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MailTribune.com
  • Collaborative behind forest thinning wins national award

    Local group was instrumental in creating restoration projects
  • Without firing a shot, the Knitting Circle is doing its part to end the war in the woods.
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  • Without firing a shot, the Knitting Circle is doing its part to end the war in the woods.
    Otherwise known as the Southern Oregon Small Diameter Collaborative, the broad-based group has received the Public Lands Foundation 2011 Landscape Stewardship Award for its efforts to bring together diverse factions intent on finding solutions while resolving conflicts in federal land management.
    "This award confirms what many people already know: The timber wars are over," said collaborative director George McKinley, who owns a small portable sawmill.
    "The future lies in working together to better understand and strategically address forest health needs," he added. "This is the path of successful federal forest management and restoration."
    The national Public Lands Foundation honors citizens and organizations each year who advance community-based stewardship on public lands that include those administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The collaborative received this year's Landscape Stewardship Award for Oregon.
    Formed in 2005 and originally dubbed the "Knitting Circle," the collaborative includes a diverse bunch, including academics, environmentalists, timber industry representatives, community members and land management agency employees.
    The group, which received the award Wednesday afternoon during its November meeting in Medford, was instrumental in helping to create the BLM's forest restoration pilot project in the middle Applegate Valley.
    The local project is one of three such projects in Oregon that could change the way timber is managed on federal forestland nationally. The other pilot projects under way are on BLM land in the Myrtle Creek drainage in Douglas County and in Coos County.
    Proposed last year by forest ecology professors Norm Johnson at Oregon State University and Jerry Franklin at the University of Washington, the goal of the projects is to preserve the largest trees and improve forest health, including northern spotted owl habitat, while producing wood for mills and reducing wildfire danger.
    The two scientists, along with environmental activists and timber industry representatives, joined forces to convince Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in the summer of 2010 to launch the pilot projects. Basically, the principles call for preserving trees older than 150 years and avoiding entry into roadless areas.
    The Applegate project was the first of the three to sell a timber sale when the 1.5 million-board-feet Pilot Joe sale was sold for $230,606 to Boise Cascade Wood Products in September.
    In presenting the award to the collaborative's board, foundation representative Dick Prather cited the group's efforts to find common ground.
    "Working together to find solutions — that's what this is all about," Prather said.
    The collaborative is leading the way regionally, said John Gerritsma, manager of the BLM's Ashland Resource Area. "Having the collaborative makes us the envy of communities throughout the West," Gerritsma said.
    Joseph Vaile, a collaborative board member, agreed the so-called woods war has quieted down after years of angry debate.
    "I feel like we have definitely made a lot of progress, but there are still some skirmishes," said the campaign coordinator for the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, an environmental group based in Ashland.
    The flag of truce has come in the form of a new direction largely agreed upon by the participants, he said.
    "I think most people have agreed the direction we need to go is thinning and getting production on community-supported, collaborative projects," he said.
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