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Keeping Western OR's "Backyard Forests" Intact

PHOTO: Some old-growth trees in Oregon's Crabtree Valley have names. This giant is known as "King Tut." Photo by Chandra LeGue.
PHOTO: Some old-growth trees in Oregon's Crabtree Valley have names. This giant is known as "King Tut." Photo by Chandra LeGue.
December 14, 2012

ASHLAND, Ore. – As the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) takes public comments on how to manage more than 2.5 million acres in western Oregon, conservation groups are asking people to weigh in, by choosing the areas that mean the most to them.

The goal of the new Our Backyard Forests campaign is to pinpoint sites that some believe should be spared from the chainsaw. Joseph Vaile, program director at the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, says western Oregon is full of special places that people might not realize would be threatened if timber production increases significantly.

"Some of the forests are checkerboards, and so we have communities that are literally smack-dab up against these BLM lands. And we think it's really important that their voices are part of this discussion."

As the BLM updates its Resource Management Plans, its priorities include sustained yields of timber products, along with clean water and recovery of endangered species. The Our Backyard Forests campaign runs through Jan. 18, 2013 online, and asks people to nominate and describe their favorite spots on public land in western Oregon. The BLM is taking comments through mid-February.

Chandra LeGue, Old-Growth Campaign coordinator at Oregon Wild, says the BLM already authorizes some clear-cutting on land that it manages, and federal legislation proposed earlier this year would designate some of the O&C Railroad lands for generating more timber income for struggling counties.

"That would transfer about a million acres to this Timber Trust that would be aggressively logged, and that's a million acres that might include some of people's favorite places. And so, we want to make sure that those places and those public values on those lands are considered in any sort of legislative proposal."

Others believe the O&C lands should be designated for permanent, sustained timber yield and excluded from protections altogether. A special timber panel appointed by the governor should release its recommendations for balancing these priorities, in January.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR