COQUILLE — County officials aren’t certain a recent federal court ruling will lead to more timber money for Oregon’s rural communities.
Both cheers and jeers were made Wednesday after Judge Richard J. Leon, of the District of Columbia, ruled the Bureau of Land Management has failed to offer as much timber as called for in its 1995 resource management plans for the Medford and Roseburg districts.
The decision was popular among proponents of logging in rural counties, but not environmentalists. However, both sides agreed it could be overturned.
Coos County commissioner Bob Main said the ruling was a step in the right direction.
“It’s probably going to be overruled,” Main said. “But it was the right move by the judge. We need to put people back to work.”
Josh Laughlin, campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands, said he was disappointed in the ruling.
“We need to recognize these forests are more than 2x4s,” Laughlin said. “They provide drinking water and are a habitat for salmon.”
Laughlin also said Coos County provides plenty of timber through thinning its forests.
“Eugene and Coos Bay are making up for what Medford doesn’t provide,” Laughlin said.
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Leon also decided the computer system used by government agencies to estimate spotted owl numbers in timber sale areas was adopted without input from the public, which is required by the Administrative Procedures Act. He said the computer system can’t be used until the public had a comment period.
Main agreed the computer was a bad way to judge spotted owl numbers.
“The computer model, it’s so wrong I can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s like you sitting at your desk monitoring where everybody is. It doesn’t predict how many species are spread out over acres of forest. You’re not going to get correct data.”
Main said wildlife numbers should be calculated by going out in the field. He also said jobs were more important than owls.
Coos County has compensated for budget shortfalls in recent years with money from its timber fund. That money will run out in about a year and a half.
“They’re going to curtail thousands of jobs just because there are owls there,” Main said. “Hopefully we’re going on the right track to get people back to work.”
Opponents of logging didn’t agree.
“The BLM in western Oregon is already offering the federal timber they’re funded for,” Laughlin said.
Reporter Emily Thornton can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @EmilyK_Thornton.