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DeFazio Asks BLM to Provide Details About Plan For Predictable Timber Supply

Sep 30, 2009
Press Release

September 30, 2009

WASHINGTON, DCCongressman Peter DeFazio (OR-04) today sent the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) a letter expressing his concern about the lack of progress on short-term and long-term timber plans for western Oregon.  DeFazio requested the agency to provide details on its strategy to provide a sustainable and predictable supply of timber in western Oregon that would generate jobs and preserve the industry’s infrastructure. Included with the letter was DeFazio’s forest thinning proposal. 

 

“For the past eight years, the Bush Administration promised harvest levels that could never be delivered.  That policy was a disaster for the industry and timber-dependent communities.  Without quick action from the BLM, unemployment in rural Oregon counties will continue to rise and the infrastructure that supports timber-dependent communities will continue to disappear.  We need jobs today.  We have an enormous backlog of work that can be completed on our public lands now.  And quick action by the BLM is crucial to putting Oregon back on the path towards economic recovery,” DeFazio said.  

  

In June of this year, Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar announced his decision to withdraw the Bush-era timber harvest plan, known as the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR).  The plan was withdrawn due to faulty science and improper political influence by Bush Administration officials.  At that time, Secretary Salazar announced that the BLM would offer new non-controversial forest restoration and timber projects in the short-term while they figure out a longer-term solution. 

 

Currently, there is only one active timber sale in the five BLM districts that overlap DeFazio’s congressional district (the Beeline Thinning Sale in the Salem District).  While a handful of small projects were sold in August and September, it is not a short-term plan that provides the predictability and certainty needed to secure jobs and timber infrastructure in western Oregon.

 

In the long-term, DeFazio would like Secretary Salazar to consider his proposed timber plan which he included with the letter.

 

“For too long, our timber dependent communities have suffered from controversy over cutting old growth.  They deserve better.  My thinning legislation would help us get beyond that controversy, improve forest health and provide much needed jobs and economic certainty to hard hit communities in southwest Oregon.” 

 

The letter is below:

 

Wilma Lewis

Assistant Secretary for Land and Mineral Management

U.S. Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop 200

Washington, DC 20240-0001

 

Tom Strickland

Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks

U.S. Department of the Interior

4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 330

Arlington, VA 22203

 

Dear Assistant Secretary Lewis and Assistant Secretary Strickland:

 

I am writing to the Bureau of Land Management to help facilitate the development of a forestry plan that provides a sustainable and predictable supply of timber in western Oregon. 

 

I have serious concerns that without quick action from the BLM, unemployment in rural Oregon counties will continue to rise and the infrastructure that supports timber-dependent communities will continue to disappear.  We need jobs today.  We have an enormous backlog of work that can be completed on our public lands now.  And quick action by the BLM is crucial to putting Oregon back on the path towards economic recovery.

 

 In the long-term, Oregon needs a workable forest policy that addresses two unresolved issues: certainty in timber supply to the timber industry and rural communities and protection of the small amount of remaining old growth in the Pacific Northwest.  For too long, our timber-dependent communities have suffered from false starts and false promises, litigation, and controversy.  They deserve better.    

 

Regrettably, the Bush Administration did not think so.  The Bush Administration’s insistence on ignoring both science and law in crafting the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) was a devastating blow to timber-dependent communities.  Hundreds of family-wage jobs have been lost.  Much needed management of our federal forests has been delayed.  And after five years of work and $18 million, we are not any closer to providing a predictable timber supply to western Oregon land managers, mills, and families. 

 

I was critical of the WOPR from the beginning because I believed it would not pass legal muster and therefore fail to provide timber-related jobs in Oregon.  In fact, more than two years ago I addressed the American Forest Resource Council at its annual meeting to predict the plan’s ultimate undoing because of the WOPR’s reliance on “political science” and the failure of the Bush Administration to go through the consultation process.  My warnings were ignored then; but later the timber industry joined the environmental community in challenging the WOPR over the lack of consultation. 

 

As we came to expect, the Bush Administration left the clean-up of its politically tainted and legally indefensible plan to the Obama Administration.  On the one hand, July 16, 2009 was a sad day for western Oregon communities when Secretary Salazar made the final – but inevitable - decision to withdraw the WOPR.  On the other hand, it provides an opportunity to craft a forestry plan based on the best available science, avoid controversy, increase timber volume, and create good family-waged jobs. 

 

I was encouraged to hear from Secretary Salazar in July, 2009 of his intention to identify environmentally sound timber projects that can be quickly approved to create jobs and keep people working in the absence of the WOPR.  I support the Secretary’s call to move forward quickly with BLM timber projects that would improve forest health and are necessary for maintaining and creating jobs in Oregon.  

 

However, I remain concerned about the current pace at which timber projects are being developed and offered for sale by the BLM.  At the time I write this letter, there is only one active timber sale in the five BLM districts that overlap my congressional district (the Beeline Thinning Sale in the Salem District).  While a handful of small projects were sold in August and September, this hardly provides the predictability and certainty needed to secure jobs and timber infrastructure in western Oregon. 

  

I respectfully request that the agency share with me its short-term strategy to develop and offer environmentally sound timber projects.  What types of projects does the agency intend to offer in the near future?  How many projects is the agency currently developing and when does the agency anticipate offering these sales?  Is the agency prioritizing projects that will create the most jobs and avoid drawn-out litigation? 

 

For the long-term, I am eager to work with the Department of Interior to craft a plan that provides a predictable supply of timber and puts Oregonians back to work.  Since the late-1990s, I have proposed an alternative forest plan based on restorative thinning to improve the health of federal forest, reduce the risk of fire, and to protect remaining old growth trees to avoid litigation and inaction.  I have received extensive input from both the environmental community and the timber industry in crafting this alternative plan.  My thinning proposal would help us get beyond the old growth controversy, improve forest health and provide much needed jobs and economic certainty to hard hit communities in Oregon.

 

I respectfully request that the agency review my proposal and consider it as a possible long-term management approach for western Oregon.  I would be interested in the agency’s views on such an approach and am happy to receive the agency’s recommendations on how my proposal could be strengthened.  I have attached a copy of draft legislative text, a section by section, and FAQs page for your convenience. 

 

Moreover, I request that the agency analyze my proposal and provide expected timber volume estimates for my plan.  As the agency moves forward in developing a short-term and long-term western Oregon forest management strategy, it would be helpful to have updated data on the number of BLM acres in need of restorative thinning and estimates for a sustainable, predictable timber supply.     

 

Thank you for your attention to these crucially important issues to the Fourth Congressional District, the state of Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest.  I look forward to your reply.

 

Sincerely,

 

Peter DeFazio

Member of Congress