EPIC Digs in on Northwest Forest Plan Revisions

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Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Holm_Fay_date2008-04-09_time16.02.45_IMG_8035 copyAncient forests of Douglas fir, hemlock, western red cedar—and in our lucky corner of California, the majestic redwoods—once stood proudly on the landscape. These forests, nurtured by the warm, wet climate, supported an amazing diversity of life; from salmon to northern spotted owls, Pacific fishers to grizzley bears, many species evolved to depend on these verdant lands.

And then came European settlors and everything changed. Decades of logging largely stripped these ancient forests from the landscape. By the late 1980’s there wasn’t a whole lot left and what still remained was going fast. The critters that evolved to depend on these big, old trees were on the brink of extinction—most notably the poster child of old growth forests, the northern spotted owl. In 1990, the spotted owl was listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Locally, 1990 was the start of “Redwood Summer,” a movement of environmental activism devoted to protecting the last remaining stands of old growth redwoods.

The listing had near immediate effect; logging on national forests containing owls was enjoined in 1991. But the issue was far from resolved. Indeed, it was only heating up. A back-and-forth fight ensued between pro-timber interest on one side and pro-forest forces on the other.

In 1993, the Clinton Administration intervened, beginning a series of hearings and reports. By 1994, a plan was developed: The Northwest Forest Plan, a set of federal policies and guidelines amended 26 land use plans, spanning 24 million acres of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service-managed lands in Northern California, Washington and Oregon. The plan, designed to protect the northern spotted owl by setting aside large swaths of land, “Late-Successional Reserves,” while still providing for some limited timber extraction in so-called “Matrix” lands.

In has been 20 years since the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted. Revisions to the land use plans which constitute the Plan are either underway or are about to begin. The BLM has begun to create new management plans for the forests they manage. The Forest Service is just beginning listening sessions for their forest plan revisions.

Over the coming weeks and months, EPIC is going to talk about the revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan. We will keep you abreast in ongoing discussions, provide critical evaluations of the success (and failures) of the original Plan, and will preview important revisions and principles EPIC will champion in forest plan revisions. So stay tuned. And thanks for your support.

NOTE: The first CA listening session will in Redding, CA on Wednesday March 25, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM at the Red Lion Hotel. We hope to see you there! If you are planning on attending, please let Tom know by shooting him an email at tom@wildcalifornia.org.