Forest trail

Thousands of people are reported missing in the outdoors every year, according to the National Park Service.

We’d like to be able to tell you the details of the Oregon Forestry Department’s plan for managing 613,000 acres of state forests. Instead, the department has come up with a 180-page vision lacking some critical substance.

The big questions when managing forests are what trees will be cut and what will be conserved. What will the level of harvest be? How many acres will be protected from logging?

Read through the draft and you won’t find those numbers. They aren’t there. There are lots of numbers in the plan — just not hard numbers or targets about what will be done.

The Oregonian did an excellent story about the plan. The best quote could be from Bob Van Dyk, policy director for the Wild Salmon Center: “There’s so much there, but there’s nothing there.… There must be 50 things they’re going to maximize and minimize. How is that possible? How do all these things work together? It doesn’t make any sense.”

What kind of plan is that? Not a great one. It may fill the regulatory requirement of producing a plan. But it does not fulfill the need of informing the forestry board, the governor and Oregonians about how the forestry department plans to manage these lands. Without clear direction in the plan, the forestry department could pursue any policies it wants and argue it satisfies the plan.

The plan points out in a footnote that the planning rule does not require measurable outcomes. Is that a good excuse?

In the department’s defense, this is just a draft plan. And it is taking feedback on it through Jan. 30. So the plan may well change.

Any agency in charge of coming up with a plan to manage public forests faces an incredibly difficult task. There’s no way to balance competing interests in revenue, logging, conservation and recreation and satisfy them all. The state forestry department is caught in the middle. It faces lawsuits. It’s budget is a mess. But those problems aren’t fixed by being vague.

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