Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Western Oregon BLM Federal Public Forestlands:

News Flash: Conservation Organizations Call for Increased Logging in Northwest Forest Plan Area

From the abstract of Ecologically Appropriate Restoration Thinning in the Northwest Forest Plan Area: A Policy and Technical Analysis, authored by Andy Kerr of The Larch Company and co-produced by Conservation Northwest, Geos Institute, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Oregon Wild:


This report recommends a 20-year program of ecological restoration thinning (ERT) in degraded forests managed under the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP); which is also the range of the northern spotted owl. ERT is one part of comprehensive restoration to restore forest and watershed health. The commercial timber volume that could result as a byproduct of ERT could be 44% more each year than has been produced on average under the NWFP between 1995-2010. In contrast to much of the timber volume produced to date under the NWFP—that came from mature and old-growth forests—commercial logs from ecological restoration can be produced with little or no controversy. Under the science-based principles and recommendations in this report, intact mature and old-growth forests can be conserved, degraded forests can be restored to late-successional character, and timber volume can increase from federal public forestlands.

Yet, the timber industry isn't satisfied. There objections center on three issues:

1.    it's not enough logs;

Its 44% more than has gotten out under the Northwest Forest Plan. Logging more means doing kinds of logging—such as clearcutting or close to it—for which there is no longer a social license.

A related criticism is that the report projects a modest decrease in logging on Western Oregon BLM Lands. The BLM decrease is primarily do to two factors. The first has to do with the chosen baseline: the average log output under the Northwest Forest Plan between 1995 and 2010. Proportionally, BLM got more logs—especially large logs from older forests—out than did the Forest Service. The second factor has to do with the amount of plantations in moist forest types and degraded dry forest stands in need of restoration. BLM has what it has. The report projects a 37% increase in logging from Oregon national forests, which more than offsets the BLM reduction for a net gain of 14% in Oregon. There is no mill in Oregon that only buys western Oregon BLM logs and most buy National Forest logs—not just in Oregon, but also from California and Washington.

2.    it's not enough large logs; and

Large-logs come from large trees that come from older forests on federal public forestlands (the big trees and stands on private lands are essentially all gone), for which there is no longer a social license to log them. Al but nine of the 55 primary wood-processing facilities in Western Oregon have moved on to second-growth or third-growth logs.

3.    the profits wouldn't be large enough.

It has to do with set-up costs. It costs about the same to set up for a thinning operation as for a clearcut; the latter being most profitable, as one gets the most volume/acre. Those that say they can't make a profit logging federal public forestlands without clearcutting them have a business model that isn't much different than the chemical factory that closed after the could no longer dump their toxic wastes into the river or the garment factory that closed after it could no longer use child labor. It is a business model that depends on profiting from something society has deemed no longer socially acceptable.

Essentially all of the thinning sales the federal forest agencies are offering are being purchased, so they are profitable enough—at least to firms that are competitive.