Bureau of Land Management: Our Ancient Forests Under the Freewheeling Axe

Feature story - May 28, 2004
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an arm of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and directly controls over 261 million acres of publicly-owned lands across 12 western states. Due to its pro-timber agenda, it is often referred to as the "Bureau of Livestock and Mining," or the "Bureau of Large Mistakes."

Salvage logging in the Wild Rivers area of Southern Oregon. Despite what the Bush Administration says, fires are a natural part of forest ecosystems, logging is not.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing 261 million acres of public land, located primarily in 12 western states including Alaska. BLM is notorious for liquidating the natural resources under its jurisdiction for the benefit of private interests. An 18-month study of the agency's timber sales by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) shows widespread mismanagement of the BLM's Public Domain forestry program. This mismanagement includes widespread noncompliance by BLM employees to follow the agency's own policies and regulations.

Like the Forest Service, the BLM is also fiscally irresponsible, and chooses to operate its timber program at an economic loss. According to Green Scissors, the BLM agency fails to return 20 percent of its timber revenues to the federal treasury to cover the timber sale administration costs, as required by law.

The threats to ancient forests are primarily due to the agency's complete lack of policy for protecting old-growth on public forests. The agency attempts to sidestep its responsibility by denying there are any old-growth forests on BLM land, a huge fallacy when one looks at its holdings in Oregon. A review of over 30 BLM timber sales by PEER found that BLM districts in Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon and California violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other federal requirements for timber sales. This summer, over 18,000 acres of ancient forests in Oregon are threatened by the BLM's axe.

The Facts

Antiquated laws are used by the federal government to continue bad logging practices. The Oregon and California Act of 1937 requires the BLM to manage its forestland west of the Cascades, primarily for timber production. That's 2.7 million acres.

New laws are being passed to make destructive logging practices even easier. Under Bush administration rules, the BLM is no longer required to survey for sensitive species in old-growth forests before moving ahead with logging projects.