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Forestry conference to draw protesters

The Siskiyou Chapter of the Society of American Foresters — begins its three-day 2004 conference Wednesday at Southern Oregon University, — and environmentalists plan to be on hand, even if they aren't in the same — room.

Members of the National Forest Protection Alliance, Greenpeace — and local environmental groups plan to protest Friday morning's conference — speech by Mark Rey, undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources — and environment.

A public debate is planned Thursday morning between conference — presenter John Sessions, an Oregon State University professor who supports — a Biscuit fire timber salvage proposal in the Siskiyou National Forest, — and Dominick DellaSala, a World Wildlife Fund forest ecologist opposed — to salvage on a large scale.

But the debate, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in Room — 118 of SOU's Science Building, is not a part of the conference. It is — being organized by the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and SOU's Ecology — Center of the Siskiyous.

The format includes allowing Sessions and DellaSala each — to make a 20-minute presentation and then ask each other one question, — followed by questions being taken from the floor.

Conference organizers aren't surprised that protesters — have staked out the event, but hope any interaction with participants — remains civil.

"I would pretty much expect someone would take advantage — of this opportunity to protest," said Don Ferguson, a spokesman for the — conference. "They could disrupt the flow of information.

"But they are welcome to their space out there," he added.

According to a flier distributed by protest organizers, — the demonstrators plan to rally outside SOU's Stevenson Union, the building — where the conference will be held.

The theme of this year's conference is "Strong Roots - — Strong Future." The Siskiyou Chapter membership includes foresters from — throughout Southwestern Oregon.

About 135 foresters from government agencies and the private — sector are expected to attend.

The conference will feature presentations on past, present — and future forestry perspectives from leading scientists, land managers — and forest product experts.

Rey's address, scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, is titled — "Looking Back, Moving Forward." He has bachelor's degrees in forestry — and wildlife management and a master's degree in natural resource policy — and administration, all from the University of Michigan.

Other speakers who have drawn the ire of the environmental — community include Hal Salwasser, dean of OSU's College of Forestry and — a former regional forester for the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest — Region; and Sessions, the OSU forest engineering professor whose salvage — report on the Biscuit Fire indicated that some 500 million board feet — of fire-killed timber could be harvested from the fire that burned a half-million — acres in 2002.

All three speakers - Rey, Salwasser and Session - have — used their government or academic positions to push for salvage logging — the national forestland burned by the Biscuit fire, said Missoula, Mont., — resident Jake Kreilick, endangered forests project coordinator for the — National Forest Protection Alliance.

Although Kreilick, who has a master's degree in environmental — studies, is helping organize the protests, he stressed he hopes there — will be dialogue between environmental activists and conference participants.

"We definitely are going to try to voice our displeasure — over the Biscuit salvage project," he said in a telephone interview. "We — intend to take this opportunity to get our message out before the Forest — Service makes its record of decision."

The agency is expected to make a final decision on Biscuit — fire salvage this spring.