USFS draws fire over plan to revise rules for cutting large trees in Central, E. Oregon

Eastern Oregon old growth logging Rob Klavins Oregon Wild
Rob Klavins/Oregon Wild
Oregon Wild offers example of recent Eastern Oregon old growth logging project/

After quarter-century, 21-inch standard reassessed over conditions, science

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region released a proposal Tuesday to amend forest plans on six national forests in Central and Eastern Oregon to revise a provision that limits harvesting trees larger than 21 inches in diameter.

A 30-day public comment period begins with the publication of the analysis, according to a Forest Service news release, which continues in full below:.

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The alternatives assessed in the analysis are narrowly focused on just one component of the much broader “Eastside Screens,” the 21- inch standard. Forests affected by the project include the Deschutes, Fremont-Winema, Malheur, Ochoco, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests.

The Eastside Screens were created in 1995 to protect riparian areas, encourage a healthy mix of young and old trees, and maintain wildlife habitat and connectivity. The Eastside Screens were meant to be an interim measure. Now 25 years later, the 21-inch standard is being reassessed in light of current forest conditions, the latest science, project-level amendments, and public feedback.

“Over the past 25 years, forest conditions have changed, new science has developed, and our land management priorities have shifted to emphasize forest restoration and landscape resilience to wildfire,” said Shane Jeffries, deciding official for the project and Ochoco National Forest supervisor.

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“Adjusting the 21-inch limitation to reflect learning over the past 25 years  would  help streamline restoration of forests in Eastern Oregon and make it easier to create landscapes that withstand and recover more quickly from wildfire, drought and other disturbances,” he said.

The alternatives assessed were developed through input and engagement with counties, tribes, state agencies, interest groups and affected industries.

Early engagement activities included a science forum, an intergovernmental session co-convened by the Eastern Oregon Counties Association and a partner technical workshop convened by the Forest Service.

The Forest Service will conduct webinars to provide the public with a presentation of the proposal and a chance to ask questions. The webinars are scheduled to take place on Wednesday Aug. 19, 6-7:30 p.m. and Aug. 20, 1:30-3 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Information on how to register for the webinar will be posted to the project homepag(at https://go.usa.gov/xvV4X).

“Public input is a critical component of this project and we want to hear from you,” Jeffries said. “Please share your ideas, concerns, and suggestions during this public comment period.”

Individuals and entities are encouraged to submit comments via webform at https://cara.ecosystem- management.org/Public/CommentInput?project=58050. Comments may also be sent via e-mail to SM.FS.EScreens21@usda.gov.

Hard copy letters must be submitted to the following address: Shane Jeffries, Forest Supervisor, Ochoco National Forest, 3160 NE Third Street, Prineville, OR 97754. Hand-delivered public comments can be dropped off at the Ochoco National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 3160 NE Third Street in the secure drop box located outside the building (next to the newspaper delivery boxes).

Only individuals and entities who have submitted formal written comments during the 30-day public comment period may file an objection. For more information on the project and how to comment, visit the Eastside Screens Plan Amendment project homepag(https://go.usa.gov/xvV4X).


News release from Oregon Wild:

Trump Administration Proposes Rollback of Old Growth Protections in Eastern Oregon

The Trump administration and the US Forest Service unveiled a proposal today to undermine long standing protections for large and old trees in Eastern Oregon. These protections – commonly known as “The Eastside Screens” were put into place primarily to protect wildlife habitat. Conservation groups expressed alarm at the proposal, the process, and the speed at which it is occurring.

Notably, the proposal has replaced a “standard” with a “guideline.” As a practical matter, a guideline is essentially an unenforceable suggestion, whereas a standard is a mandatory and enforceable protection. 

Representatives from Oregon Wild had this to say:

Rob Klavins, Northeast Oregon Field Coordinator, Oregon Wild, Enterprise, Oregon

We are deeply disappointed to see the Trump Administration and the Forest Service propose to undermine protections for big and old trees in Eastern Oregon.

These protections have worked to protect wildlife habitat, clean water, and sequester carbon for two decades. They were meant to be just a part of a package of more comprehensive protections that the agency never developed. They now stand as the most meaningful protections for eastern Oregon’s remaining old growth and big trees.

This divisive process has already undermined collaborative efforts in rural Oregon and comes over the objections of conservationists, communities, and independent scientists. Other than delivering political favors to industry, there’s no need to rush this controversial, consequential, and divisive process.

Steve Pedery, Conservation Director, Oregon Wild, Portland, Oregon

The clearcut lobby went all in for Trump in 2016, and it is clear he is going all-out now to reward them before the November election.

This effort to undermine the Eastside Screens and increase old-growth logging is part of a larger pattern of gutting environmental protections and reducing public accountability to benefit Trump’s political allies. The timing makes it abundantly clear that the goal is to rush through a half-baked plan before a new president potentially takes office, rather than to craft good policy.

Senators Wyden and Merkley need to stand up to this latest effort by the Trump administration to take advantage of a crisis and undermine fundamental environmental protections.

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