Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Bark Beetles, Timber & the BLM in the Applegate Valley

Bark beetle mortality in the Ferris Gulch watershed. This stand was thinned in the early 1990s in the Ferris Lane Timber Sale, supposedly to increase resistance to bark beetle mortality; however, the area became the center of the 2016 bark beetle outbreak.
Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN) and Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) have just published a detailed report examining the ecology of flatheaded fir borers, the ecological effects of the 2016 bark beetle outbreak in the Applegate Valley, and the connection between BLM logging practices and concentrated bark beetle mortality in the Applegate Valley. 

In the spring and summer of 2016, a large-scale bark beetle outbreak swept through the Applegate Valley, triggered by extreme drought and warm winter temperatures. The low-elevation foothills of the Applegate Valley were particularly affected, causing mortality in Douglas fir trees throughout the watershed. In some areas mortality was very selective, in other locations significant overstory tree mortality was taking place.

While conducting timber sale monitoring on BLM land for Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) and Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN) I began to notice a pattern. In many cases, the largest concentrations of bark beetle mortality were occurring in managed stands. Many of these stands had been commercially logged by the BLM between 1990 and 2014.  In watersheds like Thompson Creek, Ferris Gulch, Sterling Creek and Star Gulch, extensive commercial logging projects had been implemented by BLM, supposedly to increase individual tree vigor, therefore, increasing resilience to drought, fire and beetle infestations. Ironically, these same stands became the center of the 2016 bark beetle outbreak.

Flatheaded fir borer mortality on Thompson Creek. The entire ridgeline shown in this photograph was commercially helicopter logged in the Lower Thompson Timber Sale in the late 1990s. The area has since experienced the highest level of bark beetle mortality in the Applegate Valley. Take note: the reddish/bronze colored trees in this photo have succumbed to flatheaded fir borer beetles.

The Environmental Analysis and the Endangered Species Act Consultation conducted by Fish and Wildlife for BLM timber sales relies on assumptions that tree vigor will respond positively to  commercial logging operations; that canopy cover conditions will recover relatively quickly; that wildlife habitat will benefit, and stand conditions will become more healthy, more complex and more resistant to bark beetle induced mortality. In many situations, the actual on-the-ground results are quite different. In 2016, commercially logged stands experienced decreased resistance to bark beetle mortality and became the center of the outbreak.

This photo taken in 2016 shows bark beetle mortality in the 2014 Sterling Sweeper Timber Sale.


In our report we compare maps of bark beetle mortality in 2016 to previously implemented BLM timber sales. We conduct an extensive literature review of bark beetle ecology and science. We also document our extensive on-the-ground field monitoring of past timber sales and bark beetle outbreak areas in the Applegate Valley. We question many of the assumptions built into timber management, BLM environmental analysis, and Endangered Species Act Consultation in southwestern Oregon and the Siskiyou Mountains.

To read the full report:
Bark Beetles, Timber & the BLM in the Applegate Valley


To read the Executive Summary:
Executive Summary: Bark Beetles, Timber & the BLM in the Applegate Valley 

Bark beetle mortality on Ferris Gulch. This unit was logged in the Ferris Lane Timber Sale in the early 1990s to supposedly increase resilience to bark beetle mortality. Obviously, the logging treatments did not have the intended results and beetle mortality was especially high in these previously logged stands.


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