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Timber auction attracts protests

By by PARIS ACHEN
Mail Tribune
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In the face of planned protests, six timber harvest projects will hit the auction block today at the Medford District of the Bureau of Land Management.

The final BLM timber sale for fiscal year 2005 begins at 9 a.m. at the Medford District headquarters, 3040 Biddle Road. The auction is only open to bidders.

A total of 5,165 acres, or about 30.9 million board feet, is up for grabs.

"This is part of the annual timber supply we provide to industry in compliance with the Northwest Forest Plan," said Karen Gillespie, BLM Medford District spokeswoman.

The sales will help the agency move toward its goal to harvest 47.7 million board feet of timber for 2005 but not meet it. The agency is still short about 3.2 million board feet, which it hopes to make up in 2006.

Protesters, who plan to demonstrate at 8:30 a.m., said they oppose the way the BLM has moved forward on the projects without community consensus.

"The community wants to see these projects move forward, but they want to see good projects," said Lesley Adams of Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, one of the protest organizers. "The BLM has communities willing to work collaboratively with them to develop projects everyone can accept. Instead, the BLM is choosing to move forward with controversial timber sales."

BLM officials said all projects go through thorough public scrutiny before they are approved and sold. Public hearings and field trips are a routine part of the planning process for each project, and public comment is taken into account in decision-making, Gillespie said.

"Some folks may not like our decision, so they may conclude we did not engage in enough public outreach," Gillespie said. "However, not only do we have to do public outreach, we want to do public outreach. We can’t manage public lands on our own."

Perhaps the most contested projects are the Bald Lick timber sale about 5 miles south of Ruch and the South Deer project 20 miles southwest of Grants Pass just outside Selma. Members of the Little Applegate Neighborhood Network have voiced strong opposition to the Bald Lick project, which they contend will blight their properties and damage water and soil quality.

Friends of Deer Creek Valley said they want the South Deer project to spare large-diameter trees from harvest and focus more on felling dead and dying trees rather than overall thinning and fuel reduction through burning and mechanical chipping.

Both groups said they plan to take part in today’s protest.

The auction includes the following projects:

  • Bald Lick about 5 miles south of Ruch: 2,147 acres, 12.8 million board feet, 4.3 miles of road construction.

  • Camp Cur 18 miles northeast of Butte Falls: 800 acres, 5.7 million board feet, 6.3 miles of road construction.

  • Deadman’s Palm about 9 miles southwest of Ruch: 1,283 acres, 5.3 million board feet.

  • Pickett Charge in the Riverbanks Road area just west of Grants Pass, 337 acres, 2.5 million board feet, less than 1 mile of road construction.

  • South Deer 20 miles southwest of Grants Pass just outside Selma: 378 acres, 2.9 million board feet, less than 1 mile of road construction.

  • Slick Sand about 22 miles northeast of Rogue River: 220 acres, 1.7 million board feet, less than 1 mile of road construction.

    Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4496 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.

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