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Letter calls for planning awareness

Applegate residents urge neighbors to become involved in land plan revision

Applegate Valley resident David Calahan wants to be a good neighbor to his Uncle Sam.

But the retired Medford firefighter is concerned how the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will revise its land management plan for its 2.5 million acres in Western Oregon.

These are not our national forests way off in the hills we are talking about, said Calahan, whose property borders the BLM. This is land right in our own backyards. This is the most accessible public land we have.

Calahan is one of seven property owners living near BLM forestlands ' from Ashland to Zigzag ' who have signed a letter sent to some 50,000 other BLM neighbors Friday asking them to become involved with the agency's land management issues.

Each recipient has land within half a mile of BLM forestland, he said.

— We are not against responsible logging and getting timber to the mills, the letter reads. ... We want the BLM to reduce fire risk by appropriate thinning in forests.

But the elimination of forest, stream and wildlife protections could diminish our enjoyment of our property and the value of the property itself, it added.

At issue is the BLM's ongoing revision of its Western Oregon management plan in accordance with a 2003 legal settlement between the federal government and the Portland-based American Forest Resource Council.

The settlement requires the BLM to consider adopting a management plan that would eliminate forest reserves on former Oregon and California Railroad grant lands, except those required to protect endangered species from extinction.

The plan will guide the BLM in the way it manages forests, meadows, water, wildlife and logging for the next 10 to 15 years. A decision is expected to be made in 2008.

The council had sued because the federal government had never met the timber volume of — billion board feet from federal forests promised in the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, a land management master plan approved by the Clinton administration. The suit also accused the agency of failing to meet the requirements of the 1937 O&C Act.

Last fall, the agency called for public comments to define the issues that needed to be addressed in the revisions. The deadline for commenting is March 17.

Earlier this year it released five alternatives which will be used as a basis for an environmental impact statement for the revised plan.

We've used the ideas and information we received to help craft this document that outlines our planning direction and the processes and methods we'll use to analyze the effects of different management alternatives, explained state BLM Director Elaine Brong in a prepared statement.

The agency plans to ask the public again this fall for help in selecting a preferred alternative, she added.

Calahan and the others who signed the letter hope their big neighbor will consider the public input.

The BLM needs to be responsive to people who live around these lands, he said.

However, he is concerned the court settlement was a sweetheart deal between the administration and the timber industry, a charge both have denied.

This is a fallback to the Reagan era ' get 'er all at any cost, he said of overcutting.

The point, he said, is that any decrease in environmental protections on BLM forestlands will affect many Oregonians directly, including via stream flow and ground water supplies.

The BLM is being real honest in saying, 'OK, this is timber dominant and that's what we are going to manage it for,' he said, later adding, It is very important that people participate in this process.

More information on the agency's new planning document is available at on the Web.

A paper copy of the 200-page document or electronic copies on a CD can be obtained by writing to the BLM's Western Oregon Plan Revisions office at P.O. Box 2965, Portland, OR 97208.

The material can also be obtained by calling 503-808-6629 or writing to orwopr@or.blm.gov by e-mail.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at Letter calls for planning awareness"pfattig@mailtribune.com.

BLM plans workshop

The Bureau of Land Management will hold a workshop on the planning process for revisions in the way it manages Western Oregon forestlands at 7 p.m. Thursday in the federal office building at 2164 N.E. Spalding Ave., Grants Pass.