Oregon Department of Forestry plans to accelerate timber cuts in the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests through 2006In response to an effort from Sen. Joan Dukes, D-Astoria, the Oregon Department of Forestry plans to accelerate logging in the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests.

State Forester Marvin Brown wrote in a late December memo that his staff will issue new directives ordering the increased logging over the next two years. He emphasized it would comply with existing management plans.

Brown has been under pressure from lawmakers and coastal counties to cut more trees in the Coast Range, where vast stands replanted after wildfires decades ago are reaching harvest age. Revenue from logging supplements county and school budgets, easing demands on the state.

"This is jobs to the communities," said Dukes. "This is money that comes into communities."

A bill in the Legislature last year could have doubled cutting in the state forests and sought to make logging the primary purpose of forests. It died at the end of the session.

But Dukes spearheaded another change to forest policy during state budget negotiations in August. Legislators adopted a budget note instructing the Department of Forestry to adjust timber harvests within the Tillamook and Clatsop forests to levels approved under an earlier version of the forest's management plan, she said.

The change is an increase in logging from present levels, but Dukes sees it as a restoration of sound forest management after environmentalists convinced the state to scale back tree harvests.

"There was no scientific reason for them to scale back," said Dukes. "We simply asked them to step it up to the levels of harvest that they had agreed to when they negotiated the management plan."

State officials had already begun stepping up cutting, pushing Tillamook and Clatsop timber sales from 153 million board feet in fiscal 2003 to 195 million in fiscal 2004. Sales in 2004 include 29 million board feet held over from previous years.

The Department of Forestry had first planned to sell about 208 million board feet of timber in fiscal year 2005, which starts in July, said spokesman Jeff Foreman. Now that number will rise to about 250 million board feet, a 20 percent increase.

Foresters will follow a new state strategy that aims to use logging to sculpt diverse forests used by a variety of wildlife from deer to federally protected spotted owls. Clear-cutting will not be employed where the goal is to turn timbered areas into complex stands resembling old-growth forests, Foreman said.

The increase in logging will continue through fiscal 2006, while state foresters work with counties and others to determine sustainable logging levels for later years, Brown said.

Critics of Oregon forest management have pushed state officials from the opposite direction as the Legislature, saying far too much of the north-coast state forests remains subject to logging. They say more area should be protected for fish, wildlife, recreation and the clean water many cities depend on.

A petition drive backed by business and environmental leaders around northwest Oregon would ask voters to set half of the 518,000 acres in the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests aside for such needs. The rest would be open to logging.

"It certainly gives more fuel to our fire, that's for sure," said Bob Rees, a Tillamook fishing guide who is the lead petitioner to put the question on the November ballot.

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