Jim Furnish: (240) 271-1650
Marc Barnes: (541) 609-0322
Andy Kerr: (503) 701-6298
Portland, Oregon—A new report by conservation organizations finds that logging volume on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest can increase substantially over the next two decades without controversy if carried out with specific ecological criteria.
The report, titled Ecologically Appropriate Restoration Thinning in the Northwest Forest Plan Area, finds that annual federal timber volume could increase 44% over what has been produced on average in the last 15 years while maintaining the clean water and wildlife protections of the Northwest Forest Plan. Under a program of science-based and ecologically appropriate thinning of mostly small diameter trees in degraded forests, BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands could produce 774 million board feet (mmbf) annually, compared to an average of 537 mmbf than has been produced since the Northwest Forest Plan was put into place (1995-2010).
The study comes at a critical time as recent legislative and administrative proposals seek to increase logging in the Northwest Forest Plan area by undermining environmental protections and returning to clear-cutting federal lands and untested forestry practices. It also speaks directly to federal land management agency claims that thinning opportunities are very limited and therefore logging of larger, older trees is needed.
The ecological practices recommended by the new study were first piloted nearly two decades ago under the leadership of Jim Furnish, former Deputy Chief of the Forest Service and Forest Supervisor on the Siuslaw National Forest.
“As Forest Supervisor, I wanted to change the paradigm—to end damaging logging of mature and old growth forests and focus on restoring degraded lands and damaged watersheds,” stated Furnish. “As a result, the Siuslaw National Forest has consistently been among the top National Forests in producing timber volume while restoring its rivers and streams, wild salmon runs and other species. There hasn’t been an appeal or litigation on the Siuslaw in over a dozen years.”
“As a local contractor, I can tell you that this ecological approach to forest restoration works,” said Marc Barnes, owner of Integrated Resource Management of Philomath, OR, a forestry consulting and restoration firm. “The guidance is clear and easy to implement on the ground. My company employs 14 people and I know there is years of work ahead in these forests for them and other local businesses and workers.” The report estimates that logging and related jobs from ecological restoration thinning could increase by 2,700.
The conservation groups undertook the study, because they wanted to determine how much science-based, ecological restoration thinning could be generated in commercial timber volume. Andy Kerr, CEO of the Larch Company and author of the study, said “Timber sales that come as a byproduct of scientifically sound ecological restoration thinning can be sold without significant controversy, unlike sales of old trees and/or sales that require new roads.”
According to the report, volume increases would come from Washington (138%), California (100%) and Oregon (37%). The overall increase would benefit the entire region, as local mills often process logs from neighboring states. The potential increase on Oregon’s national forests is partially offset by a decrease that is projected for western Oregon BLM lands (-18%), yet still allows Oregon’s federal forest timber output to significantly increase compared to previous years.
The report focuses solely on commercial timber volume as a by-product of forest restoration, but underscores that ecological thinning itself does not constitute full forest and watershed (including aquatic) restoration, and therefore cannot achieve all desired objectives, including importantly restoring water quality and wild fish populations. Factoring in comprehensive forest and watershed restoration would mean even more of an economic boost for communities, because water and watershed restoration jobs are additive to more traditional logging related jobs in the woods.
The report was published by the following organizations: Conservation Northwest, Geos Institute, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Wild. Derek Churchill of Stewardship Forestry Associates performed all timber modeling, using a model developed by Dr. Peter Bettinger of the University of Georgia.
Click here see a 2-page Summary of Key Findings