Oregon’s state and federal officials have a responsibility to address issues that are critically important to thousands of Oregonians.
With public- and private-sector jobs and essential public services at risk, our leaders can help promote a more positive, balanced direction for the Bureau of Land Management’s Oregon and California Lands. We need their help, because the BLM’s proposed resource management plan for Western Oregon will take our communities in the wrong direction.
The plan will guide future management of over 2.5 million acres of BLM timberlands in Western Oregon, including over 2 million acres of O&C forest lands. For many years, the O&C lands have been a vital source of economic activity in the region. The forests are required by law to be sustainably managed for the benefit of host counties, a public lands mandate that exists virtually nowhere else.
The proposed plan is intended to replace the Clinton-era Northwest Forest Plan, which promised a reliable timber supply to support rural economies but was never successfully implemented because of agency inaction, litigation and obstruction.
The plan does not increase timber harvests by 37 percent, as the BLM claims. In fact, it would harvest less than 70 percent of what could be achieved under the existing Northwest Forest Plan.
Even worse, the plan would put roughly 75 percent of the O&C land base into “reserves,” leaving less than 25 percent for sustainable timber harvests.
The past 20 years has clearly shown that hands-off management is a failed strategy resulting in more and larger fires, decreased rural employment and miniscule revenues for local government.
The BLM is essentially doubling down on a flawed approach that has produced high unemployment, rural poverty and decimation of public services. Because so much county land is dominated by federal ownership, timber receipt revenue is essential to putting sheriff’s deputies on the road and sustaining the rural safety net. And counties can no longer expect Congress to fill the void through so-called “timber payments.”Under the proposed plan, timber receipt revenues would drop to $25.6 million per year, an 80 percent reduction in funding from the historic average.
Increasing sustainable timber harvests on O&C lands can be achieved while still providing for recovery of endangered species and maintaining clean water and fish habitats, a wide range of recreation opportunities and carbon storage. Unfortunately, the BLM refused to consider reasonable alternatives that would have balanced environmental and economic outcomes.
Under the Governor’s Consistency Review, Gov. Kate Brown has the ability to stand up and call out the agency for its failure to honor the O&C Act and its mandate under federal law to manage these lands for the benefit of Oregonians.
The plan also demonstrates the need for a congressional solution. We must continue to encourage Sen. Ron Wyden to work with Congressman Kurt Schrader and other members of the delegation to work together and bring balance to the management of O&C lands.