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Sustainable timber harvest report supports conservation and logging

By Chris Thomas
Public News Service

A new report, "Ecologically Appropriate Restoration Thinning in the Northwest Forest Plan Area," was released jointly by Conservation Northwest, the Geos Institute, the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Oregon Wild.

MAPLETON, Ore. - On Wednesday, a group of Oregon loggers and conservationists got a firsthand look at a federal forest where timber is harvested without legal battles, and the environment is thriving, too. They toured sites in the Siuslaw National Forest, where what is now known as "restorative" forest management began as an experiment 20 years ago.

Jim Furnish, who led the field trip, was the Siuslaw Forest supervisor at the time. He says there were plenty of skeptics when they started selectively thinning areas that had been clear-cut and replanted, with a goal of producing old-growth trees for the future, as well as a reliable timber harvest.

"Now, we have an enduring, sustainable, resolute model on the Siuslaw, that generates a lot of timber; it generates a lot of revenue. It generates good fish and wildlife habitat. I would argue it's a great example of restoration forestry."

Furnish went on to become a deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and has since retired. He points out that the Siuslaw is still managed for restoration, and hasn't had its timber harvests challenged by conservation groups in more than a decade.

A new report, "Ecologically Appropriate Restoration Thinning in the Northwest Forest Plan Area," estimates there's enough timber thinning and restoration work to be done in western Oregon forests to keep crews busy for 20 years, without the controversy that comes from logging older trees. Report author Andy Kerr, with the Larch Company, says this approach would mean 44 percent more federal timber volume going to local mills.

"This additional increment of volume in the report would equate to 2,700 new timber jobs in logging and hauling and milling, and related jobs. So, there's a way to create jobs in an environmentally-friendly manner - we ought to be doing it."

The report was released jointly by Conservation Northwest, the Geos Institute, the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Oregon Wild.

And the latest harvest figures from the Bureau of Land Management show on its turf in western Oregon, more federal timber is being sold in some areas than their district targets under the Northwest Forest Plan. Kerr, a longtime Oregon conservationist, says it's proof that the plan is working, despite some timber industry claims that it doesn't allow them to cut enough trees.

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