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Groups protest BLM plan for 2.5 million acres of Oregon forest

SALEM — Conservation and fishing groups and an Indian tribe announced Monday they have filed protests against a draft federal proposal to manage 2.5 million acres of land in western Oregon — a plan that would allow logging to increase by more than a third and for trees to be felled closer to streams.

Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center, which filed a formal protest on Monday on behalf of 22 conservation and fishing groups, charged that the plan would increase clear-cutting and harm streamside forests.

In its four-volume, 2,010-page proposal, the Bureau of Land Management said a revised plan is needed because of changes in timber management.

Under the plan, timber that can be harvested will be increased by about 75 million more board feet to 278 million board feet, BLM spokesman Jim Whittington told Jefferson Public Radio. Whittington emphasized that the acreage available for timber harvest would not increase.

The protesting groups said the 37 percent increase in logging levels "will boost carbon emissions and make the forest less resilient to climate change and other disturbances."

Whittington said trees could be cut closer to streams under the plan, with the buffer shortening from double the height of an average tree in the area to the height of a single tree.

A fishermen's group blasted that aspect of the plan.

"The last, best salmon habitat in Oregon is within these BLM-managed forests," Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, among the 22 groups, said in a statement. "Productive salmon streams are far more valuable for the salmon-related jobs they create than for the market value of the lumber you could generate from logging them."

The BLM said the new plan will provide a sustained yield of timber while protecting threatened and endangered species.

For its part, the Coquille tribe said it fears the plan threatens its ability to manage its own forest, linked under federal law to BLM lands.

"We are very proud of how we manage our lands," tribal chairman Brenda Meade said in a telephone interview. She said her tribe, of just over 1,000 members, was the only one in the United States that is required to manage its lands by the same standards as adjacent federal lands, a situation the tribe hopes will end under a bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year and is before the Senate.