Have a say in the future of public lands

Your surrounding public lands are important to everyone from Glendale to Ashland and Cave Junction to Butte Falls. The Rogue Valley's quality of life, county services, clean water, jobs, recreational opportunities, timber products and the ecological health of our forests are all dependent on the way we manage our public lands.

The Bureau of Land Management is currently revising our management plans on all public lands in western Oregon, including the 860,000 acres here in the Medford District. On August 10, we released for public review and comment a Draft Environmental Statement identifying several alternatives for the future management of BLM's public lands across Western Oregon.

The majority of the lands involved in the planning effort fall under the O&C Lands Act of 1937 that requires BLM to manage these Western Oregon lands for "permanent forest production" based on "sustained yield" while providing economic benefit to local communities. The Act requires that 50 percent of timber receipts from O&C lands go directly to the 18 Western Oregon counties, including Jackson and Josephine, to be used for county services. These counties have historically relied on predictable receipts from the 2.5 million O&C acres. The draft plan attempts to reinstate the flow of funding in a way that will allow counties to consistently provide basic public services, including law enforcement and libraries.

The release of BLM's draft plan coincides with preparations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Draft Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl and the critical habitat designation for the owl and the marbled murrelet, both protected as threatened species. These documents, taken together, will offer guidance for all federal efforts on species recovery. BLM will continue to focus on species conservation and we are proud of our important and continuing role in protecting critical habitat.

In addition to the themes common to all of BLM's O&C lands, the Medford District will look at two local issues. We will use the process to develop a program for off-road vehicles that balances ecological needs, rural lifestyles and recreation demand. As we craft the proposed resource management plan we will also look at ways to improve the fire resiliency of our local forests, which tend to be drier and more susceptible to fire then forests further north. The added complexity of our wildland-urban interface and BLM's responsibility for public safety will remain important factors in all of our decisions.

In the draft plan, there is a No Action Alternative and three Action Alternatives. The No Action Alternative would see BLM continue under the current management plan, which was approved in 1995. The three Action Alternatives all meet the goals of the O&C Act and other federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, but differ in their management strategies. All alternatives in the plan aim to both protect endangered species and provide suitable areas for timber harvest.

While this is the most detailed and comprehensive planning analysis ever completed on BLM-managed lands in Western Oregon, it is still a draft, and we recognize the need to make it better. We need your critical thinking and your scrutiny on forest management.

Is the information we present accurate? Is the analysis clear and supported by the science? Are we looking at the whole picture?

Have we proposed a reasonable solution to the ecological, economic, and social challenges that face public land management? Are there ways to blend parts of the alternatives to improve results? We at BLM work for all the public and we need to hear from you so that our final plan meets the needs of southwestern Oregon.

We will sponsor six open houses and two workshops in September for everyone who is interested in learning more about the plan. In the open houses, you will be able to talk to BLM experts, while in the workshops, an independent facilitator will explore the plan in detail and help attendees in developing substantive comments.

As September draws closer, we will make sure the meeting locations and times are widely known. Today, you can view the plan in our Medford and Grants Pass offices, as well as on the web at www.blm.gov/or/plans/wopr.

We all have a stake in the activities taking place on our public lands. I am glad we have a 90-day comment period because true sustainable management can only be achieved when it addresses the full range of environmental, social and economic values.

In my view, BLM's planning effort and your ideas will help move all of us toward sustainable forest management as well as recovery — recovery of threatened and endangered species and recovery of the financial base for county services under the O&C Act through timber sales.

Tim Reuwsaat is district manager of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District.

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