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After 20 Years, NW Forest Plan Up for Revision

PHOTO: The U.S. Forest Service takes public comment this week as part of a yearlong look at how to revise the Northwest Forest Plan, which has been in place since 1994. Photo credit: influenz/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: The U.S. Forest Service takes public comment this week as part of a yearlong look at how to revise the Northwest Forest Plan, which has been in place since 1994. Photo credit: influenz/morguefile.com.
March 16, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - After 20 years, the U.S. Forest Service is looking for ideas on how to update the Northwest Forest Plan. The first public meeting is Tuesday in Portland.

Since 1994, the plan has been the overarching management strategy to balance conservation and timber harvest in the Northwest, on national forests and some Bureau of Land Management Oregon districts.

Jerry Franklin, a forest ecology professor at the University of Washington who coauthored the original plan, said he'd like to see protections for older trees based on science rather than what he sees as a Forest Service effort to avoid timber-sale lawsuits.

"We need to acknowledge in an open decision that we're not going to cut mature and old forests anymore," he said. "I think that's probably, from an ecological point of view, a good decision. But that was not done through a transparent process."

The timber industry has said for years that the Northwest Forest Plan hasn't delivered the volume of timber it promised in the 1990s, and is looking to Congress to authorize more logging.

The Forest Service has said it's leaning toward separate management plans for each forest instead of a regional plan. Franklin said that won't work because so many of the management challenges are regional, including endangered species and climate change. He said he thinks a revised plan also should include different strategies for wet, coastal forests versus the dry, eastern forests.

"We recognize that in the Northwest Forest Plan, but we didn't go very far with it," he said. "We need to recognize very clearly that there are these two very broad, general categories that need to be dealt with differently, with regards to policy and management."

The Portland listening session will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel, 8235 N.E. Airport Way.

Franklin said he's pleased the agency is having the public meetings, which also will be held on Wednesday in Seattle, and on March 25 in Redding, Calif. They're part of a yearlong effort to collect and analyze the past 20 years of science regarding the Northwest forests.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR