A coalition of state, federal, local and private entities have been working to find ways to increase timber harvest on Oregon’s federally owned lands.
To his credit, Governor Kitzhaber has been attempting to lead the effort to restore sustainable harvest on Oregon’s O&C timberlands.
Last month, a group of six environmentalist organizations wrote a letter to the Governor that appears to be a thinly veiled threat.
The letter is signed by Center for Biologic Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Earthjustice, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Oregon Wild and Western Environmental Law Center.
Over the past two decades, this group of organizations has been the plaintiffs in a virtual tsunami of environmental lawsuits.
The group alleges that the 1993 Northwest Forest Plan has focused endangered species recovery efforts on federal public lands.
They further assert that this focus has allowed private landowners to continue logging on their lands without significant new restrictions.
The letter appears to suggest that any increase in timber harvest on federal lands must be offset by an equal reduction in timber harvest from state and private lands.
It asserts that conservation requirements for private and state lands in the Northwest region will need to be revisited and increased.
Moreover, it suggests that timber harvest from state and private lands over the past twenty years would need to be mitigated for the hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat they allege were irreversibly removed by timber harvest.
It declares that state and private landowners would be legally responsible to increase their conservation efforts in the event that federal conservation contributions are reduced.
The letter urges the Governor to carefully consider the risks, because no one wants to see a return to conflict, controversy and regulatory uncertainty.
In my opinion, all that uncertainty and conflict was largely the result of environmental lawsuits.
The letter does not mention that the Northwest Forest Plan has been an abject failure for virtually every segment of society, except for environmental organizations whose primary source of revenue is lawsuits.
Timber harvest on federal lands has plummeted more than ninety percent since 1993.
Oregon’s timber harvest infrastructure has been decimated.
Most of the towns and communities that were dependent on federal forest harvest have suffered devastating double digit unemployment for two decades.
The economy and social fiber of these towns and communities have suffered irreversible damage.
Federal forest management has been virtually eliminated under the Northwest Forest Plan.
Widespread forest disease and death, from unmanaged pestilence, has destroyed millions of acres of once vibrant and valuable forestland.
The ninety percent reduction in forest harvest has resulted in over- crowding as well as an incredible accumulation of ground and ladder fuels.
The combination of conditions has resulted in innumerable, horrific wildfires that have totally destroyed millions of acres of harvestable forests, watersheds and ecosystems.
Also not mentioned is that the Northwest Forest Plan is based on false assumptions.
The assumption, that the Northern Spotted Owl was endangered and that diminishing old growth forest habitat was responsible for the decline of the Owl, appears to be untrue.
It has since been determined by empirical data collection and observation that the Owl can, and does, survive in virtually any forest habitat.
Further, the Owl has continued to decline in numbers even though federal forest harvest has been reduced by ninety percent for nearly twenty years.
It has now become obvious to most observers that the decline of the Northern Spotted Owl is primarily caused by the natural encroachment and competition of the Barred Owl.
All of this forest destruction and the decimation of rural communities could have been avoided had empirical, reproducible science been employed in the original decisions regarding the Northwest Forest Plan.
However, the Plan has created an environment where litigious supposedly ecofriendly organizations are able to flourish and prosper.
Many of these organizations support their operations and growth primarily from revenue derived from settlement of third party lawsuits that challenge decisions made under federal law.
It is not only in their best interest to keep the controversy alive, it is essential to their existence.
Their letter to the Governor is supposedly written on behalf of tens of thousands of members and supporters.
It is copied to nearly twenty private forest management firms in an apparent extension of the implied threat.
I urge hundreds of thousands of Oregonians to write our Governor in support of his efforts to restore sanity to federal forest management.
Senator Doug Whitsett