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Scales tilted in `balanced' forest plan.

Byline: Roy Keene For The Register-Guard

By causing a train wreck for federal timber payments, the Bush administration schemes again to further corporate capital.

The administration's proposed fix for this wreck, instead of a fearful name such as "security" or "terrorism," is called "balance." In this scenario, federal Bureau of Land Management's managers are budgeted to log more old growth to create "balance between species protection and timber production."

Why produce more timber for a glutted log market? Because the corporations that raid our forests are being paid back for their political contributions. In this market they can buy cheap, hold timber contracts for a decade, then resell our trees for a double scoop when log prices rise again.

More federal logging also will provide a modest increase in county funding. Why should our forests always be the ones held hostage? Why not recall some of the inequitable tax subsidies granted to industrial forest owners?

In seeking balanced budgets, county commissioners have yet to challenge these huge and unearned property tax breaks and other privileges. Their silence condones more corporate plundering of the public's forest when there should be a call for corporations to pay fair taxes.

The BLM's latest forest plan, the Western Oregon Plan Revision, mirrors the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan in which President Clinton, under the guise of "balance," ignored science and chose Option Nine, which divided remnant ancient forests in half. The first timber sales of this devious plan, approved by the very conservation groups that filed the spotted owl lawsuit, continued to log old growth.

Long before politically tilted forest plans, Oregon's truly ancient forest was logged out by tidewater mills. Cedars and firs 1,000 years old and 20 feet in diameter were ignominiously felled, whipsawed into planks and split into shakes. Not a single grove of these giants was left for future generations.

Where was the balance?

After the timber industry finished cutting old growth from its own lands in the 1960s, it pressured politicians to increase logging in public forests. Our forest managers sold billions of feet of the world's finest timber at a net loss to taxpayers and the U.S. Treasury. Most of this timber wound up overseas, not in domestic housing. No balance here!

This corporate feeding frenzy has left our forests with degraded water and soil, massive species declines, millions of ecologically dysfunctional acres, billions of dollars in deferred road maintenance and a disproportionately small remnant of old trees. We're passing on a forest to future generations that is tragically out of balance.

Rebalancing this legacy should begin with no more road building or clear-cut logging, especially of old trees. This is critically important in the checkerboard landscape, where sections of BLM and privately owned land alternate.

Capital has been taken from our forests for a century, devaluing and weakening them in the process. In Oregon's federally managed forests, there are thousands of miles of roads to fix, hundreds of streams to restore, and millions of acres of dense monoculture plantations to interplant and thin. This kind of work could provide longer lasting jobs and a wider range of economic stimuli than logging what little old growth remains.

But what about the few remaining mills that depend on federal old growth to saw export products? It would be wiser ecologically and economically to provide their workers with federal forest jobs instead of more old growth. There'd be no need to worry about the owners - they've already made millions off our timber.

Where is the balance in further impoverishing our forests to fatten the rich?

Roy Keene, a real estate broker and forestry consultant, received the Wilderness Society's Environmental Hero Award for his role in passing Oregon's 1984 Wilderness Act.
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Title Annotation:Local Opinion
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 12, 2008
Previous Article:CALENDAR.
Next Article:Ignoring the `plain text'.

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