Dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Umpqua Watershed and beyond through education, training, advocacy.
Fifteen Years of Collaboration in the Belly of the Beast
The history of involvement in “collaborative” groups by representatives of Umpqua Watersheds began in the early 1980s and continues to the present. We have invariably chosen to be at the table, no matter how badly tilted, rather than to sit on the sidelines have no influence on the outcome of the deliberations at that table.
There have been successes and shipwrecks, but we’ve learned from both, and remain committed to engaging the broader community to further scientifically sound management of our public lands. What follows is a brief record of the trials and errors or that journey.
In the early 1990s, we were involved in an informal group that included the 2 biggest timber companies in the Umpqua, a USFS District Ranger and Susan Morgan, now a Douglas County commissioner. Although we met for a year, this effort failed to produce any breakthroughs.
We were again at the table during the Umpqua Land Exchange Project, an attempt to arrange land swaps between the federal agencies and willing private owners. After 3 years of meetings and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, the project only served to enrich an OSU engineering professor, and promises to the community were broken.
A notable success in collaborative ventures was the formation of the Umpqua Basin Watershed Council (now the Partnership for Umpqua Rivers). During the negotiations with Governor Kitzhaber and local stakeholders, we held out for important procedural safeguards (like consensus decision-
In an attempt to demonstrate our willingness to develop real ecological restoration solutions and to support local communities in the process, our members have also been engaged in a collaborative forest restoration project within Umqpua National Forest late successional reserves plantation stands. Partnering with the South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership (chaired by one of our board members) and the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, we demonstrated on the ground, with a group of project trained ecoforesters, practical forest restoration through stewardship contracts with the Forest Service. Despite resistance by agency personnel and meddling by local industry hacks, there are now some beautifully restored forests on the Umpqua, and we stand ready to do more.
We were at the table 3 years ago for the formation of the Douglas County Forest Council, convened by Douglas County Commissioner Joe Laurance. After two years of attempting to create a true collaborative process, the conservation community walked away from that table after it became clear that our presence only served to “greenwash” the same old get-
Most recently, Umpqua Watersheds was well represented on the Roseburg BLM’s Collaborative Forestry Pilot, designed to bring stakeholders into the scoping process much earlier than usual. Because of the biological expertise and persistence of Umpqua Watersheds along with that of our regional partners, new, more ecological sensitive alternatives for thinning in several Coast Range second growth stands are being proposed in their NEPA documents.
Although the BLM collaborative has concluded, two new “tables” are being proposed that will need our participation.
The first comes as an outgrowth of the BLM collaborative and proposes to build a stakeholder group modeled on the successful local watershed council that will take on issues outside the riparian areas where no collaboration currently exists. A small group of committed conservationists, agency personnel and other stakeholders are beginning the political groundwork to bring that important collaborative to fruition.
The second is much more immediate, and represents both a threat and an opportunity for the forests of the Umpqua.
In August 2009, eminent forest scientists Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin proposed a set of ecological principles for restoring “moist” and “dry” forests in Oregon. Recently, they flagged several stands in southwest Oregon -
We applaud their willingness to wade into the fray (including politics, steep slopes and poison oak), and we believe them when they say that their primary goal is not extraction but forest restoration. However, we suggest that before starting to “restore” our forests, we need to have more dialogue on what exactly we think they should look like when we’re done.
The reality is, with climate change, extinctions, catastrophic industrial logging and exotic species invasions, no amount of management can bring the quilted forests of the Umpqua back to their pre-
Umpqua Watersheds has completed a draft reconstruction of the historical ecology of the ~130,000 acre Little River watershed, a major tributary to the North Umpqua River. Using over 4000 tree ring counts sampled in 180 plots collected for two Oregon State University-
A key finding of this study is that local forests experienced numerous, frequent, mixed-
These findings and other recent research leads us to the conclusion that the Johnson/Franklin approach ignores too much of the unique diversity of Umpqua forests at both stand and landscape levels by a) dividing all of the forests of Oregon into two only types (moist and dry), b) prescribing too much heavy thinning in mature native forests, c) paying minimal attention to dead wood recruitment critical for wildlife, d) concentrating on stand-
While we agree that the myriad tree plantations across the landscape are in need of restoration work, we believe that the knowledge gaps in our understanding of wildlife responses to proposed management activities in mature stands are too great, and that not enough local expertise has been called on to fashion site-
Umpqua Watersheds’ experienced scientists, technical advisors and policy analysts will be demanding a place at this new table, and we’ll be bringing our wealth of local knowledge with us to collaboratively shape the restoration of our damaged watersheds.
Post WOPR BLM Collaborative: Progress or Deja Vu
For the past year Umpqua Watersheds participated in a collaborative effort with Roseburg BLM. It was based on a post WOPR push by Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Peter DeFazio to “break the log jam” on BLM and other federal lands. Wyden and DeFazio asked Dr. Norm Johnson and Dr. Jerry Franklin to come up with a reason to get more timber to the mills. Norm and Jerry then produced a proposal that lumped mature forests into wet and dry with timber harvest proposals.
The Roseburg BLM set up the process to look at a few stands in “wet” forest and a few in “dry” forest and give alternatives that would: 1) develop spotted owl and marbled murrelet habitat, 2) reduce likelihood of catastrophic fires, 3) provide timber volume to support the local economy through employment, income and public services.
Umpqua Watersheds encouraged our conservation community to join staff and board at the table of this collaboration. Through UW’s restoration program an amazing group of knowledgeable local citizens offering insight from ecological, biological, and socio-
Yet something different happened at that collaborative that I have not experienced in my 30 plus years as a member of the Douglas County community. There was a major shift in critical mass at the collaborative table with a large community of environmental advocates that devoted their time and knew their stuff. THIS IS VERY SIGNIFICANT. We can bring permanent cultural change.
Jay Carlson’s pilot collaboration process ended in October. Recently Congressman DeFazio held a meeting at Douglas County Fairgrounds with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar present to again try to break the log jam and push to apply Norm and Jerry’s forest management proposals.
I have been invited as Umpqua Watersheds representative along with one each from other Oregon conservation organizations, representatives of the timber industry, and county commissioners to dialogue on western Oregon forest issues with Secretary Salazar on Wednesday, December 8th, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM in Washington, DC. The meeting will primarily focus on the proposals of Professors Johnson and Franklin on ecological forestry.
Umpqua Watersheds is a 501(c)(3) non-
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