Bush Administration Thumbs Nose at Oregon Endangered Species

In the waning days of the Bush administration it seems every new day brings with it another new midnight regulation. The final day of 2008 was no different. On Dec. 31 in Portland, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued Records of Decision moving forward with the Western Oregon Plan Revision, also known as WOPR. This occurred in spite of the 264 filed protests and the request of Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski to delay the adoption of the plan, not to mention the 80,000 letters generated by The Wilderness Society’s Wild Alert community.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the WOPR, the plan calls for a dramatic increase in logging on 2.6 million acres of public forests in Oregon. With the plan, the BLM reverts to an almost archaic form of forest management, dependant on clear-cuts and the harvest of old-growth. The plan also includes flawed protections for water quality.

Incredibly, the BLM did not consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding threatened and endangered species impacted by the plan, as required by federal law.

By issuing the Records of Decision and proceeding with the plan, the BLM has squandered a golden opportunity to engage the public, the governor and the Obama administration to create an innovative and responsible forest management plan for western Oregon. Instead, Gov. Kulongoski is “outraged ” at the agency’s lack of response to his concerns and the plan has failed to win the support of Oregon’s Congressional delegation. It is no small point that the WOPR does not have the support of Oregon’s delegation, as it is Congress who allocates funding for the plan.

While the BLM has signed the Records of Decision into law, there remains some light at the end of the tunnel. The incoming Obama administration and Congress in Washington have the opportunity to work collaboratively with a highly engaged public and governor to enact a new, visionary plan that protects the clean drinking water, wildlife habitat, and exceptional recreational opportunities our federal forests provide our communities.

By adopting a new plan, not only can we protect the environmental values important to us, we can also stimulate economic growth and job creation by restoring and improving our public forests. Fortunately, with a new administration and Congress set to take office, our leaders can come together with the citizenry to develop a quality plan for managing our forests for the future.