April 16, 2009

Wyden's Proposal to Increase Thinning of Federal Forests and Protect Old Growth Moves Closer to Introduction

Portland, OR - Citing the need to jumpstart federal efforts to make forests healthier and more fire resistant, Senator Ron Wyden today released draft legislation that will create jobs through increased thinning of over-grown federal forests while permanently ending the harvest of old-growth trees in Oregon.

"We believe that the Wyden proposal will create well in excess of 5,000 new family-wage jobs. Equally as important, it will, if pursued consistently, eliminate the backlog of threatened forests in our state. But we must start soon." Wyden's Chief of Staff Josh Kardon said in a speech today to the industry group American Forest Resources Council.

Since announcing the proposal, called the Forest Restoration and Old Growth Protection Act, last summer, Wyden has been gathering comments from groups and individuals. In releasing the draft legislation today, Wyden asked timber interests and environmental groups to move past the battles of the past two decades and work together to create jobs and restore the forests.

The Wyden proposal will protect old growth in the following ways:

  • No harvesting of trees 120 years old and older in Forest Service forests, mostly west of The Cascades and covered by the Northwest Forest Plan.
  • On Bureau of Land Management O&C lands, trees 160 years and older would receive permanent protection.
  • In mostly eastside forests, trees 21 inches and larger would be protected.

Wyden has advocated for an end to old growth logging, arguing that the science no longer supports the harvest of remaining old growth forests and that the public is adamantly opposed to losing any more of these natural treasures. In exchange for protecting old growth, Wyden is calling for an accelerated and protected increase in harvesting that will improve forest health while creating jobs.

The Wyden proposal also gives each federal forest and each Bureau of Land Management district in Oregon one-year to use a collaborative group to design a forest restoration project. It would also give collaborative projects in the forests a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Protection Act review.