Wydens O and C Act Sacrifices Forests for the Trees


Wyden plan would sacrifice forest for the trees



By Shannon Wilson

The Dec. 29 column by Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin attacking the assertions Eco Advocates NW made via our billboard on Interstate 5 uses misleading ecological justifications in their attempt to defend Sen. Ron Wyden’s proposal to legislate their “gentler” clear-cut logging scheme, labeled “variable retention harvests,” on the Oregon & California Railroad lands.

The variable retention harvests that Johnson, Franklin and Wyden tout as new “ecological forestry” would be considered by professional foresters as “even-aged forest management.” A clear-cut is also considered even-aged forest management.

These VRH cuts, as one can see in the 78 photos of the Buck Rising timber sale after it was logged, is a clear-cut, regardless of a few trees left behind, unless you think your eyes are lying to you. The main difference between a VRH cut and the clear-cuts perpetrated on industrial forestlands is that the VRH cuts are not sprayed with herbicides, have stream buffers, and are smaller in size.

Wyden’s proposed legislation would codify Johnson and Franklin’s “gentler” VRH clear-cuts on about 1 million acres of the Bureau of Land Management’s O&C lands to double timber extraction levels. Much of this 1 million acres is natural undisturbed mature forest similar to those 100-plus acres of natural stands comprising the majority of the White Castle timber sale — another Johnson and Franklin VRH.

In addition, Wyden’s bill would gut President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan by eliminating the most protective, proactive and ecologically significant provisions of the plan, called “survey and manage,” on 2.1 million acres.

These provisions were intended to determine distribution and population estimates of approximately 370 rare, endemic or uncommon species — evaluating over time whether these species, and forest ecosystems, were thriving or declining under the plan.

If these species’ populations and distribution started to decline dramatically, additional protections and adjustments could be made to the Northwest Forest Plan to help avoid future listings under the Endangered Species Act, such as the “threatened” listing for the marbled murrelet. However, even with the survey and manage provisions being fully implemented since 2001, recent U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife studies have revealed that marbled murrelet populations in Northwest have declined more than 30 percent from 2000 to 2010.

The population of the threatened northern spotted owl has been declining at an equally fast rate. Coho salmon populations, listed as threatened in 1997, are also declining, but we do not know at what rate.

These three species reveal the health and function of the entire forest ecosystem west of the crest of the Cascades. The fact that these species’ populations are dramatically declining clearly demonstrates that the entire ecosystem is declining and may cease to perform ecosystem functions, leading to future listing of other species under the Endangered Species Act.

Therefore, more protections for the entire Northwest’s forest ecosystems are needed — not fewer, as Wyden and other Democrats propose. How can Johnson and Franklin and any forest protection group endorse Wyden’s BLM legislation and VRH logging across more than 1 million acres when they clearly know these ecological facts?

To create new jobs, generate new revenue and protect fragile ecosystems Oregonians need to consider creating a Siskiyou Wild Rivers National Monument encompassing about 1.5 million acres of Southwest Oregon, and a Rogue-Umpqua National Recreation Area encompassing about 750,000 acres of the headwaters of the Rogue, North Umpqua and South Umpqua Rivers adjoining the western border of Crater Lake National Park.

These designations would protect threatened salmon runs while providing hundreds of millions of dollars of additional revenue to Southern Oregon economies and filling Oregon’s tax coffers with tourism dollars.

To further job creation, we advocate designating coho recovery pilot projects in rural residential watersheds for all Southwest Oregon coho listed streams. These watersheds desperately need conservation projects, culvert removal or replacement, stream habitat restoration, off-road vehicle regulation, and the physical rescue of tens of thousands of juvenile coho that needlessly perish each year because of the lack of water and suitable habitat.

Wyden’s legislative proposal for the O&C lands, as well as those proposed by other Democratic politicians, with their few bribes of new wilderness parks, would be divisive and destructive. If enacted they would take the Northwest back 30 years ecologically and re-ignite the “timber wars.” The wealthiest families in Oregon may benefit greatly in the short term, while all Oregonians, regardless of economic status, would suffer the consequences of such reckless and destructive legislation in the long-term.

Shannon Wilson of Eugene is director of Eco Advocates NW, which placed the billboard on Interstate 5 near Glenwood opposing Sen. Ron Wyden’s proposal for the O&C lands.