I have come across a web ad several times in the last week or so. Against a forest-stream photo background, the ad text reads, “Balance at last for our OC lands?” OC meaning the 2.4 million acres of Oregon and California Railroad (O&C) lands managed by the BLM in Oregon. Clicking on the ad leads to The Coalition for Our O&C Lands, http://oclands.org. Its members include green groups, fishing and river-guide services and groups, along with assorted others, including, for what it’s worth, “Chef Kim Reid.”
What Does Balance Mean? The coalition says Vibrant Economies, Responsible Timber Harvest, Clean Water, Land & Water Protections. “Responsible Timber Harvest” means selective harvesting, rather than clearcuts:
A balanced approach on O&C lands, while including protections of special places, clean drinking water and wildlife habitats, must also include responsible timber harvest. Timber is an important contributor to our state’s economy and any plan for the O&C lands should recognize that reality.
For decades in the Northwest, we clearcut our ancient forests, believing that we could reestablish our forests and the species that lived there. As we learned more and realized more of the damaging impacts that our actions had on our forests, wildlife, and clean water, we learned to change. We can harvest more selectively and preserve habitat while still economically harvesting trees. Responsible timber practices can ensure a predictable, sustainable supply of timber and forest products while also protecting our natural heritage. We have examples of these types of practices throughout the state and we need to replicate them on the O&C lands.
The great thing about our timber industry is that it is adaptable. It is managed by people who care for the land. Many of them are hunters and fishermen. They enjoy the outdoors and cherish the wild areas of our state. They want wildlife to flourish and clean water for everyone to drink. The industry has adapted to severely reduced timber harvests and survived. But there is a better way to manage our timberlands, somewhere between “no harvest” and “clearcutting.” Working together, we can find that careful balance.
At the end of the day, any plan must ensure a predictable, sustainable supply of timber and other forest products to help maintain the stability of local and regional economies, and contribute to supporting healthy, vibrant communities.
I’ve lately heard several green-leaning folks suggest that selective harvesting would work perfectly well on the O&C lands and elsewhere in western Oregon. Maybe so, if an economic return is low on your priority list. What do you think?