Field checking the Rogue Gold timber sale (photo by Cascadia Wildlands).

Press Release: Groups Challenge BLM Commercial Logging in Conservation Reserve

March 27, 2024

Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands (314) 482-3746
Michael Dotson, Executive Director, KS Wild (541) 488-5789,
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild (541) 344-0675

Medford Oregon —Today a coalition of conservation organizations again filed a legal complaint challenging the Medford District Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) efforts to aggressively log forest stands located outside of Gold Hill, Oregon. The Rogue Gold Forest Management Project (“Rogue Gold”) authorizes heavy commercial logging within Late Successional Reserves, areas expressly set aside for old forest conservation. The BLM is targeting mature and old-growth forests that are fire-resilient and provide important habitat for at-risk wildlife species. BLM admits that the purpose of the heavier logging prescriptions being authorized is the generation of commercial timber volume despite locating these logging activities within areas set aside for conservation, called Late Successional Reserves.

In April of last year, conservation organizations previously challenged Medford BLM’s authorization of the Integrated Vegetation Management Project, which also called for heavy commercial logging in the Late-Successional Reserves. In the Rogue Gold project, BLM again proposes to implement the same heavy logging in the reserves but has since dropped the pretense that its more aggressive logging prescriptions would be beneficial for wildlife and fire, and admitted the purpose of the logging is to generate commercial timber volume.

“With IVM, BLM previously argued that this heavy commercial logging would be good for owls and fire safety for the surrounding community. The public, scientific organizations, and numerous conservation organizations vehemently disagreed and challenged that project,” said George Sexton, KS Wild Conservation Director. “While it is refreshing that BLM has abandoned this fake pretense and admitted that it is timber volume driving the more aggressive logging being proposed, it is does not make this logging any less illegal or worrisome.”

“BLM acknowledges that its logging will make fire issues worse for Oregon communities, degrade habitat and water quality, and remove some of the limited older forest we have left, but BLM has also long argued that its hands were tied by the Oregon & California Railroad Act from 1937,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director for Cascadia Wildlands. “Two appeal courts rejected this position last year, and just this Monday the Supreme Court declined to review that decision. BLM clearly has the discretion to manage these forests in the public interest. BLM needs to turn a new leaf and take its obligations to our communities seriously.”

The forests being targeted for logging in the Rogue Gold project are backyard forests for the Gold Hill and Rogue River communities. These areas are resilient, healthy, older forests that are designated as reserves for conservation, recreation, and water protection. While some aspects of the Rogue Gold project include restoration logging and prescribed burning, elements that could increase fire resilience of the area, Plaintiffs have narrowly focused their legal challenge on the heaviest of the commercial logging proposed by BLM, which will have negative consequences for fire resilience and protecting reserve values.

“Where the BLM is interested in real restoration, we are fully supportive,” stated Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator for Oregon Wild, “but aggressively logging mature and old-growth habitat in the Late Successional Reserves that will increase fire hazard for the surrounding community is a very poor choice of priorities.”

The parties are represented by attorneys with Crag Law Center and Cascadia Wildlands.


Additional photos of the Rogue Gold timber sale can be found here and are to be credited to Cascadia Wildlands.

Photo of the Rogue Gold timber sale with Cascadia Wildlands’ Grassroots Organizer Madeline Cowen and her dog Finn (image credit Cascadia Wildlands).