FSEEE: Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics

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Stop Old-Growth Logging!

old growth loggingRight now, more than a million acres of old-growth forests in the Northwest are eligible for logging.

FSEEE has developed an innovative strategy that will permanently protect the forests at risk, and at the same time, provide jobs for rural communities.

But we need your help to save these irreplaceable old-growth forests.

For almost two decades, the Northwest Forest Plan has provided the blueprint for the management of many of our nation’s oldest forests, including the ancient forests that survived the timber boom of the 20th century.

The Plan, which was adopted in 1994 after ten years of litigation, was revolutionary in its day. For the first time, the U.S. Forest Service acknowledged that old forests have environmental benefits that exceed their value as wood products. For the first time, the Forest Service admitted that it had been significantly overcutting the National Forests while discounting concerns over wildlife, fish and water quality.

But from the beginning, the Northwest Forest Plan had two Achilles’ heels that have become more of a liability over time.

First, the Plan fails to protect over a million acres of irreplaceable ecosystems—the remaining old-growth forests.

Second, the Plan does protect over a million acres of easily replaceable plantations—clear-cut and young, second-growth forests.

What? That doesn’t make sense. No, it doesn’t. The Northwest Forest Plan is a political document dressed up with a scientific veneer. Instead of surveying ecosystems and making decisions based on the results, the authors drew lines around 50,000-acre chunks of land distributed evenly across the National Forests. These areas were called “late-successional reserves” and logging was banned within most of them (only thinning of young forests is permitted).

The biologists who wrote the Plan reasoned that the clear-cuts and young forests (which account for more than half the land within the late-successional reserves) would grow old and in several hundred years, would resemble today’s old-growth forests.

Meanwhile, over a million acres of old-growth forest were not included within the Plan’s late-successional reserves.

These forests are now eligible for logging, and with rural economies struggling to fund county budgets, the push to harvest them is stronger than ever.

If you’ve followed the saga of the Secure Rural Schools Act, you know that counties that once relied on timber harvests for revenues
will lose their congressional appropriations when the Act expires this year. The economic benefits of logging old-growth forests, a solution long favored by timber companies, could solve the counties’ financial problems, and you can be sure that option will have many industry

We can’t afford to let that happen! These majestic, cathedral-like stands of trees are irreplaceable. Once they are logged, we will never see their likes again—nor will our children, grandchildren or even their grandchildren.

Over time, many environmental injuries can be restored—toxic waste dumps and dirty rivers can be cleaned up, pollution controls can improve air quality. But there is no technological miracle that can recreate a 500-year-old forest.

FSEEE has a solution and Oregon’s congressional delegation is listening to it.

We have proposed that the O&C lands, 2.4 million acres in western Oregon that were originally granted to the Oregon and California rail line, be divided into two equal-sized public land trusts. These lands are in a checkerboard pattern, with public land alternating with private square miles of ownership. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has been logging these lands since they were taken back from the railroad after early 20th century land fraud.

Today, half of the O&C land remains as native old-growth forest, while the other half is recently cut-over and second-growth plantations. Because BLM manages under the Northwest Forest Plan, the unprotected old-growth can be logged. At the same time, a large fraction of the second-growth plantations are off-limits to harvest because they are protected by the late-successional reserve designation.

It makes more sense to save the irreplaceable native, old-growth forest and focus logging on the second-growth plantations.

FSEEE believes that the intractable conflict between environmental and timber interests can be solved through this simple win-win solution.

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), whose district has most of these O&C lands, agrees. During a radio interview, he said, “This is an immediate crisis....We are trying to do something here to break through the gridlock on these lands that has been in place for decades. To stop the timber wars.”

Together with Congressman DeFazio, FSEEE is developing a legislative proposal that would separate the O&C lands into public land trusts.

The Environmental Trust would be established to protect the over 1 million acres of old-growth and native forests that still remain on the O&C land. A board of trustees would administer the forest’s protection with oversight provided by the trust’s beneficiaries—each and every one of us who benefits from protecting these invaluable forests. The land would remain federally owned, but no longer managed by the BLM—an agency with a logging and timber bias.

The Timber Trust would be created to tend the existing plantations and second-growth forest to benefit rural counties that rely upon the revenue produced from these formerly private lands. The Timber Trust would oversee logging of the plantations to ensure that it is done responsibly so that water quality is not harmed. With the protection of ancient forests assured by the Environmental Trust, the Timber Trust would be able to operate without the conflict and controversy that has dogged the BLM for the past 30 years.

Creating and promoting a solution to benefit all stakeholders in our current hyper-partisan political environment is no easy matter. Both sides think that if the other’s position improves, it must be at the cost of their own. That kind of zero-sum thinking makes it tough to act outside the box.

FSEEE is not willing to be hamstrung by conventional wisdom.

Win-win solutions are the only ones we can afford to pursue. Old-growth forests need permanent protection. Rural workers need jobs. Counties need revenue to provide services.

But logging our irreplaceable ancient forests is not the solution!

I hope that you can help us realize our vision to protect old-growth and provide a boost to rural economies. We’ll use your contribution to map the old growth to be protected, educate members of Congress about our proposal, and to assess its economic and environmental benefits.

Please consider making a special contribution to FSEEE to help us save more than a million acres of old-growth forest.

On behalf of the forest, I thank you.


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Forest News - Spring 2014
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