"Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands" (IVM) sure sounds great, doesn't it? Unfortunately, those flowery words are agency-speak for logging old-growth forest reserves throughout Southwest Oregon Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forests.
In 2016 the BLM finalized a Resource Management Plan that established several forest land use zones including: (1) the Harvest Land Base in which timber production was to occur; (2) Streamside Reserves that are to be managed to protect aquatic values; and (3) Old Forest Reserves that are intended to provide–you guessed it— old-growth habitat for at-risk wildlife.
BLM timber planners have never really embraced the idea that there are forests on public lands that should be reserved from timber production in order to protect wildlife and watersheds. So, to undermine the idea of forest reserves the BLM has developed the “Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands” plan that will open the reserves to logging that removes old-growth forest canopy and results in four-acre “openings.” For scale, a four-acre clearcut is approximately the size of three football fields. Such logging prescriptions remove the exact wildlife habitat and riparian forests that the reserves were designed to protect.
The BLM will not tell you that they intend to “clearcut” the reserves. What you or I would call clearcutting the BLM euphemistically refers to as creating “open seral habitat.” The BLM’s intention to convert intact late-successional forests in the reserves into “open seral habitat” renders the forest reserve system meaningless. Essentially the BLM intends to place both the old-growth and riparian reserves into the Harvest Land Base and log them with harvest prescriptions that mirror how they log in the timber base.
Old-growth forests and trees have countless values: they produce clean water for salmon and peoples; they provide unique recreation opportunities; they are home to many plants and animals, and they store vast amounts of carbon. Leaving older forests to their own devices means safeguarding vital wildlife habitats and healthy ecosystems that protect our planet’s overall climate stability.
Given that the BLM is already engaged in widespread logging of the old-growth and riparian reserves in Southwest Oregon, why are they even bothering with the IVM planning process? The answer is because they hope to do away with meaningful public review and site-specific analysis of their old-growth logging agenda. IVM is intended to provide the overarching analysis and authority for the BLM to log the reserves without the bother of writing an Environmental Assessment or consulting the public about the management of old-growth forests. Instead, the BLM would conduct a brief internal checklist called a Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) for old-growth timber sales of any size within the reserves.
Southwest Oregon BLM timber planners are chomping at the bit to start logging the reserves without public involvement or environmental analysis. The agency’s single-minded focus on logging makes the forthcoming timber sale decisions under IVM inevitable. For instance, the BLM has already laid out the boundaries for the first two IVM timber sales that are located within old-growth reserves. The Penn Butte and Late Mungers timber sales are identified on the BLM’s 2022 “annual forest product sale plans” with the exact date that the BLM will offer the forests for sale and the exact amount of timber the BLM intends to log. There is no circumstance in which the environmental impacts of the proposed logging or the content of public comments can influence the BLM whatsoever.
Forests offer the single greatest natural solution to climate change. These forests are essential to removing climate pollution and storing carbon, safeguarding wildlife, and providing clean drinking water for our communities. The Bureau of Land Management should be prioritizing protecting our remaining mature and old-growth trees, not threatening to cut them down.
George Sexton, Alexi Lovechio, Joseph Vaile
Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center