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.
The Oregon Plan
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.