A Forest of Responses

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), February 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

A Forest of Responses


Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard

The National Wild Turkey Federation loves it. Eugene City Councilor Bonny Bettman doesn't. Some Lane Community College teachers worry it will ruin a special place they take their students. Several Oregon counties don't see how government services can survive without it.

They are among the 30,000 individuals, government agencies, elected officials, unions, and environmental and recreation groups who have responded to the Bureau of Land Management's plan to increase logging in Western Oregon forests.

The proposal, titled the Western Oregon Plan Revision, will overhaul the way the BLM manages forests on the 2.2 million acres it oversees from Portland south to the California border.

Federal rules require the agency to invite public comment on its management strategies, and this week the BLM put the bulk of the comments it has received online.

Making the comments easily available to the public was an unprecedented move by the BLM, said agency spokesman Michael Campbell.

The BLM had heard from many groups, including news outlets, that wanted access to the comments, he said.

The most transparent and cost-effective way to do that was to post them online, he said.

Many comments came in the form of pre-printed post cards with a message calling for permanent protection of older forests.

Another set of pre-printed messages warned that the plan does not harvest enough trees to provide for the financial well-being of the counties in which the forests are located.

They came from as far away as Iceland and from the heart of Western Oregon: little towns like Talent and Cave Junction and Lorane as well as big urban centers like Portland, Salem and Eugene.

Some people took the time to write individual letters objecting to increased access for off-road vehicles in the plan.

Those letters were countered by off-road enthusiasts who want more access to BLM property.

Some messages were polite: "We hope this lovely old growth grove can remain as a late successional management area for the continuing benefit of Lane County students now and for generations to come," some LCC teachers and staff wrote in a letter that wasn't an official communication from the college.

Others were more pointed: "Once Bush is OUT, which we are working on ... You will be stopped. Go tell your Industrial Tree Farm friends that we are PREPARED THIS TIME, YOU WILL NOT DESTROY OUR FORESTS AND WILDLIFE TO FATTEN THE POCKETS OF BIG TIMBER."

Federal law requires that the BLM respond to "substantive" comments about its management plan, Campbell said.

And there are plenty of those: lengthy analyses on the impact of increased logging on watersheds, comments on the financial effects of the plan, concerns about its effects on wildfire.

Some of the most serious critiques come from other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. …

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