WOPR Withdrawal Challenged

American Forest Research Council,
AFRC NEWS, September 11, 2009

On September 8, a legal challenge to the Obama Administration’s decision not to implement the BLM’s Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) was filed by the Douglas Timber Operators, the Carpenters Industrial Council and AFRC members, C&D Lumber, Seneca Jones Timber, and Swanson Group Manufacturing, in federal district court in Washington, D.C. The action challenges Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s July 16 decision to “withdraw” the WOPR.

The WOPR, which took five years to complete, went through full public review and comment under the requirements of the Forest Land Policy and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. The lawsuit is based on the fact that there is no authority in any of these laws for the officials of a new Administration to simply “withdraw” plans. AFRC has recently taken a similar position in litigation related to the 2008 spotted owl recovery plan and critical habitat designation.

The lawsuit is yet another chapter in efforts to enforce the purpose of the O&C Act which mandates sustained yield timber production on 2.1 million acres of land, benefitting 18 Oregon counties and countless timber dependent communities and workers. AFRC was among the plaintiffs in a 1994 lawsuit which resulted in a settlement agreement in 2003 by which the BLM agreed to undertake the plan revisions and to complete them by December 31, 2008.

Prior to completing the WOPR, the BLM held over 170 public meetings and received 29,500 public comments. Five federal agencies and 10 state agencies were formally involved in the process. The WOPR calls for an annual timber harvest of 502 million board feet of the 1.2 billion board feet grown annually on the 2.6 million acres on the Salem, Eugene, Roseburg, Medford, and Coos Bay Districts and the Klamath Falls Resource Area of the Lakeview District. With full implementation, the plan would support 9,036 jobs. /Ann Forest Burns

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