In a bipartisan letter also signed by U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Walden asked Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for a briefing on the administration’s plans to replace the Western Oregon Plan Revisions—or WOPR—which the BLM adopted in 2008 to manage 2.1 million acres of federal lands in western Oregon.
In July 2009, the Obama administration withdrew the WOPR. In October, BLM announced a short-term strategy that they said would supply the timber needs of area mills and forest product manufacturers. Instead, this plan shifted the focus of the management to thinning projects on younger forests predominantly in the northwestern Oregon BLM districts, thus reducing the amount of timber volume available for southern Oregon’s Medford and Roseburg BLM districts.
“We need to put people back to work, period,” Rep. Greg Walden said. “We can’t start doing that in the forests of southern Oregon until there is an immediate re-focus of the short-term plan. Oregonians want a balance that will allow them to once again do the work in the woods to keep the forests healthy and also help turn local economies around. Right now, the federal government has no plan to manage these forests adequately in the short term or long term. We need to know what’s in the works.”
“We just need to put people back to work and get our local economies back on track,” said David Schott, executive director of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association. “It’s a win-win situation when we can create jobs and also protect our forests from catastrophic fire through careful and professional management practices. We appreciate Rep. Walden’s leadership over the years on behalf of the health of our forests and the jobs and quality of life that healthy forests support. I hope this bipartisan effort can spur some action on the federal level to get a plan in place to manage our forests in a sustainable way once again.”
The 2.6 million acres of Oregon forest land managed by the BLM in western Oregon grow 1.2 billion board feet of timber each year.
“While we appreciate the outreach and efforts to address the individual concerns throughout the past few months since the withdrawal of the WOPR, we strongly feel that a direct delegation sit-down meeting with you is necessary,” the five lawmakers wrote in the bipartisan letter to Salazar.
For nearly 100 years, the economic vitality of western Oregon has been intrinsically linked to the federal government’s management of BLM lands.
“As evidenced by a decline in timber volume produced, the BLM appears to be unable to offer an adequate and sustainable timber supply throughout much of Western Oregon,” the bipartisan letter said. “This is particularly evident in the Medford and Roseburg BLM Districts, where harvest levels are far below those forecast under the Northwest Forest Plan.”
Walden, DeFazio, Schrader, Wyden, and Merkley also noted in the letter that Oregonians want a balanced approach in place that produces sustainable timber, protects endangered species, reduces hazardous fuels, and ensures that the forests remain healthy for future generation.
“The Association of O&C Counties appreciates the bipartisan effort of members of Oregon’s congressional delegation to find a balance between environmental protection, job creation and community stability,” said Rocky McVay, executive director of the Association of O&C Counties. “We need action now to get jobs back in Oregon’s forested communities.”