EUGENE — A coalition of environmental groups has released a report on the potential for restoration thinning in overcrowded northwest forests. The groups say thinning alone could generate a steady supply of timber for 20 years and allow federal forests to increase logging yields.
Four Northwest environmental groups commissioned the study: Conservation Northwest, The Geos Institute, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Oregon Wild.
The groups say they wanted to put a number on how much non-controversial logging could take place on the federal forests in the range of the spotted owl. The bird is protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The report examines the potential for thinning out young Douglas fir plantations and other types of younge dense stands on 17 national forests and on a handful of Bureau of Land Management forest lands in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California.
The report found that a restoration program that expanded thinning in young stands and did not include any logging in older stands could roughly double the volume of timber harvests on federal land in Washington and California. The report predicted a more modest increase for Oregon of 14%, and projected that a thinning-only program would lead to harvest decreases on BLM forests in Southern Oregon.
Randi Spivak with the Geos Institute said that in sum restoration thinning could generate 774 million board feet a years for at least 20 years.
“That is stability, predictability, a good wood supply for jobs in the woods and jobs in the mills, all while protecting water salmon and wildlife,” Spivak said.
Scott Horngren, with the industry group American Forest Resource Council, agreed that thinning could generate a significant harvest in some parts of the Northwest. However, he suggested that focusing exclusively on thinning over other types of commercial harvest could decrease yields and deepen county budget crises in parts of southern and western Oregon.
Horngren says he’s also not convinced increased thinning would be uncontroversial, because environmental groups are currently suing over five thinning sales in the Northwest.
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