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BLM withdraws two timber sales

The Chew Choo and Remote Control sales were canceled this week

Administrative appeals and changing environmental law have killed a large timber sale originally sold by the Bureau of Land Management in 2006.

The 13.4-million-board-foot Chew Choo sale, which includes 421 acres of forestland in the Glendale Resource Area of the BLM's Medford District, was withdrawn this week, along with the Remote Control timber sale in the agency's Coos Bay District that was sold in 1998. Containing 7.5 million board feet of timber, it also was never awarded.

"Conditions have changed so much what we would come up with now would not resemble the original sale," Medford District spokesman Jim Whittington said of the Chew Choo sale.

Rough & Ready Lumber Co. of Cave Junction had purchased Chew Choo for $1.98 million, or about $156 per thousand board feet. It had been appraised at $1.7 million.

"We are extremely disappointed in the BLM and what's going on," said company President Link Phillippi. "This is a sale we've been counting on for the last five years but it kept being tied up. . . This is just another failure of our federal forest policy."

In addition to delays created by sale opponents, survey and manage requirements for endangered species implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since the sale was sold in 2006 would mean the BLM would have to redo the sale, Whittington said.

"It was delayed and delayed," he said. "And if we have to meet the new requirements, that would totally change the sale so we canceled all bids and voided the timber sale."

Phillippi said the sale, combined with the previously canceled Upper East Kelsey sale of some 9.5 million board feet in the lower Rogue River drainage, represented enough timber to keep his mill going for at least a year. Rough & Ready currently employs about 80 workers,

The mill, which cut down to one shift in 2003 because of the lack of timber from federal lands, now depends on private land for the lion's share of its timber, he said. Until the 1990s, it relied mainly on logs from federal forest lands.

"There was nothing in that (Chew Choo) sale that should have stopped it," he said, noting it was in an area set aside for timber harvest, already had roads in place and did not contain northern spotted owls.

"If something like this can't go forward, I don't know what they can do," he said. "The process is broken now."

But George Sexton, conservation director of the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland, believes canceling the Chew Choo is a step toward creating sustainable federal forests and timber jobs in the region.

"My hope this is a signal the BLM is moving from old-growth regeneration to small-diameter regeneration projects," he said.

"By taking some of the most controversial, harmful sales off the table, that will help stakeholders find some common ground," he added.

His group, along with half a dozen others, including the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, had filed administrative appeals with the BLM to halt the sale.

They said their opposition was based on the fact that many of the trees scheduled to be cut were mature trees. Sexton said much of the area was slated for regeneration harvest that calls for leaving six to eight large trees per acre.

"That replaces the old trees with a fiber plantation, increasing the fire hazard and decreasing fire resiliency in that landscape," he said.

Cutting younger trees would reduce the fire hazard by retaining the older fire-resilient trees, he said.

"We're not opposed to logging, but we are opposed to logging old-growth trees," he said. "Chew Choo represents the old school of forestry that, regardless of the impact on fish, water quality and fires hazard, timber comes first.

Whittington said there may be a few more sales like the Chew Choo, which met all laws and environmental requirements when it was offered, that may be on the chopping block.

"There is a handful of what we call legacy sales out there," he said, noting that includes the Medford, Roseburg and Coos Bay districts.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com

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              Page Updated: Saturday February 05, 2011 11:51 PM  Pacific

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