We turned back the Bush Administration’s last-gasp assault on our nation’s ancient forests—the Western Oregon Plan Revision (WOPR) is gone! This Bush strategy, conceived by the timber industry, sought to quintuple logging in old-growth forests.
FSEEE sued to stop WOPR because the Bureau of Land Management had violated the Endangered Species Act.
On July 16, 2009, President Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar agreed with FSEEE and withdrew WOPR. It is a fitting end to Bush’s war against our public forests.
But major media missed the most important part of the news. Secretary Salazar also announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review the Bush Administration’s ill-conceived northern spotted owl recovery plan.
This rare forest bird is the canary in the coal mine—as the owl goes, so goes our forest ecosystem. The Bush “recovery” plan is just as bad as WOPR; in fact, it was written to make WOPR’s high logging levels possible.
Reviewing the spotted owl recovery plan is the first, and the most important, step the Obama Administration will take in revising the Northwest Forest Plan, which governs the fate of 24 million acres of federal forests. These acres include almost all that is left of the West’s temperate old-growth forests.
THESE FORESTS ARE IRREPLACEABLE!
To ensure the Obama Administration adopts the best possible spotted owl recovery plan, we must ensure the government bases its plan on the best possible science. That won’t happen without your help.
Our first challenge is that the most credible scientific analysis of the spotted owl’s fate is more than 25 years old. This analysis was cutting-edge science at that time but does not include new threats to the owl’s survival such as climate change and invasive species.
We must ensure that the Obama Administration has the best tools to craft its new spotted owl plan.
Good science would have been wasted during President Bush’s two terms. But today, solid science can provide the essential foundation for a legally and politically defensible decision to do the right thing for the spotted owl and its old-growth forest habitat.
It’s crucial that these ancient forests be saved. These giants store more carbon than any other species on our planet. They are the source of clean water, the last refuge of healthy salmon runs, and the habitat for hundreds of species in addition to the spotted owl.
The second challenge we face is changing the status quo. FSEEE knows full well the pressures that face career government agency biologists trying to improve our environment.
Regardless of the political party in control, those in government who promote environmental protection always bear the burden of proof. The default position is always business as usual—logging, mining, and livestock grazing.
Changing the status quo will require the best possible scientific analysis.
Under the status quo, however, ancient forests continue to fall to chain saws. The spotted owl continues to decline as much as 7 percent a year. Salmon continue to be imperiled. Over one million acres of the spotted owl’s ancient forests remain completely unprotected by any rule or plan.
Those who want to increase logging levels were the same special interests behind the Bush Administration’s WOPR. They include a timber industry that threatens increased forest fires to scare people into logging our public lands. (In fact, commercial logging has never been shown to decrease home losses from wildfire—it’s how the home is built that determines whether it will burn).
These interest groups also include some county governments, especially in northern California and western Oregon, who got windfall profits from unsustainably high federal logging levels throughout most of the 20th century. These counties want desperately to turn back the clock to increase their revenue. And they are using the threat of lost jobs, closed libraries, criminals released prematurely from jail, and pot-holed streets to make their case to the Obama Administration that logging must increase.
The third challenge we face is that there is no more challenging time politically to save forests than during a recession. Politicians have only one thing on their minds: jobs, jobs and more jobs. Environmental protection is the most difficult to achieve when the economy is hurting. But we don’t get to choose the timing on this issue. We have to play the hand we’re dealt, and play it the best we can.
A tree might live to be 1,000 years old, but it takes only 5 minutes to cut it down. We can’t afford to let a bad economy keep the Obama Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service from doing what is necessary to truly save our forests and recover the spotted owl.
FSEEE has a three-part strategy to protect these ancient forests:
Commission a current scientific assessment of the northern spotted owl’s extinction risk. This analysis will provide the scientific basis for a robust and defensible spotted owl recovery plan. Good science was missing completely from President Bush’s “recovery” plan—restoring good science will be critical to ensuring the Obama Administration doesn’t repeat the same mistakes.
Educate the public about the link between saving ancient forests and our planet’s climate. The 1994 Northwest Forest Plan focused on protecting wildlife, like the spotted owl. At that time, it was not well-appreciated that these ancient forests store immense amounts of carbon and continue doing so indefinitely. Foresters thought then that clearing ancient forests and planting young trees would soak up excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But it turns out that young forests never succeed in capturing even a small fraction of the carbon that is lost when ancient forests are logged.
Hold the Obama Administration accountable to the law and to protecting your National Forests. I am more optimistic now than during the past eight years. But FSEEE’s oversight mission is still very necessary because we need to provide the tools to make sure Obama does the right thing for ancient forests.
Please make a special contribution to help FSEEE ensure that a new Forest Recovery Plan is worthy of our irreplaceable ancient forests. Thank you!
P.S. You can make a donation for this project here at our secure website. Click here to go to FSEEE’s donation page.