Timber sales are throwbacks to beastly days

  Though the science of forestry has advanced over the past decade, green timber sales in forests west of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon don't show it.

Take the Roman Dunn timber sale, a tract of old-growth Douglas fir managed by the Bureau of Land Management along the central coast of Oregon near Eugene.

A year ago, the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed that the Roman Dunn sale could go forward only if loggers left 40 percent of the canopy in place to provide habitat for the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet, both threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Environmentalists saw that as a reasonable compromise, says Doug Heiken, an organizer for the Oregon Natural Resources Council.

But when the salvage rider legislation was signed into law this summer, the BLM was forced to honor the original logging contract. It called for a clearcut of the 58-acre tract with minimal buffer zone around two perennial creeks.

"This site has 500-year-old trees, spotted owls, marbled murrelets, and rare amphibians," says Heiken. "Chinook and coho salmon spawn just downstream from it. Yet Congress ordered the BLM to go back and clearcut the site with protection measures weaker than those enforced by the state of Oregon."

The BLM sold Roman Dunn to the Hull-Oakes Timber Company Sept. 7. On Sept. 25, loggers sidestepped a dozen protesters and began preparing the site for a clearcut.

Like the other section 318 sales, "Roman Dunn is an old-fashioned, dirty one," says Andy Stahl, executive director of the Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. "There is not one of these sales that a district manager would sign today."


High Country News Classifieds