On the last day of 2008 the Bush administration finalized a huge giveaway of public forest land to the timber industry. The administration announced six "Records of Decision" that could change the course of how 2.6 million acres of public forests in Oregon are managed. The last-minute Bush timber giveaway promises over 500 million board feet of lumber per year to the timber industry at the expense of salmon spawning streams, healthy old-growth forests, and habitat for rare birds such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet.
"The Bush administration needs to make a New Year's resolution to stop harming our land, water, and wildlife," said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with the environmental legal firm Earthjustice. "Instead, it is working overtime to give away as much of the public's forests as possible before being shown the door." Earthjustice intends to file a legal challenge to this giveaway of public resources.
The Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) rezones thousands of acres of Oregon forest managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management to make them available for industrial logging. These forest lands have been governed under the Northwest Forest Plan since 1994. The WOPR calls for increasing overall logging on these lands while slashing protections for sensitive streams and waterways. Most of the logging will be executed via clear-cut logging. The WOPR came about after the Bush administration and the timber industry entered into a sweetheart settlement of a lawsuit aimed at removing these sensitive wild lands from the protections of the Northwest Forest Plan.
The Bush administration consistently ignored highly critical scientific reviews that found the WOPR was based on insufficient study, incomplete modeling, and would likely not comply with laws safeguarding fish and wildlife habitat.
The WOPR represents the most far-reaching decision regarding forest management in the Pacific Northwest since the Northwest Forest Plan. The WOPR would undermine the science-based guidelines found in the Northwest Forest Plan at a critical juncture. The proposal comes after prior attempts by the Bush administration to strip Northwest forests of critical protections were soundly rejected in a number of court rulings.
"We successfully fought off the previous Bush administration attempts to destroy the Northwest's forests and with today's news, it's clear we'll be needed well into the future to fight this parting shot from the worst environmental presidency in modern times," said Boyles of Earthjustice. "With our old-growth forests affecting so much of our lives, from providing clean drinking water to helping stave off global warming, it doesn't make any sense to cut these forests down."
Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.