The Bush Administration is rushing out long-term plans that would convert over 2 million acres of Oregon's national forests, with their towering trees, rushing rivers, and superb wildlife habitat, to empty clearcuts. This is but one aspect of a host of "midnight" regulatory changes in key environmental laws Bush is hastily pushing through without oversight before leaving office. This short-sighted and corrupt give-away to Bush's timber industry cronies will have huge negative impacts upon Oregon and America's biodiversity, water, global climate and prospects for regional and continental ecosystem sustainability.
Much of the forests under siege are in the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Crest. The Klamath-Siskiyou region contains some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the continent. There are some 20,000 miles of rivers, where wild Pacific salmon thrive. Ancient old-growth forests are abundant -- home to huge Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar trees -- some well over 400 years old. This wet, rugged environment provides rich habitat for wildlife like elk, black bear and Pacific fishers, as well as endangered species such as spotted owls and marbled murrelets. These forests gain more importance each day as buffers against the impacts of global warming.
In October the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) for 2.6 million acres of BLM Management forests in western Oregon. The plan increases logging by 400% and would target 100,000 acres of old-growth forests for destruction. The final BLM WOPR also removes these forests from the scientific framework of the Northwest Forest Plan and logs many of the last remaining older forests in western Oregon. It removes stream side buffers that protect clean water and fish, cutting protections for clean water and salmon habitat in half. The WOPR will add 180 million more tons of carbon to the atmosphere compared to no logging (equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from 1 million cars driven for 132 years), and result in 1,300 miles of new roads.
An earlier draft of the plan received 30,000 public comments; over 90% asked the BLM to save the remaining older forests, protect clean drinking water, and concentrate forest management on restoration and thinning small trees to protect communities from wildfire. The BLM ignored this common ground, common sense approach to forest management.
Oregon Governor Kulongoski is the only elected official standing between the Bush Administration and western Oregon's forests and salmon. Under law, Governor Kulongoski is allowed a 60-day "consistency review" period that began last week. The governor can propose recommendations for changes to land use plans that must be addressed by the BLM. There is a whole heap of unacceptable elements to the proposal, and by highlighting these and proposing amendments, the final decision will pass to the Obama administration. Please implore the governor to stop the Bush Administration's midnight raid upon Oregon's wild forests and America's future ecological sustainability.
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President Bush has done enough damage already, and must be stopped from destroying Oregon's forest heritage
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