Timber Mandates Recklessly Ignore Common Interest

From Register-Guard, October 11 2018

By Dylan Plummer

The “Pedal Power” timber sale is yet another example of destructive forest management on our nearby public lands being justified by Bureau of Land Management because of the increased timber quotas imposed on the agency. The sale will result in extensive “regeneration harvest” (all but clear-cutting) of 100 acres of middle-aged forest immediately adjacent to Willamalane’s recently opened 655-acre Thurston Hills Natural Area. Adjacent to a neighborhood on 79th Street in Springfield on one side and to the new trails on the other, this BLM parcel is the closest federal public land to our urban area .

Willamalane and a coalition of other groups have been working since 2012 to promote recreation, ecological integrity and natural features in the Thurston Hills Natural Area. Now, the BLM’s timber project would place over half of a newly-planned, eight-mile trail winding through fresh clear-cuts, undermining the trail network between the Willamalane and BLM forests.

Logging will not only impact the community’s access to outdoor recreation, but will also endanger it by increasing the threat of forest fires. The connection between hazardous fire conditions and the industry-backed practice of clear-cutting and replanting dense tree farms is well supported by recent peer-reviewed research. Simply put, theBLM’s clearcut-heavy “Pedal Power” proposal puts communities at risk for the benefit of increased timber revenue.

In addition to community members, environmental groups such as Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild have objected to the sale, citing impacts to the scenic value of the recreation area, loss of habitat for wildlife and increased fire risk to the community. Recreational groups that use the area are also critical of the project, and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio in June wrote a scathing letter to the BLM about the reckless nature of this proposal.

The BLM claims that they are legally obliged to clear-cut the area to meet timber quotas imposed by the 2016 Resource Management Plans for Western Oregon. These RMPs increased logging levels by 37 percent. The new quotas are driving the BLM to propose increasingly irresponsible timber sales such as this one and a similar clearcut targeting the Shotgun Creek Recreation Area near Marcola.

Despite mounting community opposition, the BLM is moving full steam ahead with the “Pedal Power” project. It sold the logging rights to Seneca Jones Timber Company on Sept. 13. Ironically, this timber auction was happening on the same day that eight conservation groups were in Eugene federal court challenging the 2016 BLM RMPs.

According to Nick Cady, an attorney with Cascadia Wildlands, the 2016 plans “cut stream side buffers in half, eliminate surveys and buffers for lesser-known species, disregard climate change and carbon storage and open up mature forest to archaic clear-cutting practices.” The “Pedal Power” timber sale seems to be just one example of this new plan in action. We should expect to see plenty more irresponsible sales if the BLM’s new plan sticks.

As a young person who will be forced to live with the natural resource management decisions being made now for decades to come, I believe that it is imperative not only to stop dangerous timber sales like these, but also to address the flawed management plans that make them necessary. The federal government’s insatiable appetite for timber revenues has dictated our country’s forest management for too long. The leveling of our forests, the replacement of healthy ecosystems by homogeneous tree plantations, and the destruction of beloved recreation areas are all direct assaults on our future.

It is time to put an end to the irresponsible management of our public lands by the BLM.

Come out to Cascadia Wildlands’ Hike & Bike event at the Thurston Hills Natural Area at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 3rd to get more involved. Visit cascwild.org or find them on Facebook for details.

Dylan Plummer is an environmental activist, student at the University of Oregon, intern with Cascadia Wildlands and life-long Oregonian.