MEDFORD — Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced Tuesday he wants the Bureau of Land Management to expand an experimental timber project that applies ecological principles to tree-cutting operations.
“We are moving forward with what we call active management of these forests that allow logging to move forward” Salazar told a group assembled at logging site on BLM land in southwest Oregon’s Applegate Valley.
Salazar said he wants the BLM in Western Oregon to develop five new ecological timber sales by the end of the year.
Two forestry professors, Jerry Franklin of the University of Washington and Norm Johnson of Oregon State University, have developed the concept for the BLM’s first three such pilot timber sales, which mimic some of the effects of fire on the forest ecosystem.
In dry forests, the pilot sales involve extensively thinning stands while leaving the oldest trees. In wetter forests, the professors have proposed heavily logging stands. But unlike traditional clearcuts, these timber-cutting sites would leave large stands of trees behind and allow the forest to re-seed itself naturally with minimal replanting.
Timber company Boise Cascade purchased the BLM’s first ecological timber sale, Pilot Joe, last September. The sale involves thinning stands on about 250 acres of steep, dry hillside in the Applegate Valley.
Incense cedar, Douglas fir, and madrone grow side-by side in the Applegate.
At the pilot project site, contractor E&M Logging is removing smaller-diameter firs while leaving behind hardwoods, pines, and older trees. Boise-Cascade will use the wood in its Medford veneer mill. The BLM says its goal is to reduce the density of the stand and encourage a diversity of tree species, making the forest more resistant to fire and disease.
“Some of our friends in the timber industry have referred to this as boutique forestry,” said Franklin, professor of Forest Ecology at the University of Washington. “We are taking out half of the basal area in these stands. That’s a serious operation. We’re obviously producing wood, and we’re producing it in a way that’s commercially operable.”
Neither environmental groups nor the timber industry have sued the BLM over the Applegate pilot project, and Salazar expressed hope that more pilot timber sales that follow the Applegate model will be acceptable to both the industry and environmental groups.
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