A new plan announced by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) threatens to enshrine forest management policies favoring logging, including mature forests needed by the threatened Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet – species dependent on an old-growth forest ecosystem that also provides clean air, clean water, and viable fish and wildlife populations.

“The Northwest Forest Plan protects old-growth forests and allows for the growth of mature forests into quality wildlife habitat; it should not be abandoned in favor of an untested aggressive logging regime,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy for American Bird Conservancy. “Recent studies show there has been no increase in high-severity fires in the region, which raises concern that this proposal is responding to unfounded fears rather than to the needs of endangered wildlife.”

The BLM’s announcement to revise six Resource Management Plans comes on the heels of a controversial Critical Habitat designation for the Northern Spotted Owl that encourages logging of owl habitat across its range, including in moist, mature forests where logging is not recommended to reduce fire risks.

“With Northern Spotted Owl numbers in rapid decline, logging of its habitat, which can harm or kill the owls and reduce their prey base, should be prevented,” said Holmer. “It is of great concern that the administration is pursuing this logging program without any scientific studies showing owl populations will benefit.”

The new BLM planning process would replace the previous Western Oregon Plan Revisions that a federal magistrate has recommended be vacated. In a court filing, the administration conceded the plan was not legally defensible because it did not comply with the Endangered Species Act.

“The first WOPR was a disaster because the agency repeatedly failed to follow the best available science,” said Holmer. “Given the problems we see in the owl’s draft critical habitat plan released just last week, we believe that science is once again being ignored.”

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