BEND, Ore. (AP) — A federal agency enacted a plan Friday to manage about 2.5 million acres of land in western Oregon that would increase the potential timber harvest by as much as 37 percent. It immediately drew fire from both the wood-products industry and conservationists.
The Bureau of Land Management predicted the resource management plan would increase job growth, tourism and recreation.
BLM Deputy Director Steve Ellis said the agency "has achieved an extraordinary balance that will create predictability and sustainability in Western Oregon."
The BLM estimated 278 million board feet per year could be harvested once the plan is fully implemented. Sarah A. Levy, a BLM spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview that allowable sale quantities were being increased from 203 million board feet to 205 million board feet and that an additional 73 million board feet that are in reserves could also be harvested if special measures to protect fish, water and wildlife are met.
In those reserves, the BLM would protect stands of older forests, which have the highest value to northern spotted owl, the agency said in a statement.
But Steve Holmer of the American Bird Conservancy said: "The BLM is now planning to log mature forests that are needed to recover populations of the threatened Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl, and that provide for clean water and carbon storage."
Levy also said that under the plan, which replaces the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, 20 percent of the landscape is designated as recreational that local communities can use.
After the U.S. government around 1990 imposed restrictions on timber harvesting on federal lands to save the northern spotted owl, logging started to freefall in Oregon and in other Western states. Mills closed. Counties in Oregon that had received revenues from the logging under the O&C Lands Act of 1937 suddenly found themselves short of money to run services. It was unrealistic to steeply raise property taxes on residents, many of whom had lost their jobs, to compensate for the shortfall.
The American Forest Resource Council, a forest products industry association, said Friday the BLM plan "is doomed to fail because it starts from a false premise: that walking away from 80 percent of the O&C Lands is good for Oregon workers, rural communities, and our forests. The truth is, this plan will ... mean draconian cuts to public services in many rural counties."
The council noted that members of Oregon's Congressional delegation had advocated for annual harvests of from 450 million to 550 million board feet and said the BLM plan falls far short of generating these levels of harvests and revenues to county governments.
The council called on Oregon's Congressional delegation to legislate "a balanced solution" to management of the lands that stretch from the California border to Portland.
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