Variable Retention Harvest (VRH) or the Roseburg BLM Pilot Project is 190 acre clearcut near the town of Myrtle Creek in southern Oregon. All of the timber sale is within area proposed as critical habitat for the survival of the Northern Spotted Owl and is in the home range of five different owl pairs. Located in between the ‘dry eastside’ and ‘moist westside’ forests, White Castle has incredible biodiversity, with Western Red Cedars and Sugar Pines, swamp ecosystems beside poison oak patches. White Castle is also located within the watershed of Myrtle Creek and the surrounding communities.
To view the Timber Sale prospectus ( the document that the BLM produces giving you all the information about logging plans and ecosystems of a given timber sale) follow this link: http://www.blm.gov/or/districts/roseburg/timbersales/files/White-Castle-VRH.pdf
A ‘Variable Retention Harvest’ (VRH) , as far as we can tell, is the new code for clearcut that is proposed on Bureau of Land Management land in Oregon. VRH clearcuts 70% of a forest leaving the remaining 30% in little scattered patches. The science, developed by Drs. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin, is that there is not enough young forest around for species that need more meadow-like habitat, like butterflies and moths. We refute this by encouraging people to go take a look outside anywhere in Oregon. Less than 5% of Oregon’s forest have not been clearcut while the Bureau of Land Management harvests of millions of board feet annually. We view variable retention harvests as an attempt by the BLM to cut the last of the old forests look like something that is good for the environment and endangered species.
The BLM states three needs that this the White Castle Variable Retention Harvest will fulfill.
First: “to create complex, early successional habitat that will function for up to thirty years.” The main problem with this premise is that early successional (young) forest is abundant on the landscape. The BLM argues that the existing young forest is not of high quality, but failed to define the metrics of this quality. Even if the BLM had demonstrated a need to create this type of habitat, there is no need to sacrifice mature native forest to accomplish these goals. Restoration thinning on a previously cut plantation would serve the same ends and be much more environmentally appropriate.
Second: “for the purpose of applying Recovery Actions from the Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan.” The first premise of this plan is to protect the best of the spotted owl’s remaining habitat. This sale is inside of the home range of five northern spotted owls and is designated critical habitat. The White Castle project would destroy the very habitat which the Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan proposes to protect.
Third: “to design and offer timber sales that will provide jobs and contribute timber for manufacturing.” It’s true that rural communities like Myrtle Creek are somewhat dependent on timber revenues, but there can be projects which can provide these opportunities while serving actual ecological needs. The BLM has created an unacceptable plan to log native forest and should shoulder the blame for failing to provide appropriate projects which would meet ecological and economic goals.
While variable retention harvests and the beauty of White Castle are enough reason to blockade as is, the timber sale is also tied into wider battle of the fate of public lands in the Northwest. The O & C Lands make up more 2.5 million acres of forest and the many proposals currently exist to try to use these lands as a cure to county budget problems, shortage of profits for timber companies all the while trying to maintain the facade of ‘it being good for the environment’. Variable retention harvests are the BLM’s own solution to opening up the cut while keeping environmentalists happy and White Castle is one of the first proposed sales of this new variety on the O. We are not interested in any proposal or course of action that sacrifices the remaining forests for short term solutions. We hope that the fate of the O&C Lands supports the longterm survival of both Oregon’s ecosystems and people.