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The Future of Oregon Forestry Oregon/Washington BLM



The Future of Oregon Forestry

As Oregon moves forward in a new century, the BLM has been asking its neighbors to help usher in a future of forestry that balances the social, economic and ecological values important to our communities.

story by Ed Shepard &Mike Mottice

In March, the Bureau of Land Management announced our intent to revise plans for 2.5 million acres of forest lands in western Oregon. Public outreach meetings have been held in Medford, Roseburg, Coos Bay, Eugene, Salem, Klamath Falls, and Portland. The question is now will Oregonians share their advice, opinions, and expertise with us? For the sake of our communities, our counties, and our forests, we hope so.

In December 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar hosted an Oregon Forest Summit in Washington, D.C. Dozens of stakeholders voiced familiar interests to conserve old-growth, provide jobs, and reduce wildfire risk. Secretary Salazar urged participants to "get past the gridlock and litigation" and directed the BLM to pilot the ecological forestry concepts of two of the nation's leading forest scientists, Drs. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin. The pilots are in various stages, but one thing is clear - people have been ready, willing, and able to talk about these forestry principles as a possible path forward, especially in the drier forests. The BLM needs to craft a new plan that considers this approach and other ideas across the landscape.

We can understand why some folks may have been reluctant to participate in a new planning process. Federal land use planning is time-consuming and hard work, and there are no guarantees. However, the BLM has many reasons to be optimistic.

Amidst the intense, sometime contentious, public debate about how to manage these lands to help shore-up the finances of our western Oregon counties and at the same time provide clean water and habitat for endangered species, we are hearing some agreement. Sometimes you have to listen carefully, but when you do, you will hear many say that something must be done now to assist our counties and communities. There is growing public support for projects that improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfire. We're also hearing some agreement about the value of forest diversity and the importance of older forests. The BLM planning process provides a forum to forge additional agreement and explore ways to resolve remaining differences in consideration of the important social, economic, and ecological values at stake.

The Future of Oregon Forestry
photo/illustration, BLM

These three values might best be viewed as the three legs of a "sustainability" stool - when all are present, the stool is stable and supportive. Remove or shorten one leg, however, and the stool topples over. We must find a way to balance economic needs with the capacity of its lands and not force a false choice between the environment and our communities. Making sustainable decisions requires all sides to "come to the table" to find solutions that fairly represent others' interests - the other legs of the stool - as well as their own.

The management of public forests in western Oregon is ultimately a balancing act. Sustainable decisions provide successful, long-term outcomes and can be implemented with a high degree of certainty because they have a reasonable level of social acceptance. We need this balanced, sustainable approach in western Oregon. We urge everyone who participated in all these discussions as well as those who did not to be part of the solution.

Come share your ideas. We're listening.

Ready to tell the BLM your ideas, suggestions, and experiences? Visit us online to send your comments directly.

And check out this video from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's visit to western Oregon where he connected with local communities to discuss the next steps for the future of forestry.