Wyden's Act Fills Pockets, Not Forests

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), June 17, 2010 | Go to article overview

Wyden's Act Fills Pockets, Not Forests


Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Roy Keene

Look into the details of Sen. Ron Wyden's Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection and Jobs Act and it's obvious that it could become the source of many unforeseen troubles.

Indeed, Jack Ward Thomas, chief emeritus of the U.S. Forest Service, said in a column published in the Jan. 22 Oregonian that this act "Opens a Pandora's box." He goes on to explain how "This approach is flawed, inappropriate, less than fully informed, and has implications for the management of the entire national forest system."

The lead scientist of the Northwest Forest Plan and a lifelong east-side forest manager, Thomas' opinion is weighty. Perhaps this is why Wyden has not been joined in this legislation by all of Oregon's congressional representatives.

The June 7 Register-Guard editorial points to a poll in support of the Eastside bill by Public Opinion Strategies showing 77 percent of those surveyed supported Wyden's forest act. Again, look deeper. According to Sourcewatch, Public Opinion Strategies, a self-described "Republican polling firm," has come under fire for violating polling disclosure laws and has been accused of using push polls to influence elections. Fact is, polls such as this are expensive and often biased. Who paid for this poll? As Thomas wonders, "Who cut this deal?"

First: the timber industry, including Boise Cascade, the region's largest public timber purchaser. Considering the millions of Northwest acres the company has clear-cut, it's doubtful Boise Cascade is in it for "restoration" or "old growth protection."

Second: a self-appointed consortium of environmental groups guided by the self-declared "czar" of the Larch Company, a private lobbying firm. Excluded environmental organizations, including the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club and local conservation groups who've monitored east-side timber sales for decades, are concerned about this consortium's real motives. Are they in this for forest health? Political access? Foundation funding? Consulting fees?

Industry's motives are more transparent. Wyden sent a letter to the American Forest Resource Council, committing "to work to see that more hazardous fuels funds are used to harvest merchantable sawlogs" and to "work for an assured supply of timber." The act's thrust is clearly to deliver far greater volumes of valuable ponderosa pine and chip logs for biomass at below real-market prices. It's another public timber bailout for a few private mills that have cut over their own lands and most of ours. …

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