River groups to BLM: protect water on federal forests

River groups to BLM: protect water on federal forests

O&CPacific Rivers and its partners are pushing back against industry efforts to cut more timber on federal forests in Oregon.

In April, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final plan for managing 2.5 million acres of public lands and waters in western Oregon – the so-called O&C lands. This new plan is an attempt to increase timber harvests while protecting rivers, clean water, and native fish. But the plan fails on these counts.

This has been a long process, and it’s definitely not over yet. BLM released a draft plan in August 2015, which Pacific Rivers and other groups commented on. BLM attempted to respond to those comments with their final plan released in April. And BLM did make some improvements to better protect rivers, clean water and native fish, but not enough.

The agency continues to place too much value on 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.

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. Our O&C lands provide 1.8 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.

All Americans own these lands. They are public. BLM manages them under the Northwest Forest Plan, which the administration adopted in 1994 to curb drastic declines in fish and wildlife populations due to unsustainable timber harvests. Since adoption of the NW Forest Plan, fish habitat, wildlife habitat, and water quality in most rivers and watersheds has improved. Yet, the BLM’s new plan abandons key parts of the NW Forest Plan with one goal in mind: more sawlogs.

What’s more is the NW Forest Plan itself is at risk. The NW Forest Plan covers now only these 2.5 million acres of BLM-managed forests. It covers 24 million acres of federal forests throughout northern California, Oregon, and Washington. The plan for these 2.5 million acres of O&C Lands is an indicator of the kinds of changes that the administration might attempt on our federal forests in the Northwest.

Pacific Rivers and partners are continuing to review the BLM’s final plan and determine next steps, including whether to litigate. Our Northwest watersheds are too important to turn a blind eye on this.


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