The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has completed the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Western Oregon Plan Revision (WOPR). The Plan is now in the hands of Governor Kulongoski where it will be reviewed for consistency with state laws. It is important for the Governor to support implementation of the BLM’s preferred alternative and that he act without delay.
The WOPR affects 2.6 million acres of BLM land in western Oregon of which 2.2 million acres is managed under the requirements of the Oregon and California Lands Act of 1937 (O&C Act). Federal law requires that these O&C lands be managed “for permanent forest production” to provide income to local communities in-lieu of the taxes they would have received if these lands had remained in private ownership.
This highly productive land is capable of producing over 1 billion board feet of timber each year while meeting the O&C Act’s mandate of managing these lands “in conformity with the principles of sustained yield.” The BLM’s preferred alternative calls for sustainably harvesting no more than 502 million board feet annually. This is less than half of what these lands can grow every year. Currently, revenues from timber sales on O&C lands are shared 50/50 between the 17 O&C counties and the U.S Government. It is because of the curtailment of timber harvesting on federal lands in the early 1990’s that Congress has had to provide alternative revenue sources to support these governments. Congress recently reauthorized the Secure Rural Schools funding for 3 more years. This is barely enough time to allow the BLM to prepare and begin offering sales under the new plan. Once the timber sale program is functional, it will replace approximately 65 percent of the historic BLM timber revenue paid to the counties.
Plan implementation will result in an increase in the amount of mature timber available for spotted owl and marbled murrelet habitat, provide fish and wildlife habitat, maintain air and water quality and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. An increase of 1,200 timber-related jobs could result from full implementation, as compared to the 3,800 jobs that will be lost if current management continues.
It is important that Governor Kulongoski support BLM’s implementation of the plan without further delay. Please contact him and let him know how important this is to the future of our forests and our communities.