An Oregonian’s Plan for Federal Forests: Untying the Gordian Knot

I have been a friend and business associate of Wayne Giesy’s for more than 25 years. During that entire time he has discussed with me – and anyone else who will listen – his ideas for resolving the conflicts surrounding the management of our nation’s forests; and particularly those forests in the western US.

During the past 30 years conflicts between the timber industry and environmental activists regarding the management of our federal lands have become so well known they are commonly referred to as the “Forest Wars”: a conflict in which opponents have taken sides in regards as to whether our federal forests should be actively managed principally for economic benefit of local and national interests, or whether they should be allowed to “function naturally” for intrinsic values and not necessarily be subjected to harvesting at all. These conflicts are not peculiar to just the western US, but have also been taking place in other countries, too, such as Brazil, Venezuela, Australia, and Tasmania.

Wayne’s proposed solution, commonly known as the “Giesy Plan” for many years because of its principal authorship, is to divide the lands into two parts: one to be managed for multiple use – with an economic focus — along more traditional lines, and the other to be managed in accordance with environmental concerns. The former approach would be subject to existing state and federal laws and regulations regarding riparian areas, road construction, etc., and the latter would allow for whatever harvests were needed to maintain forest health, recreational uses, wildlife habitat, and other environmental concerns. These separate approaches would be taken for an 80-year period to fully test them out, and then reconsidered at that time based on existing results and perceptions.

This “Oregon Plan” has been discussed in many venues and with many individuals – industrial foresters, tree farmers, politicians, and environmentalists — over the past 30 years (Wayne is now in his mid-90’s), and modified accordingly as it was being considered. Most recently Wayne met with Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in a one-to-one meeting and was encouraged by the Governor’s thinking on the federal forest management issue. They discussed how changing the current management paradigm in ways that better achieve balance across all interests might obtain support not just within Oregon, but also as applied across all federal forestlands nationwide.

Is this the solution to resolving past conflicts and moving forward with the management of common resources? A growing number of people and organizations on both sides of the table seem to think so.

http://www.orww.org/Awards/2013/SAF/Wayne_Giesy/Oregon_Plan/index.html

The Oregon Plan

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Nick Napier, Dave Rainey, Wayne Giesy, and Bill Hagenstein at the Portland Wholesale Lumber Association’s 2010 annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. Wayne has promoted his idea for improved management of Oregon’s federal lands to forest industry, environmental organizations, and elected officials for the past 30 years, during which time it has become known as “the Giesy Plan.”

Sometime in 1983, after Wayne Giesy first began work as an employee of Ralph Hull, of Hull-Oakes Lumber Co. in Dawson, Oregon, Wayne approached Ralph with his concerns on increasing environmental actions to restrict logging activities on federal lands. At that time Wayne thought, in order to secure a stable supply of logs from BLM O&C Lands — where Hull-Oakes then obtained most of its raw materials — a deal should be made between the forest industry and the environmental organizations to divide the disputed lands into two portions: 1/2 for environmental purposes and 1/2 for public product needs (see: Giesy 2008a). After nearly a year considering this idea, Ralph gave Wayne the authorization and encouragement needed to present this idea to other forest industry leaders, with full backing of Hull-Oakes Lumber Co.

When Wayne first presented his idea to a number of forest industry leaders he was openly laughed at, and accused of “giving away the farm” by other members of these groups who couldn’t conceive of the environmental organizations having enough power or credibility to obtain such a major commitment of public resources. At that time local loggers and sawmill owners had access to perhaps 85% of the standing federal timber in Oregon; today that number is much closer to 15%, as the remainder has been dedicated to “critical habitat” for Threatened and Endangered Species, riparian “reserves,” Wilderness, roadless areas, and other designated “set asides.”

Wayne’s idea first became publicly known through an editorial written and published by long-time and well-respected Albany Democrat-Herald editor, Haso Herring, in May 2003. Although Herring’s editorial focused more on Wayne’s suggestions on how to deal with salvage from recent western Oregon Wildfires rather than a basic division of all federal lands, he used the name “Giesy Plan” to label Wayne’s thoughts: “The Giesy plan sounds visionary because it is based on common sense and assumes that obstacles can be overcome. That’s the way most Americans used to think. Would that more of us did so now.”

Today the name “Giesy Plan” is used more often to represent his original proposal, as it had been used for some time prior to the Herring editorial. Although its influence is generally not recognized or acknowledged in ongoing debates regarding the same problems that existed 30 years ago, current proposals strongly mirror Wayne’s original proposed suggestions and certainly have their basis in his unvarying advocacy. During the past two years, for example, there has been significant political discussion concerning the need to resolve the long-standing debate between forest industry and environmental groups in regards to the O&C Lands in western Oregon. Every one of these efforts has focused on a division of public forestlands between competing timber production, environmental preserves, and riparian reserves — as first suggested by Wayne in the early 1980’s, and as actively advocated by him ever since. Current examples follow:

In 2012 Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber formed an O&C Lands task force to address the problem of those forests to meet their federally mandated obligations. On February 6, 2013 the task force released a 96-page report that offered a series of options — each based upon Giesy’s principal suggestion that the lands be divided between the opposing factions and managed according to their individual perspectives. A series of graphs on page 46 of the report illustrated each of the proposed options, each one being based on Giesy’s basic argument to divide the land between resource production and forest preservation:

Also in 2012, Oregon Congressmen Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden, and Kurt Schrader developed a proposal, integrating the Kitzhaber report and based on the same concept developed by Giesy regarding the division of federal forestlands. The resulting proposed legislation, called the DeFazio-Schrader-Walden O&C Bill, was included by fellow Congressman Doc Hasting as part of the successful House Bill 1526. It has been generally supported by western Oregon members of the forest industry, but opposed by numerous environmental organizations, such as Oregon Wild, a long-time activist group based in Eugene, Oregon.

Simultaneous to Governor Kitzhaber’s efforts and those of Oregon’s bipartisan Congressional team, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden — initially working with fellow Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley — has been fashioning a separate solution to the western Oregon O&C Lands stalemate, generally referred to as “the Wyden Bill.” Senator Wyden’s efforts began in 2011 and are based on a “legislative framework” he developed that features as its basis: “The legislation will create wilderness and other permanent land use designations whose primary management focus will be to maintain and enhance conservation attributes. This acreage will be roughly equivalent to lands designated for sustainable harvest”; i.e., the same approximate 50/50 split first suggested by Giesy moere than 30 years ago, and actively promoted to the Senator, his staff, and many others ever since. Wyden’s proposal was publicly released on November 26, 2013, and was immediately opposed by most environmental organizations, such as Oregon Wild, and by the major western Oregon timber industries in a co-sponsored press release. On the following day the American Forest Resouce Council — which generally favored the DeFazio Bill — released a more critical response through their monthly AFRC Newsletter.

A more detailed look at the Giesy Plan — and the need for corrective management of federal lands in Oregon and in the remaining western States — illustrates the basic dependency of the Kitzhaber O&C Report, House Bill 1526, and the Wyden proposal on Wayne’s original concerns and recommendations:

Page 1. Proposes a division of US Forest Service lands in the 11 western states as: 40% for environmental concerns; 10% for riparian protection; and 50% “to produce products for the American public,” with certain conditions and restrictions. Ten “benefits” of adopting this idea are also listed, including: rural jobs, elimination of county payments, reduced imports, improved international balance of payments, reduced wildfire risk, enhanced wildlife habitat, and an elimination of  existing “negative activities” by both sides of the debate.

Page 2. Offers modifications to the original proposal, following consultations with both environmental and timber management proponents, with management divisions being made along watershed boundaries.

Page 3. A 2010 report using Oregon Department of Employment figures, showing 72,000 jobs lost in Oregon from 1989-2008 due to reduced forest management levels; and compared to 88,000 Oregon government jobs created during the same time period.

Page 4. A graphic comparison of the relative amounts of federal land contained in each of the eleven western states as compared to federal land holdings in the 37 eastern states (Hawaii and Alaska are not shown).

Page 5. Two graphs depicting the increasing trends of both total wildfire acres burned annually in the US, and for average size of each wildfire during the 1960-2006 time period: with sharp increases in both trends beginning in the early 1990s.

Page 6. A bar graph comparing Net Growth of US Forest Lands compared to Product Removals for the same lands during the 1952-2004 time period: 52 years in which forest growth has always exceeded harvests, and in which the greatest disparities between the two correlate strongly with the increased wildfire trends shown on Page 5.

38 Comments

  1. 50-50 always sounds neat and easy and fair. Except it isn’t.

    Of the Tongass National Forest’s 17 million acres, only 58% is actually forested. 42% is rock and ice and muskeg. And of the 58% with trees, not nearly all of it is reasonably accessible or timbered sufficiently to make for profitable harvests.

    So if you were to split the Tongass 50/50 in a “fair” manner, at least 42% of the “industrial production land” will be totally unsuitable and useless for industrial production. Unless you preferentially select only lands suitable for industrial production – in which case you’ve basically left the “environmental protection” lands with nothing but icefields and nunataks.

    • Hi Travis: The proposal is specific to forested lands. And, in Wayne’s defense, he was originally talking about the 11 western states and not including Alaska and Hawaii. It has been subsequent discussions that have expanded the idea to all federal forests.

  2. Dr. Zybach: Forgive me for this distraction. To put all of this in a time reference, I want to say something about Giesy. I was reading a book on the 1937 Bellfountain boys State basketball team that won the all schools Oregon State Championship. Great boys and players from a school that didn’t have 20 students, male and female together. Beat the big Portland, Salem and Eugene high schools. The Oregon “Hoosiers” story. And hidden away in that little book was a reference to this short, shoot the lights out, guard from Amity High School who was the talk of the State for his one handed jump shot. 99% of players shot two handed set shots and lay ins. So the schoolboy who introduced the jump shot to Oregon basketball, a skill learned from a rim nailed on a barn, is still with us, productive and involved, well into his 90s.

    I can tire of “The Timber Wars”, and have, but I still get a smile on my face when I think about Giesy and how the game of basketball is played here. And where the great players have come from. Logging camps, mill towns, many of the tall Scandinavian and Slav kids from the harbors of the Coast. And kids from the inner city ethnic neighborhoods of Italians, Germans, and African Americans, when Portland had over 60 mills on the waterfront alone, logs rafted from the Willamette, Cowlitz, and Columbia River basins. And Giesy is still chugging along, making a difference. And I have a smile right now. You have to love him just for his karma, his will to go on. He is every bit as tough as any of Kesey’s characters in “Sometimes a Great Notion.”

    • Hi John: I’m in full agreement on Wayne and his abilities. However, this is an informal blog, so please just call me “Bob.” I only insist on being called “Dr.” when other non-medical PhD’s are present that insist on being referenced in that manner. I used to be okay with “Dr. Bob” when dealing with younger students until some friends in AA told me that title had already been taken.

  3. The Geisy Plan bears an uncanny resemblance to the ill-fated Ocala Plan (I have perhaps the only extant copy) written back in 1972. See slides 9,10,11 of the attachment to http://www.wvmcconnell.net/?page_id=591. That plan dedicated 48% of the Ocala N.F. to timber production and the remainder to other “featured uses”, all of which were “green” . The plan was killed by the Regional Office and the Supervisor (an authentic visionary) was transferred to Siberia.

    Another coincidence, I’ll be 92 this month.

    • Hi Mac:

      Wow! Another guy in his 90’s that knows what he is talking about and is still involved in the issues. I knew that you were retired, but until now I had figured you to be in your early 70’s because of the way you write, your opinions, and the fact that you have created and manage your own website. Still, Wayne will be 94 next month, so you still have some catching up to do.

      One thing — I tried to follow your link and couldn’t make it display. It’s possible that it’s a problem because I’m on a (lower case) mac, or because our software is glitched somehow, but could you check it out? I’m curious to see the slides.

      You’re not a basketball player, too, are you?

      • No Bob, I don’t play basketball but I do go to a lot of games (Go Noles!).

        Here the roundabout way that WordPress handles this:

        Hitting the link at the bottom of the web page gets you to a “transfer page” that looks like this:

        ← Trust Management: A New Approach
        A-NEW-APPROACH-6
        By admin | Published March 25, 2013
        ?attachment_id=1003
        Bookmark the permalink.

        Hit the red ?attachment_id=1003 and the PowerPoint opener should appear.

        If that doesn’t work send me your email address and I’ll try to send you the file. I’m wvmcconnell@comcast.net.

        Life gets more complicated every day!

  4. Bob

    This is priceless – Can you give us a link to page 6

    Just like I said in other posts, 2nd Law and Matthew and others have been tossing around the over cutting falsehood. Thanks for the documentation once you provide the link to page 6.

    I also appreciate the longer view record on page five directly countering the false claims of some that harvests prior to 1990 are causing the increase in wildfire acres burned since 1990 instead of recognizing that it is their cessation of forest management to the tune of an 80% reduction in harvests and the resulting overly dense stands that are causing the massive exponential increase in wildfire acreage losses.

    Those against sound forestry aren’t going to go for the Giesy side by side comparison for 80 years because they don’t want a scientific comparison. They want to keep things confounded so that no one can prove them wrong. Those of us with a firm understanding of the scientific principles involved in managing forest ecosystems aren’t worried about a side by side comparison because our scientific knowledge will be proven by the results and even if they didn’t come true we are more interested in doing what is right rather than in obfuscating to avoid any chance of being proven wrong.

    • Hi Gil:

      Here’s the link to page 6: http://www.orww.org/Awards/2013/SAF/Wayne_Giesy/Giesy_Plan/Giesy_Plan_20080801-6-10.jpg

      If you follow the main link at the beginning, all of the links are active. I think one of the main values of this newer WordPress format is that most of the active links follow over to the post they are cut-and-pasted to. As Haso Herring wrote (see above): “The Giesy plan sounds visionary because it is based on common sense and assumes that obstacles can be overcome.”

      • Bob

        Thanks again – not only is growth greater than removals but net growth is greater than removals so growth was at least double the removals. Or do we have a problem in that the title says “growth” and the legend says “net growth” – It really doesn’t matter because in either case it shows how willing some people on this blog are to profess falsehoods under the mistaken impression that profession makes it true or maybe they believe that they can intimidate others from exposing them.

        Anyway, thanks to you, we now have a link to refute them any time they bring up their false mantras in the future.

    • “it is their cessation of forest management to the tune of an 80% reduction in harvests and the resulting overly dense stands that are causing the massive exponential increase in wildfire acreage losses.”

      This is a perverse view of causation. Doing nothing causes nothing. Otherwise, we are killing lots of people because we are not stopping killers from obtaining guns.

      Legally, failure to act can be a cause if there is a legal obligation to act. I don’t think the Forest Service has been held liable yet for wildfires they have not controlled. There have been some legal issues associated with fires the Forest Service has ignited (an action). I suppose they might also be considered guilty of putting fires out (doing something) that ’causes’ future fires to be worse.

      • However, it is the “doing nothing” that causes increased intensity, mortality and damage, when wildfires do occur. American Indians knew that their “prescribed fires” increased their survival and prosperity. Many forests need to have fuels reduced, before we can have a program of regular burning. When fire-adapted forests go up in smoke, we need to step in and “do something”.

        • See: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/full/10.1890/13-0066.1

          Under “Management Implications” the study says:

          “Some fire-excluded ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests thought to be at risk of crown fire and resulting ecosystem transition to alternative conditions (i.e., sites in state S2) may be more resilient than currently assumed. Studies of resumed frequent fire in the Sierra Nevada (Lydersen and North 2012), the southwest (Holden et al. 2007), and the southern Cascades (Taylor 2010) yielded results similar to those obtained here, indicating that many unlogged, fire-excluded forests possess latent resilience to reintroduced fire, and that a passive forest restoration approach of simply returning fire can be effective.

          Our results underscore the need for managers and policy makers to clearly define when and where interventionist silvicultural treatments are used because passive reintroduction of fire is not socially acceptable, as opposed to when and where reintroduction of fire is not ecologically appropriate without preparatory silvicultural intervention. Failure to do so, and to instead espouse the position that most or all fire-excluded forests require intervention before reintroducing fire — a position contradicted by increasing scientific evidence — carries the risks of misspent resources, non-target negative ecological effects, and erosion of public trust.

          • There is a LOT of uncertainty in those two paragraphs. Of course, it boils down to site-specific conditions, which requires a keen eye to be “read”. My Yosemite National Park example is perfect for illustrating how a fire-adapted old growth stand can become a virtual wasteland, through inaction, in just 20 years. Yes, nature often “re-balances” forests, in ways humans do not like. Yosemite area Indians managed their forests to have large and old trees. Ask Bob about historical fires in Oregon, and how they have grown to record sizes in the last 20 years. I’ve seen 99% fire mortality in coast range old growth stands. We need to use all of our tools to manage fuels, where management has been absent.

            And, yes, doing nothing is one of those tools, that must be used appropriately.

          • Thanks, Matt:

            I’m very curious as to your thoughts on the basic premise of this “Oregon Plan” — to simply divide the federal forestlands in two, by watersheds, manage according to an economic focus and an environmental focus over an extended period of time, and monitor the results.

            You and I have been in general agreement regarding the management of common resources by collaborative methods and at polar opposites on many other issues, so I’m curious what your thoughts are on this approach. And, to be clear, I’m not necessarily endorsing this particular approach, but I am very interested in any proposal that has the potential to resolve the conflicts of the past 30 years. Is this a possible solution? If not, are you aware of any better ideas?

            (So far as the article on forest fires is concerned, I’d like to see the “increasing scientific evidence” the authors reference as including the work of John Leiberg in the late 19th century: http://forestpolicypub.com/2014/01/30/our-languishing-public-lands/comment-page-1/#comment-37578)

      • Jon, I think you’re correct on FS general non-liability for wildfires, absent a specific legal obligation to do something. The “discretionary function exemption” of sovereign immunity tends to get them off the hook, here are a couple examples cut-and-pasted from a related memo I wrote for a client last month, with regard to the Federal Tort Claims Act: “Unfortunately, court decisions, even at the U.S. Supreme Court level, have consistently failed to define a clear boundary between discretionary and non-discretionary governmental acts. Therefore, the need for plaintiffs to identify specific mandatory statutes, regulations, or policies (that have allegedly been violated by the government) cannot be overemphasized. For example, a landowner unsuccessfully sued the U.S. Forest Service, alleging negligence in failing to close its land and/or deny access to the public under weather conditions and fire hazards that the government should have known existed. Pope & Talbot, Inc. v. Dept. of Agric., 782 F. Supp. 1460 (D. Or. 1991). The court found, after looking at federal guidelines including the Forest Service Manual, that decisions on forest closure were neither specific nor mandatory, and thus the forest ranger’s decision-making was immune under the discretionary function. In a similar case, a federal court in Oregon rejected an FTCA claim for damages resulting from a forest fire that had been allowed to burn unchecked in a national forest. McDougal v. U.S., 195 F. Supp. 2d 1229 (D. Or. 2002). The McDougal court was unable to find a ‘specific mandatory statute, regulation or policy that required [agency officials] to do or not do something.’ Id. at 1236.”

      • Jon

        You can get wrapped up in all of the legalize and semantics that you want.

        The fact remains that when you have it in your power to minimize harm and chose not to – you are allowing harm to continue unimpeded.

        It is PERVERSE when you take action to exclude the very action necessary to limit the harm being done.

        Not keeping stand densities at appropriate levels is doing harm and those opposed to maintaining healthy stand densities are deliberately abetting increased beetle kill and the exponential increase in wildfire acres lost because of their political and legal efforts to keep sound forest management out of our national forests. That is perverse. That is sad. Either that is ignorance or that is willful desire so strong that it is willing to ignore the facts and sacrifice the future by trying to hold onto a fleeting present moment’s viewshed or whatever.

  5. It’s easy to come up with abstract ideas about new ways of managing public forests, but none can be taken seriously unless it addresses two key facts:
    — First, private lands are aggressively managed and provide very limited habitat, recreation, scenic values, water quality, carbon storage, etc. This means that public lands have to carry the burden of providing these public values.
    — Second, the legacy of past clearcutting and road-building on public lands has left the ecosystem and hydrologic systems severely damaged. This means that management moving forward must focus on mitigating past damage and restoring ecosystem function.

    These two things necessarily mean that our choices today are limited. We cannot simply split the baby again and open up some untapped economic potential in our public lands. They been severely over-exploited already. They need a period of rest, rebuilding, and restoration.

    • 2nd Law:

      Your observations would be more useful if you could learn to separate “facts” from your own personal opinions. I disagree with both of your opinions and have good reasons. However, it is against my own inclinations to discuss these types of statements in any detail with people who hide behind pseudonyms. Your assumed “expertise” and pronouncements are probably worth discussing at some level, but not if you are hiding in the shadows during the discussion. To think that you can be “taken seriously” with your assertions of how “easy” something might be is a mistaken notion on your part, whoever you might be or might want others to think you are. And that’s a fact.

    • 2nd Law

      You need to substantiate your key facts which are unsubstantiated mantras which lead you to work counter to the health of the forest ecosystem.

      Re: “First, private lands are aggressively managed and provide very limited habitat, recreation, scenic values, water quality, carbon storage, etc.”
      –> This may be your opinion but it is not fact. The fact is that some are and some aren’t. Check the usage of private lands and you’ll find that they get plenty of recreational use. They provide more clean drinking water per acre than unhealthy overly dense forests and their net long term carbon storage is at least as good as un-managed stands. As to scenic values, I’d much rather see clearcuts averaging 120 acres or less than the 400 square mile catastrophic fires like the RIM fire.

      See here for an example of what your “keep forest management out of the woods” philosophy results in:
      http://www.orww.org/Awards/2013/SAF/Wayne_Giesy/Giesy_Plan/Giesy_Plan_20080801-5-10.jpg That exponential trend is the result of removing forest management by reducing the annual harvest by 80% after 1990. What you refer to as the ‘legacy of past forest management’ is what kept the acres burned from going exponential before 1990. Forest Management has improved significantly but you’d rather burn up our forests than admit that you don’t know what you are talking about.
      http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/07/22/fighting-back-fire-from-the-denver-post/

      Re: “Second, the legacy of past clearcutting and road-building on public lands has left the ecosystem and hydrologic systems severely damaged”
      –> Your Claim Is False. Forest ecosystems and hydrology heal/recover quicker under sound forest management after a properly prescribed and executed clearcut followed by regeneration than they do after a natural catastrophe without any forest management.

      Hollering your mantras doesn’t make them true. Take some forestry and related science courses and then put in ten years in forest management and then we’ll be glad to hear what you have to say.

  6. I agree that simplifying the national forest planning process into deciding where to log and where not to log might make it easier for everyone. When I worked on the Mt. Hood National Forest plan in the late 80s I ended up with three management area categories. Two were very similar to these (logging for wood subject to meeting legal environmental requirements, and logging for multiple purposes with additional restrictions) and the third was no logging.

    Those are essentially the choices provided by the 2012 planning rule. The choices are:
    • lands suited for timber production (defined as growing ‘regulated crops of trees’ for industrial or consumer use) where timber harvest must be planned to achieve desired conditions
    • lands not suited for timber production where timber harvest may be used as a tool to achieve desired conditions established by the forest plan
    • lands where timber harvest is prohibited because it would not be compatible with the desired conditions established by the forest plan

    Unfortunately this still leaves the huge questions of how many and which acres should go in each category. I don’t believe an arbitrary number applied to multiple national forests is helpful at all. Even more alarming is the suggestion that this decision should be made by Congress. (Perhaps Congress could establish logging areas the same way they establish wilderness areas: an individualized look at the values that make them important for logging and the values foregone by doing so.)

  7. I’d only have to wonder if the split would conflict with existing wilderness areas. Those are what out of the 192 million USFS acres?
    For example, on the FNF, we are at 1.1 million acres of designated wilderness (I would say about 100,000 acres, perhaps 150,000, was better as suitable base) on a 2.2 million acre forest. About a half million of all classes has torched since 2000, far in excess of the harvest total for all time. So, if we just froze the clock here and set the wildernesses aside, we’d be at Geisy’s parameters, including the set-asides for W and S rivers.

    • Hi Dave:

      I think that all of the Wilderness areas and Wild & Scenic Rivers combined would still be significantly less than 50% of the Forest Service land base. I don’t have all of the figures, though, so could be mistaken in that regard. I’ve always figured that Wilderness boundaries should follow natural contours, assuming we really need such land uses, rather than arbitrary lines on a map. For example, the southern boundary to the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness is an old railroad grade that was never used. Maybe a plan such as this — in which the principal areas are determined by watershed boundaries — would be an opportunity to make such common sense adjustments.

      • In the National Forests covered by the Northwest Forest Plan (24.5 million acres in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington), about 30% is Wilderness. Here’s the breakdown:

        • Late Successional Reserves (LSR): 7.4 million acres, 30% of federal lands, managed to protect and enhance old-growth forests and habitat conditions for species dependent upon old-growth within a system of well-distributed large blocks of forest;
        • Matrix: 4 million acres, 17% of federal lands, managed primarily but not exclusively for timber harvest;
        • Riparian Reserves: 2.5 million acres, 10% of federal lands, managed to provide high quality water supply, habitat for salmonids, and dispersal habitat for spotted owls and other wildlife;
        • Key Watersheds: 9 million acres, 37 % of federal land, managed for watershed restoration. (This allocation overlaps with LSR, Matrix, and Riparian Reserves.);
        • Adaptive Management Areas (AMA): 1.5 million acres, 6 % of federal lands, managed to encourage testing of technical and social approaches to achieving ecological, social, and economic objectives (This allocation overlaps with LSR, Matrix, and Riparian Reserves.);
        • Congressionally designated Wilderness, Wild & Scenic Rivers, National Parks, National Monuments, etc: 7.3 million acres, 30% of federal lands, managed for designated purposes.

        • Really LSR, AMA, Riparian Reserves, Key Watersheds, parts of Matrix Lands, National Monuments and of course Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers, are all off limits to logging. So that leaves what for timber harvest? 10 percent of our public lands maybe?

          • Bob, the Matrix zones (4 million of the 24.5 million acres, or 17% of federal lands in Northern Spotted Owl Country, are technically open to timber harvesting. However, timber sales that include mature timber, especially timber in previously unlogged stands, are often litigated.

            • Steve, Do you have any stats or figures on what “often litigated” looks like in actuality? When I hear the word often I think of “many times” or “frequently” or “repeatedly.” So, when it comes to the Matrix zones how “often” are the those timber sales actually litigated? Is it 90%? 60%? Or 10%?

              • Matthew,

                I do not have the numbers you ask for. If you or anyone else on this blog does, please post them.

                Perhaps I ought to have said “litigation or the threat of litigation.” In any case, consider these experpts from two sources:

                From “Increasing Timber Harvest Levels on the BLM O&C Lands While Maintaining Environmental Values.” Revised Testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, June 25, 2013, by Dr. K. Norman Johnson, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University; and Dr. Jerry F. Franklin, School of Environmental and Forest Science, University of Washington.

                “The Northwest Forest Plan, under which BLM now operates, designated “Matrix” as the land base for sustained yield management, including regeneration harvest. In the face of public protest and litigation, though, the agency has retreated to a short-term strategy of young stand thinning and fuel reduction, while waiting for a political or administrative decision that will allow it to establish a sustained yield level and proceed with the harvests to achieve it (Johnson and Franklin 2012, 2013).”

                From “O&C Lands Report,” Prepared for Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber by E. Thomas Tuchmann, Forestry & Conservation Finance Advisor, Office of Governor John Kitzhaber; and Chad T. Davis, Senior Policy Analyst, Oregon Department of Forestry, February 2013:

                “As summarized above, the old growth reserves and Aquatic Conservation Strategy have achieved important conservation advances. However, the combined impact of old growth reserves, increased riparian buffers, Survey & Manage, management of ‘owl circles’ as required in consultation, and successful environmental litigation has resulted in a perpetual erosion of the Matrix and opportunity to implement regeneration harvests. The various buffers often overlap to create ‘doughnut holes’ whereby operability of a timber harvest is significantly reduced and made uneconomic or impossible to access. In addition to these impacts and the potential additions in the 2012 Critical Habitat plan, the BLM, as a practical manner, can access approximately 10% of its land base for regeneration timber harvest.

                • Hello Steve, I have tried to obtain those numbers from the USFS’s website for the forests contained within the Northwest Forest Plan, but have come up empty (which I suppose is no surprise).

                  Seems to me that the first quote may have been referring to “regeneration harvest,” which when done on matrix lands that contain old-growth or mature forests might (rightfully, in my view) “face public protest and litigation.” And the second quote just generally talks about litigation without offering any concrete facts and figures about it.

                  I hope I’m not the only one who believes the Forest Service should keep this info handy on the website of every national forest. Thanks.

                  • Matthew: This is one area in which you and I are in total agreement — there is no excuse for the lack of transparency and poor website design and management displayed by the US Forest Service. Unless compared to the Obamacare website, of course. Where is Google when their country needs them? Or even WordPress or Yahoo!?

  8. I’ve often thought, putting aside those federal lands already set aside for wilderness, parks, etc., the rest ought to simply be managed on a long rotation.

    I get that society wants old trees, wildlife habitat, clean waters, clean air, recreation, etc. I also get that society wants/needs recreation, water, wood, etc. and the jobs, taxes, etc. that comes with harvesting trees.

    Using, for example, Oregon’s coastal forests, I’d suggest managing for a 200 year rotation. For the first 100 years, manage the daylights out of it. Plant, spray, commercially thin, etc. This provides a dependable source of jobs, raw materials, taxes, etc. At age 100, have it set up so that, if it doesn’t already, it will quickly acquire old-growth characteristics and, at that point, simply walk away for the next 100 years.

    At age 200, harvest. This would provide a dependable source of large, high quality wood, jobs, taxes, etc. During that last 100 years, roads would remain open for access for recreation and allow access for salvage of windthrow, insect damage, wildfire, etc.

    At some point in time, half the federal forests would have old-growth characteristics. Who, even among the environmental community, wouldn’t go for that? There would be far more old-growth than currently exists and, likely, far more than has ever existed.

    The only thing I can think of that would derail this idea is that, at age 200, the howls would be so great over harvesting (read lawyers and court actions) that everything would come to a screeching halt. To make it work, our political leaders would have to have the political gumption to make a long-range plan and then stick to it (i.e., be able to look past the next election cycle); I’m not holding my breath on this last point.

    • Hi Dick:

      This looks a lot like Mike Newton’s long-term rotation suggestions, but over a somewhat longer timeframe. “Walking away” from the trees at 100 years would certainly leave some nice forests behind, but if the future is anything like the present, there would be howls of protests backed by lawyers regarding the salvaging of anything, no matter how caused. Same with clearcutting at 200 years of age (or any age for that matter).

      In discussing these ideas with Wayne, his thought is that the environmentalists will never understand forest management options and processes until they are “made responsible” for their decisions. If they are held to maintaining roads and trails, campgrounds and habitats, and so on, in forested areas in which they were publicly linked and liable, his thought is that they would more likely consider salvage and thinning operations — for which they would be responsible for designing and for living with the consequences.

      I think the responsibility issue also holds true for legal roadblocks. It is my understanding that Indian forestlands have two advantages over federal lands when it comes to implementing management decisions: 1) they are the only federal lands (BIA) that require independent scientific review for proposed management actions (I could be mistaken on that), and 2) all people and organizations filing suit against such actions are required to post a cash bond — with the result that very few actions are filed. If these are accurate statements, then expanding these requirements to federal USFS, NPS, and BLM lands would seemingly be in the right direction and would greatly limit cookie-cutter legal actions by the Center for Biological Diversity and other litigious organizations.

      Another problem is riparian areas. How would you manage them? Certainly, regulations have changed in that arena dramatically during our lifetimes, and they are likely to continue changing as better information becomes available. Newton’s work regarding anadromous fish and riparian buffers, for example, highlights some of the problems tied to attempting to regulate with homogenous standards for dynamic streams, weather conditions, and fish populations — with water temperature requirements imposing the same types of inflexible restrictions on common sense approaches as “diameter screens” do on managing stands of trees: http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/10/06/newtons-paradox-why-fish-prefer-clearcuts-over-regulated-buffers/

      Of course, the biggest barrier of all is politicians and their supporters who remain largely ignorant of these issues and are mostly concerned with personal popularity and elections. And Wilderness and Threatened and Endangered bird and carnivore populations remain very popular issues with many voters to this time.

      • Bob, Wayne’s thinking that ‘environmentalists will never understand forest management options and processes until they are “made responsible” for their decisions” reminded me of the article about the Montana Natural Resources Youth Camp that I wrote for The Forestry Source last May. Martin Twer, an SAF member and MSU extension forester, told me about the “Land-Use Game,” in which students develop a management plan for a working ranch, the Bandy Experimental Ranch, a 3,436-acre cattle ranch operated by the MSU School of Forestry and U Montana. It would be instructive to get some enviro-group folks to play that game. Here’s an excerpt:

        “They ‘inherit’ a ranch/farm and then ‘manage’ it for 20 years,” Twer said. “They roll the dice for timber prices, cattle prices, natural disasters. They have to make a living off the land with some kind of conservation ethic in mind. We’re trying to show them what natural resources are available and the challenges and opportunities in working with them. We try to show them that we can use resources without destroying the environment while still making a living—although that can be tough sometimes.”

        Twer said most students enjoy competing against their fellow campers.

        “Students have $25,000 in the bank to start with, and they have to see what timber prices are and decide whether it makes sense to sell timber or not, or to keep it growing,” he said. “They have to keep in mind that forest fires happen, think about doing some precommercial thinning for fuels reduction, and decide whether they want to do some salvage logging if they have a fire. They have weed infestations. They have wealthy Californians come in and say they’ll give them $1 million for a 30-acre parcel. They have 200 cattle that produce 160 calves per year. The Montana Department of Transportation comes in and says hey, you have some rock on your land and we need gravel for a highway project, would you like to sell it? It’s a very complex game, but it’s very educational and interesting to see how all of these pieces come together.”

        Students often are surprised to learn how difficult it is to make a living by managing natural resources.

        “Students may hear or read about natural resource conflicts, but then we put them in a resource-manager’s shoes and say, okay, now you have to make a living, and maybe then they see that not touching any trees isn’t really an option. They see that you need to actively manage the resources, but that you can do it in a smart way, so that you and the next generation and generations on down the line can do the same thing,” Twer said.

        • Steve:

          About 25 years ago at Oregon State University one of the classes I was taking in Anthropology played a similar game — only the difference was precontact Indian Tribes were used and the competition was for resources such as salmon, venison, huckleberries, camas, and clams. The game even had a name, I just can’t recall it. I think such exercises can be both entertaining and enlightening in explaining human competition and need for natural resources.

          • Many Universities used “Sim City” in their City Planning classes. I do think a “Sim Forest” computer game could include more of the complexity of forests, while keeping the challenge of staying profitable and being able to afford the pricier “treatments”. Of course, there would also be a way to analyze the non-economic impacts and benefits, too. The “Sim” brand would make sure that such education makes it all the way to eastern urban centers.

  9. Federal tribal lands are held in trust for the tribes and managed for their benefit. That trust obligation could justify greater protection from non-Indian interference. I don’t see a basis for extending that rationale to restrict rights of the public to participate in the management of their public lands.

    • Jon:

      You don’t see a basis for managing federal forests “for the benefit” of non-Indian American taxpayers? Or you think that we should maintain a paternalistic approach to managing for Tribes? I’m not sure what you are saying exactly, but it comes across as being condescending at some level.

      I think you are confusing the current situations where litigious organizations have put major roadblocks in the management of our federal forests with the “rights of the public to participate in the management of their public lands.” From my perspective, those groups have compromised such participation — not demonstrated it — and have certainly not enhanced the process.

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