Since the spring of 2015, the Medford District BLM has been marking trees for removal in the Nedsbar Timber Sale, a controversial timber sale in the Applegate Valley. The Siskiyou Crest Blog and Klamath Forest Alliance have begun reviewing the tree removal mark in Nedsbar Timber Sale units. We have been focusing our energy on the controversial timber sale units in unroaded wildlands, old-growth or late-seral forest, northern spotted owl habitat, and in stands proposed for cancellation in the Nedsbar Community Alternative. Recently we hiked into units 25-23 and 25-21 in the vicinity of Owl Gulch and Trillium Mountain. The area is at the heart of the proposed Dakubetede Primitive Back-Country Area and the Trillium Mountain Roadless Area. The BLM used white paint to mark the trees for removal in these units.
Unit 25-23 is located on a low ridge on the eastern flank of Owl Gulch. Lower Owl Gulch is located within the Trillium Mountain Roadless Area in the scenic Little Applegate Canyon. A small section of new road and two new helicopter landing pads are proposed to facilitate logging this beautiful, fire resilient, old stand.
The unit itself is an isolated conifer habitat, surrounded by oak woodland and chaparral on two sides. Dropping from the ridgeline to the moist canyon of Owl Gulch, this stand is open and spacious with little to no understory fuel. The forest supports late-seral habitat conditions, including large, old-growth trees. According to BLM stand age data the unit is between 100 and 150 years old, although scattered, dominant trees are likely even older. Although healthy, open, and maturing, this stand supports many old-growth characteristics, but is currently lacking in large old snags and large downed logs. Both of these attributes will be negatively effected by the proposed logging by removing large trees that could become future snags and downed woody material.
This unit is identified by the BLM as a "Group Selection 60%" logging prescription, meaning groupings of trees will be removed while maintaining at least 60% canopy cover. According to BLM records this unit is six acres, and three group selection cuts, of roughly a 1/4-acre, are marked in the unit. Douglas fir trees up to 30" in diameter are marked for removal. It appears that canopy cover requirements will not be met in this unit due to the large, dominant, old trees marked for removal. In many cases, it appears large old fir, with big dominant crowns, are being marked to "release" much smaller ponderosa pine trees. These ponderosa pine are often low vigor and support poor height to crown ratios — meaning they are highly susceptible to windthrow and blowdown due to heavy snow or winds.
|Another group selection cut in unit 25-23. The yellow "T" in the photograph below denotes trees marked for removal by the BLM. The largest douglas fir trees targeted for removal in this photograph are 30" in diameter.|
Currently open and spacious, this stand represents a portion of the landscape that is naturally fire resilient and healthy. By removing large, fire resistant trees and heavily opening the stand's canopy, fuel loads will increase from "shrub response" as flammable young saplings and woody shrubs fill in canopy gaps with dense, young growth. The problem is evident throughout the Applegate Valley in units heavily thinned by the BLM. Opening the canopy will also expose the stand to increased solar radiation and wind, drying forest soils and fuels earlier in the fire season. In summer fire events, this increased exposure to sun and winds, coupled with shrubby in-growth from excessive canopy reduction, can fan the flames of wildfire, creating more severe fire effects than in more closed canopy stands. Current stand conditions in unit 25-23 have suppressed understory fuels and shrubby understory growth, creating fuel loads that tend to perpetuate low to moderate severity fire effects.
|Measuring a large, fire resilient tree marked for removal in unit 25-23.|
The BLM has identified this unit as a "Group Selection 60%" logging prescription. Groupings or groves of trees are marked for removal in aggregations of 1/4 acre. These 1/4-acre "group selection" cuts are predominately marked for "regeneration," meaning little or no retention of either dominant or understory trees. In some cases, the group selection cuts can include some retention of hardwoods or pine. According to BLM prescriptions, group selection cuts must be no closer than 100' from each other.
In unit 25-21, nine group selection cuts have been marked—one for every two acres in the unit. Group selection cuts targeting 60% canopy retention are prescribed to allow for no more than 20% of the unit to be cut using this method; group selection cuts in unit 25-21 account for 19% of the unit area. Many include no retention whatsoever, while others include the retention of a few pine or large, old madrone. These leave trees are likely to be damaged in the logging and yarding process.
The majority of the group selection cuts are found in relatively uniform groves of Douglas fir, but at least one cut includes large, well-spaced pine and fir trees adjacent to the small gulch and a lovely moss covered rock outcrop. Trees up to 24" are marked for removal.
Still more to do
The Siskiyou Crest Blog and Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) have begun reviewing the tree removal mark in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Many controversial units have still not been reviewed and are in need of our attention. Please consider donating to the Klamath Forest Alliance to support our work. We operate on donations from the local community and your support is needed to continue our effort to stop the Nedsbar Timber Sale. To donate contact KFA and make sure to note that the donation is for the Nedsbar Timber Sale.