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Timber industry overreach on O&C land policy

Let me get this straight. A Portland-based timber industry group wants to eliminate protections for thousands of acres of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and force the clearcutting of over 2 million acres of public forests managed by the BLM in Western Oregon because they supposedly care about “the rule of law and rational, science-based forest management?”

That doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Anyone who has been to the mountains in southern Oregon knows exactly how timber industry corporations manage their own lands: clearcutting followed by establishment of dense, flammable timber plantations with a large heaping of chemical application for good measure. Watersheds, wildlife, and recreation are casualties to maximizing profit.

Worse yet, fire hazards are increased in the dense second-growth timber plantations and logging created slash. It is a fact that dense tree farms tend to burn with more severity than do forests with widely-spaced, old-growth trees. When forest managers are narrowly focused on maximizing profit, they often carry out projects that makes forests less healthy and resilient.

There is a better way. There are communities, forest workers, and land mangers pulling together to actually carry out “rational, science-based forests management.” They are implementing projects that thin trees – some commercial in size - near communities in order to make us safer from wildfire. They are focused on thinning the hundreds of thousands of acres of dense, second growth plantations that already dominate the landscape. They work to ensure that our public lands are managed for a variety of benefits, including the ever-growing recreation economy.

But when public land managers are forced by cross-country litigation and lobbying from corporate law firms to maximize logging, they will plan backcountry old-growth timber sales instead of restoration projects near our communities. They will dig us in a deeper hole by creating more fire hazard and more timber plantations in need of restoration. Cutting down centuries old trees that have survived multiple fires over their lifespan serves the interests of no one other than the most extreme and greedy timber interests. Such an approach is neither rational nor science based if we hope to prepare our forests and our communities for fire season, conduct needed restoration and increase forest resiliency.

It isn’t surprising that professional timber lobbyists demand that public lands, including the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument and what remains of our ancient forests on BLM lands elsewhere, be managed solely for timber production. But it is disappointing that they are so disingenuous about it.

Lets be clear about the timber corporations’ strategy: hire an expensive corporate law firm in Portland to file a slew of lawsuits in front of a hand-picked judge on the East Coast. Oppose BLM projects that don’t “regenerate” ancient forests. Strip away protections for the Cascade Siskiyou Monument. These are the steps big timber is taking to log public Western Oregon BLM lands in Oregon the same way that they log their own lands - with no regard for anything but their bottom line.

BLM public lands have more value than simply a source of logs. Places like Grizzly Peak, the lower Wild Rogue River, the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument and the foothill forests in the Applegate should not be sacrificed for a quick buck. The timber industry dream of turning all of southwest Oregon into “regenerated” dense tree farms is a nightmare for all of us who care about forest resiliency, fire hazard, quality of life, recreation, watershed values and wildlife. BLM public lands belong to everyone, not just the timber industry.

George Sexton is conservation director of the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

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