Timber industry urges quick action by Interior on WOPR

By American Forest Resource Council (AFRC)

(PORTLAND, OR)  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) made a mistake in deciding not to go through formal consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it developed the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR).

Tom Partin, President of the American Forest Resource Council, expressed frustration that the administration has waited so long to make this decision.  “Oregon is facing double digit unemployment rates.  Implementation of the WOPR could give our timber dependent communities a real boost.”

Oregon’s unemployment rate has risen to 12.1 percent over the 2008 rate of 6.4 percent. Unemployment in Douglas County, where a large percentage of the acres under the WOPR are located, is at 16.9 percent.  In 2008, the average unemployment in Douglas County was 9.8 percent.

The WOPR’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) predicted an increase of 5,000 jobs.  Standard multipliers indicate that the 502 million board feet of annual timber harvest authorized under the WOPR would support 9,036 jobs on an ongoing basis.

Secretary Salazar directed the BLM to move forward with timber sales under the Northwest Forest Plan pending the review of the WOPR.  Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland acknowledged that the Plan has been a “false promise,” never living up to its promise of harvestable volume.

“Working under the Northwest Forest Plan for a while will simplify things.  It will be important that timber sales volume continues during the review process.  There is a lot that can be accomplished under the Plan, but not if legal challenges and injunctions continue,” Partin said.

“We agree with the Obama Administration that timber harvesting is compatible with protection of all of our natural resources, including endangered species and water,” Partin said.  “We appreciate the Secretary’s recognition of the importance of timber management to the health of our forests and our communities.”

The WOPR resulted from litigation that challenged the BLM’s management of timber lands under the Oregon and California Lands Act (O&C Act) which are designated primarily for timber production and to return substantial revenues to 18 Oregon counties.  It took 5 years to complete.  Several federal and state agencies were involved.  Sixty-one percent of the 2.6 million acres covered were excluded from timber management.  Harvesting of old growth was deferred for 15 years to allow further study of spotted owl critical habitat.

“We thought the WOPR was basically sound and based on good science.  We urge the Department of Interior to commit the resources to do this review without delay,” Partin said. “Good forestry should not depend on which political party is in power.  It needs to be practiced on a consistent basis.  We know the BLM is up to the  job.”

The American Forest Resource Council represents forest product manufacturers and landowners throughout the west and is based in Portland, Oregon.

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