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BLM wants to eliminate public comment, environmental review

The Medford District BLM recently proposed the Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands (IVM) Project. Although it sounds benign, in many cases, terms like “Integrated Vegetation Management” are a euphemism for commercial logging and serve only to mask the impacts and objectives of timber management with misleading language. In fact, this project would allow and encourage the BLM to log important conservation areas without public input, without publicly disclosing the impacts, or releasing a public environmental assessment.

BLM’s IVM Project proposes to allow up to 4,000 acres of commercial logging and 10 miles of new road construction per year without public comment, public involvement or public environmental review. This would include Alternative C, the Adapted Rogue Basin Strategy Alternative, which proposes up to 25,000 acres of logging and 90 miles of new road construction in a 10-year period. According to the BLM, these authorizations would have “no sunset date,” meaning that over time they could be used to build hundreds of miles of new roads and log many tens of thousands of acres of public forests.

This project is extremely concerning because it focuses commercial logging “treatments” in conservation-based land use allocations like Late Successional Reserves (LSR), Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC), and other areas outside the BLM’s Timber Harvest Land Base.

The IVM Project proposes to approve commercial logging and road building virtually anywhere throughout the Medford District BLM; however, the location of future timber sales, the intensity of logging and the specific logging prescriptions would remain undetermined, would be at the sole discretion of BLM staff and would be planned behind closed doors.

The IVM Project threatens to take away our right as citizens to influence and participate in public land management on a local level. If approved, it would provide the Medford BLM with very broad discretion to authorize timber sales with little to no public involvement or scientific accountability. Nearly all checks and balances currently embedded within the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) would become optional, opening the way for a flood of controversial logging projects throughout southwestern Oregon.

The IVM Project includes an over 800,000-acre planning area, encompassing virtually all BLM lands in southwestern Oregon except the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and existing Wilderness Areas. Commercial logging could take place along portions of the Rogue River, adjacent to the Rogue Valley, Applegate Valley, Illinois Valley, Butte Falls, Shady Cove and Glendale, without public involvement or public environmental review.

Despite having no official approval for the IVM Project, the BLM has already begun planning commercial timber sales “tiered” to the IVM Project that are dependent on its ultimate approval. In the mountains above Williams, the BLM has already identified its first large timber sale called the Late Mungers Project.

The Late Mungers Project is focused on a large block of Late Successional Reserve forest located on the ridgeline dividing the Williams Valley from the Illinois Valley near Selma. These forests were set aside to protect the habitat of the Northern spotted owl, which is more threatened than ever before. The project proposes commercial logging units on Murphy Creek, Powell Creek, Mungers Creek, and the South Fork of Deer Creek.

Very little information is available about the Late Mungers Project, but a draft unit map showing proposed commercial logging and fuel reduction units has been made available by the BLM. According to these maps, the commercial logging component appears quite extensive. It also appears that some of the last remaining corridors of intact forest habitat on the Applegate-Illinois River divide are targeted for commercial logging. We have been told by the BLM that the Late Mungers Project will likely be approved shortly after approval of the IVM Project and under its authority.

Although masked by innocuous-sounding language the IVM Project will be implemented as a series of commercial timber sales. The BLM claims this project is necessary to more efficiently reduce fire risks, yet they have thousands of acres currently approved that they either do not have the funding, the capacity, or the right burn/smoke window to implement. The BLM does not need the IVM Project to implement non-commercial fuel reduction projects, they “need” it to streamline large, controversial timber sales in sensitive conservation reserves without public input or credible scientific analysis. Our public lands deserve better.

Luke Ruediger is executive director of the Applegate Neighborhood Network and Siskiyou conservation director of the Klamath Forest Alliance.

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