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Environmental Groups Abandon Wyden's Eastside Plan Following Changes

OPB | Dec. 19, 2013 4:05 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 20, 2013 6:43 a.m.

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Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s Eastside Forest Plan is now one step closer to passage. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Thursday.

The bill was written in consultation with both conservation groups and the timber industry.  But recent changes have caused many environmentalists to withdraw their support.

The Eastside bill still creates new protections for old growth, but the new changes mean those protections would no longer be permanent.  Instead, the pilot project, as it’s being called would need to be renewed after fifteen years.

Conservationist Andy Kerr says he’s more upset about an exemption to those protections.  It allows for some harvesting of trees between 150 and 200 years old.

“This bill is worse than the status quo. This bill sets it back.  This bill would mandate the logging of old growth forests under the phony guise of restoration.  It’s not a good bill,” said Kerr.

Energy Committee spokesman Keith Chu called that statement misleading. 

He says the exemption is very narrow and was included at the suggestion of forest scientists to allow for more restoration projects that wouldn’t otherwise be done.

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