Governor Kitzhaber’s Forest Vision

All: I have received NO responses to my visualization request here. OK, maybe that was too right-brained. How about sharing your visions for the future and submitting them to me for future posts ([email protected])?

To get you started, here’s one from Governor Kitzhaber of Oregon. Thanks to a colleague for this contribution. Oregon is an important place for many reasons, not least of which is that the current chair of the Senate subcommittee on public lands and forests. Senator Wyden has the same history as many of us, watching the the public forest debate over time from a front-row seat.

You can read the entire piece here in his testimony before the Oregon Board of Forestry in 2011.

Moving Forward

The answer to meeting these challenges is not to expect that the private industrial sector is suddenly going to shift away from a timber production framework as its primary focus. Nor is it to expect that federal land logging will return to the levels of the 1980’s and early 90’s. That is not what I’m saying. Clearly there are different histories, legal frameworks and standards applicable to private versus state forest management; and state versus federal forest management.

What I am saying, however, is that the three symptoms I just described are just that – symptoms; symptoms of a larger underlying problem: the fact that the status quo in terms of our economic, community and conservation values does not represent a sustainable or, quite frankly, a defensible balance. We are mired in ongoing conflict: timber sale by timber sale; forest by forest – rather than engaging in a more holistic strategy that can move us toward a collaborative solution that balances our environmental, economic and community values in a sustainable manner.

To achieve this vision, new and innovative approaches are needed across many areas tied to public forest management. This includes diversification of product lines and business models, including ties to community-scale biomass energy. Examples of this can be found in John Day and the partnership between Malheur Lumber and the local hospital and airport; and in the integrated wood product campuses from Wallowa County.

Innovation also includes the expansion and diversification of revenue sources for counties, for the Department, and for the health of forest lands and affected communities. We need to examine responsible ways to increase revenue options, including community forests, carbon sequestration markets, and other market-based approaches that help avoid the conversion of forest lands to non-forest uses.

This also includes expansion of state-forest ownership – and I would like to applaud the Board and the Department’s work on the Gilchrist State Forest and your help in keeping a working forest active in a place that needs working forests. I am also interested in looking at innovative new loan programs, funding partnerships, the use of bonding authorities or the expansion of voter-backed funding in support of conservation-based working landscapes and rural economic development around forest management.

Innovation also includes considering the establishment of a signature research center (like ONAMI and BEST) dedicated to innovation in the use of wood – perhaps a partnership between the Forestry Department at OSU, the School of Architecture at U of O; and the proposed Sustainability Center in Portland.

Finally, we need to support pathways that lead to consensus in management, particularly on the federal landscape. Since my last term as governor– and my work on the en libra principles — the good work of collaboration has grown significantly across many Oregon regions and communities closely linked with federal forests. In many places, projects have not been appealed or litigated for years. This is a positive trend. Gaining collaborative agreement across diverse constituents on public forest management provides stability, and in a world of increasingly limited funding, the consensus these local forest collaboratives produce represents a sound place to invest. That said, the ecological, social, and economic needs we face today demand restoration work at a larger scale. I will continue to support forest collaboratives – but will also challenge them to advance project work at a pace and scale that is meaningful for forest and community health.

We have an opportunity to break the mold of conflict and polarization by how we choose to move forward on our state forests. I believe you join me in wanting Oregonians and the nation to look at Oregon as a model for public forest management. To do so, two things are required.

First, we must view our state forests not in isolation but rather in the context of the larger forest landscape of which they are a part. This means that in addition to the management policies set forth by the Board of Forestry for state lands; we must aggressively pursue the latitude to engage in environmentally sound active management to restore the health of our federal forest lands;through our Congressional delegation, through the US Forest Service via channels like our Federal Forest Advisory Committee, and through our network of community-based forest collaboratives.

It also means we must develop polices and strategies that will result in logs harvested off private lands being as valuable here in Oregon as they are in Asia. In short we need to be exporting value added products, not our natural capital and our jobs. Both of these efforts will be priorities for my administration.

Second, the management of our state forests must reflect the kind of sustainable forest policy which can help inform the management debate across Oregon’s larger forested landscape.

What do you think of Governor Kitzhaber’s vision? Can you send me your own visions? Let’s see how different they are (and can we stick to not saying negative things about people who think differently in our vision; these would be positive visions).

4 thoughts on “Governor Kitzhaber’s Forest Vision”

    • Matthew, you’re right, I wasn’t specific enough. Thank you for posting those and please keep posting any ones you receive.

      I really wanted to hear from folks on this blog.The group letters are interesting, but I think there is a possible middle ground of values that we share that we could uncover through conversation. We can’t really have that conversation with a coalition of groups.

  1. In some respects this should be a no-brainer for anyone who is not carrying some bias or pre-conceived notion of what the one, big, solve-it-forever answer is for our national forests. Here is my simple take on your request:

    1. Fully finance all wildfire suppression efforts. End the raid of other USFS money pots to fight fires. Accept at the national level that large wildfires will become more common as global warming proceeds; staff and finance wildfire activities accordingly.
    2. Restore forest and ranger district staffing to 1980 levels, with full financing to do the work quickly, efficiently and accurately.
    3. Establish full-time NEPA specialist positions on any ranger district that is involved in significant timber sales or restoration activities. Intent is to assure full compliance with NEPA throughout the project planning and prep. And thereby minimize appeals and lawsuits.

    This would be a good start. Won’t happen, but you asked us to visualize. We could flesh these points out in much more detail, but you should get the point with these “bullets” on where I would go if…

    • Thanks, Ed, this is the kind of thing that I was thinking. Thanks for the shout-out to mostly unheralded and underappreciated NEPA workers.

      I do have to say that appeals and lawsuits seem somewhat invariant to the quality of NEPA specialists. E.g. Idaho Roadless had the best from all over the country working on it. When we had a “likely to get litigated” project in R-2 we would be extra sure to have high quality people, even if we had to get them from another region. In fact, some of our most litigated projects had two sets of attorneys (Interior and USDA) and two sets of NEPA experts (BLM and FS)..


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