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BLM seeks comment on forest management

Residents will have the chance to weigh in during two public meetings this week as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management continues carving out new management plans for its Western Oregon forestlands.

The agency is seeking comment on issues it needs to address in new resource management plans being developed for the Medford District as well as for the other five districts and the Klamath Falls Resource Area.

The first session will be held Wednesday at the interagency office, 3040 Biddle Road, Medford. Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday at the interagency office in Grants Pass, 2164 N.E. Spalding Ave.

Both sessions will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Suggestions will be taken through July 5 as the agency continues what is expected to be a three-year process in revising management plans for much of its 2.6 million acres of land in Western Oregon.

The new plans would replace the previous Western Oregon Plan Revisions.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Hubel in Portland recommended last fall that the WOPR be vacated. That plan had been completed without the required evaluation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists on its impacts on threatened and endangered species, the judge ruled.

Hubel's decision was the result of a lawsuit brought by the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland and eight other plaintiffs.

Completed in 2008, the WOPR was the result of a 2003 legal settlement between the Bush administration and the Portland-based American Forest Resource Council. It would have allowed some 500 million board feet of timber to be sold from the more than 2.1 million acres of BLM lands in Western Oregon that are former Oregon and California Railroad Co. lands.

In 2009, the WOPR was administratively withdrawn by the Obama administration, which concluded the plan was not legally defensible because it failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act. However, a federal court judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the withdrawal was invalid, resulting in the reinstatement of the original WOPR. That prompted the opponents to refile their lawsuit. In the case ruled on by Hubel, BLM lawyers agreed that the WOPR illegally ignored federal ESA requirements.

However, until the plan revisions are completed, the agency continues to operate under the WOPR and the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, officials said.

Comments may be submitted until July 5 via email at BLM_OR_RMPs_WesternOregon@blm.gov. Comments can also be sent via fax at 503-808-6333 or by regular mail at P.O. Box 2965, Portland, OR 97208.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.