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OR is Proving Ground for New Timber Sale Approach

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 By Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR, Contact
October 15, 2009

MEDFORD, Ore. - If it is possible to have a timber industry that keeps people employed and also respects the environment and protects endangered species, the U.S. Interior Department says it can happen in Western Oregon. Managers of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Fish and Wildlife Service say they have teams working together on 62 new timber sales that will meet environmental laws. They're promising a new level of interagency cooperation to end the gridlock over logging on public land, according to their boss, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

"We're in this for the long haul. We're going to get it done to achieve both the economic interests that are so important to Western Oregon, but also to make sure we are doing what we have to do to restore the ecosystem and comply with the environmental laws."

Bob Freimark, acting regional director of The Wilderness Society, says it's encouraging that the agencies are coordinating their efforts, as long as they also work on building public trust in the process.

"The public is going to have expectations that timber sales do not jeopardize our pristine streams, and still provide protections for endangered wildlife species and the high level of recreation opportunities. That's a real challenge, and it's something that BLM has not done too well in the past. But, there's a real commitment from the administration to try to make that work."

Freimark acknowledges the timber industry also has expectations that the sales will be profitable enough to warrant a bid.

Governor Kulongoski praised the announcement as good news for the Oregon economy in the short-term, but said a longer-term forest management plan is needed, since Salazar threw out the Western Oregon Plan Revisions earlier this year. The feds say they'll have recommendations for a new plan by mid March.

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