Monday, December 5, 2016

Old-Growth Post Fire Logging Proposed on the Siskiyou Crest!

The Gap Fire near Condrey Mountain is being proposed for post-fire logging despite minimal fire severity. 


The Gap Fire began as a human ignition near Low Gap on the Klamath River above Seiad Valley and the community of Horse Creek on August 27, 2016. The fire spread quickly, pushed by intense downslope winds burning into the community of Horse Creek and destroyed nine homes. After burning through the community of Horse Creek the fire burned upslope toward the Siskiyou Crest in the Horse Creek, Middle Creek and Buckhorn Creek watersheds.

Although a tragedy in Horse Creek, where nine homes burned, the Gap Fire was far from catastrophic and provided great benefit to the habitats in which it burned. The fire burned at 67% low severity, 26% moderate severity and 7% high severity throughout the burn area. The fire burned within the range of variability for wildland fire in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. Burning at mixed severity, the fire had positive effects on fuel loading, landscape scale vegetation mosaics, stand structure, nutrient cycling, species composition, age class diversity and other important stand development and forest resiliency measures.



Low severity fire in upper Buckhorn Creek
Despite the positive effects of the Gap Fire, the KNF has proposed to implement old-growth post fire logging at the headwaters of Buckhorn Creek in a nationally significant habitat connectivity corridor. The KNF has proposed to clearcut 2,257 acres of fire-affected forest in Buckhorn, Middle and Horse Creeks. They are also proposing 103 miles of roadside hazard logging. The sale is proposed in many biologically important areas, including the Johnny O’Neill Late Successional Reserve and the Horse Creek Botanical Area, designated to protect complex old forest habitat. 

The fire also burned adjacent to the Condrey Mountain Blue Schist Geologic Area, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Condrey Mountain Roadless Area and KNF designated Back-Country Area.

Proposed logging units extend from lower Horse Creek near the Klamath River, into Buckhorn Creek and high on the Siskiyou Crest near Condrey Mountain and Dry Lake Mountain. The region is known and renowned for its intact wildland habitats, old-growth forests, mountain meadows, aspen glades, rare and diverse wildflower displays and important wildlife habitat. The area supports the Pacific fisher, large herds of elk, black bear, and was the location of the last reported wolverine siting on the Siskiyou Crest in 1997.

The PCT runs directly above some areas targeting for logging in the Gap Fire post-fire logging project. Given the international acclaim of the PCT, it would be unwise to log so close to the trail. Maintaining a healthy, intact ecosystem along the PCT corridor is consistent with the current and expected future recreational use of the area and and the economic vitality the PCT brings to the region.

The Siskiyou Crest represents one of the most important connectivity corridors and climate refuges in western North America. A transverse range, running east to west, the Siskiyou Crest connects the Oregon and California interior valleys to the Cascade Mountains, the Coast Ranges and the high deserts of the Great Basin. At the center of this connectivity corridor, and on the edge of the region's vast network of unprotected roadless areas and protected wilderness, is Condrey Mountain. Condrey Mountain represents a pinch point in connectivity where heavy industrial logging to the south has eliminated vast swaths of complex forest habitat, replacing it with dense tree plantations and barren clearcut swaths logged in the aftermath of the 2014 Beaver Fire on the Klamath River.



Post-fire logging on Fruit Growers Supply land in the Beaver Fire. This photo is taken directly adjacent to the photo below. 
Unlogged high severity fire in the Beaver Fire of 2014, taken directly adjacent to the photo above. Notice the difference in vegetative recovery.
In 2014, following the Beaver Fire, industrial logging interests such as the Fruit Growers Supply Company (FGS) devastated vast tracts of private timber land, logging fire scorched stands, live trees and patches of fire resilient forest. FGS leveled whole watersheds due east of the Gap Fire Area, creating massive clearcuts thousands of acres wide. The devastation left behind is unmistakable and the cumulative impact unacceptable.

The large denuded slope in this photograph was logged by Fruit Growers Supply Company following the 2014 Beaver Fire and lies directly adjacent to the area burned in the Gap Fire on the Siskiyou Crest.
To make matters worse, FGS is preparing to log off their holdings in the Gap Fire and the KNF is proposing to clearcut thousands of acres of fire-affected forest currently benefiting from natural fire revitalization. The proposed logging project will further exacerbate already significant cumulative impacts to old forest and endangered species habitat, endangered fisheries (coho salmon), soils and future fire hazards on the Klamath River due to recent post-fire logging in the Beaver Fire, Happy Camp Fire, and now, Gap Fire footprints.

The forests of the Condrey Mountain-Dry Lake Mountain area at the headwaters of Buckhorn Creek have been targeted by the KNF with many post-fire logging units, despite sustaining predominantly low severity fire effects. The forests proposed for logging are the last remaining ancient forest habitats in the Buckhorn Creek watershed. The KNF intentionally lit these forests ablaze between September 3 and September 8, 2016 in order to bolster fire containment. They now intend to log the natural fire mosaic, removing massive old trees and the building blocks of forest complexity (e.g. old snags, downed wood, old living trees, etc).

Small snag patches such as this one in upper Buckhorn Creek are being targeted for logging by the KNF. The damage to soils, forest regeneration, and habitat complexity will degrade some of the watershed's only remaining old-growth forest.

Live trees as well as dead trees will be logged. Some units will be treated with ground-based yarding which could severely damage the highly erodible schist soils of the Condrey Mountain area. New "temporary" road will be constructed. 

Many beautiful springs and meadows are located within or adjacent to the logging units, including Buckhorn Spring, a historic campsite and intact native habitat at the very headwaters of Buckhorn Creek.  
The meadows adjacent to Buckhorn Spring are currently surrounded by intact high elevation forest and are proposed for logging by the KNF.

In recent years the KNF has decimated thousands of acres in post-fire logging projects, often following characteristic and natural wildfire events. Although touted as "fire recovery" the projects serve only to produce large volumes of old-growth timber for the industry, while degrading forest habitats, inhibiting natural recovery, filling nearby streams with sediment, creating unnatural plantation stands and drastically increasing future fire hazards. 

Please help these fire-affected forests recover naturally. Provide public comment on the ironically named Horse Creek Community Protection and Forest Restoration Project. 

Talking Points: 
  • Implement only fuel reduction adjacent to the community of Horse Creek, consider the use of prescribed fire and non-commercial fuel treatments.
  • Cancel all post-fire logging units in the Siskiyou Crest connectivity corridor near Condrey Mountain and Dry Lake Mountain.
  • Cancel all post-fire logging units in the Johnny O'Neill Late Successional Reserve.
  • Analyze the cumulative impact of private land logging, public land logging, and discretionary fire suppression impacts such as dozerline and backburning in the Environmental Analysis.
  • Do not implement post-fire logging treatments in forested habitats purposefully backburned by fire suppression crews. 
  • Cancel all post-fire logging units due to extreme cumulative impacts and to compensate for the damage already done on adjacent private timber land. 

Please submit comments to the Klamath National Forest at the following website: 



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