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Lane County prepares to join lawsuit against BLM

EUGENE, Ore. – This week, the Lane County Board of Commissioners voted to allocate $84,000 to join a potential multi-county lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management.

For the past several years, the BLM has been working on a new Resource Management Plan for the O & C timberlands and Commissioner Faye Stewart says the BLM is currently looking at a plan that would violate the O & C Act of 1937.

“There’s a minimum harvest level of 500 million board feet required by law,” Stewart said.

Stewart says the required harvest levels aren’t being met, and counties are missing out on timber dollars needed to provide county services.

“We believe that it’s important for us as counties to stand up and make sure that the law on the books is met by the agency,” Stewart said, “And for Lane County, it’s important because those are resource dollars that come to the county to pay for critical resources we provide.”

If the BLM doesn’t make changes to the plan, the Association of O & C Counties is preparing to take action. They’ve chosen a Portland law firm to represent them in the suit. The $84,000 would cover Lane County’s portion of the legal fees.

Faye says harvests are dwindling, in large part because of the Endangered Species Act, but he says it’s possible to boost harvests and protect endangered species.

“Our experts believe that they can do both, and they can do it at a level that would meet the law,” Stewart said. “It’s just unfortunately, we haven’t been able to see them recognize our comments, and recognize that it can be done.”

The lawsuit isn’t a sure thing. Stewart says the BLM could still make changes to the plan to satisfy the requirements of the O & C Act.

That will be followed by a public comment period, and a final decision is expected by July.

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