More than half of the forests that once covered the Earth are gone, and each year, more disappear. Though many are aware of deforestation in South America, far fewer realize that it is happening right here in Oregon.
The Bureau of Land Management posted an official protest period of April 16 to May 16, as required, after releasing its new Western Oregon Management Plan, a document of more than 2,000 pages. The BLM's new plan would remove protection of mature and old-growth forests and increase logging by 37 percent, allowing clearcutting closer to streams. More than 1.8 million Oregonians depend on water from BLM land. The proposed plan eliminates the previous water quality standards and habitat provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan.
In a report released by the Oregon Department of Forestry in July 2015, the largest increases, by percentage, in timber harvests the previous year were on Bureau of Land Management lands west of the Cascades and on United States Forest Service lands east of the Cascades. The BLM harvest increased 26.67 percent to 209 million board feet in 2014.
Google satellite images show that Oregon has lost 522,000 acres of forest tree cover to clearcutting just since 2000. Though forest thinning is necessary to prevent forest fires, clearcutting replaced by tree farms ignores the serious consequences to the environment and wildlife habitat due to the loss of forest. Tree farms are not forests. In the BLM's plan, old-growth forests in Oregon within reserves would not be protected from clearcutting, nor would 169,000 acres of mature and old forests outside of reserves.
Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center filed a formal written protest with the BLM on behalf of 22 groups. The Coquille Tribe is also protesting the BLM's plan to increase clearcutting. The decision maker of the protests, however, is none other than the BLM Director. "The decision of the BLM Director shall be the final decision of the Department of the Interior for the protest," according to the notice of April 19, 2016. The BLM's plan will likely go into effect later in the year.
During the most recent Bush Administration, the BLM signed the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) approving large-scale clearcutting. It was canceled by the Obama administration.
"The latest proposal is like a zombie in a bad horror movie," said Todd True, an attorney with Earthjustice. "The Bush administration's fatally flawed WOPR is back from the dead to open up protected forests to clear-cut logging."
Until now, protecting forests, wildlands, watersheds and wildlife habitat was the purview of conservationists, but awareness is growing. The Wild Ones is a volunteer program started last year in Oregon. "This year, we are expanding the program to different parts of the state and with a broader focus," says Sarah Cuddy of Oregon Wild. "Oregon is a special place to live, and we want people to speak up against special interest groups or politicians that threaten our wild places and wildlife."
The launch party of the Wild Ones in Bend is May 26. People of all ages are welcome to come and learn more, whether one's interests are in research, wilderness leadership, or public speaking. "We'll find a way to make that skill make a difference for wildlife and wild places," she says. The training in Bend will focus on grassroots advocacy, including lobbying effectively, testifying, writing letters, public speaking and organizing groups, says Cuddy. "All training and social activities will be hosted by Oregon Wild free of charge," she notes.
OLD GROWTH FOREST IS DISAPPEARING IN OREGON
"Unsustainable logging of our public forests has harmed clean water and healthy streams, pushed wildlife toward extinction, contributed to global warming, and destroyed much of Oregon's old-growth forests," said Oregon Wild's Doug Heiken. "BLM's proposed plan is a throwback to this terrible legacy."
Deforestation in Oregon is due to rapid clearcutting on federal, state, industrial and private land. Five of the top six privately owned companies in Oregon are in building materials, wood manufacturing and forest products: Jeld-Wen (Klamath Falls), North Pacific Group (Portland), Columbia Forest Products (Klamath Falls), Roseburg Forest Products (Roseburg) and Hampton Affiliates (Willamina/Tillamook/Warrenton). At least 15 more lumber and timber companies are in Oregon's top 100.
Oregon's timber harvest is greater than 4 billion board feet annually. The BLM Bureau Wide Timber Data (for all states) is available on its website (www.blm.gov). Today, only 21 percent of the world's old growth forest remains, according to the World Resources Institute, a non-governmental global research organization.
Wild Ones Launch Party
May 26, 4 to 6 p.m.
2445 NE Division St., Bend.
Snacks and beverages will be served.