In Case You Missed It: Making public lands healthier in Western Oregon

Last edited 03/12/2021

Orginally Published by: The Register-Guard
By: U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt


The health of our forests and timbered area can mean life or death for citizens in the Northwest.

Actively managing our timbered lands by permitting responsible timber harvests, clearing dead and dying timber and conducting other fuel treatments helps prevent wildfires and better protects communities from ruin. These lands provide economic life to thousands of Oregonians. This is why President Trump and his administration have made it a priority to implement commonsense reforms that spur robust and responsible timber harvest, reduce the threat from wildfires and encourage reforestation through the One Trillion Trees Initiative.

For most of its history, Oregon and timber have been virtually synonymous. However, the timber economy took an enormous hit during the Clinton administration when timber harvests on federal lands in the state were sharply curbed. The resulting mill closures and job losses hit communities across Western Oregon hard.
Under Trump’s leadership, the Department of the Interior has recognized the importance of sustainable and predictable timber production from healthy forests. I traveled this week to Oregon where I was joined by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden to meet with local community leaders, hearing directly from them on how different policies and government actions are impacting their businesses and lives.

We have worked to create a more consistent and predictable regulatory environment for the people in Western Oregon and across the country. We have streamlined our business process and opened areas for timber auctions. These changes have led to results.

Last year, the Bureau of Land Management offered 272 million board feet of timber (mmbf) for sale — the most timber offered in a single year since the mid-1990s. Currently, we are on track for another record year at 278 mmbf, which is enough timber to construct 15,750 new homes. This is significant for the more than 7,200 jobs in the Oregon timber industry that are directly supported by the BLM’s land management decisions and the resulting output that generates $770 million for the local economy.

We are committed to driving forward with appropriately considering additional improvements to better manage our timber resources. Recently, we proposed to further streamline our process for timber salvage operations of up to 10,000 acres. This effort would allow us to more quickly reduce fuel loads and remove dead and dying timber, ensuring that we improve and maintain forest health and resiliency. Additionally, we have proposed to eliminate an unnecessary, duplicative protest period for timber sales that has delayed projects and increased bureaucratic costs.

Despite the fact that Interior treated a record number of 1.4 million acres last year to prevent wildfires — 132,500 acres in Oregon alone — we know that bureaucratic delay can have real consequences. Before an auction in September 2017, the Pickett Hog timber sale in Oregon received dozens of protests from frequent-flyer environmental groups that delayed the sale by more than a year. Before the BLM could complete protest reviews and responses, a wildfire destroyed a number of sale units in July of 2018.

While we adopt administrative changes, we recognize that reforestation also is critical to ensure that we have a sustained strategy for healthy forests now and generations into the future. To that end, Trump has embraced the One Trillion Trees Initiative, which seeks to grow, save from loss and better protect 1 trillion trees around the world by 2030. This is an ambitious international effort to bring together government and private sector partners and to further our commitment to maintaining our natural world.

The Trump administration is actively promoting a conservation ethic that drives responsible stewardship of our environment as we work across the 2.4 million acres of forests and woodlands that BLM manages in Western Oregon — one of the most productive forests in the world. Through commonsense regulations and collaborative public-private partnerships, we can make public lands in Western Oregon healthier and more productive for people and wildlife.

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