The excerpt from the American Forest Resource Council’s May newsletter, below, is about a pilot project implementing Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin’s principles of ecological forestry on BLM land in Western Oregon, which is blocked by litigation, and this court order may be the end of it. There are objections to the principles from all sides, but I think the aim of addressing a deficit of early-seral habitat via variable-retention timber harvesting has a lot of merit and would be useful on federal lands in the PNW as well as elsewhere, such as New Jersey, where there is controversy over harvesting timber to create young-forest habitat. Opponents are essentially saying that cutting trees, even to provide habitat for threatened and endangered species, ought to be prohibited.
Ninth Circuit Denies White Castle Appeal
With a three-page unpublished order, the Ninth Circuit ended for now the seven-year effort to implement Drs. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin’s principles of ecological forestry in Western Oregon, dismissing AFRC’s appeal of an adverse ruling on the White Castle Timber Sale. The BLM had not appealed and the Court found that Scott Timber, the purchaser, could not appeal a remand order on its own.
White Castle is a 187-acre variable-retention harvest on the BLM Roseburg District. In late 2010, then-Secretary Ken Salazar directed BLM to develop Secretarial Demonstration Pilot Projects showing the potential use of Johnson and Franklin ecological principles (“Norm & Jerry” forestry) to provide sustainable timber harvest compatible with ecologically-sound land management. Drs. Johnson and Franklin held a two-day introduction in Canyonville in February 4 2011, followed by several public meetings in Roseburg and multiple field trips. The White Castle Project was initiated in March 2011, with a decision signed in August 2012.
The project has been in litigation for nearly five years and no work has been attempted or completed. Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands protested, appealed to IBLA, and then brought suit in federal court. Extremist “direct action” groups put tree sitters in the woods. Although the plaintiffs brought NEPA claims, their real objection was to harvest at the stand age of 108 years. Media reports stated the project was in line with Senator Wyden’s proposals for the O&C lands.
In 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken found the project required an Environmental Impact Statement due to effects on spotted owls, despite the project not taking any owls, as well as the “controversy” of the Johnson/Franklin principles. AFRC filed an appeal on behalf of Scott Timber and defeated preliminary attempts to dismiss the appeal. Ultimately, those effects were not successful.
Although AFRC may petition the Ninth Circuit for a rehearing, it is unclear whether White Castle will ever be harvested. The cautionary note about these “Demonstration Projects” from AFRC’s December 2012 newsletter rings true: “To date, the only thing that has been demonstrated is how opponents of timber harvesting can successfully delay a project through extensive protests and appeals.” /Lawson Fite