Friday, December 29, 2017

Klamath Forest Alliance and the Siskiyou Crest Blog: 2017 Year in Review

This unit in the Pickett West Timber Sale above Selma, Oregon was canceled due to the advocacy of KFA, The Siskiyou Crest Blog and other conservation partners in southwestern Oregon.

Throughout the past year the Siskiyou Crest Blog and the Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) have been working on numerous major campaigns to protect, restore, and rewild the Siskiyou Mountains. We are proud of our achievements in 2017 and look forward to doing even more in 2018. Please consider supporting our work.

Pickett West Timber Sale

The BLM's Grants Pass Resource Area proposed the Pickett West Timber Sale in late 2016. The project proposed extensive old-growth forest logging, with nearly half the timber sale involving units between 150 and 240 years old. The BLM also proposed new road construction, riparian logging and severe impacts to the proposed Applegate Ridge Trail.

The massive timber sale became a major focus of our work in 2017. The Pickett West Timber Sale extended across a 200,000-acre planning area, from the Wild and Scenic Rogue River near Galice and Hellgate Canyon, to the mountains surrounding Selma, Oregon, and large portions of the Applegate Valley near Wilderville, Murphy, and North Applegate Road.

We took a leading role by monitoring units in the Applegate Valley, Illinois Valley and the Rogue River. We worked with the Deer Creek Association to coordinate monitoring efforts across southern Oregon. We documented high priority red tree vole habitat on the Rogue River and outside Selma, Oregon in beautiful old growth forest.

Another canceled unit above Selma, Oregon.
We publicized our findings on the Siskiyou Crest Blog and advocated for withdrawal of problematic units. We also utilized our monitoring efforts to write detailed public comments and administrative protests. We provided reports to Fish and Wildlife with detailed monitoring results, documenting inaccurate Northern spotted owl habitat designations. In many units we also documented impacts to the Northern spotted owl's main food source, the red tree vole.

The BLM canceled numerous of the worst Pickett West units on the Rogue River, dropping a few hundred acres from the project. Unfortunately, the BLM then sold a reduced timber sale in the Rogue River area, called Pickett Hog. This sale is currently on hold until KFA's administrative protest and the 28 other administrative protests they received for the original Pickett West Timber Sale, are resolved. 

In the meantime, Fish and Wildlife ordered the BLM to review many of the Pickett West units we identified as problematic in the mountains around Selma, and the BLM ended up withdrawing the entire Selma portion of the Pickett West Timber Sale, including 1,584-acres of old-growth forest. Although a spectacular victory for local environmentalists, rural residents, and scientists who opposed this sale, BLM has, unfortunately, initiated a new timber sale in the Selma area called Clean Slate. Although reduced in size, the Clean Slate Timber Sale still has units containing old-growth forests.

A Savage Murph Timber Sale unit above North Applegate.
Finally, in the Applegate Valley, the BLM is proposing to move forward with the original Pickett West Timber Sale by implementing what they are calling the Savage Murph Timber Sale near Wilderville, Murphy, and North Applegate.

In 2018, we will continue working to stop old-growth logging and road building proposed in the Savage Murph Timber Sale and Clean Slate Timber Sale. 

Siskiyou Crest Post-Fire Logging
The forest above this high mountain meadow were proposed for clear-cut logging following the Gap Fire. Thanks to the advocacy of KFA, the Siskiyou Crest Blog and our conservation partners, all 18 units adjacent to the Siskiyou Crest were canceled.

Eighteen units and nearly 600 acres were canceled on the Siskiyou Crest from the Klamath National Forest's post-fire logging proposal after the 2016 Gap Fire. The units near Condrey Mountain and Dry Lake Mountain were canceled due to the advocacy of KFA, the Siskiyou Crest Blog and other conservation allies.

The Gap Fire burned over 30,000 acres on the southern slopes of the Siskiyou Crest in the summer of 2016. The Gap Fire burned through the Klamath National Forest (KNF) to the spine of the Siskiyou Crest, near Condrey Mountain. In the high country around Condrey Mountain the fire burned in a natural, mixed-severity fire mosaic, leaving green forests, lush meadows, headwater springs, and burned snag forests interspersed in a diverse patchwork of habitats. 

On the south slope of Condrey Mountain, near the summit of the Siskiyou Crest, the KNF proposed to log fire-affected, old-growth forests at the headwaters of Buckhorn and Middle Creek. The proposed clear-cut, post-fire logging would have impacted the Siskiyou Crest and important habitat connectivity corridor that connects the Coast Range to the Cascade Mountains and the Great Basin.

KFA and the Siskiyou Crest Blog were the only environmental organizations to conduct on-the-ground field monitoring of the eighteen, high-elevation logging units and new road construction proposed near Condrey Mountain and Dry Lake Mountain.

Another canceled post-fire logging unit.
We publicized our findings on the Siskiyou Crest Blog and utilized our monitoring results to inform our extensive public comments on the project. Following public comment, four units near Dry Lake Mountain were immediately withdrawn.

The KNF approved the remaining fourteen units and new road construction around Condrey Mountain. KFA and others responded with detailed administrative protests, putting the project on hold. The KNF resolved our administrative protest by withdrawing the remaining fourteen units and 450 acres of high elevation forest on the Siskiyou Crest from the timber sale proposal. We are very proud of this victory for the Siskiyou Crest.

Unfortunately, the KNF is at it again. They have proposed a large post-fire logging project in the 2017 Abney Fire. The project proposes a nearly contiguous 3,000-acre clearcut on the south-face of the Siskiyou Crest near Cook and Green Pass, the Red Buttes Wilderness, the Kangaroo Roadless Area and the Condrey Mountain Roadless Area. KFA will be working hard to oppose this project and will make protection of the Siskiyou Crest our highest priority in 2018!

Upper Applegate Watershed Restoration Project (UAW)

A view south from the Boaz Mountain Roadless Area and across the Upper Applegate Valley. KFA will be opposing new OHV trails proposed in this beautiful, unroaded portion of of the Applegate Foothills. 

Over the last two years KFA has worked on a large collaborative project in the Upper Applegate Watershed with both the BLM and Forest Service called the Upper Applegate Watershed Restoration Project (UAW). The project is being implemented through the Applegate Adaptive Management Area and has included extensive public involvement. KFA has been at all of the many public meetings and field trips associated with UAW project planning. We have attended workshops, field trips, and planning meetings to ensure conservation issues are addressed in the planning process. We also provided detailed public comment during the scoping comment period.

The UAW collaborative project is working towards the development of an Environmental Assessment (EA) before a final project is approved. Currently, we support many of the proposals and have steered the agencies away from ecologically sensitive areas and towards responsible land management practices.

Proposals we support include: new non-motorized trail development, large-scale prescribed fire, fuel reduction maintenance around rural residential communities, pollinator habitat restoration, ecologically-based fuel commercial thinning in plantation stands and noxious weed removal.

We are opposing a handful of commercial logging units located within roadless areas, and we are strongly opposing numerous new OHV trails in the Boaz Mountain Roadless Area in the Upper Applegate Valley. 

KFA will continue working towards positive outcomes on the UAW Project in 2018. 

Middle Applegate Timber Sale 

The Wellington Butte Roadless Area in the Middle Applegate Valley should be withdrawn from the planning area in the Middle Applegate Timber Sale. KFA will oppose all new road construction and logging in the wildands surrounding Wellington Butte.
The forests, woodlands and flower-filled prairies of the Wellington Butte Roadless Area are no place for new roads or logging units. KFA and the Siskiyou Crest Blog will work to protect the Wellington Butte Roadless Area, old forests and intact habitats from the Middle Applegate Timber Sale. 

KFA has participated in the early stages of project planning with the BLM on their proposed Middle Applegate Timber Sale. The project area extends across the Middle Applegate Watershed including all BLM land from Ruch to North Applegate. 

We are advocating for protection of the Wellington Butte Roadless Area, old forest habitats, intact habitats and the proposed Applegate Ridge Trail corridor. The Middle Applegate Timber Sale will be a major focus for KFA and the Siskiyou Crest Blog in 2018. We will be monitoring timber sale units and new road construction proposed in this project and advocating for conservation in the Middle Applegate Watershed. 

OHV Monitoring 

KFA has continued to monitor unauthorized and damaging OHV activities in the Applegate Valley and on the Siskiyou Crest. Over the course of the last year, KFA has successfully advocated for the obliteration of one major OHV trail on BLM land near Anderson Butte. We have also worked to include on unauthorized OHV trail obliteration project in the UAW Project in the Upper Applegate Valley. We will continue monitoring OHV trails throughout the Siskiyou Mountains in 2018. Our findings will support our effort to advocate for OHV trails closures on BLM and Forest Service lands.

OHV Categorical Exclusion

A view into Ruch, Oregon from the Wellington Butte Roadless Area, a unique low-elevation wildland threatened by OHV use on Medford District BLM lands.
Portions of the Wellington Butte Roadless Area above Ruch, Oregon are included in the OHV Categorical Exclusion providing defacto designation to unauthorized, illegally created OHV trails and cutting the public out of the process. Although approved by the BLM, the Categorical Exclusion is certainly not the end of this issue.

In April 2017, the Medford District BLM approved a Categorical Exclusion to avoid environmental analysis and public comment on the "maintenance" of 65 miles of unauthorized OHV trails in the Forest Creek, China Gulch and so-called Timber Mountain/John's Peak area. BLM's goal is to legitimize these illegally created, unauthorized OHV routes, mask the environmental impacts for the upcoming Environmental Analysis and cut the public, including residents of the Applegate Valley who are negatively impacted by the project, completely out of the process.

The Categorical Exclusion excludes the requirement that land managers conduct a thorough review of the cumulative environmental and social impacts. It also excludes the requirement that land managers provide a public comment period and address the concerns, science, and information identified in the public comment process.

Although the BLM approved the project with no public input, KFA promptly filed an administrative protest, demanding the project be withdrawn and the BLM conduct Travel Management Planning as required in the 2016 Resource Management Plan. Unfortunately, BLM denied our protest and intends to move forward with OHV trail maintenance in the area.

KFA will continue to watch the BLM, document the impacts of OHV use and advocate for closure of damaging OHV trails. For now, the BLM can maintain these user-created trails but they have not been officially authorized. We are gathering evidence and stand ready to oppose these illegal OHV trails as soon as BLM proposes them for approval in the future.

Applegate Grazing Complex

KFA, the Project to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California, and the Siskiyou Crest Blog have been monitoring four grazing allotments on the Siskiyou Crest throughout the summer of 2017.

The Forest Service will be updating management plans for grazing allotments in the Applegate watershed in 2020, a task that has been neglected for many decades. Some of these grazing allotments have not had an updated management plan since 1956! Our goal is to document impacts to water quality, soils, wildlife habitat, pollinator habitat, botanical resources, and designated Botanical Areas to inform the planning process.

KFA will continue working with conservation allies to monitor grazing allotments on the Siskiyou Crest in preparation for the 2020 renewal of the Applegate Grazing Complex.

Fire Monitoring, Education, & Advocacy

A spectacular sunset above the Marble Mountains Wilderness and the Salmon-August Fire. KFA will be exploring the Salmon-August Fire, Eclipse Fire, & Miller Complex Fires with comprehensive fire reports. Stay tuned for their upcoming publication in 2018!

Wildfire defined the summer of 2017 in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. The fires burned in a largely natural, mixed-severity fire mosaic, and provided significant ecological benefit to the forests and wildlands of our region. 

While the fires were burning, KFA was tracking their progress and informing fire managers of the important ecological considerations within the fire area. We also advocated for responsible fire management, effective community protection and the protection of roadless habitats from fire suppression impacts.

KFA and the Siskiyou Crest Blog have been monitoring the fires and fire suppression activities on the Miller Complex in the Upper Applgate Watershed, the Salmon-August Fire on the North Fork of the Salmon River and the Eclipse Fire in the Mid-Klamath Watershed.

We are currently preparing three new fire reports in our Klamath-Siskiyou Fire Reports series. Our goal is to share our findings with local conservationists, residents, scientists, politicians and land managers. Our reports will explore the fire effects, fire suppression impacts and long-term implications of the 2017 fire season in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains.

KFA worked hard in 2017 to educate the public about the important role fire plays in the Klamath Siskiyou Mountains.We intend to continue advocating for managed wildfire, the reform of fire suppression tactics and strategies, as well as an end to post-fire logging in the Klamath-Siskiyou. We hope to continue making progress in 2018. 

Please consider supporting Klamath Forest Alliance with agenerous year-end donation. Your donation will support on-the-ground monitoring, heartfelt, well-informed advocacy, citizen science, and grassroots environmental activism in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains.  

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