Bipartisan letter requests briefing on administration’s interim plans to replace WOPR.
By Congressman Greg Walden
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wants to know how the Obama Administration plans to manage Oregon’s west side forests, including the BLM forests in Josephine, Jackson, and Klamath counties. In a bipartisan letter also signed by U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Walden asked Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for a briefing on the administration’s plans to replace the Western Oregon Plan Revisions—or WOPR—which the BLM adopted in 2008 to manage 2.1 million acres of federal lands in western Oregon.
In July 2009, the Obama administration withdrew the WOPR. In October, BLM announced a short-term strategy that they said would supply the timber needs of area mills and forest product manufacturers. Instead, this plan shifted the focus of the management to thinning projects on younger forests predominantly in the northwestern Oregon BLM districts, thus reducing the amount of timber volume available for southern Oregon’s Medford and Roseburg BLM districts.
“We need to put people back to work, period,” Rep. Greg Walden said. “We can’t start doing that in the forests of southern Oregon until there is an immediate re-focus of the short-term plan. Oregonians want a balance that will allow them to once again do the work in the woods to keep the forests healthy and also help turn local economies around. Right now, the federal government has no plan to manage these forests adequately in the short term or long term. We need to know what’s in the works.”
“We just need to put people back to work and get our local economies back on track,” said David Schott, executive director of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association. “It’s a win-win situation when we can create jobs and also protect our forests from catastrophic fire through careful and professional management practices. We appreciate Rep. Walden’s leadership over the years on behalf of the health of our forests and the jobs and quality of life that healthy forests support. I hope this bipartisan effort can spur some action on the federal level to get a plan in place to manage our forests in a sustainable way once again.”
The 2.6 million acres of Oregon forest land managed by the BLM in western Oregon grow 1.2 billion board feet of timber each year.
“While we appreciate the outreach and efforts to address the individual concerns throughout the past few months since the withdrawal of the WOPR, we strongly feel that a direct delegation sit-down meeting with you is necessary,” the five lawmakers wrote in the bipartisan letter to Salazar.
For nearly 100 years, the economic vitality of western Oregon has been intrinsically linked to the federal government’s management of BLM lands.
“As evidenced by a decline in timber volume produced, the BLM appears to be unable to offer an adequate and sustainable timber supply throughout much of Western Oregon,” the bipartisan letter said. “This is particularly evident in the Medford and Roseburg BLM Districts, where harvest levels are far below those forecast under the Northwest Forest Plan.”
Walden, DeFazio, Schrader, Wyden, and Merkley also noted in the letter that Oregonians want a balanced approach in place that produces sustainable timber, protects endangered species, reduces hazardous fuels, and ensures that the forests remain healthy for future generation.
“The Association of O&C Counties appreciates the bipartisan effort of members of Oregon’s congressional delegation to find a balance between environmental protection, job creation and community stability,” said Rocky McVay, executive director of the Association of O&C Counties. “We need action now to get jobs back in Oregon’s forested communities.”
The full letter is pasted below:
The Honorable Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Salazar:
We are requesting a delegation meeting in the immediate future to get an update on what actions the Department of Interior is taking to address the factors which limit the planning and implementation of forest management projects on the Oregon & California Grant lands in Western Oregon. Coupled with the lack of volume produced off O&C lands, the development of new resource management plans as a way to add economic certainty for local communities is also of great importance.
While we appreciate the outreach and efforts to address the individual concerns throughout the past few months since the withdrawal of the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR), we strongly feel that a direct delegation sit-down meeting with you is necessary.
For nearly 100 years, the economic vitality of Western Oregon has been intrinsically linked to the federal government’s management of BLM lands. As you may know, the history and geographic distribution of these forestlands is quite unique compared to BLM administered-lands in other areas of the country. These lands are of critical importance to our constituents for the many qualities they provide, including habitat for fish and wildlife, clean air and water, carbon sequestration, recreational opportunities, revenue for local governments, a sustainable and predictable supply of timber for local industry and employment opportunities in rural areas.
As evidenced by a decline in timber volume produced, the BLM appears to be unable to offer an adequate and sustainable timber supply throughout much of Western Oregon. This is particularly evident in the Medford and Roseburg BLM Districts, where harvest levels are far below those forecast under the Northwest Forest Plan. More recently, we have been told that the BLM is anticipating a further reduction in harvest levels in Fiscal Year 2010 and Fiscal Year 2011 to 180 million board feet or less. These anticipated reductions are in part due to the proposed budget cuts included in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget request for the BLM.
The 2.6 million acres of Oregon forest land managed by BLM in Western Oregon grow 1.2 billion board feet of timber each and every year. Our constituents strongly support balanced approaches for the management of Western Oregon Federal forestlands to produce sustainable timber, protect endangered species, reduce hazardous fuels, and ensure that our forests remain healthy and productive for future generations of Oregonians.
We feel a sit down briefing to update our delegation on your strategy for replacing the WOPR effort and allow us to express our shared concerns is crucial. We also ask for you to provide a status update on the 62 BLM timber sales that were announced on October 14, 2009 as well as an accounting of those plans and their impact to the various BLM districts in western Oregon. Though many have concerns over where the Department is heading, we inherently believe that there is a solution to this issue that will properly manage and maintain our forests while putting jobs back in our rural communities.
At your earliest convenience, please contact Ethan Pittleman in Congressman Schrader’s office to set up a time and date for this meeting.
— Representative Greg Walden is the House Republican Leadership Chairman and represents Oregon’s Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon.
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