7 Aug 2009, 11:25am
Federal forest policy Politics and politicians
by admin

Salazar Withdrawal of WOPR Illegal

The following letter was written by George Lea, President of the Public Lands Foundation [here]. The PLF was founded by retirees of the Bureau of Land Management. In their own words:

PLF is a national non-profit, all volunteer membership organization dedicated to the ecological stability of the public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Ecological stability provides for clearer water, sustainable yields and more aesthetically pleasing landscapes. These attributes provide for improved riparian areas, wilderness experiences, wildlife habitat, timber production, livestock grazing, outdoor recreation, wild horse and burro habitats, mining activities, fire protection, endangered species protection and the stewardship of historical archeological and paleontological values. These public lands are the United States’ largest public land system; comprising over 261 million surface acres and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate. These federal lands produce more than $5.8 billion annually in revenue to the U.S. Treasury. These vital lands are increasingly the battleground where wars over issues of biodiversity, forest harvest/protection, grazing, mineral/oil/gas production and environmental protection are fought!

PLF Letter to Interior on Western Oregon Plan Revision

To: Ken Salazar, Secretary, Department of the Interior

Re: BLM’s Western Oregon Plan Revision

Date: July 24, 2009

Dear Secretary Salazar:

We are writing to express our deep concern about and strong opposition to your recent decision to withdraw the Bureau of Land Management’s Western Oregon Plan Revision records of decision.

The Public Lands Foundation (PLF) is a national non-profit conservation organization founded in 1987. Our membership is primarily retired former employees of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and as such represents a broad spectrum of knowledge and experience in public land management. Our membership includes former BLM State Directors, District and Area Managers and a wealth of experienced personnel. PLF’s mission is to support keeping BLM managed lands in public hands and, through education and advocacy, foster the proper use, protection and management of these lands to sustain their ecological, social and economic vitality.

BLM’s planning decisions meet the requirements of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the Endangered Species Act, (ESA), the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other regulatory Acts. The decisions also meet the requirements of the O&C Act of 1937. BLM by law must manage O&C and Coos Bay Wagon Road lands for permanent timber production on a sustained yield basis, as interpreted by the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, while complying with the before mentioned laws.

Over the course of almost 5 years the BLM collaborated on almost a continuous basis with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other federal agencies to develop the plan that would meet the requirements of public land and environmental laws. In addition, the BLM included in this collaborative effort numerous Oregon state resource agencies, the Governor, tribal representatives and 18 individual counties. These agencies worked together on research, modeling, biological impacts, transportation and water quality issues, economic and social impacts, and most importantly, impacts on endangered fish and wildlife. By any measure, the BLM’s planning process constituted informal consultation with all the agencies involved, including especially the USFWS and NOAA. The BLM’s intensive planning effort was based on the latest technologies and science and resulted in a plan that provided direction for ensuring (1) forest sustainability (2) permanent timber production on a sustained yield basis, (3) the conservation and recovery of species listed under the ESA and (4) meeting federal and state clean water and air standards. In addition, the plan provided through long-term sustained yield forestry a permanent means of helping to economically support 18 Western Oregon O&C Counties through timber receipts and by supplying timber to local industries for the purpose of creating jobs and income. This cannot be accomplished by withdrawing the BLM plan and reverting back to the failed Northwest Forest Plan.

BLM is not required to formally consult with FWS and NMFS on plans prior to adopting a record of decision. The courts have previously ruled that a plan and its record of decision do not, by themselves, have an adverse effect or impact on endangered species. BLM was free to conclude that formal consultation was not required on the plan because there would be no potential for adverse affect, and to defer formal consultation until specific, on-the-ground projects could be identified. The most recent ruling on this point occurred in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in Center for Biological Diversity vs. Department of the Interior. The welfare of endangered species, by design, is only implicated at later stages when activities are proposed as part of plan implementation. All future site-specific actions (i.e. timber sales) require formal consultation and additional environmental analysis by BLM.

Even if the BLM erred in failing to formally consult, a point we dispute, then the proper remedy was not to withdraw the plan. Instead, the proper remedy would have been for you to submit the plan to the USFWS and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for consultation under the ESA. Moreover, we believe your withdrawal of the plan was legally defective, in that it occurred without any notice, comment, or other normal administrative procedures that allow public input on important agency actions. We are not aware of any agency authority under FLPMA or otherwise to simply withdraw a plan that was adopted in compliance with FLPMA planning procedures. [emphasis SOSF]

The PLF has been involved with this plan revision since it was initiated several years ago. As part of the scoping process we developed a position paper titled “Forest Plan Revisions and A Future For O&C Forests” and submitted it to BLM. (see attached paper) In addition, we reviewed and submitted comments to BLM on the plan and EIS. We strongly believe that the BLM prepared this plan by the book and did an outstanding job in arriving at decisions that will provide excellent direction for long-term sustainability of the O&C forests.

For the above stated reasons, we encourage you to reconsider your decision to withdraw the plan revision. We ask that you reinstate the plan immediately to allow forest management activities to occur on a long-term basis in a way that will benefit forest resources and the people of Western Oregon.

Sincerely, George Lea, President, Public Lands Foundation

Cc: Director, BLM
BLM Ore. State Director



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