Bush logging plan science questioned


The Bush administration's plans to dismantle more than a decade of protections for northern spotted owls and salmon to sharply increase logging in old growth forests is seriously flawed and not adequately supported by science, the federal agency in charge of saving salmon concludes.

In a Jan. 11 letter obtained by The Associated Press, NOAA Fisheries told the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that its Western Oregon Plan Revision &

known as The Whopper after its acronym &

has no coherent or cohesive conservation strategy for salmon and steelhead, and relies on assumptions and models not supported by published scientific studies.

Increased logging along salmon streams proposed in the plan are harmful to fish and analyses look only at limited lengths of rivers, rather than the entire watershed as prevailing science calls for, said the letter signed by Michael Tehan, NOAA Fisheries Oregon habitat director, on behalf of Bob Lohn, Northwest regional director of the agency.

"A substantial amount of work must be completed" before the final plan scheduled for fall 2008 contains a good enough description of the existing environment and analyses of the impacts of the proposed logging so that it can be formally evaluated under the demands of the Endangered Species Act, the letter said.

BLM produced the logging plan to settle a lawsuit brought by the timber industry and timber-dependent counties demanding greater timber production from federal lands in the Coast Range and Klamath Mountains of Western Oregon.

The agency's preferred alternative would bring back clear-cut logging and nearly triple planned timber production while jettisoning the fish and wildlife habitat protections of the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan.

The problems for salmon come on top of problems for spotted owls. A draft recovery plan for the spotted owl, which makes the logging plan possible by downplaying the need to protect old growth forest habitat, has been sharply criticized by peer review scientists. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has hired a contractor to revise the owl plan.

Though the NOAA Fisheries letter was sharply critical of the logging plan, Lohn said the issues raised were "not fatal flaws," and the agency was working with BLM to address them.

"I take this in the vein of legitimate scientific criticism of an ongoing work product, not that they are using bad science," Lohn said.

"This is a technical working process. What we are saying to them is we need to know more about your model, the data you are loading into them, and how they are run, because they are producing some results" that were unexpected.

"If there were no answers to these issues, I think then you'd have questions about the science," Lohn added.

BLM spokesman Michael Campbell said NOAA Fisheries' comments would be evaluated along with the 29,000 others that came in by last Friday's deadline.

"This analysis we have done, this draft plan, is the most comprehensive analysis ever done on these BLM lands in Western Oregon," Campbell said. "For folks to say we missed information or didn't look at the right things, I would respectfully disagree.

"If they have provided us something we overlooked or somehow mistakenly characterized, this is the time in the process where we address those questions."

In a separate letter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it was "deeply concerned" that abandoning the Northwest Forest Plan's strategy for protecting watersheds and ramping up logging would cause long-term and substantial harm to drinking water serving — million people, as well as fish habitat.

The Northwest Forest Plan was adopted by the U.S. Forest Service and BLM to comply with court rulings that stopped logging in old growth forests to protect habitat for salmon and spotted owls headed toward extinction.

OSF receives $400,000 for history plays

A $400,000 grant from The Collins Foundation will make possible the largest commissioning and production project in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's history.

The grant is awarded over three years, from 2008 through 2010, and is the largest grant OSF has received from The Collins Foundation. It will fund the launch of "American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle."

OSF will commission 37 new plays over 10 years, each inspired by a moment of transformation, inspiration or conflict in the nation's history. The festival will announce the first three to five of the cycle's commissions in June 2008.

"This unique project highlights the power of theater to inspire us," said Cynthia Addams, executive vice president of The Collins Foundation. "It is one of those wonderfully creative initiatives that captures the mind and the spirit. The Collins Foundation is delighted to assist in launching the United States History Cycle."

New Artistic Director Bill Rauch has established the United States History Cycle as one of his top priorities. In conceiving the cycle, Rauch took inspiration from the festival's genesis in the Chautauqua movement of the late nineteenth century and OSF's birth on the Fourth of July, 1935.

OSF's commitment to the works of Shakespeare (the festival has completed the canon three times) drew Rauch to the potential parallels between the United States History Cycle and Shakespeare's own histories in chronicling the tensions and intentions of a nation. Acknowledging this, the Cycle's 37 commissions match the number of plays in the Shakespeare canon.

"Theater has always spoken to the concerns of its time," says Rauch. "Our nation is at a time of great change, and we hope the plays that come from the Cycle will help re-establish a shared vocabulary about our national identity and illuminate the best paths for our nation's future."

The cycle is directed by Alison Carey, co-founder with Bill Rauch of Cornerstone Theater Company, which works with diverse American communities. As Cornerstone's resident playwright, she wrote more than 25 of the company's productions for stages across the country.

OSF's United States History Cycle will bring together more than 100 artists, historians and institutions from around the country. The 37 new plays are slated to result in up to 15 full productions at OSF between 2010 and 2019. Every work commissioned, even if it does not receive a full production, will be presented to OSF audiences through workshops or readings.

OSF aims to commission between three and five plays in each of the next three years, seeking the voices of renowned and established writers as well as early career genius. OSF hopes to mount the cycle's first full production on one of its stages in 2010.

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