Friday, July 14, 2017

Camp Creek, Camp Forest and the Pickett West Timber Sale


Unit 27-12 is a beautiful and increasingly rare low-elevation, old-growth habitat. The unit has been used for decades as an educational laboratory for students of late-seral and old-growth forest habitats. BLM is proposing to log many large trees and reduce canopy cover to as low as 30% in this magnificent old forest. The unit should be canceled to protect the stand's old-growth character and naturally fire resilient forest.
Orville Camp grew up in the Illinois Valley. His family homesteaded the Deer Creek Valley outside Selma, Oregon, starting in 1909. They made a living in the logging and farming industry. A tributary of Thompson Creek, known as Camp Creek, was named for Orville's family. Orville moved away in the 1954 after being drafted into the Korean War. He returned in the fall of 1967 to purchase a portion of his family's homestead on Camp Creek. The 180-acre parcel was ruthlessly clearcut before he acquired the land.

Inspired by the research of Charles Darwin and the science of evolution, he began to manage the land he calls, "Camp Forest," according to the principals of "Natural Selection Ecostry," a light-touch form of forest stewardship that removes only dead and dying trees that are not necessary for ecosystem function. 

In the preceding 50 years Camp Forest has healed and a diverse forest has developed from the young replanted stands Orville originally acquired. Although the careful stewardship of the Camp family has helped, Orville admits that much of the recovery has been due to the old-growth and late-seral forest habitats on adjacent BLM land, providing a repository of biodiversity.
Camp Forest, owned and managed by Orville and Mary Camp, is the large swath of forest at the center of this photograph (the green flat before the valley openings). The forest has grown from a clear-cut over 50 years ago into the maturing forest it is today. In the distance is Eight Dollar Mountain and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

Orville remembers the days of old-growth logging in the Deer Creek Watershed. His family worked in the logging industry, cutting the extensive old-growth forests that surrounded the community of Selma. Today he and his wife, Mary, are advocates for the forests that surround them. They are working hard to protect the old forests that remain. After all these years they don't want to witness more old forest fall to the saw; if Pickett West is logged they may, unfortunately, get a front row seat.

Orville and Mary Camp at the Camp Forest property.
This last weekend Orville looked at me, visibly distressed at the thought of Pickett West being logged all around him, and said, "I am more concerned than I have ever been because these are the last remnants of old-growth. Once they are gone they cannot be recovered and they will never return."

As I left to survey the units surrounding their home Mary wished me luck and sincerely thanked me for my efforts; however, the fact that these forests still stand is largely due to Mary's efforts and the gratitude is mutual.

As I hiked through beautiful, threatened, old-growth forest, I thought of the Camps, their little refuge in the trees and the horror that will fill their hearts if they have to hear these giant trees fall.

Below are a few of the Pickett West units near the Camp Forest property:

Unit 27-12
Old-growth forest habitat proposed for heavy industrial logging to 30% canopy cover in unit 27-12.

Unit 27-12 is a beautiful stand of old-growth forest, located directly adjacent to the Camp Forest property. The area has been used for many years as an educational laboratory for students of ecology and Natural Selection Ecostry. Thousands of individuals from around the world have come to this stand to study its late-seral habitat conditions.

The forest in unit 27-12 contains all the characteristics of old-growth forest, including large, old trees up to 5' in diameter, large snags, downed wood, a complex multi-tiered canopy, high levels of canopy closure, undisturbed biological legacies and sufficient levels of decadence. The Northern Spotted Owl has been seen in the stand on many occasions and their primary prey species, the Red Tree Vole, is also known to nest in a 5' diameter Douglas fir tree.

Dominated by large Douglas fir, tanoak and madrone, with scattered old-growth sugar pine, the stand is naturally quite fire resistant. The understory is also relatively open with minimal ladder fuels. 

In 2005, the BLM approved the construction of the Thompson Overlook Trail, a non-motorized trail leading from Thompson Creek Road to the headwaters of Camp Creek. Due to a lack of funding, volunteers and agency support, the trail has not yet been constructed. A portion of the trail would traverse unit 27-12.

The BLM has proposed a "restoration thinning" prescription for unit 27-12. This prescription will maintain only 30% canopy cover and remove many large, old trees. 

Unit 21-12
Old-growth forest habitat in unit 21-12.

Unit 21-12 is located on a southwest facing slope above the Camp Forest property. The stand supports old-growth characteristics and a wide variety of stand conditions. 

The western portion of the unit consists of predominately 20"-30" sugar pine and Douglas fir with an understory of tanoak, madrone and manzanita. Clear groupings of large, old trees create a filtered, patchy canopy structure. Fire resilience is high due to the dominance of large trees with high canopies and thick insulating bark. The western portion of the stand is dispersal habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl.

The eastern portion of the stand is slightly more moist due to a faint draw and a more southeastern exposure. This portion of the stand is closed-canopy forest with large Douglas fir and sugar pine trees between 20" and 46" in diameter. The stand supports complex forest habitat identified by the BLM as Nesting, Roosting and Foraging habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl. 

The BLM has proposed a "restoration thinning" prescription in this stand. The prescription would remove the majority of the overstory trees, reducing the canopy cover to as low as 30%.

Unit 21-10
Lush, old forest in unit 21-10
Unit 21-10 is a unique, productive, and increasingly rare habitat. The stand supports low-elevation, old-growth forest on a gentle terrace. The gentle terrace covers about 18 acres, all of which is proposed for logging. 

According to the Pickett West EA, the stand is 140 years old, but many of the stand's largest trees are likely significantly older. The stand has a closed canopy with an abundance of large, old trees between 20" and 40" in diameter. Douglas fir and tanoak dominate the area in complex, fire resistant stands. 

The BLM has identified the stand as Nesting, Roosting and Foraging habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl and is proposing to downgrade owl habitat to dispersal. This means that the stand currently provides all the habitat needs for the Northern Spotted Owl, yet after logging has occurred it will only be useful for dispersal and will no longer support nesting, roosting or foraging habitat. 
  
Unit 21-11
Late-seral forest in unit 21-11
Unit 21-11 is located on very steep terrain and supports high quality Nesting, Roosting and Foraging habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl. The stand contains significant late-seral forest habitat, especially on the north-facing slopes. Large Douglas fir dominate these lush north-facing forests, with groupings of large trees scattered across the slope, creating a diverse, filtered canopy and complex forest structure. 

BLM is proposing to log this stand using a "density management" prescription. This prescription will retain 40% canopy cover, while removing many large, fire resistant trees. 

Unit 22-5
Coastal influenced old-growth habitat in unit 22-5.
Unit 22-5 is located on a steep north-facing slope. The forest is lush and coastal with a dense understory of evergreen huckleberry and a secondary canopy of  tanoak. The eastern portion of the stand is uncut, old-growth forest supporting massive old trees with complex branch structure, large diameter limbs and a patchy canopy distribution. According to the BLM, the stand represents dispersal habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl. This determination was made in error, as the stand is clearly high quality Nesting, Roosting and Foraging habitat. 

The BLM has proposed a "restoration thinning" prescription in this stand, removing canopy cover to as low as 30%. 

Logging these last fragments of old, complex forest will have dire consequences for the forests and wildlife of upper Thompson Creek. Forests currently providing refugia for old-growth dependent species like the Northern Spotted Owl, red tree vole, Pacific fisher and flying squirrel will be degraded. Nesting, Roosting and Foraging habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl will be downgraded to dispersal in density management units and eliminated entirely in "restoration thinning" units.

As canopies are opened, stands will also experience desiccation from increased exposure to sunlight and wind. Fire season will come early to these stands and fire hazards will increase as large, fire resistant trees are removed and fuel loads drastically increase. Opening canopy conditions to as low as 30% or 40% will trigger an extreme "shrub response" in the understory, creating a dramatic increase in fuel loads, reducing fire resilience and threatening the safety of nearby communities. 
Open, resilient old-growth forest in unit 27-13 adjacent to the Camp Forest property.

Nearly half the units proposed for logging in the Pickett West Timber Sale are located in stands over 150 years old. The Pickett West Timber Sale is not "forest restoration." This timber sale is an old-school timber grab, targeting the last remnants of old forest in the watersheds it proposes to log. Pickett West will threaten communities across southwestern Oregon by increasing fire hazards and reducing forest resilience. Our watersheds will suffer, habitat will be destroyed, our last old-growth stands will be fragmented and the beauty of our region sacrificed for timber production. 

The Pickett West Timber Sale should be canceled in its entirety and a new, more scientifically valid, socially acceptable and restorative approach pursued. 

Please consider commenting on this project before July 17, 2017. 

Submit comments to: 

Grant Pass Inter-agency Office/Don Ferguson

2164 NE Spalding Ave. 

Grants Pass, Oregon 97526

-or-
                                      blm_or_pwest@blm.gov

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