BLM Resource Management Plans
On August 5, 2016, the Bureau of Land Management signed two Records of Decision adopting new Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for Western Oregon. The plans, if implemented, will guide future management of 2.5 million acres of timberland in western Oregon, including the 2.1 million acres of O&C Lands.
The RMPs fail to recognize that O&C forest lands are required by the O&C Act to be managed under principles of sustained yield for the purpose of contributing to the economic stability of local communities and industries. The primary objective of Congress in passing the O&C Act was to assure a revenue source for the O&C Counties. Because the RMPs are in clear violation of federal law, AOCC challenged the plans in federal court.
AOCC challenged the BLM’s 2016 RMPs based on the following:
- The plans fail to recognize the legal mandate to manage the O&C forest under principles of sustained yield to generate revenue for the Counties.
- The plans project annual harvest on a sustained yield basis of only 205 million board feet, ignoring the O&C Act’s mandatory minimum harvest of 500 million board feet per year. The plans describe possible additional harvests of 73 million board feet per year on a temporary basis. If the possible 278 million board feet is actually achieved it would still be little more than half the mandatory minimum.
- The plans prohibit sustained yield management on almost 80 percent of the BLM lands. These “reserves” are created for purposes not recognized by the O&C Act and are contrary to the requirements of the Act.
- The BLM failed to develop an approach to address forest resiliency needs to address fire risk in southwest Oregon.
- Almost all of the promised 205 million board feet annual sustained yield harvest is projected to occur in the northern half of the O&C region, ignoring the needs of communities and industry in the southwestern and coastal areas of Oregon. These geographic inequities will have a direct adverse affect on the rural economy in terms of jobs and infrastructure.
- The 20 percent of the total land base allocated to sustained yield management is subject to uncertainties that call into serious question whether the RMPs will actually be implemented. Nearly half of the land purportedly allocated for sustained yield management will not have harvesting allowed until barred owl control measures are in place and results meet requirements imposed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This is likely to take 5 to 8 years at a minimum, and may never occur. The RMPs admit this restriction could reduce the projected harvests by up to 40 percent. This would cause a corresponding reduction in payments to counties that would vary from year to year, reducing certainty in county budgeting and ability to deliver essential community services.
- If fully implemented the RMPs forecast $25.6 million in annual payments divided between the 18 O&C counties, which is just 19 percent of historic payment levels. The timber harvest, job creation, and county payment projections in the plans assume full implementation. It will take many years to achieve full implementation, if ever.
Sustained yield management can take many forms, from high yield timber production that harvests on 50 to 80 year rotations, to very long harvest rotations that maintain high levels of late-successional forest on the BLM landscape.