Oregon: Federal government has broken its public lands promises

Guest Opinion by Colleen Roberts and Kelley Minty Morris

as published by Mail Tribune 

We Oregonians love our public lands. We also love clean air and safe communities and we expect the federal government to keep its promises.
The recent proposal by the Bureau of Land Management for managing local lands into the foreseeable future doesn’t promote the Oregon we love. It does not ensure clean air, it takes away our access to vital county services like jails and sheriff’s deputies, and it breaks the promise the federal government made with the people under the O&C Act.
The O&C lands are legally unique: Congress directed all timber lands shall be managed under the principles of sustained yield. “All” means exactly that. Yet the BLM has allocated a mere 19 percent of the planning area to long-term sustained yield management under the proposed plan. This is less than 17 percent of the productive capacity of these lands. This increases the risk of catastrophic wildfires, breaks the promise of the O&C Act and puts rural Oregonians at risk. We should demand better.
The Association of O&C Counties is not seeking exclusive use of the O&C forest for timber production to produce revenues, nor do we support returning to the days of unsustainable practices like clearcutting. Sustained yield management does not mean maximum production — it should reflect a range of management intensities. Sustained yield management of the O&C forest can simultaneously provide for clean water, increasing levels of carbon storage, a wide array of habitats including those needed for endangered species, recreation opportunities, and timber production providing desperately needed revenues for rural Oregonians. These are not either/or choices; we can have it all.
A range of sustained yield management practices, as envisioned by the O&C Act, can provide all of the values Oregonians expect from these forests. The new BLM plan does not provide for the economic objectives to support rural Oregon communities, which was the fundamental objective of Congress when it established its unique legal mandate for management of the O&C forests.
The BLM has not managed the O&C lands according to the law for 20-plus years. The agency has no recent track record indicating it can achieve the forecast harvest level, given likely additional regulatory constraints on timber sales and inevitable opposition by other organizations. More is possible!
The BLM plan places most of the forest in reserves, as an up-front decision, which precludes examination of various levels of sustained yield management within those reserves. Despite millions of dollars and years of planning, the BLM did not seriously consider a wide range of options and did not choose one satisfying its first legal requirement: abiding by the O&C Act.
The BLM characterizes its new management plan for western Oregon as a “boost in harvest levels.” According to the BLM, the plan “will provide 278 million board feet per year in total timber harvest once fully implemented. This is 75 million board feet (37 percent) more than what the BLM is currently offering.”
The BLM’s use of “current offerings” as the baseline for stating the harvest will increase by 37 percent is based on comparing BLM’s 1995 estimate for harvest under the Northwest Forest Plan. That figure did not include the volume of timber from managing the reserves.
The BLMs most recent assessment of total harvest, including reserves, is 400 million board feet. The BLM’s claim of 278 million board feet of total timber harvest includes both the sustainable harvest and non-sustainable harvest from reserves. Using the BLM’s best estimate of a 400-million-board-foot “total harvest” under the Northwest Forest Plan, compared with the 278 million under the proposed plan, the result is actually a 30 percent reduction. The agency’s claim the new plan is a boost is disingenuous.
Oregonians are tired of being misled by federal government. We deserve a plan promoting all the things Oregonians love and expect.
Colleen Roberts is a Jackson County commissioner and an Association of O&C Counties board member. Kelley Minty Morris is a Klamath County commissioner and an AAOC board member.
 

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  • commented 2016-05-24 14:11:13 -0600
    American Lands Council supports the empowerment of states and local governments to promote environmentally and economically beneficial management practices best suited to their unique regions and peoples.
    We believe that free markets, involved citizens, and sustainable practices are the best ways to protect the environmental health of public lands, and the vegetation and wildlife they sustain.
    Fishing, mountain biking, hiking and other outdoor activities are not served well by the unsustainable, hands-off federal policies which lead to catastrophic wildfires.
    The following paragraph from the post sums this up quite well.
    “Congress directed all timber lands shall be managed under the principles of sustained yield. “All” means exactly that. Yet the BLM has allocated a mere 19 percent of the planning area to long-term sustained yield management under the proposed plan. This is less than 17 percent of the productive capacity of these lands. This increases the risk of catastrophic wildfires, breaks the promise of the O&C Act and puts rural Oregonians at risk. We should demand better.”
  • commented 2016-05-24 13:55:13 -0600
    I am tired of going only one mile outside town and seeing trails closed for logging. Absurd! We need great portions of land to be OFF LIMITS TO LOGGING, MINING or any other commercial operations. If this is all about showing how much timber can/should be harvested it is BS. Why is it starting to look like the ALC is existing more solely for the timber industry lobby every day. Is ALCs connection to timber industry transparent? Are interests such as fishing, mountain biking, and hiking being represented in equal fashion? Where can we read more on this connection?
  • commented 2016-05-24 13:29:17 -0600
    What is this opinion brought about by? Is it a decision made because of sage grouse protected areas? The new spotted frog? What are the reasons given by BLM for this decision?