Roseburg BLM Clearcut Logging Plan Challenged

January 22, 2014
Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild  –  –  (503) 283-6343, ext. 211
Francis Eatherington, Cascadia Wildlands  –  –  (541) 643-1309
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild  –  –  (541) 344-0675
Roseburg BLM Clearcut Logging Plan Challenged
Conservationists go to court to stop controversial clearcutting plan in White Castle forest; century-old trees on chopping block in sale that mimics Wyden O&C logging plan.
(Eugene, Oregon)  –  Two conservation organizations filed a legal challenge today aimed at blocking a controversial plan to clearcut 100-year old trees on publicly-owned Bureau of Land Management lands in Douglas County. The White Castle logging project targets century old forest, including some trees over 150 years old, using a controversial logging method euphemistically referred to as "variable retention regeneration harvest."
"No matter what you call it, a clearcut is still a clearcut," said Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild. "Clearcutting century-old forests that offer habitat for threatened wildlife on public lands in Oregon is not only immoral, in this case it's illegal."
At stake are 438 acres of publicly-owned forest in the South Myrtle Creek watershed, near the community of Canyonville. The Roseburg BLM District plans to use a controversial logging method known as "variable retention regeneration harvest" to clearcut over 187 acres, including trees over a century old. Bulldozing roads and other destructive activities associated with the project would target additional trees over 150 years old. Federal biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have acknowledged nearly 200 acres of habitat for threatened wildlife would be damaged or destroyed by the logging.
"The BLM's White Castle clearcutting plan is a throwback to the logging epidemic that ravaged Oregon in the 1970s and 80s," said Cindy Haws, a former Forest Service biologist who owns land downstream in the Myrtle Creek watershed. "This kind of aggressive clearcutting harms our salmon and native wildlife, and increases the risk of mudslides and pollution of our rivers."
Despite controversy surrounding the sale, the BLM is claiming that clearcutting the White Castle forest will benefit the environment by removing large areas of mature and old-growth trees to create open spaces. They claim that since they intend to leave a few patches of trees around the edges and in small clumps, it isn't really a clearcut.
A similar and related clearcutting project, known as the Buck Rising, was carried out on Roseburg BLM lands last summer and has been highly controversial. Pictures of a Buck Rising clearcut appeared in an anti-clearcutting billboard on I-5 near Eugene, and citizen activists have occupied a portion of the White Castle forest with a tree-sitting protest, braving frigid temperatures, rain, and high winds in an attempt to protect the area.
The legal challenge raises a number of issues, including:
  • The destruction of almost 200 acres of forest habitat for threatened wildlife.
  • Failure to conduct a complete analysis of likely environmental damage from clearcutting.
  • Failure to consider environmentally responsible alternatives, including thinning smaller trees instead of clearcutting older forests.
  • Failure to consider the existing clearcuts that scar the watershed.  Though BLM claims the logging is needed to create open patches and young forest, their own data shows that 27% of the forests on federal lands in the region are under 30 years old.
"The BLM wants to clearcut this forest to try and placate politicians and logging interests, plain and simple," said Francis Eatherington with Cascadia Wildlands. "They are trying to use euphemisms like 'variable retention regeneration harvest' to put lipstick on the pig."
The BLM is facing intense political pressure from logging corporations and some politicians to increase clearcutting, despite the fact that the agency has largely met its timber targets for the last decade by thinning young forests instead of clearcutting older ones.
A bill proposed by Senator Ron Wyden in late November would expand projects like the White Castle clearcuts to more than a million acres of public land in Western Oregon to generate money to bail out some county governments facing budget shortfalls. Wyden's bill overturns key provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and like the BLM, has used the opinions of two prominent forestry professors to justify such logging.
Photos of the White Castle forest can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)
Photos: Buck Rising (top); White Castle (bottom) by Francis Eatherington.