By Bob Ferris
There is a particularly memorable scene in the movie the Princess Bride where actors Billy Crystal and Carol Kane huddle together and say: Have fun storming the castle. And Cascadia Wildlands and our partners are doing just that, we are marshalling our resources and legal arguments to “storm the castle.” But in this case the castle is the controversial White Castle timber sale in the Roseburg Bureau of Land Management (BLM) district.
White Castle is not large as most timber sales go, but it is precedent setting in that it is a variable retention harvest (VRH), harvests older trees, and is also purported to be an application of the ecological forestry principles advocated by Drs. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin.
The proposed White Castle sale smacks of the type of testing most parents experience from teenagers, because the Johnson-Franklin regime suggested for the White Castle’s dry forests is actually a recommendation for wet forests, which function differently. Moreover, this recommendation only works for its avowed purposes—creating young forest openings and encouraging understory plants needed by critters like butterflies and deer—in those wet forests when they are not replanted heavily with conifers to the tune of 200 trees per acre. And if both of these issues are not enough this is also a project that involves areas replete with red tree voles and century-old trees—two characteristics guaranteed to draw our attention and concern.
Why these so-called pilot projects are important—particularly at this juncture—is that they are really trial balloons in terms of what we might see from legislative or administrative changes to the O&C Act. These are essentially signals from the BLM of what they see as the future for management of these lands. They are meant on some level to allay our fears of the future.
In the above light I seriously question BLM’s wisdom in forwarding a project like White Castle that misapplies and then detrimentally modifies a scientific solution on a project that already has a couple of huge and iconic red flags. If BLM’s hope with these pilot projects is building productive relationships in hopes that it will facilitate trust and move the reform process forward, they have failed miserably.
All BLM has accomplished with this move is to draw public protests and tree-sitters troubled about the same issues we have always been concerned over. So we will storm this “castle,” because the agency cannot obey their own laws or design sales that are faithful to the science and the collective needs and desires of Oregonians.