Center for Sustainable Economy has teamed up with Ernie Niemi of Natural Resources Inc. in Eugene to lodge a formal protest of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) new long-term logging plan for western Oregon on the grounds that the plan would create more economic harm than good and sabotage sustainable development opportunities in forest-dependent communities.
According to Dr. Talberth, President and Senior Economist for CSE, “The Obama Administration has chosen to sacrifice natural resources essential to future economic health in order to prop up a destructive industry from the past that has gotten rich off deforestation while leaving workers and communities in the lurch. This does not bode well for the President’s environmental legacy.”
According to the economists’ protest, the new logging plan would:
- Kill more jobs than it would create;
- Force taxpayers to absorb $60 in costs for every $1 in timber sold;
- Add to the deforestation crisis plaguing western Oregon, and;
- Generate carbon dioxide emissions that cost society at least $40,000 for every acre clearcut.
The plan boosts logging levels by 37% over previous levels. Under the new plan, the BLM will offer 256 million board feet of timber for sale each year, the equivalent of over 50,000 log truck loads. To accommodate higher logging levels, the plan would rollback protections for water quality, fish, recreation, spotted owls and old growth forests established over 20 years ago by the Northwest Forest Plan brokered by President Clinton. For example, the number of acres managed for primitive or backcountry recreation experiences would fall by 112,000 acres. The plan would reduce the amount of land in protective streamside zones for water quality and fish by 292,000 acres. The protest argues that the BLM failed to take the negative economic consequences of these changes into account.
According to NRE’s Ernie Niemi, “The BLM ignored the many studies that document what most of us recognize as common sense: unlogged lands generate jobs by improving the quality of life in nearby communities, attracting new residents, and stimulating business growth. The BLM’s proposal to clearcut unlogged federal lands would kill more long-term jobs than it would create in the timber industry.”
The core issue raised by the protest – a formal step required by the BLM before a new management plan can be challenged in court – involves often overlooked provisions of the Oregon and California (O&C) Lands Act of 1937 that place constraints on the amount of logging BLM is expected to conduct every year. Those constraints require that the BLM only sell as much timber as it can in “normal” markets and at “reasonable prices.” The two economists argue that timber markets in western Oregon are severely distorted by hidden subsidies that allow buyers and sellers of timber to ignore costs that clearcut logging imposes on others by degrading water in streams, spoiling outdoor recreation opportunities and exacerbating climate change. These costs far exceed the unreasonably low prices the BLM will charge timber companies to clearcut federal lands throughout western Oregon.
The economists’ protest cites previous studies by CSE that identify the timber industry as Oregon’s second largest greenhouse gas polluter and document how voracious clearcutting has resulted in a loss of forest cover on over 522,000 acres since 2000. “To be consistent with the goal of sustained yield, the BLM should be pulling back on its timber sale program altogether,” Talberth added.