WOPR would roll back protections

The Bureau of Land Management's Western Oregon Plan Revisions — the most sweeping overhaul of forest management the agency has ever undertaken — is still a work in progress. In its present form, it contains flaws that must be addressed before the final version is adopted.

The document, known by its acronym, the WOPR, sets out to restore some of the commercial logging on 2.6 million acres of public land that once helped support county governments throughout the region. That is a worthwhile and, we think, an achievable goal. Timber harvest levels set by the Clinton administration's Northwest Forest Plan have never been achieved, and public services long supported by those timber sales have suffered, from libraries to roads and police protection.

But the WOPR proposes to increase logging at the expense of stream-side buffer zones designed to protect water quality and salmon habitat. It also could transform oak savannas into tree plantations, harming deer and elk winter range.

Don't take our word for it; these concerns have been raised by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service and a coalition of eight hunting and fishing groups.

In a letter Jan.11, the NMFS said none of the alternatives outlined in the WOPR "contain a coherent and cohesive conservation strategy for anadromous fish and their habitat," and further, that several of the BLM's analyses rely on assumptions or methods that do not "comport with the findings of published scientific literature."

The EPA, in a letter last August, noted that streamside protections required under the Northwest Forest Plan have noticeably improved water quality and habitat across the region, and that each of the alternatives proposed in the WOPR would reduce those protections, affecting drinking water as well as fish habitat.

The hunting and fishing groups, in a recent report, said the BLM's proposals threaten to sacrifice spawning streams and wildlife habitat for the sake of increasing timber harvests. The groups, which include Trout Unlimited, Northwest Steelheaders and Oregon Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, aren't suggesting that logging should not increase. Neither are we.

But boosting timber harvests should not come at the expense of clean, cold streams with healthy fish and robust herds of deer, elk and other wildlife. It ought to be possible to have both.


Tuesday's editorial on the proposed Soda Mountain Wilderness incorrectly stated that livestock grazing is prohibited in wilderness areas. In the case of Soda Mountain, however, if all existing grazing leases on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument were withdrawn, it would be unlikely that grazing would ever again occur on the wilderness portion of the monument.

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