MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Oregon (STPNS) -- Is it an experiment with a new type of timber harvest - or a way to avoid using the controversial term “clear-cutting?” The latest clash over how - and how much - to log on public land in Oregon could be decided in U.S. District Court in Eugene.

The White Castle timber sale has been proposed near Canyonville, with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Roseburg office predicting no significant environmental impact from logging on 438 acres of public land. The groups Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild disagree, and have sought an injunction to stop the sale. Their contention, said Steve Pedery, conservation director, Oregon Wild, is that the “variable retention regeneration” harvest method, which is being labeled “experimental,” amounts to clear-cutting older trees.

“They will be leaving a few patches of trees around the edges of the sale and in a few isolated islands, but the reality is, 70 percent of the trees in the stand are going to be cut,” he said. “It’s going to mean mud and sediment running into the local river. It’s bad for wildlife. And it’s bad for scenic values and recreation - nobody wants to come to Oregon and go hiking in a clear-cut.”

The groups are asking the court to order a more thorough analysis of what the environmental damage could be to the White Castle forest area, before logging begins.

Clear-cutting still takes place around the state, but on private land, Pedery explained, and said the groups believe public land should be held to a higher standard and managed for multiple uses.

“We can have our cake and eat it too, if we’re willing to accept that we should be managing these forests for clean water, for tourism and recreation, for salmon - with timber as a byproduct,” he said. “When you get into the mindset that ‘the only thing that matters is timber, and we have to maximize timber production,’ that’s when you get into trouble.”

The BLM has been under intense pressure from some county governments to generate more income from public land in their counties, he added.