What are the plans, and why do they matter?
The Blue Mountain Forest Plans are the blueprint for managing our Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman, and Malheur National Forests. Our National Forests have been operating under the 1990 Forest Plans, which, while outdated, contained enforceable environmental protections.
The newly revised Blue Mountain Forest Plans swap enforceable "standards and guidelines" with aspirational "goals, objectives, and desired conditions." While these visionary statements may sound nice, they are unenforceable, not to mention self-contradictory.
For example, there is a goal to protect important wildlife habitat. There is also a goal to double the volume of logging in our forests.
When faced with these conflicting aspirations, do you trust the Forest Service to make the right choice for wildlife? Without enforceable standards and guidelines, there is no way to hold the Forest Service accountable for environmental protection, and every chance for them to prioritize "getting out the cut."
What does this mean on the ground?
- Old growth trees can and will be logged. The 21" rule, while controversial, stopped many old growth trees from being logged, allowing them to act as the awesome fire-resistant, carbon-sinking, crucial habitat they are. Without a single enforceable rule protecting these old giants, they will inevitably be cut down to meet timber targets.
- Logging in riparian zones. Gone are meaningful protections that give crucial fish and amphibian habitat buffer zones from the impacts of heavy machinery.
- There are no measurable protections for species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 'Nuff said.
- Roadless areas will become roaded. The Blue Mountains contain important roadless areas, inventoried and uninventoried. Roadless areas are hot spots for biodiversity, important wildlife connectivity corridors, and increasingly rare. Without enforceable protections, it is only a matter of time before they are gone forever.
These plans are bad news. Our forests and wildlife deserve more than aspirational language. We need enforceable standards to protect rare and threatened wildlife, old growth trees, native species, and roadless areas.