Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Pete Sorenson, Dave Gilmour and Bob Austin
Our Oregon forests are special to us. They provide our drinking water, building materials for our homes, places to recreate, habitat for fish and wildlife and spectacular scenery. They are also economic drivers providing jobs and revenues for our communities. More recently we've discovered these towering forests are world champions at capturing carbon and keeping our planet cooler.
As elected county commissioners, we have the responsibility to give voice to public concerns and interests in how the lands within our county boundaries are managed. With over half the land in Oregon in federal ownership, we recognize the economic and environmental values of our public lands, including their contribution to the high quality of life Oregonians enjoy. Our citizens care so strongly about these lands that they are volunteering and forming collaborative groups and working to ensure that the land stewardship agencies understand how special these forests are to the public. We are listening, and we hope federal land managers are as well.
Just over a year ago, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar withdrew the Western Oregon Plan Revision. WOPR was intended to be a blueprint for how the 2.4 million acres of forests in Western Oregon - owned by all Americans - would be managed. The agency entrusted with the stewardship of the bulk of these lands is the Bureau of Land Management. As the head federal agency official, Salazar determined there were substantial concerns raised by scientists, citizens, politicians and other federal agencies regarding the scientific and legal credibility of WOPR. Understandably, he withdrew the plan.
WOPR would have unnecessarily weakened the Northwest Forest Plan that currently governs land management for both the United States Forest Service and BLM in the Pacific Northwest. The plan was developed recognizing the many benefits forests provide us and that a timber-dominant focus in past management had caused serious environmental problems. It was jointly produced by federal agencies, scientists and land managers and found to be legally sufficient by the courts.
The Northwest Forest Plan has enough flexibility to allow collaboration between citizens and land managers in developing forest management proposals that are restoration oriented, managed for healthy forests, and can provide commodities such as wood products for our mills. Indeed, that is the approach the U.S. Forest Service and even some BLM Districts are taking in their timber sale proposals.
Some have recently claimed that as a result of WOPR being withdrawn, very little timber is being produced on BLM land. …