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There is local timber that could be cut
Congress should appropriate funds for Fremont-Winema management plan
 Herald and News April 8, 2012, guest commentary by BOB JESSEN

There is much being written these days about the need to increase the timber harvest on the national forests to increase jobs and revenues to counties with national forests located in them. Currently, there is discussion about proposed legislation to alter the way O&C grant lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

This legislation has been proposed by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and others, and is referred to as the draft O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act. This act could increase the timber cut on those lands and transfer some of those lands from BLM to the national forests.

In addition to the O&C proposal, Congressman Walden has proposed legislation which would designate portions of national forests as being primarily devoted to timber production. There have been newspaper articles which seem to indicate that Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Gov. Kitzhaber are receptive to the concept.

Unlike the O&C draft, there seem to be few details available on this proposal.

We dont know who will designate the areas, who will prepare the timber sales, where the money to do so will come from, or how much the timber harvest can be increased on a sustainable basis. Considerable controversy seems likely over where and how much land is designated for this special timber harvesting.

It seems strange that we need to create new legislation and seriously impact the existing land management agency with implementing it when the solution is readily available.

The Forest Service was created in 1903 to preserve watersheds and to manage timber, and these goals were expanded in 1960 with the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act. The Forest Service is presently organized to produce timber as well as to meet other goals. The 1990 Timber Management Plan for the Fremont-Winema National Forests called for a timber harvest of approximately 490 million board feet.

Unfortunately, this volume was never met due to legal challenges to various timber sales because of spotted owl and salmon controversies, so that today the two national forests produce approximately 50 to 60 million board feet annually. Personnel and budgets have been substantially reduced from the 1980s; today approximately 40 foresters, engineers, and various specialists are involved in the timber production. As it presently stands, no one knows what the annual timber harvest should be.

The solution is simple, although not easily achieved with our divided Congress. First, Congress should appropriate funds for the Fremont-Winema National Forest to prepare a new Timber Management Plan which would establish the permissible level of harvest, recognizing the limitations caused by current laws and regulations. Second, Congress should appropriate the funds to increase the timber harvest by funding and authorizing an increased number of personnel associated with timber harvesting. The folks on the ground believe the harvest level could be increased with more personnel.

The trees are there! The people could be there! No new controversial legislation is needed! Why not try for more funding rather than trying to pass new controversial legislation which also would require more funding? Congressman Walden and Sens. Wyden and Merkley, why not?


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