Here’s a breakthrough: Federal agencies are expected to follow the law.
And that means more timber needs to be offered for sale on Bureau of Land Management lands in Western Oregon, especially in the Roseburg and Medford districts.
The action should create more jobs in the wood products industry and provide funding for county government.
A federal judge ruled last week that the BLM hasn’t adhered to the Oregon & California Act of 1937. The law clearly states that BLM lands be managed for sustainable timber production, with proceeds of the harvests contributing to the economic stability of local communities and industries.
The amount of timber that should be cut isn’t based on a 76-year-old law, however. The “allowable sale quantity,” as it’s called, was determined after the Northwest Forest Plan was developed in 1994 to establish more protection for fish and wildlife on federal lands.
The environmental protections reduced the expected annual harvest to 45 million board feet in the Roseburg district and 57 million board feet in the Medford district. The agency’s management plans gave it some flexibility. The actual timber offered for sale could deviate by as much as 20 percent.
Despite the leeway, the Roseburg district failed to meet the standard four out of six years between 2004 and 2009. The Medford district offered an adequate amount only in 2005.
Missing the mark makes a big difference in the number of jobs and the economic activity in a rural community. Analysts estimate 11 forest-sector jobs are created for every million board feet of timber harvested.
The American Forest Resource Council estimates 600 more jobs could be added in the Roseburg and Medford areas if the BLM complies with the judge’s decision. AFRC was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, along with Glendale-based Swanson Group and Roseburg-based Douglas Timber Operators. The timber industry groups say they will use the courts, if necessary, to ensure the O&C Act is implemented.
The BLM may face challenges in increasing the timber offered for sale due to budget restraints, but that’s no different than the situation facing private companies that were forced to become slimmer and more efficient during the Great Recession.
The judge handed the timber industry another victory when he ordered the agency to stop estimating the number of northern spotted owls — birds that have halted numerous timber sales since being listed as a threatened species in 1990 — using computer models. That methodology didn’t get a public airing before it was adopted.
We look forward to the BLM following through on the judge’s ruling. It would be nice to see Southern Oregon pick up a few more jobs and see our high unemployment rate take a dip.