MEDFORD &

Fishing and hunting groups are criticizing a plan to triple logging on 2.6 million acres of federal land in western Oregon.




They say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management plan would threaten watersheds for salmon, steelhead and trout as well as forests home to big game species such as Roosevelt elk, blacktail deer and black bear.




"For most Oregon hunters and anglers, our public land is the only hunting and fishing estate we will ever own," said Eagle Point resident Mike Beagle of Trout Unlimited. "The BLM proposal lacks the balance needed to support Oregon's priceless outdoor heritage."




Beagle said the groups are not opposed to logging.




"I understand that with the litigation over the years, the BLM hasn't been able to get wood fiber out to the local mills," he said.




"But at the same time, hunting and fishing is also an important legacy in the Northwest," he said. "These are cherished traditions that need to be passed on to our kids and grandkids. We want a better array of choices in the plan."




Other groups signing the report are the Oregon Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Oregon Division Izaak Walton League of America, Oregon Council Federation of Fly Fishers, Northwest Steelheaders, Berkley Conservation Institute and Native Fish Society.




Timber industry officials and county leaders say the logging will bring badly needed federal money to rural counties and thwart challenges to logging projects that have helped keep logging on BLM forests far below Clinton-era projections.




Allowable timber production could rise from 268 million board feet a year now to 727 million board feet. About half the increase in available acreage would come from trees 80 years or older.




Streamside buffer zones can be as wide as 360 feet now. Under the revised plan, the zone would drop to 100 feet, with logging allowed as close as 25 feet from fish-bearing streams and potentially closer.




Agency officials say the diminished stream buffers would have minimal impact on endangered fish and wildlife, said Dick Prather, manager for the project.




The BLM land is interspersed with private lands that often have roads and logging, Prather said.




"It isn't like this is Forest Service land and there's a huge block that's going to be roaded," he said.




The BLM hopes to issue a final plan by August.