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Conde Shell timber auction nets $446,000 for BLM

Protesters say forest managers take a lower price to push commercial logging through

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management auctioned off the 5.95 million-board-foot Conde Shell timber sale at the Medford District office Thursday while environmental activists staged a protest outside.

Located high in the south fork of the Little Butte Creek watershed, the timber was sold at its appraised price of &

36;446,024 to the Dillard-based Scott Timber Co., a subsidiary of Roseburg Forest Products.

Although opponents say the timber harvest will result in mature trees being cut, BLM officials say most of the trees harvested will be small diameter.

The average diameter at breast height is only 14 inches, said Jim Leffmann, acting district spokesman. We are exercising a light touch on the land.

— One goal of the sale is to reduce forest density on the 1,680-acre parcel in an effort to reduce the fire hazard, he said.

Most of the timber being cut is white fir, although Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and incense cedar also will be cut, he said.

But Brenna Bell, a staff attorney for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and one of the protesters, disagrees that the sale reflects a light touch.

She noted Thursday's action is the second time the parcel has been sold. It was sold to the Scott company in the spring of 2003 for &

36;510,716 but was never awarded because of litigation, causing the firm to back out of the deal, she said.

The firm was the only bidder in both auctions, she noted.

Moreover, the sale was originally offered in the fall of 2001 for the appraised price of &

36;887,169 and again in February of 2002 for &

36;712,135, she said. There were no bidders for those sales.

The BLM is so focused on pushing forward commercial timber sales they are willing to do it at any loss, she said. They are doing it in a climate where people are clamoring to do fuels reduction of small-diameter fuels around communities.

While she noted the sale does include some small-diameter cutting, it also calls for harvesting large, mature trees, she said.

Removing large, fire-resistant trees does not reduce the fire hazard, she stressed. The sale area contains habitat for both the northern spotted owl and threatened coho salmon, she said.

The agency should cancel the sale which is being sold at a loss to taxpayers and focus on cutting small-diameter trees near communities where the fire threat is far greater, she said.

That way, it wouldn't be controversial and it would be a great benefit to rural communities, she said.

Derek Volkart, an activist with the Headwaters environmental group, agreed.

It's contrary to principles of good public lands management for the BLM to continue this sale in the face of such economic loss, he said.

Rather than take the opportunity to preserve mature forests on our public lands for recreation and wildlife habitat, the BLM has chosen to donate them to the timber industry, he added.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at