When I got back from holiday shopping and reflecting on how national forests could use a little “good will toward folks”, I found that a reader sent me the below link from a press release about environmental groups and Wyden’s Eastern Oregon bill.
It was interesting to me that while we were engaged in all this hypothetical discussion of groups and meetings and Meridian Institute, on the Flathead, these folks are “doin’ it” without costing 400-600K or so a year (planning teams). Sure, they have all the same problems of “collaborating” but it focuses on the difficult issues and will ultimately provide a deal that sticks. Now I acknowledge that “the public” is left out, but so are they (as I’ve pointed out) at settlement meetings. I’d rather have local elected officials deciding than unelected judges and representatives of groups, and agency personnel with a more tenuous link to national elected officials. I would hypothesize that the conflict is not really about the details of collaborative efforts but fundamentally about the outcomes.
Here’s the link and which has a link to the letter.
Conservation groups who have long worked closely with Senator Ron Wyden in the development of his Oregon Eastside Forest Restoration, Old Growth Protection and Jobs Act (S.1301), first introduced in 2009, have announced they cannot support last-minute changes that have been made to the bill. The changes were released on the eve of a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee markup scheduled for Thursday.
In a letter to the Senator today, Oregon Wild, Geos Institute, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, and The Larch Company expressed disappointment in the weakened version of the bill that he plans to offer in the Committee’s markup meeting tomorrow. The groups say that while they could live with some of the changes, Wyden’s decision to abandon key environmental safeguards outweigh these few improvements.
“As amended, the legislation will cause unacceptable and irreparable damage to forests in eastern Oregon, will degrade water quality, harm endangered species, and undermine environmental laws. We cannot support a bill that would allow logging of 200 year old trees,” said Steve Pedery, Conservation Director at Oregon Wild, who was involved in developing the original bill starting in 2008.
Andy Kerr, longtime conservation activist, commented: “We have worked diligently for years, under Senator Wyden’s leadership, to reach agreement with the timber industry on eastside forest legislation. Even after the American Forest Resource Council abandoned the legislation, the conservation community continued to support it and to work with his staff to perfect it. Unfortunately, in the rush to markup this bill, proposed changes have transformed legislation that served Oregon’s eastside forests and watersheds to something that does not.”
“We are disappointed that after years of working together on a true compromise plan, Senator Wyden has chosen to gut the legislation without our input. We still support the original, compromise plan Senator Wyden announced jointly with us back in 2009, but we can’t support these reckless changes that would harm wildlife, streams, and old-growth,” commented Pedery.
The groups’ major objections, aside from the sudden changes without consultation with collaborators, include:
The loss of permanent protection for streams and old-growth trees. Instead, the legislation would now expire 15 years after enactment.
A newly added provision promoting the logging of old-growth trees up to 200 years old, instead of focusing on restoration.
Removing the goal of restoring eastside ecosystems across the landscape.
The loss of language that ensures roads are decommissioned as part of watershed restoration.
Significantly weakened language for stream and riparian area protections.
The groups recommend that the markup for the eastside forest legislation be delayed until it can be fully vetted with groups that have long worked with the Senator on the bill.