Things look different here

It can get tiresome being from Southern Oregon — having to explain yet again to folks from elsewhere that, no, it doesn't rain here all the time the way it does in Portland or Salem; no, the hills are not lush and green all year because summer temperatures well above 90 degrees are normal.

It's even more tiresome when those differences are lost on fellow Oregonians from upstate or government bureaucrats who make policy for our area — people who ought to know better.

That's why we're encouraged by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners' formal comments on the Bureau of Land Management's draft plan for managing Western Oregon forests.

The Western Oregon Plan Revisions, known by the unfortunate acronym WOPR (is the BLM tone deaf?), is the federal government's response to a lawsuit by the timber industry. The suit alleged what everyone agrees is fact — that the timber harvest levels promised in the Clinton administration's 1994 Northwest Forest Plan never have been met.

The Bush administration settled the case by requiring the BLM to find ways to meet the timber harvest goals. The result was the WOPR, which proposes to triple the annual timber sale volume by clearcutting green trees in harvest areas.

Wait just a minute, the county's comments say.

The BLM's Medford District differs markedly from timber stands to the north. It is hotter here, and drier, and we have different tree species and much higher fire danger. Even within the Medford District, forest characteristics are far from uniform, affected by terrain, soil and whether the trees stand on north or south-facing slopes.

The commissioners put together a core group of people with sophisticated knowledge and years of experience, including members of the county's Natural Resources Advisory Committee. The core group included professional foresters Ed Kupillas and Paul Kangas and longtime biology professor Frank Lang of Southern Oregon University as well as representatives of The Nature Conservancy, the reforestation group Lomakatsi, and the Jefferson Sustainable Development Initiative, an Arcata, Calif.-based organization.

In addition, 32 people took part in a workshop where they expressed their concerns.

The result was a detailed set of recommendations urging the BLM to address wildfire danger and the effects of logging on fish and other wildlife habitat. The group specifically called for plans that address each harvest site individually, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

The most encouraging outcome of the core group's work was that every one of its 12 members signed the final recommendations. That's another characteristic of Southern Oregon — those who live and work here all care deeply about the health of our forests, though we may disagree on how best to manage them.

The core group members arrived at common ground on some very contentious issues. Now it's up to the BLM to take their recommendations and craft a plan that recognizes the unique characteristics of Southern Oregon's forests.

Share This Story