Frequently Asked Questions about the Forest Bridges proposal
A Forest Bridges Friend is a supporter of the principles behind the Forest Bridges Project.
The project applies to Western Oregon BLM lands, which encompass over 2 million acres of forest land in the Coast Range mountains, the foothills of the Cascades and the Siskiyou mountains in Southwestern Oregon. These forests are dispersed in a checkerboard pattern of 1 square mile sections with other public and private land owners.
The Forest Bridges project seeks to create an ecologically sound, historically based plan to restore forest health, increase wildfire resilience and develop diverse habitats for native species.
Harvests are light-touch within a larger land base for the purpose of creating sustainable, fire-resilient landscapes.
Other major differences:
- Short-term biological impacts are weighed against long-term benefits to the forest ecosystem; forest management is approached with a long-range vision that spans centuries
- Forest trees are granted added protections through defined metering of harvests; species diversity is respected and preserved
- Legal gridlock is reduced while environmental laws continue to be upheld
- Extensive, transparent monitoring and reporting on forest activities and conditions is made a priority
- New funding sources are created for restoration, monitoring, noxious weed control and ongoing adaptive management
Instead of simply drawing lines on a map to create various reserves, we are using a holistic, long range evidence-based approach that will result in improved forest health and species habitats. Harvests will not be based on diameter limits and age limits but instead seek to mimic a historical mix of species diversity and tree density on BLM lands.
The Forest Bridges plan will decrease the incidence of wildfire through wide-spaced thinning to create greatly reduced mixed-age density of trees in fire-prone “dry forest” areas.
Dry forests are generally found in Southwestern Oregon. These are areas with higher summer temperatures and lower rainfall. In a dry forest, the forest floor tends to dry out completely in the summer.
Yes; our plan will protect legacy trees, and increase older forest stands, resulting in Wet Forest area across BLM land that is 50 percent structurally complex old forest.
The Forest Bridges plan addresses climate change by sequestering more carbon in the older moist forests. In the dry forests we will reduce catastrophic fires, which release large amounts of CO2, by thinning overstocked stands and introducing low level prescribed burns.
In dry forests, wildfires and large megafires, which contribute to climate change by quickly releasing carbon dioxide into the air, would be replaced by extensive thinning and prescribed fire. There would still be fires, but they would not be catastrophic. Prescribed fires are started and monitored by foresters sduring cooler seasons and weather conditions so that legacy trees, forest soils and adjacent lands will be better protected.
In wet forests, carbon is stored above ground in trees and below ground in downed wood, litter, the duff layer and forest soil. Carbon storage will be encouraged by the goal of 50% structurally complex forests.
If climate change leads to the drying out of formerly wet forests, the historically moist forest floor material will dry out and be subject to burning. Careful and continuous monitoring will ensure appropriate actions as the boundary between moist and dry forests shift through time.
The Forest Bridges plan will create a diverse range of habitats based on the historical condition. These habitats will support a full range of wild species.
In wet forests, a metered amount of new and pre-forest habitats would be produced annually to benefit species including deer, elk, birds, pollinators, small mammals and other fauna. Additionally, structurally complex old stands would be increased to benefit spotted owls, spotted frogs, salmon and steelhead, and other endangered species. Diverse middle-aged, mature forests would benefit species who require this type of habitat.
Legal gridlock will be reduced through several steps that expedite the legal process for actions on BLM O&C lands:
- During the forest planning process, the BLM will engage a collaborative processes, as plans are developed in accordance with the latest BLM policies and regulations.
- When a new forest management plan is completed by the BLM, it will be subject to the traditional vetting by the courts for compliance with environmental laws.
- Gridlock will be reduced at the forest planning stage. Individual actions would be subject to challenge in court solely on the grounds of inconsistency with the plan, or truly new site-specific information.
- The standard for consistency will be defined.
Rigorous and continuous monitoring, reporting and adaptive management will ensure all the plan’s goals are being met. This should increase confidence among all parties that the plan is working.
Independent monitoring of species and habitat health changes will ensure congruence with the forest management plan. Forest management plans will be updated and revised to ensure that habitat and other goals will be met (adaptive management). Forest Bridges will secure funding for monitoring and reports that will be made available to the public and to the BLM.
The Forest Bridges plan will generate a wide range of forest jobs in the fields of managing commercial and non-commercial forests, monitoring forest habitat health, harvesting and restoring historically based forest functions. The wider range of wood materials coming out of the public forest should benefit primary — and create new secondary– wood manufacturing industries.
First, the traditional amounts and sources of O&C lands management funds appropriated by the US Congress would continue.
In addition, funding would be provided by the other 50% of BLM harvest revenues that by law go to the United States Treasury. Ecologically sound forest management, as demanded by the public since the 1990s, along with more recent climate change concerns, require a new source of stable funding to be viable long-term. This funding will cover the mandated independent monitoring, needed restoration work, and other new programs demanded by 21st century forestry and land management.
We believe that when it comes to effective forest management, time is running short. Forest Bridges seeks to develop a comprehensive proposal in a timely manner, to increase public awareness, and to gain support from a wide range of persons and entities. This is a collaborative process.
The first step is to develop funding support, in addition to Friends, so that an Executive Director can be hired to complete the Forest Bridges Project.
Forest Bridges is actively seeking an extensive network of Friends who support the principles and the collaborative development process for new policies affecting western Oregon BLM and O&C lands. Funds are being raised to carry out the educational work of this newly formed nonprofit organization.
Forest Bridges will continue to collaboratively develop and refine a comprehensive forest policy proposal for Western Oregon BLM lands. These proposals will be presented to policy makers.
Once these proposals are accepted, the BLM would develop new forest management plans consistent with the Forest Bridges policies.
The 50% of O&C harvest revenues that have historically gone to the counties as BLM or O&C receipts will continue to be allocated to the O&C Counties.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Our Board is a collaborative of activists who were formerly adversaries in the Western Oregon forestry debates. Our goal is to form a large network of Friends with a similarly wide range of outlooks and who support our approach to developing broadly supported policy on how BLM forests should be managed in Western Oregon.
The name“Forest Bridges” and our logo are intended to symbolize this coming together to bring to life a shared vision of long-term forest health and mitigated climate change, for the benefit of all.
Dry and Moist forests:
Dry Forests: Dry forests are generally found in Southwestern Oregon. In a dry forest, the forest floor tends to dry out completely in the summer, and frequent low intensity fires are a natural occurrence every five to fifteen years. These fires keep the fuel load low and promote the development of fire resistant legacy trees. Climax dry forests are typically multi-aged stands of widely spaced fire resistant trees with a low understory of forbs and grasses.
Moist Forests: Moist forests are found more in Northwest Oregon, and all along the Oregon Coast Range mountains. In moist forests, the forest floor is heavily shaded and remains moist or wet even in typical summer conditions. Fires in these forests only happen under extremely dry conditions (every 100-300 years) and are much less frequent but more extreme, due to higher fuel loads.
The Moist and Dry Forests are require different management strategies (click here to learn more). There are also areas where the moist and dry forests are intermingled in a mosaic. Slopes facing north or east are most often moist forests, whereas slopes facing south or west are often dry forests. These mosaic areas create a broad range of habitat types in close proximity and will require special management planning to mimic historical habitat patterns in the absence of fire.
Natural fire, megafires and wildfire:
Natural wildfires have always existed in NW forests and the forests have adapted to thrive in the natural fire regime. Indigenous tribes used fire as their primary tool for landscape management. Frequent, low intensity fires developed the historic fire-resistant forests of Southwest Oregon. The magnificent stands of old growth Douglas Fir in the moist forest were typically initiated by infrequent stand replacement fires.
Many western Oregon forests are now overloaded with fuels after more than 100 years of aggressive fire suppression. The Smokey the Bear campaign and common protocols of the time had the unintended consequence of unnatural fuel buildup. Megafires that burn very hot and rapidly grow thousands of acres across BLM and private lands together because the typical ownership size is 640 acres. These fires not only cause extreme economic hardship, but few trees survive, soil is damaged, habitats are destroyed, carbon is released to the atmosphere, and water quality, lives, and property are placed at risk.
O&C lands in excess of 2 million acres of public lands are located across the 18 Western Oregon counties. Originally, these lands were deeded as private lands to railroad companies in 1866 to encourage the railroads to develop a rail line across Oregon and to encourage settlement. Portions of land were sold to settlers to raise money, the railroads were built, but eventually, the lands were revested to the Federal Government by Congress with the intent to privatize. Under the O&C Act of 1937, the BLM was tasked with managing the lands under what was considered progressive, conservation-oriented, and sustainable timber harvest practices at the time, with a portion of revenues going to the 18 counties of Western Oregon as O&C County Receipts.
O&C County Harvest Receipts:
When a timber sale is sold from western Oregon O&C timberlands, 50 percent of the revenues are divided among the 18 western Oregon O&C Counties in accordance with the O&C Act of 1937. The Forest Bridges Project advises that all timber sales be designed to drive the forest toward overall healthy habitat goals. Continuous, independent monitoring will ensure the goals are being met.
This new source of ecological forestry and monitoring funds recognizes the costs and promotes the actions required in 21st century forestry and the Forest Bridges Project.
The Sustainability receipts are that portion of O&C revenues and any other revenues from BLM timber sales, that have previously gone to the U.S. Treasury, as opposed to the O&C counties. This change in funding allocation recognizes and promotes the actions and costs of ecological forest management. These funds would be in addition to the BLM Congressional appropriations for operations which need to remain at traditional levels for the Sustainability Receipts to meet their intended purposes. The allocation of sustainability receipts would be controlled by statute, and require collaborative approval for dispersing. These BLM funds are dedicated to the following:
- forest restoration on BLM lands and in cooperation with checkerboard neighboring landowners, on their lands, for road systems, forest retention, as well as restoration and thinning of dry forest non-commercial lands
- third party monitoring and reporting of forest actions and the forest condition,
- adaptive management as knowledge and conditions change
- noxious weed removal and control
- law enforcement
Substantial public support will be required to reallocate the Sustainability Receipts to Ecological Forest Management. Please become a Friend of Forest Bridges today.