Anti-salvage arguments irrelevant

The guest opinion by George Sexton on Aug. 17 titled "Hard questions about salvage logging" requires a response.

The Mail Tribune editorial of August 15 titled "Here we go again" did a good job of explaining why the salvage of about 35 million board feet of blowdown timber should occur and concluded by saying, "Here is an opportunity to remove a hazard from a working forest and gain valuable timber at the same time." Sexton's article, which came out after the Mail Tribune's editorial, in effect said "not so fast" and raised some issues that need to be rebutted.

Indeed it is "here we go again." Sexton and his group, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild) and other unbending extremist groups have been successful in keeping the BLM from selling any timber for about a year by filing lawsuits. The lawsuit is the ultimate "hammer" these groups use that prevents even the best projects from being accomplished.

The fanaticism for preserving all old growth is behind this absurdity. Under the Northwest Forest Plan, about 80 percent of more than 24 million acres of Forest Service and BLM land in the Pacific Northwest is already set aside from logging. Apparently this is not enough.

So, George Sexton brings up a bunch of issues that really have nothing to do with the problem of this laid-flat timber gradually rotting away. He is using these inapplicable issues to justify saying "that up to 20 million board feet of timber could be salvaged "¦"

His "scoping" comments to the BLM on their Environmental Analysis for the salvage project contain even more irrelevant information than his guest opinion. Sexton, representing KS Wild (and four other "environmental" organizations) seems to think that if one comes upon a wreck in the middle of a highway with gasoline dripping out of the vehicles, there should be a debate about what caused the wreck so as to question the vehicles' immediate removal from the highway, although the wreck has stopped traffic and the vehicles are about to catch fire and threaten the whole neighborhood with a conflagration.

Now, I know KS Wild has certain ideas about how the BLM and Forest Service should manage the lands under their jurisdiction, and even though I don't agree with those opinions, the group is entitled to try to influence those agencies at the proper time. Now is not the proper time.

Now is the time to recognize that there is a significant amount of timber on the ground for whatever reason on about 6,800 acres of BLM land. The BLM proposes to harvest about 6,100 of those acres. In spite of the references Sexton has cited in scoping comments to show that it is environmentally unsound to do so, the preponderance of scientific evidence contradicts those assertions. My reading of the BLM's Environmental Analysis indicates to me that they are proposing a salvage harvest that is very sensitive to its environmental consequences.

Sexton says BLM is planning 7.8 miles of new logging roads in the watershed, when my reading of the EA shows only a net increase of 3.1 miles in Alternative 2 and only half a mile in Alternative 3. Is this an example of another one of Sexton's many inaccuracies designed to scare a concerned public?

Sexton's comments about the amount of previous logging that has occurred in the proposed project area and other purported causes of the blowdown are all irrelevant to the situation at hand. The trees are on the ground and rotting. The real question is, what is to be done now?

Finally, Sexton indicates the "unanswered question is whether the BLM is willing to work with us (KS Wild) to ensure that both wood fiber and clean water are produced by the Big Butte Creek Watershed." That's an implied threat that says if you won't "work with us" we'll sue you. It's a sad day when fringe groups such as KS Wild, with lots of trust and foundation money, can thwart what the majority of Oregonians desire, i.e., "forests managed for a balance of social, environmental and economic benefits," according to Leslie Lehman, executive director of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. That organization, along with the Society of American Foresters, the American Forestry Association, the OSU Extension Service and the OSU College of Forestry, to name a few, are the mainstream organizations the BLM should be working with.

On this BLM project, Sexton and his groups should get real, get responsible, get out of the way and let BLM do its job.

Ed Kupillas is a retired professional forester. He lives on and manages a cattle and timber ranch near Butte Falls.

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