If you must accelerate the cut of O&C Lands, minimize ecological damage – MidCoast Watersheds Council
When faced with the likelihood that votes in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, will produce “some” accelerated timber harvesting on O&C lands to help bail out budget-busted southwest Oregon counties, the MidCoast Watersheds Council voted to send their advice to Congress on how to proceed. Their message: “Do the least harm to the forests.”
The council, made up of representatives of a number of coastal watershed councils, outlined certain strategies that they claim would reduce damage to the environment, including to wildlife and fisheries.
1. Consolidate timber lands by eliminating the historical checkerboard ownership patterns dating back to the 1800’s. Timberland consolidation with more rational boundaries offers, they say, a better chance to minimize damage from high cut rates and reduce costs while building logging roads in and out of areas targeted for harvesting.
2. Prioritize timber to be cut on lands east of the crest of the Coast Range, so that rivers and streams that flow to the west (to the sea) are not affected in their capacity to raise fish and nourish wildlife.
3. Prioritize the preservation of areas that have Coho Salmon habitat.
4. Prioritize the preservation of areas that have the best potential for Owl habitat.
5. Prioritize for preservation of areas closest to the coast for the sake of waterfowl like the Murrelets. Young Murrelets, fresh from the nest, that don’t have to fly very far to the coast for food, are more likely to arrive there healthy and thrive.
6. Preserve areas that are not just ridgetop habitat, and
7. Preserve areas that are linked to other protected lands, like those that abut National Forest lands.
Some members of the MidCoast Watersheds Council reluctantly voted for the recommendations if only in hopes that members of Congress will even listen. One member who voted yes said she really wanted to vote no because she believes that shipping raw logs to Asia is shortchanging forest communities that don’t benefit from cutting logs into building materials and finished wood products. Another member lamented that the accelerated cut is largely the result of a few southwest Oregon counties whose residents stubbornly refuse to pay a reasonable level of taxes. He said residents of the O&C revenue-starved counties are, in effect, forcing taxpayers in neighboring counties to subsidize them simply because they don’t want to pay taxes at a more reasonable rate. All three county tax rates are far, far below the state average.
Senator Wyden has claimed consistently over the past week that there is a way to work out accelerated forest cutting to aid Curry, Josephine and Douglas counties. But he adds that stepped up harvesting must be managed in a way that ensures that environmental safeguards and good forestry management tools are used conscientiously.