Senator Wyden is Holding a Hearing on the O&C Lands Today: He Should be Hearing From You

IMG_8708 copy 1On February 6, 2014 Oregon Senator Ron Wyden will be holding hearings on Senate Bill 1784.  Cascadia Wildlands is so concerned about elements of this bill that we sent our own Francis Eartherington and Nick Cady to Washington, DC to talk about to our elected officials about the dangers of this bill. Our concerns are laid out below.  These elected officials will be "hearing" from us but they also need to hear from you.  Please take a moment to read our main concerns below and then pick up the telephone and call Senator Wyden (at the numbers below) or your own senator and please click the button below to sign our O&C lands petition below.  
Why Senator Ron Wyden’s O&C Land Grant Act of 2013 
(S. 1784) is Bad for Oregon and the Nation
Cascadia Wildlands is a non-profit conservation organization located in western Oregon representing approximately 15,000 member and supporters. We work to protect and restore the wildlands and species in the Cascadia bioregion. We closely monitor and engage in many of the Bureau of Land Management’s projects in western Oregon through the National Environmental Policy Act planning process. Senator Ron Wyden’s recently released O&C Land Grant Act of 2013 (S. 1784) will have lasting negative impacts on BLM lands in western Oregon, and. conservation gains in the legislation are outweighed by the adverse impacts. Shortcomings of S. 1784 include, but are not limited to:
Weakens the Endangered Species Act
Senator Wyden’s legislation would over turn important and long-standing requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), such as the wildlife expert consultation process, which provides the checks and balances that ensure land management projects do not jeopardize an endangered species’ existence. The BLM would be able to bypass the ESA consultation process normally required at the project level. There is no reason to weaken protection for wildlife on public lands and set a reckless precedent for other parts of the US.
Weakens the National Environmental Policy Act
Senator Wyden’s legislation would weaken the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Currently, individual timber sales go through a review process to ensure the full environmental impacts of the project are understood and disclosed to the public. However, S. 1784 would authorize 10 years of logging in a single Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This completely undermines the whole purpose of NEPA, site-specific review of a project, and sets incredibly dangerous precedence for other parts of the country.
The public’s ability to legally oppose a project is also curtailed. Instead of a six-year statute of limitations to file a court challenge to an illegal action, the public is required to file a legal challenge within 30 days. This practically eliminates the public’s ability to hold the government accountable to environmental standards, a bedrock principle of every environmental law this country has enacted.  
Dismantles the Northwest Forest Plan, Including its Species and Clean Water Programs
The Northwest Forest Plan created a compromise between timber interests and conservationists in the Pacific Northwest.  This Plan provided “the highest sustainable timber levels from the Forest Service and BLM lands…that are likely to satisfy the requirements of existing statutes and policies.”  Only twenty years into the implementation of this plan, the O&C Land Grant Act of 2013 attempts to remove the BLM acreage from this Plan, crippling the protections that were in place for imperiled older forest imperiled species and water bodies that provide drinking water for many of Oregon’s residents.  Even the urban centers of Roseburg and Medford will have unprotected drinking water sources under this Act.
Prescribes a Controversial Form of Clearcutting on Public Lands
The O&C Land Grant Act of 2013 institutes a form of clearcutting on public lands called “variable retention regeneration harvest.” This logging targets mature forest stands up to 120 years old and removes the same amount of trees as a traditional “regeneration harvest” or clearcut, The American public largely opposes clearcutting critical habitat for old-growth dependent species. Older forests on O&C lands are already deficient due to past clearcutting and remaining mature forests should be protected for the carbon they store, the habitat they offer and the clean air and water they provide.
This kind of clearcutting is in stark contrast to the type of logging that the BLM has been doing for the past 10 years — beneficial thinning in managed plantations. Western Oregon BLM produced over 1 billion board feet from 2008 through 2012, averaging over 214 mmbf a year  offered for the last five years. The BLM has in large part been hitting and even exceeding timber targets in the Northwest Forest Plan.  Supporters of the O&C Land Grant Act of 2013 have artificially created a “gridlock” to build support for the bill.  This is entirely unsupported by the numbers.
S. 1784 Would Set a Dangerous Precedent for Federal Lands across the Country
After almost a century of coupling resource extraction with county revenue, the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (SRS) decoupled natural resources extraction from funding for county services.  This legislation has been highly successful, not only in terms of addressing county fiscal concerns, but also in shifting the debate from logging for logging’s sake to implementation of much-needed forest restoration with economic byproducts.  Recoupling payments to counties with timber production, as S. 1784 would do, would set a dangerous precedent for federal lands across other parts of the country. 
Similarly, we are concerned that a parochial issue for Oregon (management of the O&C lands) will be leveraged to advance the current national Congressional agenda of maximizing logging, grazing, and mining on sensitive public lands by reducing or eliminating federal environmental laws and access to the courts.  While the O&C issue is a challenging one, it is still best left to Oregonians to address through the existing planning framework provided by the Federal Land Management and Policy Act and other laws.  The BLM is already engaged in revising its management plans for the O&C lands, and circumventing that process with ill-advised legislation threatens to waste valuable Congressional appropriations and undermine existing local stakeholder trust and investment.
In closing, we encourage you to oppose the O&C Land Grant Act of 2013. The compromise of the Northwest Forest Plan is working in Oregon, and discretion should be left to federal land managers to develop tailored, site-specific logging projects.
Here are Senator Ron Wyden's numbers in Washington, DC and Oregon.  Please call today!
Washington D.C.(202) 224-5244
Portland (503) 326-7525
Salem (503) 589-4555
Eugene (541) 431-0229
Medford (541) 858-5122
Bend (541) 330-9142
La Grande (541) 962-7691

3 thoughts on “Senator Wyden is Holding a Hearing on the O&C Lands Today: He Should be Hearing From You

  1. Jessica Gresmak says:

    Thank you for walking the talk. We are pretty screwed overall. This makes a little dent in the horrors commited to our Eco system. 

  2. Gary Humbard says:

    As a conservationist, it bothers me when organizations mis-inform their readers and I believe this article is just that.  First, the bill does not allow "clearcutting" (where all trees are cut and removed) to occur.  One-third of the total basal area must be left within a harvest area which includes riparian and other reserves, but not old-growth.  In moist forests, 8% to 12% of the total area is subject to regeneration harvest each 10 year increment which is a very small percent.

    The bottom line is this bill was developed under the guidance of Drs. Jerry Franklyn and Norm Johnson who are commonly referred to as the "advocates of old growth forest in the Pacific Northwest".  Do you really think they would have supported this bill if it was going to degrade the forests and all the natural resources within it?  Also we conservationist must confess that this bill came about because of the continuing lawsuits and appeals.   The conservation organizations may have won a "battle" during the past 20 years, but we will have lost the "war" with the passage of this bill.  We should have done better by fully supporting the Northwest Forest Plan along with some modifications to "Survey and Manage".

  3. bob says:

    Gary, As a professional wildlife biologist I disagree.  Part of this disagreement comes from differing perspectives of forestry scientists and conservation biologists where the former is trying to maximize timber harvests and minimize resultant impacts while the latter sees a highly fragmented and already degraded habitat matrix in need of restorative actions rather than additional distructive acts.  In point of fact there are some of Norm and Jerry’s recommendations that we support the problem is that when the rubber meets the road that their recommendation are not always followed or applied correctly by the agency–see storming the castle post.

    Bob Ferris 

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