Into the Woods

The BLM has long worked with communities to create a modern forestry plan that benefits both our ecology and our economy.

story by Michael Mascari
photos by Maria Thi Mai and Cheyne Rossbach

A steady procession of vehicles traveled over old logging roads in the Coburg Hills past patches of mature trees near Eugene, Oregon, en route to a proposed future regeneration harvest.

BLM employees from the Eugene District are no stranger to these roads and so they made sure they didn't lose anybody in the convoy. Also, they didn't bring their normal field-going tools for the trip. This time, they brought members of the public instead.


"My hope is that this field trip will begin a good flow of information between the public, the BLM, and other agencies and will help our collective understanding," said Upper Willamette Resource Area Manager Bill O'Sullivan.

Working directly with communities - as well as incorporating a number of their principles - is nothing new to the BLM. But increasing public involvement to this unique level of hands-on interaction in the local forests is. O'Sullivan thought it would be more effective than just a letter or even a town meeting.

And so the BLM's Eugene District hosted a field trip for a diverse group of nearly 50 people who shared a unified interest in the future of forestry in the region. Ecologists, enthusiasts, loggers, Congressional staff, and a Lane County Commissioner all made the trek to see firsthand what the BLM hopes to do for this and future timber sales.

Setting itself apart from private enterprises, the BLM has long managed forests to meet a widely diverse set of national goals that range from timber production and wildlife to water quality, recreation, and more. O'Sullivan stated that ecological principles are the norm at the BLM as is innovation in forestry methods.

Into the Woods
photo by Cheyne Rossbach


The field trip covered three stops, including one which showcased one of the Eugene District's most recent regeneration harvests from 1997. Visitors had the opportunity to hear from Professors Norm Johnson of Oregon State University and Jerry Franklin from the University of Washington about the tenets of ecological forestry. Then several BLM employees from different disciplines outlined the BLM's goals and long-term vision. Attendees also had the chance to ask questions and share their own thoughts and ideas for the future.

One such attendee was Gordon Culbertson, a logger who previously worked in the area going back to the 1970s. Mr. Culbertson was pleased to see the progress of forest growth in the Eugene District's most recent regeneration harvest area. "This was a real eye-opener for me. Having been involved in logging the area for as many years as I have, the growth even stunned me. There are 30-inch-plus (diameter) trees," Mr. Culbertson said. "I don't think anybody could come away without an understanding of how the BLM would plan to move forward in managing the lands."

Kevin Matthews, another attendee on the trip, appreciated the chance to share his views and to learn from others. "In addition to the valuable information provided by BLM participants, it was very meaningful to me personally to be able to exchange views with such a broad spectrum of interested parties."

Learn more about the future of Oregon forestry at the BLM's homepage.