Obama Administration raises concerns on eastern Oregon forest bill
The Obama Administration raised concerns today about a compromise
bill for managing national forests east of the Cascades, saying the bill's
mandates to thin 300,000 acres in the next three years may generate
"unrealistic expectations" in timber towns.
Harris Sherman, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's undersecretary for natural resources and the environment, detailed six "areas of concern" at a subcommittee hearing led by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on the "Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection and Jobs Act of 2009."
Wyden helped broker the plan -- intended to limit old-growth logging, protect watersheds, increase thinning and end eastern Oregon forest disputes -- after months of negotiations between environmental groups and timber industry representatives.
Sherman said the 80,000 acres of thinning the bill calls for next fiscal year would double current levels. "We want to work with the committee to ensure these treatment levels do not affect other forests and programs in Oregon or the rest of the country," Sherman's written testimony says.
Sherman's other concerns included the bill's establishment of a formal science advisory panel, exemptions from the appeals process for some projects and the precedent the bill would set for making national forest decisions outside a national framework.
The La Grande-based Hells Canyon Preservation Council and the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club are opposing the bill as written.
Supporting the bill on the industry side is Ochoco Lumber Company, The Collins Companies, Boise Cascade and the American Forest Resource Council.
Environmental supporters include Andy Kerr, The Nature Conservancy, Pacific Rivers Council, Oregon Wild, The National Center for Conservation Science and Policy, Defenders of Wildlife and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.
-- Scott Learn