Friday, April 7, 2017

Progress on Pickett West, But Still More To Do...

A view across the Pickett West Planning Area and the town of Murphy, Oregon. The BLM has proposed a large timber sale in the mountains around Murphy and many other rural communities including Galice, Merlin, Selma, Applegate and Wilderville.
The Pickett West Timber Sale sprawls across a vast 200,000-acre planning area, from Merlin and Galice on the Rogue River, to Wilderville and Selma on Highway 199. Units are located on Deer Creek, Slate Creek, Cheney Creek, above North Applegate Road and surrounding the town of Murphy, Oregon. The Pickett West Timber Sale has the potential to leave a lasting impact on an enormous geographic area. The Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN), Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) and other conservation partners have been working for the past six months to minimize or eliminate those impacts by encouraging the BLM to amend their plans and consider a Community Alternative that protects wild habitats, maintains important wildlife habitat, reduces fuel loading, encourages forest health, and addresses the needs of the nearby community.

Progress!

The Grants Pass BLM originally proposed "regeneration" logging in the Pickett West Timber Sale. Regeneration logging is a euphemism for clearcut logging, and although it sounds better, the end result is very similar. Stands 150-years and older are targeted for "regeneration" by removing the majority of the overstory canopy, substituting mature, fire-resistant trees, for young, dense regeneration triggered by canopy removal and ground disturbance associated with timber yarding practices. Regeneration logging would retain only 16-25 trees per acre, and less than 30% canopy cover. Due to pressure from ANN, KFA and others in the conservation community, all regeneration logging has been cancelled in the Pickett West Timber Sale.

The BLM also originally proposed over 3,000 acres of logging in forest designated as a Late Successional Reserve (LSR). LSR forest is set aside to protect and maintain old-growth habitat and characteristics for species such as the Pacific fisher and the Northern spotted owl. ANN, KFA and others opposed commercial logging in LSR forest. Recently, the BLM has dropped all units located in LSR forest in the Pickett West planning area.

The BLM has also announced they will fully analyze the Community Alternative submitted by ANN as Alternative 3 in the Pickett West Environmental Assessment. The Community Alternative protects wildlands, old-growth and late-seral forest, water quality, and large, old trees over 21" in diameter. The Community Alternative would build no new roads and it maintains all northern spotted owl habitat designations. It also protects the proposed corridor of the Applegate Ridge Trail by deferring or amending units that would impact the experience of recreational trail users. The Community Alternative also serves to promote community and ecological values while encouraging forest health and resilience. In the Community Alternative, timber production is truly a by-product of restorative land management, rather than the driving force behind proposed prescriptions. We encourage folks to publicly support the Community Alternative. If implemented with integrity, Alternative 3 is a win-win alternative that will ensure the quality of life and habitat in southern Oregon is maintained.
Old-growth forest in the Cheney Creek watershed has been proposed for logging in the BLM's Alternative 2. The unit would be canceled in the Community Alternative to protect the ecological value of this ancient mixed-conifer forest.

The Threat Continues...

Although the BLM will consider the Community Alternative for implementation in the upcoming Environmental Assessment (EA), the agency is also considering the BLM's Alternative 2. Many in the environmental community are actively opposing Alternative 2, while embracing the Community Alternative, Alternative 3. The BLM's Alternative 2 proposes to log late-seral and old-growth stands dominated by large, old trees. It will also impact the proposed Applegate Ridge Trail and build many, many miles of "temporary" road. 

Many swales, seasonal wetlands and streams will be impacted by the proposed new road construction.


Another euphemism, "temporary road," is anything but temporary. Developing "temporary roads" has lasting impacts to the land and our waterways. In many situations new road construction will take place in riparian reserves and will include stream crossings. "Temporary roads" create real sediment and turbidity in important salmon strongholds like the Rogue River, the Applegate River, the Illinois River, Deer Creek, Slate Creek and Cheney Creek. Temporary roads will increase opportunities for unauthorized OHV use, which will further exaggerate the issue of sedimentation and turbidity. Temporary roads will also spread noxious weeds, impact native plant communities and scar otherwise undisturbed public lands. A few sections of new, temporary road are proposed to be constructed in the proposed trail corridor of the Applegate Ridge Trail, significantly degrading the non-motorized trail experience. Another large portion of temporary road will be built through unique low-elevation serpentine woodland and prime pollinator habitat on Southside Road. Numerous seasonal wetlands, streams and riparian reserves will be crossed with temporary roads, creating chronic sedimentation concerns. Unique and intact native plant communities filled with spring flowers will be bulldozed to access commercial timber to the southeast. Significant new roads will be constructed to access uncut timber in the mountains above North Applegate Road on Oscar Gulch. New roads will be constructed by the BLM near the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, on tributary streams that feed into Hellgate Canyon,

Old-growth forest adjacent to the Applegate Ridge Trail is proposed for logging at the headwaters of Rocky Gulch.
Numerous commercial timber sale units are located within the corridor of the proposed Applegate Ridge Trail, including the spectacular old-growth forest at the headwaters of Rocky Gulch. Other units are proposed in fire resilient and/or old-growth stands, including the large Rocky Gulch unit, units on lower Chency Creek, near Fort Hay, above the Rogue River and on lower Deer Creek.

ANN and KFA will be working to not only support the Pickett West Community Alternative (Alternative 3), but we will also be working to oppose those portions of the BLM's proposal (Alternative 2) that will degrade our environment, recreational opportunities, fisheries and quality of life. Please stay tuned for more information on the Pickett West Timber Sale, opportunities to influence the process and comment on the upcoming Environmental Assessment.

For now, please contact Grants Pass District Manager Allen Bollschweiler with the following requests.
Contact for District Manager Allen Bollschweiler: 
abollsch@blm.gov
  • Do not build new roads, temporary or permanent in the Pickett West Planning Area, especially within Riparian Reserves. Road density is already very high in numerous watersheds in the Pickett West Area.
  • Do not build temporary roads on or near the proposed corridor of the Applegate Ridge Trail.
  • Maintain all Northern spotted owl habitat designations in the Pickett West Planning Area.
  • Institute a 21" diameter limit for tree removal.
  • Defer units in fire resilient, late-seral or old-growth forest stands.
Incredible botanical resources and pollinator habitat on unique low-elevation serpentine soils will be impacted by new road construction on Southside Road.