Sunday, December 17, 2017

Klamath National Forest Proposes Clearcut, Post-Fire Logging on the Siskiyou Crest

These large, old, fire-affected trees growing in roadless forest on the Siskiyou Crest would be clearcut if the ironically named, Seiad Horse Risk Reduction Project were to be implemented. This stand is part of a roughly 2,000-acre clearcut proposed by the Klamath National Forest near Copper Butte and Cook and Green Pass.
This past summer the Abney Fire, part of the Miller Complex, burned throughout the Upper Applegate watershed, over the Siskiyou Crest and into the headwaters of Seiad Creek and Horse Creek, tributaries of the Klamath River. As the fire spread out of the Applegate watershed and up to the Siskiyou Crest, Klamath National Forest (KNF) fire crews lit backburns — under high winds and low humidity — that literally backfired and increased fire severity, sending the fire over firelines on the Pacific Crest Trail and into the Seiad Creek watershed. The fire then proceeded to burn through large plantations created during post-fire logging operations following fires that occurred in 1987. The densely packed tree plantations burned at high severity, torching-off large acreages south of Copper Butte and contributing to stand-replacing fire effects in adjacent old-growth forests.

Thirty years have passed since the KNF created these plantation stands and they are now proposing to make the same mistake all over again with a massive, post-fire, clearcut logging project in upper Seiad Creek and Horse Creek. The entire project is located within Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forest designated to protect old-growth habitats and ensure the viability of the Northern spotted owl. Instead, the project will remove significant levels of foraging habitat for the Northern spotted owl, while degrading late successional characteristics for generation to come. 
This unit on the East Fork of Seiad Creek would log extensive stands of fire-affected, old-growth Ponderosa and sugar pine, as well as stands of old-growth fir. It is on the western margin of the 2,000-acre clearcut planned by the Klamath National Forest, and would be converted into a massive tree plantation. The unit contains a mixture of living trees and massive, old snags, creating open, widely-spaced pine stands that will regenerate quite effectively on their own, creating complex, resilient, uneven-aged stands of pine and fir.

The project will also damage important wildland habitats and the Siskiyou Crest habitat connectivity corridor. The project includes units only an eighth of a mile below the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), near Copper Butte and Cook and Green Pass, and a quarter mile from the Siskiyou Crest. The project includes post-fire logging units in the small area between the Condrey Mountain Roadless Area and Kangaroo Roadless Area. The proposed logging would sever habitat connectivity between these two wildlands by creating vast clearcuts and converting complex, early-seral habitats into biologically diminished plantation stands.

The proposal includes 1,700 acres of clearcut, post-fire commercial logging, and 1,200 acres of non-commercial "treatment" that will include either cutting or masticating the post-fire landscape (i.e. heavy machinery on sensitive burned soils). In total, 2,900 acres could be clearcut and replanted in highly flammable tree plantations. The project includes a large area on the south face of Copper Butte where commercial and non-commercial treatments would create a contiguous 2,000-acre clearcut. This large contiguous clearcut will extend from the East Fork of Seiad Creek, over the ridgeline and into the West Fork of Horse Creek. 
The entire ridge in the foreground will be clearcut in the Seiad Horse Risk Reduction Project. The massive clearcut will impact habitat connectivity on the Siskiyou Crest between the Condrey Mountain Roadless Area and Kangaroo Roadless Area.

The proposal also includes 41 miles of roadside hazard tree logging where all standing snags are logged. Living trees can also be logged under this plan if they are "predicted" to die by Forest Service timber markers. Roadside hazard logging includes commercial timber harvest, tree yarding, riparian reserve logging and long linear clearcuts extending along every forest road within the fire area. 

Adding insult to injury, the KNF has also proposed to conduct post-fire roadside hazard logging on the Bee Camp Road, a poorly maintained road within the Kangaroo Roadless Area. The agency has proposed logging all dead-standing trees, and trees "predicted"  to die, along this wilderness route. The road technically extends into the Kangaroo Roadless Area and should be closed at Cook and Green Pass rather than logged.

Extensive scientific research conducted on the Klamath River demonstrates that post-fire logging, followed by plantation development, tends to negatively impact stand development, natural regeneration and habitat complexity, while increasing fuel loads and promoting high-severity reburns. Research conducted in the 1987 Silver Fire and 2002 Biscuit Fire in the Kalmiopsis region found similar results. The results of the Abney Fire validate these scientific conclusions. Large swaths of plantation forest developed in response to post-fire logging after the 1987 Fort Copper Fire reburned in the Abney Fire, and the vast majority of these areas burned at high severity, leading to almost total mortality in many plantation stands. 
Old-growth stands burned in the Abney Fire will be converted into simplified and highly flammable tree plantations. This stand is located roughly a quarter mile from the summit of Copper Butte on the Siskiyou Crest, and is directly adjacent to the Condrey Mountain Roadless Area.

The densely packed trees, contiguous fuel profiles and homogeneous, even-aged stands created by post-fire logging and plantation development will impact forest habitats for hundreds of years, by creating unnatural fuel loads and starving vast areas of large diameter snag habitat, large woody debris and structural complexity. The removal of biological legacies (i.e. snags), has lasting impacts to fish bearing streams such as Seiad Creek and Horse Creek, by increasing peak flows, soil erosion and sedimentation, while reducing water quality and water quantity. This is especially true in areas affected by high-severity fire because deficiencies in large diameter trees, snags and downed wood will take hundreds of years to reproduce. It is also especially true on the highly erosive schist soils in the Seiad and Horse Creek watersheds.

Snags provide important wildlife habitat both standing and on the forest floor. Large downed wood also harbors mycorrhizal and fungal associates, creates natural erosion control, holds moisture late into the dry season, and as large logs decay, it builds rich forest soil for the benefit of surrounding vegetation. 
This is one of the only stands on the southeastern face of Copper Butte to survive the Abney Fire, however, it may not survive the KNF post-fire logging proposal. Currently the Klamath National Forest is proposing to create linear clearcuts through this stand to develop skyline yarding corridors. These corridors will be cleared through this stand to facilitate logging of fire-affected stands on the slopes below. Not only will many live, green trees need to be felled, badly fragmenting this stand, but many of the trees that survived the fire will be damaged during yarding operations as crews cable massive trees through this stand.

The KNF is also proposing to remove trees that survived the fire, but are "predicted" to die by Forest Service staff, in both post-fire logging units and in roadside hazard logging areas. Other living trees will be removed to accommodate yarding corridors and for safety concerns within post-fire logging units. The combined result will dramatically impact the natural fire mosaic and degrade islands of living trees that are surrounded by burned forests within the 10,800-acre planning area. The removal of large, living trees will impact late successional habitat characteristics, degrade wildland habitats, impact the scenic and recreational qualities of the Pacific Crest Trail, damage nationally significant habitat connectivity corridors and botanical resources, degrade fisheries and significantly impact Northern spotted owl habitat. 
A view east across the Abney Fire from the flank of Copper Butte. Although portions of the fire burned at high severity, the burn creates a beautiful and characteristic fire mosaic on the south-facing slope of the Siskiyou Crest.

The Seiad Horse Risk Reduction Project should be canceled and a new project developed that will actually reduce fire risks for nearby Klamath River communities and sustain the world-class ecological values of the Siskiyou Crest. The Seiad Horse Risk Reduction Project, as it is currently proposed, will fall short in both fire risk reduction and the retention of ecological values.

The project is currently in "scoping" and public comments can be submitted until January 3, 2018. Please ask the Klamath National Forest to consider the following recommendations
  • Cancel all post-fire logging units. Post-fire logging will impact natural regeneration, reduce habitat complexity and increase fire severity in future fires. 
  • Cancel all post-fire logging units within 2 miles of the Siskiyou Crest to protect habitat connectivity.
  • Cancel all post-fire logging units located in the Seiad and Johnny O'Neil LSR forests. Post-fire logging will significantly impact late successional characteristics and reduce forest complexity for hundreds of years within these important old-growth forest reserves.
  • Cancel roadside hazard logging on Bee Camp Road (Road 47N80) and close the road to motorized use to protect the Kangaroo Roadless Area.
  • Do not implement tree planting prescriptions, instead allow for natural post-fire regeneration. 
  • Analyze the Seiad Horse Risk Reduction Project with a full Environmental Impact Statement. This will enable the agency to fully analyze the ecological and social impacts of this large, 
Submit electronic comments at the Klamath National Forest's project webpage at this link. Select the "Comment on Project" link. Put the project name in the subject line. Use the following formats: plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rft), Word (.doc, .docx), or portable document form (.pdf). For more information contact

The mosaic of burned snags and surviving old-growth forest on the East Fork of Seaid Creek would be heavily logged in the Seiad Horse Risk Reduction Project.

Please consider supporting our work with a generous, year-end donation! Klamath Forest Alliance, Applegate Neighborhood Network and the Siskiyou Crest Blog will be joining forces once again to oppose the Seiad Horse Risk Reduction Project.

A short video taken within a proposed logging unit.

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