Kulla, a former Yamhill County commissioner, is state forest policy coordinator for Oregon Wild. He lives near Dayton.
In that most wonderful time between Christmas and New Year’s, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it halted – for now – a controversial plan to auction off land for logging in the Willamette National Forest. Conservation organizations opposed the “Flat Country” sale, east of Eugene, because it allowed for cutting 1,000 acres of mature and old-growth trees across a 4,300 acre swath of the forest.
Flat Country is not the only timber sale in the Pacific Northwest to target old trees for cutting; it is just the most prominent because of the opposition. And the Forest Service is not the only federal agency that should reconsider sales based upon the executive order; it is just the only one that has reconsidered. In Oregon, there are dozens of timber sales that are in planning, out for bid or in the cutting stages with the Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management, but the BLM has not announced any stoppages.
These old forests matter to all of us, even if we’re not a spotted owl. Old and mature forests clean our water and our air more effectively than those with younger trees. They make our weather and our place special. We spend time in them; the old forests nurture our spirits and health. Old forests store massive amounts of carbon, and they are much less prone to fire than commercial forests.
Local government budgets don’t lose, either. Most county budgets long ago moved on from federal timber receipts; it is true that some are locked in by property tax limitations and voter resistance to operating levies, while other resource-based counties are reinventing themselves by supporting recreation.
The Siuslaw National Forest in the Coast Range has over 30 years of managing public forests for habitat, drinking water, tree age, and carbon. Each timber sale improves forest health. Other national forests and BLM offices can use this model to manage without cutting mature and old-growth.