Photo by Ellen Miller

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An opportunity to move forward in our forests

The Oregonian

Guest Columnist
By Ed Shepard

The other morning when I opened The Oregonian and read "Our forests forever -- if only we go about it right," I thought: "I couldn't agree more." Now it's time to roll up our sleeves and have an honest-to-goodness dialogue about our forests, not sit around and mull over the past.

I too was at the recent meeting convened in Washington, D.C., by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on forest management, the meeting that Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild refered to in his commentary in The Oregonian. And I'm grateful to Heiken and the entire Oregon congressional delegation's commitment to help us find a long-term strategy for forest management and restoration that's environmentally sound, economically sustainable and socially responsible. Unfortunately, Heiken chose to focus on the past with inaccurate data and misrepresentations of past management, the Northwest Forest Plan and current planning efforts by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

I was particularly concerned by Oregon Wild's singular characterization regarding the Northwest Forest Plan. The dialogue that we undertook recently is about providing timber for harvest and habitat for the conservation of federally listed species. Both harvest and habitat -- not one or the other.

This is not something new. Since 1994, the BLM has operated under only one plan for these forests -- the Northwest Forest Plan. And the Northwest Forest Plan contemplated both timber production and habitat conservation. In addition to continuing to manage these lands to help create healthy forests, communities and habitat, we need to be conscious of the infrastructure needed to manage these lands -- infrastructure that also provides jobs and economic opportunities in Oregon's rural communities. Restoration-related work can and does contribute to the economies of rural Oregon, but both this work and timber infrastructure is needed to manage these lands. Once the infrastructure is gone, it cannot be replaced with the flip of a switch.

Since the inception of the Northwest Forest Plan, the BLM has worked collaboratively with its federal, tribal, state and local government partners to implement the plan. We remain committed to working with our partners and the diverse public that we serve to find workable and sustainable solutions to the management of these important and unique public forests.

As the health and resiliency of our forests continues to decline in some areas, we must move forward. The battles of the past have not benefited the northern spotted owl, our local communities or the forest products industry. All sides of this issue have been given an opportunity to craft a solution, and we need to take advantage of Secretary Salazar's offer and move forward.

Edward Shepard is state director for Oregon and Washington for the Bureau of Land Management.

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