BLM Old-Growth Timber Sale Deemed Illegal
Conservation Victory in KS Wild v Bureau of Land Management
On the evening of July 2nd, Oregon Federal District Judge Michael McShane issued a legal order effectively halting the “Lower Graves” old-growth timber sale in the Grants Pass Resource Area of the Medford BLM District. The 571-acre timber sale targeted mature and old-growth forests for partial cutting and “regeneration” logging, in which forest canopy and wildlife habitat is removed, dense young timber plantations are established, and fire hazard is increased.
“It is remarkable, but not surprising, that in 2019 BLM timber sale planners are still pushing to log fire resilient ancient forests that store carbon,” said Nick Cady, staff attorney for Cascadia Wildlands. “It is irresponsible of the BLM to pursue a political old-growth logging agenda in the face of climate change and increased fire hazard.”
Conservation plaintiffs in the case included the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild), Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild. These non-profit forest advocacy organizations were represented by attorneys Nick Cady and Marianne Dugan.
“Conservation organizations tried to work with the BLM during the planning process to protect rather than destroy these forests,” observed George Sexton, Conservation Director for KS Wild. “We proposed a dry forest restoration alternative that would have focused on fuels reduction and timber plantation thinning to reduce fire hazard,” he continued. “But the BLM’s extreme timber agenda seems to preclude responsible forestry.”
The BLM’s refusal to consider a reasonable dry forest restoration alternative to their old-growth clear-cutting was their undoing in this case as the federal court held that public lands managers cannot simply ignore the need to reduce, rather than increase, fire hazard on these public lands.
Arron Robertson noted that “throughout the northwest communities and forest managers are coming together to thin timber plantations and reduce fire risk near homes and structures. The BLM needs to get with the program. The agency’s single-minded focus on timber production is a relic of the last century. We need to get past the fight over old-growth forests and start doing the necessary work repairing previously logging forests.”