SOUTHERN OREGON — Federal District Judge Michael McShane has issued a legal order to halt the Lower Grave old-growth timber sale made by the Bureau of Land Management.

Since 2014, the group Cascadia Wildlands has been working to protect the old-growth sale in in the Grants Pass Resource Area of the Medford BLM District.

The halting of this sale protects 571 acres of old-growth where many of the trees are around 300 years old.

In 2016, the BLM revised all management plans for the 2.6 million acres of BLM forest land in Oregon.

“There are some contentious parts of that revision,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “It was more protective in some ways and less protective in others. What it did was it took off the table any old-growth logging for stuff that’s over 200 years old in drier type areas.” 

Forest lands around Medford and in the Lower Grave, where the timber sale was stopped, qualify as a drier area, as Cady mentioned.

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“Before those revisions went into effect the BLM tried to sneak out one last timber sale with the Lower Grave sale, because under the old plan it did allow them to log those older areas. We challenged it because it was actually going to increase the fire hazard in the area and have some native owl impacts as well,” Cady said.

The federal courts ruled that public lands managers cannot ignore the need to reduce, rather than increase, fire hazard on these public lands. Bigger, older trees are much more fire resilient than young densely planted trees after a timber harvest.

“When they clear cut, they’re required by Oregon law to replant and it kind of creates these areas that have increased fire hazard for the next 40 years, both in risk of ignition, and the overall intensity of the fire,” Cady said.  

According to Cady, Cascadia Wildlands suggested to BLM that some thinning of the area could take place, which would reduce fire hazard and still generate commercial timber profit. However, Cady said the BLM disregarded this suggestion.  

Conservation plaintiffs in the case against BLM included the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild. These nonprofit forest advocacy organizations were represented by attorneys Nick Cady and Marianne Dugan.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.