This week, the Bureau of Land Management released its final Environmental Impact Statement on management of 2.5 million acres of public lands and waters in Oregon. The lands covered in this plan include many of Oregon’s most iconic watersheds including the Wild and Scenic Sandy, Clackamas, Umpqua and Rogue Rivers. These lands provide 1.5 million Oregonians with drinking water, support fish and wildlife habitat, sequester large amounts of carbon and provide opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing.
These lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP), which was adopted in 1994 in response to drastic declines in fish and wildlife populations due to unsustainable timber harvest. Since the adoption of the NWFP, most rivers and their watersheds have improved habitat conditions. In other words, the Northwest Forest Plan is working to protect rivers, fish, and other aquatic wildlife.
BLM released a draft RMP this past summer (2015), and since then, they have indeed improved it, providing more protections for rivers, water, and native fish. But the agency continues to place too much value in subsidizing county governments with revenues from logging.
The fact is, our public lands produce far more economic and social value by storing carbon, sustaining fisheries, providing recreational opportunities and delivering clean drinking water.
Moreover, our federal lands are even more important to watershed health in Oregon because of the poor protection offers on private and state lands, often in the same watersheds. Due to rapacious logging of private and state lands, all of the burden for conservation is placed on federal lands. So while the timber industry clamors for more and more timber from public lands, it’s important for citizens to understand just how harmful Oregon’s forest practices are.
If you want to get a bird’s eye view of how harmful Oregon’s forest practices are on privately owned timberlands (and some state-owned timberlands), take a look at Pacific Rivers’ film Behind the Emerald Curtain.
John Kober, executive director, Pacific Rivers
Photo of North Umpqua River BLM area. Photo credit Pacific Rivers.