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July 20, 2006 Kulongoski reconsiders 2002 Biscuit fire salvage By Paul Fattig For The Tidings A union official has asked Gov. Ted Kulongoski to reconsider his opposition to two salvage sales in roadless areas burned by the 2002 Biscuit fire.

Kulongoski reconsiders 2002 Biscuit fire salvage

A union official has asked Gov. Ted Kulongoski to reconsider his opposition to two salvage sales in roadless areas burned by the 2002 Biscuit fire.

Mike Draper, vice president of the western district of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, wrote in a July 12 letter to Kulongoski that the Mike’s Gulch and the Blackberry timber salvage sales in the Siskiyou portion of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest would be an economic boost to the area. The sales would harvest more than 17 million board feet of fire-killed timber.

“They will create 275 family-wage jobs in the state and generate an estimated $10.3 million to local economies that could really use an economic shot in the arm,” Draper wrote.

Writing on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the start of the lightning-caused fire, Draper said the fire revealed the negative impact that “passive forest management” has had on national forests. Some 42 percent of the fire-killed volume has lost its commercial value because of decay, he said.

“After too many years of delay through analysis, paralysis and court challenges, we are now finally at a point in time where communities that border the Biscuit fire region can finally see some economic benefit in terms of jobs and tax revenue that the sales will generate,” he said.

Draper noted the two sales would be logged by helicopter and wouldn’t require road-building.

“The governor has never believed the need to create viable lumber sector jobs should depend on logging on national roadless areas,” countered Lonn Hoklin, communications director for the governor. “These areas constitute relatively small yet an ecologically important part of the national forest system.

“There is no prevailing public sentiment to log them,” he added. “In fact, it is quite the opposite. There is a clear public sentiment to leave them clear of logging.”

Hoklin said Kulongoski has always supported harvesting timber on the state’s national forest land to provide a sustainable supply of wood to Oregon’s timber-dependent communities, but that doesn’t mean entering roadless areas.

“In the governor’s view, the 2001 roadless rule put to rest about three decades worth of controversy over management of these roadless lands,” he said, referring to the roadless rule created during President Clinton’s administration, which had protected roadless areas from logging and road-building.

That rule allowed the nation and states to concentrate on issues like forest health, reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires while providing a supply of timber, Hoklin said.

“The sad thing is the present administration chose to bring the fight over roadless areas to the forefront, diverting attention from the other issues,” he said of the Bush administration’s repeal of Clinton’s 2001 rule.

Under the new rule, governors have until November to petition for protection of roadless areas. The Bush administration approved requests last month from the governors of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina to keep logging out of roadless areas in those states’ national forests.

Environmental groups have adamantly opposed the roadless area sales, citing logging’s ecological damage to the areas and studies showing the sales will be a financial loss to the federal government. The U.S. Forest Service has countered that the overall Biscuit fire salvage project will make money.

Located in the Illinois Valley Ranger District, the 9.36 million-board-foot Mike’s Gulch sale on 261 acres was purchased in a June 9 auction by the Silver Creek Timber Co. in Merlin.

The Blackberry sale, which would harvest roughly 8 million board feet of fire-killed timber on 274 acres, is in the Gold Beach Ranger District. It will be offered for sale next month, according to forest officials.

The Biscuit fire, the largest wildfire in the nation in 2002, covered nearly half a million acres, although it burned in a mosaic pattern, leaving large patches of timber unburned or barely singed.

The debate over the Biscuit fire salvage issue has spawned seven lawsuits, including four still before the courts. One of the lawsuits is by Kulongoski and three other governors in an attempt to reinstate the 2001 roadless rule.

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