Jerry Franklin is the widely acknowledged “Guru of Old-growth.” Norm Johnson is an eminent forest economist and political strategist. Both are career university professors. Neither one has much background in forest management, reforestation, forest history or fire history as evidenced by their lack of experience in these areas and by their public writings and statements in regards to these topics. Yet, Senator Ron Wyden has based his current proposal before Congress on the requirement that nearly 1/2 of the 2.6 million acres of forested BLM Lands in western Oregon would be managed under their prescription for “ecological forestry” and the remainder would be “preserved” in permanently designated Wilderness and other passively managed reserves.
A major shortcoming of this arrangement has been discussed on this blog before, and most succinctly in Sharon’s October 13 post from last year: http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/10/13/quid-pro-quo-without-the-quo-be-wary-of-trading-wilderness-for-management-acresg/
The crux of Sharon’s and her coauthors concerns was that there would be no problem setting aside more than a million acres of new Wilderness, but that the areas slated for active management would be subjected to lawsuits by the environmental community and be tied up in courtrooms. This concern was illustrated in my post from early last month:
Both industry and environmentalists are strongly opposed to this proposal, yet Wyden keeps slogging along, wasting everyone’s time and money as if this is a reasonable (or even possible) solution to the problems besetting federal forest management in Oregon since the passage of the Clinton Plan for Northwest Forests more than 20 years ago. He has scheduled a hearing for February 6 to discuss his proposal in greater detail.
The Wyden Plan is DOA, and everyone seems to know that except the Senator. Further proof is provided by this post in yesterday’s Public Land News (Vol. 39, No. 3):
As Wyden readies O&C bill, enviros sue BLM timber pilot
Shortly after Senate Energy Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced a hearing for February 6 on his legislation to boost timber sales on O&C lands environmentalists showed him how hard his job will be.
They filed a lawsuit January 22 against a BLM sale that would serve as a prototype for the kinds of sales Wyden envisions on one million acres of O&C lands, i.e. limited environmental review.
The lawsuit argues that BLM must conduct far broader environmental reviews than it did for a White Castle Variable Retention Harvest Timber Sale in BLM’s Roseburg District. And the lawsuit from Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands asks the court to order BLM to prepare an expensive and time-consuming EIS to replace an environmental assessment (EA).
BLM in the sale approved a timber harvest practice called “variable retention regeneration harvest.” But to Oregon Wild that constitutes a clearcut. “No matter what you call it, a clearcut is still a clearcut,” said Sean Stevens, executive director of Oregon Wild. “Clearcutting century-old forests that offer habitat for threatened wildlife on public lands in Oregon is not only immoral, in this case it’s illegal.”
On Nov. 26, 2013, Wyden published a draft O&C lands bill that would set aside about one million acres of O&C forest primarily for timber sales and about the same amount of land for conservation. He would have BLM both manage the timber sale lands and the conservation lands.
The Wyden bill sort of parallels a House-passed bill (HR 1526) that would also emphasize timber sales on one million acres of O&C lands and protect another million acres. But the House would have a trust appointed by the Oregon governor manage the timber lands and would transfer the conservation lands to the Forest Service.
On announcing the February 6 sale Wyden said he intends to go all out. “No bill or issue in Congress is more important to me than passing the O&C Lands Act into law and creating a long-term solution for rural Oregon,” he said.
Wyden says timber sales under his legislation (like BLM’s White Castle prototype) would follow the recommendations of two eminent forestry scholars, Drs. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin. They say their strategy would stop well short of clearcutting to leave the foundation for regeneration of harvested timber tracts.
In joint testimony to the Senate Energy Committee on June 25, 2013, Johnson (a professor at Oregon State University) and Franklin (a professor at the University of Washington), said, “Functional early seral habitat potentially can be created using regeneration harvest prescriptions that retain biological legacies and use less intensive approaches to re-establishment of closed forest canopies. Such approaches would produce more modest timber yields than the intensive management described above but could provide significant ecological benefits.”
Under direction from the Secretary of Interior BLM set up the White Castle sale as one of three pilot projects using the principles enunciated by Franklin and Johnson. The Roseburg Demonstration Project anticipated that several timber sales would extend over 438 acres, with 285 acres subjected to the Franklin and Johnson principles.
In their lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Eugene Division the environmentalists invoked the Franklin and Johnson management scheme in asking for an injunction against the timber sales.
“Failing to thoroughly consider and objectively evaluate an adequate range of alternatives, including an alternative that would: meet timber objectives by thinning in dense young stands, meet early-seral objectives by embedding ‘gaps’ within thinning prescriptions, and be consistent with the management recommendations of Drs. Johnson and Franklin,” the lawsuit says. “BLM further failed this duty by contriving an overly narrow ‘purpose and need’ for the project that predetermined the outcome and excluded consideration of alternative approaches.”
The House-passed O&C bill would also have BLM follow the Franklin and Johnson proposals.
And that did not go over well with the Obama administration, even though administration ally and Democrat Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is the chief sponsor of the O&C provision in HR 1526. Said the Office of Management and Budget of exemptions from environmental reviews in the bill in a Sept. 18, 2013, statement, “This would undermine appropriate management and stewardship of these lands, which belong to all Americans, would compromises habitat for threatened and endangered species, and would create legal uncertainty over management of these lands as well as increase litigation risk.”
The House bill also goes beyond the BLM-managed O&C lands to propose a Forest Service-wide timber program that would: direct each national forest to designate one or more forest reserves and, within 30 days of designation, determine annual timber volume requirements for the reserves; direct each forest to reach an annual timber sale volume from each reserve beginning in fiscal year 2014; limit an environmental assessment to a review only of a proposed project in a reserve, limit the assessment to less than 100 pages and require completion of the assessment within 180 days; and exempt from an environmental assessment projects that, among other things, “cover an area of 10,000 acres or less.”