Forest Management with the Roseburg BLM: A Different Approach
There is currently a great deal of uncertainty about public forest management in western Oregon. The decision to implement the BLM's revised Resource Management Plans has been rescinded and the western Oregon BLM Districts are back to managing under the 16 year old 1994 Northwest Forest Plan. Uncertainty is further evident as the northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan and Critical Habitat rule are both under review with possible revisions on the way.
The wood products industry and dependent regional economies have been hit very hard by the current recession and a potential loss of established infrastructure that would make it even harder to recover economically on a local basis.
Amid these social and economic issues, the forces of nature continue to challenge public forest managers as they experience increasing problems with insect infestations and uncharacteristically large or intense forest fires.
This all adds up to a lot of uncertainty. However, within all the uncertainty, there also lies the opportunity to try a different approach to forest management. The Roseburg BLM proposes to do exactly that. We think that the time is right for applying the principles of conservation forestry based on three desired outcomes:
- Accelerate the development of habitat components across the landscape to support the conservation and recovery of the northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet.
- Reduce the hazard of uncharacteristically large or intense wildfire in the dry forest types as needed to support landscape and community fire resiliency/resistance.
- Provide reliable and substantial timber volume to support employment, income, and public services.
So what does the Roseburg BLM propose? We propose to work with interested members of the public to scope the design and implementation of at least one habitat development project in a moist forest type and at least one habitat development (fire resiliency) project in a dry forest type. We propose to work on these projects from the ground up. We propose to use the interactions in the design scoping process as a forum to address social, environmental, and economic values that are often perceived differently by different stakeholders. And we propose to utilize the collective experience of the interactions in the design scoping process to develop guiding principles to guide BLM staff in the development of a full year’s worth of work.
What’s different about this approach? There are a couple of differences that we think are significant. First, the BLM would be testing an entirely new and different forest management model. The BLM ordinarily receives timber production targets through Congressional appropriations. When a BLM District receives these targets timber sales are developed that will accomplish the required volume while applying controls and mitigation measures to minimize adverse impacts to other resource values. The proposed collaborative approach would turn that traditional process around by focusing on habitat development needs for a specific area, then determining what types of silvicultural practices can help meet those needs, and then determining what timber volume can be derived.
The second significant difference with this experimental approach is that we are inviting interested members of the public, stakeholders in the management of our public lands, to work together and with us to develop some projects from beginning to end. Ordinarily, BLM specialists choose and design the projects, evaluate the environmental effects, and then seek public review of a developed package. This approach provides an opportunity for the public to provide input in the initial development of these project designs.