PORTLAND, Ore., Oct. 4, 2012 (LID) — The timber-industry lobby organization The American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) this week withdrew formal objections to a federal forest-restoration project across thousands of timber-rich acres in southern Oregon.
Filed Aug. 30, the AFRC administrative protest challenged portions of the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management’s 2,200-acre Friese Camp Forest Management Project.
BLM and Department of Forestry officials say the Butte Falls Resource Area project could generate an estimated 20 million board feet of timber, in part from forest restoration thinning on roughly 479 acres.
AFRC, which earlier sought increased federal timberland harvesting of large trees, said it withdrew its challenge to the sale of smaller logs so not to waste government resources or threaten jobs in the beleaguered southern Oregon economy.
“We made our point,” AFRC President Tom Partin said. “We are confident that the BLM is now aware of AFRC’s concerns.”
For its part, the local Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association has supported the project, arguing that the harvest of smaller logs would be a boon for local sawmills.
After withdrawing its administrative protest, AFRC urged–by name–four prominent environmental groups with pending challenges to the project to do the same.
“We have acted in good faith by withdrawing our protest,” Partin said. “We challenge those holding up the BLM sale program with appeals and litigation—Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Wild and the others—to withdraw their appeals and litigation now. Our forests and our communities depend on our cooperation.”
Arguing there’s “a huge problem” with the BLM’s southern Oregon timber program, Partin noted activist organizations have stopped at least 25 BLM timber sales through appeals and regulatory challenges.
“Those sales contain over 90 million board feet of timber,” he said. “Every million feet of timber supports 38 jobs. That’s almost 3,500 southern Oregonians who are suffering from underemployment at a very bad time in our state’s economy.”
Bids to harvest the 6.75 million board feet were restricted to Small Business Administration qualified companies. The only bidder, the Rough and Ready Timber Co., purchased the 6.75-million-board-foot Vine Maple sale for the appraised $553,553 value, the company said.
In AFRC’s written protest, Partin argued the project and related timber sale would run roughshod over policies and guidelines set forth in the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP), flout provisions of the Medford District Resource Management Plan and violate the Oregon and California Revested Lands Sustained Yield Management Act (Pub.L. 75-405).
The BLM’s Oregon & California (O&C) Lands total 2.3 million acres in western Oregon, 32 million acres across 13 Western states and 33 million acres in Alaska.
The 1937 O&C Act requires the designated lands be managed for permanent forest production in conformance with the principle of sustained yield for the purpose of providing a permanent source of timber supply, protecting watersheds, regulating stream flow, contributing to the economic stability of local communities and industries, and providing recreational opportunities.
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) recently announced he will appoint a panel to develop a plan by December for boosting timber harvests on BLM lands in Southern Oregon.
Kitzhaber said increasing logging and allowing modified clear-cuts will create new jobs and revenues for southern Oregon’s struggling 18 counties, including Douglas, Josephine and Jackson.
Information on the Friese Camp Forest Management Project is available on the Department of the Interior website, at http://www.blm.gov/or/plans/nepa-details.php?id=1989.
The American Forest Resource Council protest, filed Aug. 30, is at http://www.amforest.org/images/pdfs/Friese_Camp_Protest_Final_08-30-12.pdf.
The AFRC Sept. 28 protest withdrawal is at http://www.amforest.org/images/pdfs/Friese_Camp_Protest_Withdrawal_9-28-12.pdf.