APortland-based timber industry group on Friday withdrew its administrative protest of a restoration forest management project that includes a 6.75-million-board-foot timber sale on public lands near Butte Falls.
The American Forest Resource Council also asked environmental groups to follow suit with other timber sales on U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands, noting the appeals and litigation are costing Oregonians jobs.
"We made our point," council President Tom Partin said in a prepared statement. "We are confident that the BLM is now aware of AFRC's concerns.
"We have acted in good faith by withdrawing our protest," he added. "We challenge those holding up the BLM sale program with appeals and litigation — Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Wild and the others — to withdraw their appeals and litigation now. Our forests and our communities depend on our cooperation."
He estimated the groups have used appeals and litigation to stop at least 25 BLM timber sales containing more than 90 million board feet of timber in southern Oregon.
"Every million feet of timber supports 38 jobs," he said. "That's almost 3,500 Southern Oregonians who are suffering from underemployment at a very bad time in our state's economy."
Joseph Vaile, program director for the Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, countered that his group and others aren't opposed to logging, providing it is done in a manner that is sustainable and doesn't degrade the environment.
"We look at each project individually, based on the criteria of protecting old growth, clean water and wildland habitat," he said. "We have far more agreement with federal agencies projects than disagreement. I think there is a lot of common ground moving forward."
For instance, he noted, they supported the Friese Camp restoration forest management project on the BLM's Medford District, which included 6.75-million-board-foot Vine Maple sale.
The AFRC had filed a written protest opposing it last month, arguing it would violate the O&C Act, the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan and the district resource management plan. The group supports more regeneration logging as well as larger trees harvested within the sale.
"The timber industry has been active in its own litigation," Vaile said. "It has two lawsuits now that is asking the courts to declare that timber production is the primary management driver on public land. This (protest) was one expression of that."
While Vaile acknowledges that KSWC has used a variety of legal actions to stop the BLM from logging the larger, old-growth trees, he noted that hasn't been the case on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest because the Forest Service no longer cuts old-growth.
"The Rogue River-Siskiyou hasn't had an appeal from us for five years," he said. "But they are producing timber volumes. We know it is possible to have broad community support for forestry projects."
Partin noted that no timber harvesting would have been stopped by the council's protest. The withdrawal ensures the BLM would expend no resource on a formal response, he said.
The ecologically-based Vine Maple sale includes forest restoration thinning on 479 acres. The Rough and Ready Timber Co. in the Illinois Valley purchased the Vine Maple sale for the appraised price of $553,553 on Sept. 13.
The Friese Camp projects cover about 2,200 acres and could ultimately produce some 20 million board feet, according to BLM officials.
The sale incorporates many of the concepts that forest ecology professor Jerry Franklin at the University of Washington and Norm Johnson, his counterpart at Oregon State University, have included in their pilot timber projects already under way in southwestern Oregon. Their approach is based on integrating ecological, economical and cultural objectives.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org