Sunday, August 14, 2016

The New BLM Resource Management Plan and its Impact on the Applegate Watershed

The Wellington Butte Roadless Area and LWC along with many other special places in the Applegate Valley would be open to logging, road building and motorized recreation in the new Resource Management Plan (RMP).

The BLM has released a new Resource Management Plan (RMP), intended to direct management activities throughout western Oregon, including the Applegate Valley. The implications of this new plan for our forests, rivers, wildlife, wildands and communities are concerning to say the least. The plan will turn back many important environmental protections and eliminate land management designations that promote community-based collaboration in the Applegate Valley.

The new RMP would eliminate or reduce many of the environmental protections of the Northwest Forest Plan. The plan would reduce streamside logging buffers by half, impacting 300,000 acres currently protected as Riparian Reserves. Commercial logging in Riparian Reserves will not only harm water quality and our endangered fisheries, but also it will also harm rare and/or endangered species such as the Pacific fisher and northern spotted owl. Riparian Reserves were meant to preserve connectivity on the landscape scale and improve or protect riparian habitat from logging disturbances. In dry regions, like the Applegate Valley, our streams must be protected because our communities rely on them for fisheries, wildlife habitat, sustenance and recreation. They flow through our valley and past our homes.

The plan would also allow logging 278 million board feet of timber annually, an increase of 37% since the last plan was approved in 1995. The new RMP emphasizes clear-cut logging techniques on nearly 500,000 acres of land in Oregon’s moist forests, and proposes a large increase in logging in the dry forests of southwestern Oregon. The increased logging will increase fuel and fire hazards adjacent to our communities and in important forest habitats. It will also degrade important wildlife habitats, impact water quality, log off some of our last intact forests and destroy the viewshed from our communities and homes.

For example, the new RMP will eliminate the proposed designation and protection of two “Lands with Wilderness Characteristics” in the Applegate Valley. Both areas were inventoried and found worthy of LWC protection. Unfortunately, the BLM is removing these areas' LWC status and protections, leaving the Dakubetede and Wellington Butte LWCs open to logging, road building and motorized recreation.

The Dakubetede Roadless Area and LWC will have its LWC status and protections eliminated in the RMP. This important connectivity corridor and recreational hotspot will be open to logging, road building and motorized recreation.

 The Dakubetede LWC is centered around Anderson Butte and the arid slopes of the Little Applegate Valley. The LWC is traversed by the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail and portions of the proposed Jack-Ash Trail. The Wellington Butte LWC, is located near Ruch, Oregon and is the wild core of the proposed Applegate Ridge Trail (ART).  Having become hotspots for non-motorized recreation, both LWCs are well loved by residents of the Applegate Valley and southwestern Oregon. Together the land management practices proposed in the RMP will forever degrade these wildlands and the pristine nature of the proposed ART and Jack-Ash Trails, impacting the quality of life, habitat and the recreation based economy of the Applegate Valley.

Perhaps most important to local Applegate Valley residents is the elimination of the Applegate Adaptive Management Area (AMA). The AMA was designated in 1994 to encourage innovative, ecologically responsible and collaborative land management planning in the Applegate watershed. The AMA was designed to provide the community with opportunities to collaborate and develop “idiosyncratic” methods of land management based on community values and ecological needs.

The Applegate Valley has been a model of community engagement with local land managers. We have worked to create collaborative and socially acceptable land management projects in the AMA. As a community we have worked for 22 years towards consensus, building collaborative capacity and supporting the AMA. Many in the Applegate Valley have invested heavily in the AMA process, working to create a voice for our community and build trust between the BLM and local residents. Removing the AMA designation betrays that trust and will eliminate the BLM’s mandate to work collaboratively with our community and practice innovative forestry practices.

The majority of BLM land in the Applegate Valley would be located within the “Harvest Land Base,” meaning that logging would be the primary form of land management. Timber production would be prioritized over ecological, social or community values within the Harvest Land Base, including within the Dakubetede and Wellington LWCs, numerous Recreational Management Areas, and the corridors proposed for the Jack-Ash and Applegate Ridge Trails.

The majority of the forest in the Applegate Valley would be designated as part of the "Harvest Land Base." This means timber production will be prioritized before ecological needs and recreation.

Some BLM lands in the Applegate watershed will be managed as Late Successional Reserves (LSR). A large block of LSR has been designated in the Williams watershed, Thompson Creek watershed and the western half of the Upper Applegate River watershed. Despite the stated goal of providing large blocks of late successional habitat for the recovery of the northern Spotted Owl, the BLM would mandate the logging of 17,000 acres per decade on the Medford District within these important LSRs.

Although the BLM claims to be emphasizing recreation and conservation in the RMP, nearly all designated conservation and recreation areas would prioritize timber production and motorized recreation. Our two most loved wild areas, the Dakubetede and Wellington Butte LWC will be open to logging, road building and motorized recreation. The corridors of the Jack-Ash and Applegate Ridge Trail will be proposed for timber management and opened to motorized use.   Likewise, our beloved AMA has been axed, along with more than two decades of effort from our community. The new RMP represents old, outdated thinking and a bias towards industrial land management. The residents of the Applegate Valley are looking forward to a more sustainable future. Will the BLM join us?

Please contact your elected officials and tell them that we want our wild places, old forests, clear flowing streams and non-motorized recreation areas protected from logging, road building and OHV use. Ask them to:
  • Revoke the Record of Decision for the new RMP and create a new plan that balances ecological, social and economic values.
  • Maintain streamside logging buffers as proposed in the Northwest Forest Plan
  • Reduce the annual allowable cut by maintaining stream buffers, old forests, LSR habitat, roadless areas and northern spotted owl habitat.
  • Maintain LWC status and protection for the Wellington Butte and Dakubetede Roadless Areas.
  • Reinstate and reinvigorate the Applegate Adaptive Management Area designation. Use this designation to facilitate community collaboration and innovative land management.
  • Reinstate survey requirements for rare wildlife species, plants, lichen and fungi.


Ron Dutton, State BLM Director

Representative Peter Buckley:

Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior:

Senator Ron Wyden:

Representative Greg Walden