10 Jan 2008, 3:10am
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Wyden calls for thinning

This article appears in this morning’s Corvallis Gazette Times [here].

Senator sees possibility for economic revitalization; OSU expert testifies for change in forest policy

By Nancy Raskauskas
Gazette-Times Reporter, Jan. 10, 2008

Sen. Ron Wyden has announced that he is working on legislation to overcome gridlock in national forest logging projects designed to reduce wildfires.

The Oregon Democrat told a round table of timber industry leaders, conservation groups and federal agencies Wednesday that the public has made it clear it wants to protect old-growth forests, and the national forests should be turning out a steady supply of logs for the timber industry, but that timber policy has varied widely depending on who is in the White House.

“We need to hustle to reduce fire risk, protect ecology and get merchantable timber to the mills to increase job opportunities in Oregon communities,” Wyden said.

On a related issue, Wyden said his primary goal in the coming Senate session was to pass a separate bill restoring federal payments to timber-dependent counties that have been hurt by cutbacks in logging on national forests.

Wyden, who plans to introduce a bill next month, identified two key issues to break the thinning gridlock: the U.S. Forest Service lacks the funding it needs to do major thinning projects, and too many projects that log large trees to pay for thinning are being delayed by appeals and lawsuits.

He noted that less than 100,000 acres of forest have been thinned since the 2003 Healthy Forest Restoration Act appropriated $760 million to reduce hazardous fuel buildup on 20 million acres of national forests.

According to Wyden, he was heavily influenced by the testimonies of K. Norman Johnson and Jerry F. Franklin at a recent subcommittee meeting to make a legislative change.

Johnson is a distinguished professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and Franklin is a professor of ecosystem sciences in the College of Forest Resources at the University of Washington.

They presented a joint testimony on Dec. 13 to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, which is chaired by Wyden. Although their views are not necessarily the views of their institutions, their opinions carried considerable weight because of their long history in forest research in the Northwest.

Johnson and Franklin were two members of the “Gang of Four” that was charged with steering a new course of action to protect the Northern spotted owl in the early 1990s.

The pair were also influential on the panel that formed the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994, which set aside millions of acres of public forests in “reserves and preserves,” and has been used to steer forest practices in the Northwest for more than a decade.

Yet, in their Dec. 13 testimony Johnson and Franklin stated, “We will lose these forests to catastrophic disturbance events unless we undertake aggressive active management programs.”

They called for a focus on “forest restoration” and active management in the national forests of Oregon and Washington with an emphasis on reducing stand densities that can contribute to catastrophic wildfires and Western pine beetle infestations in old-growth stands.

“To conserve these forests, we need to modify stand structure (e.g., treat fuels) on one-half to two-thirds of the landscape,” they testified.

“Johnson and Franklin are extremely influential in this debate,” Wyden said Wednesday.

According to Wyden, following their advice means initiating large-scale thinning projects of more than 50,000 acres at a time.

“It’s a move away from the ‘boutique thinning’ we have been doing over small areas,” Wyden said. “There is a unique opportunity right now to make a change. What it’s going to require is legislation.”

Associated Press Environmental Writer Jeff Barnard contributed to this article. Nancy Raskauskas can be reached at 758-9542 or nancy.raskauskas@lee.net.

Town hall tonight

Sen. Ron Wyden will visit Corvallis today for a Benton County Town Hall meeting from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Crescent Valley High School Library, 4444 N.W. Highland Drive, Corvallis.



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