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Wyden’s forest plan hopes to bridge extremes

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Friday, August 01, 2008

PORTLAND Sen. Ron Wyden has proposed a strategy to break free from what he labels the “dysfunctional and dangerous” management of federal forestlands in Oregon and clear the way for doubling the timber harvest.

Long mired in battles between industry and environmental groups, federal harvests have been sharply curtailed over the past several decades. That has created a tinderbox that is the “single greatest threat to communities and private land owners,” says Wyden’s chief of staff, Josh Kardon.  

“By putting this forward now and showing that he is willing to take some risks, Ron hopes to send a signal to the next president that there is a third path that avoids the old forest politics of the last two decades that can move us forward ecologically and economically.”

Wyden’s plan calls for protecting old-growth trees while allowing logging that is environmentally sound and helps reduce fire danger. The plan, now in the public comment period before the formal bill is written, was developed with the help of the Nature Conservancy, two forest scientists and four industry leaders. When it was unveiled in late June, the industry leaders were noticeably absent from public support of the plan. Kardon, who declined to identify those participants, says their concerns were about the old-growth protection.

Wyden’s plan calls for no logging of trees older that 120 years in wet forests, and no logging of trees more than 150 years old in dry forests. It also bans clear-cutting. (The entire proposal can be found at wyden.senate.gov/forestproposal.) Kardon says talks are continuing with a broader group of timber industry people, and adds that environmental groups have commented that the plan’s forest protection isn’t strong enough.

And that’s just the kind of debate that has raged for decades.

“At some point you’ve got to figure out how to move forward,” says Kardon. “It’s not going to be anyone’s perfect bill. But we hope that all sides will realize that continuing in the fashion of the past two decades is going to lead to ruin for both sides.”


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