Speaking to business and civic leaders in Grants Pass yesterday, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) expressed concerns about the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) effort to develop new resource management plans for the 2.5 million acres of O&C forests in Western Oregon. The new plans would outline and guide how the six BLM districts in western Oregon will be managed over the next 15 years. Walden explained that budgets are tight and that it would be difficult to provide funding for a new planning effort in the coming year--especially if it comes from cuts to other important priorities.
"The BLM estimates that this new multi-year planning venture will cost at least $17 million, of which $2 million would be required next year alone. Around $15 million was spent on the last Western Oregon forest plan only to have Interior Secretary Ken Salazar withdraw it in 2009, a decision later overturned in court. BLM shouldn't use taxpayer dollars to begin a new costly planning effort that may just end up back in the courts," Rep. Walden said.
"I am concerned that if the agency continues this new planning process, funding for it will come out of the timber management budget, further hampering efforts to increase timber production from these lands. Actively managing our forests and increasing timber production is where our focus should be, especially with the bipartisan and broad agreement and support for managing these lands in a different way," Rep. Walden said.
"At this point, a new plan is not necessary. I've asked House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson to include language in next year's funding bill that would ensure that any funding reductions to the planning effort contain conditions to make sure the agency does not take money out of the timber resource management activities," Rep. Walden said.
In March, the BLM announced that it would move forward with a new planning process for the six Western Oregon O&C BLM districts because of "new scientific information related to forest health and resiliency such as the Fish and Wildlife Service's recovery plan and proposed critical habitat designations for the Northern Spotted Owl."
On May 18, the entire Oregon House and Senate delegation sent a letter to Secretary Salazar cautioning him that "the critical habitat designation of the Northern Spotted Owl will have a major impact on our rural communities," and urging him to extend the comment period on the proposed plan and economic analysis.