BLM plan to cost jobs, lose revenue, create wildfires

healthy-forests-healthy-communitiesBy Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities,

Advocates for rural Oregon say the Bureau of Land Management’s final proposed Resource Management Plan for Western Oregon will cost rural jobs, threaten public services and leave forests more vulnerable to wildfire, insects and disease.

In seeking to adopt a new management plan before President Obama leaves office, they say the agency ignored pleas by county leaders, Oregon’s business and labor communities, and newspapers across the state to produce a plan that better serves our rural communities.

If adopted, the plan will guide future management of over 2.5 million acres of BLM timberlands in Western Oregon, including over 2 million acres of “O&C” forest lands. The final proposed RMPs released today would put 75 percent of the O&C land base into “reserves,” leaving just 19 percent for regular timber harvests. This will severely limit opportunities for timber, fuels reduction and county revenues for essential services, especially in Southwest Oregon where all are needed the most. Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities Executive Director Nick Smith says fewer timber harvests and forest health projects on O&C lands will have serious consequences for the rural economy and county governments dominated by federal lands.

“As more details emerge, it will be clear that the Bureau of Land Management has once again turned its back on rural Oregonians,” Smith said. “This is yet another example of an out of touch federal government, fueling the kind of rural frustration that garnered national attention after the Malheur standoff.”

The new plan is intended to replace the Clinton-era Northwest Forest Plan, which promised a reliable timber supply to support rural economies but was never successfully implemented because of agency inaction, litigation and obstruction that commonly stymie projects. Smith says the BLM is essentially doubling-down on a flawed approach that has produced high unemployment, rural poverty and the decimation of the rural safety net. Meanwhile, he says northern spotted owl populations will continue to decline, and forests and wildlife habitat will continue to succumb to catastrophic wildfire.

“The BLM’s proposed plan once again demonstrates the need for a congressional solution that supports our Western Oregon rural communities,” Smith said. “But at this point in the process, rural Oregon needs Gov. Kate Brown to stand up and call out the agency for its failure to honor the O&C Act and its mandate and responsibility under federal law to manage these lands for the benefit of Oregonians. Over the coming weeks we will be urging the Governor to take action to protect the people she represents.”

With the release of the proposed plan and Environmental Impact Statement, a 30-day protest period will now begin for those who provided comment to the BLM during the planning process last year. The release also initiates the formal Governor’s Consistency Review, which entitles the state’s chief executive to file an administrative appeal raising inconsistencies between the plan and applicable state and local laws and policies.

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