Today, Silver Creek Timber Co. began logging in the South Kalmiopsis roadless area, located in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Southern Oregon. The logging is the first logging allowed in a National Forest roadless areas since the Bush administration replaced the popular 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule in 2005.
The logging project, called Mike's Gulch, is one of two controversial logging projects in Oregon roadless lands to be carried out this summer. The other sale, called Blackberry, was auctioned by the US Forest Service last Friday.
The Bush administration new roadless area policy allows for logging, mining, and other development, but top Bush administration officials have publicly pledged to keep roadless lands protected pending individual state management plans. Under the new Bush rule, individual governors have until November to submit their recommendations for the future management of roadless areas.
Governor Kulongoski, who calls roadless areas "priceless treasures," is still working on his state roadless plan. By pushing forward with logging of roadless areas in Oregon, the Bush administration is not only breaking a promise, they are demonstrating their disregard for Governor Kulongoski and the integrity of the very process they created.
On a larger scale, the logging in Oregon's roadless wildlands is the start of a systematic rollback of roadless area protections - presenting a serious threat to much of the nation's last remaining public wild lands. The Bush administration is also proposing roadless area incursions in a handful of other states, including New Hampshire and Minnesota.
In Oregon, it's particularly troubling that the Bush administration is pushing through controversial and costly roadless area logging while thinning projects that would protect communities from wildfire sit unfunded. Clearly, the Bush administration and the political appointees that run the Forest Service need to realign their priorities.
National Forest roadless areas are valued by many because they provide clean drinking water, important fish and wildlife habitat, and ideal places to hike, camp, mountain bike, hunt, fish, and more. In Oregon, a diverse group of hunters, anglers, businesses, conservationists, scientists, and others called the Oregon Wildlands Alliance has banded together to demonstrate why protection for roadless areas and the important services they provide our community is so important. Their website is www.oregonroadless.org