Monday, April 16, 2018

Action Alert: Chetco Bar Fire Salvage Logging Environmental Assessment Released. Comment now!

The Wild and Scenic Chetco River watershed is being targeted by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest for post-fire, clearcut logging. This beautiful watershed deserves better. It is up to us to protect the clean, clear waters of the Chetco River. Please comment on the project now!
The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has released its Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Chetco Bar Fire Salvage Project. The proposal includes 4,090 acres of post-fire logging, most of which will be implemented as vast clearcuts on steep, unstable slopes. Although you may have heard that the project will log only previously logged plantation stands, this claim is far from the truth. Of the 4,090 acres proposed for logging and replanting, 2,222 acres, or 54% of the proposed logging and artificial reforestation, is located within unmanaged stands (i.e forests that have never been logged). These unmanaged stands contain a variety of habitats and structural conditions, but many of them support late successional or old-growth characteristics. Those stands that burned in stand replacing fire events, but supported late successional habitats before the fire, create highly diverse, wildlife rich conditions identified as complex, early successional habitat. Complex, early successional habitat is the most important post-fire habitat in the planning area, however, these habitats are being targeted for logging due to their enormous timber volumes. This means the lion's share of timber production will be coming off the lands with the highest ecological values. 

The EA acknowledges the importance of post-fire ecosystems stating, "stand replacing events such as portions of the Chetco Bar fire often produce early-successional (early seral) forest ecosystems which are diverse in species, process and structure. Post-fire ecosystems often contain biological legacies, including dead standing (snags) trees, and down woody debris. The legacies and post-fire plant communities provide resources that attract and sustain high watershed to landscape-scale species diversity, including early-successional obligates."  Also, according to the EA, areas subjected to post-fire logging and replanting "are expected to lose their diversity in species, process and structure (complexity)." This loss of diversity, process and structure translates to diminished habitat values, degraded water quality, impacted post-fire regeneration, and more uniform, explosive fuel loads in future fires, due to artificial reforestation and simplified structural conditions.
An example of complex, early-seral habitat in the Mineral Hill Fork. Stands like this will be converted from diverse, post-fire habitat into stump fields and highly fire-prone, plantation-like stands.

Many of the areas proposed for logging contain highly diverse plant communities, geologic histories and burn mosaics. Although many of the proposed units consist of intensely burned habitats, stands with as little as 50% mortality have been included in post-fire logging plans, meaning stands that largely survived the fire will be subjected to post-fire logging practices. 

Numerous important habitats have been proposed for post-fire logging, including units within unroaded, unmanaged or undeveloped areas near Packer's Cabin in the Quail Prairie Creek watershed, at the lower end of Quail Prairie Creek, in the vicinity of High Prairie above the Chetco River, in the Eagle Creek and Mineral Hill Fork watersheds, and above the Pistol River on Sunrise Creek. Many wild and beautiful landscapes will be reduced to stump fields and replanted in plantation-like stands if this proposal is approved. 
The forest in this photograph will be logged as a roadside hazard unit and as unit 25 in the Chetco Bar Fire Salvage Project. Located at the head of Quail Prairie Creek, this intact forest legacy should be retained and unit 25 should be canceled immediately to protect the important complex, early-seral habitat provided by fire-affected, old-growth stands.

Perhaps more devastating than the logging itself is the over 13 miles of new road construction proposed to access post-fire logging units. These roads will be built on intact ridgelines, on steep, erosive slopes, and above important fisheries habitat in the Chetco River Watershed. The Forest Service calls these "temporary roads," yet there is nothing temporary about the actual ecological impacts of road construction. Numerous of these roads consist of long segments, rather than small extensions of existing roads. Many roads are also proposed to be built across steep, mountainous slopes, creating large road cuts and permanent impacts to hydrology, soils, water quality, fisheries, noxious weeds spread and wildland habitats. Simply closing or decommissioning the roads does not negate these problems. 

The Chetco Bar Fire Salvage Project is one of the largest, most damaging federal land management projects proposed in our region for many years. The project has no restorative value or benefit to the surrounding ecosystem; in fact, the EA documents that significant scientific research has concluded, "in general, little research supports the idea that salvage logging has beneficial ecological effects on terrestrial and aquatic resources." The Chetco Bar Fire Salvage Project fails to serve the public interest, and instead, is responsive only to the needs of the timber industry that will profit from clearcutting vast swaths of public land. 

Our public lands will be sacrificed to the highest bidder if this project is approved, but it will be low value "salvage" timber in a market already flooded by the estimated 9,455 acres harvested from private timber lands in the Chetco Bar fire perimeter. This basically ensures that federal timber will be sold at bottom-of-the-barrel prices, creating a net loss to the public taxpayer. In essence, the entire project is corporate welfare, and after footing the bill, the public will be stuck with the long-lasting ecological consequences. 
Unit 121, on the slopes above Quail Prairie Creek, is proposed for tractor logging. The unit contains many large old, fire-killed snags and highly diverse post-fire habitat. The unit, along with many proposed on north-facing slopes above Quail Prairie Creek, should be canceled to protect habitat values, fisheries and water quality. 

The Chetco River is worth far more as a diverse, intact ecosystem, than as just another coastal tree farm. The decisions we make today will impact this beautiful, productive watershed for generations to come. Which do you prefer? Diverse post-fire landscapes or the real catastrophic disturbance taking place in the Chetco River watershed: post-fire industrial logging?



Which do you prefer? Post-fire clearcuts....
...or spectacularly wild river canyons and naturally diverse, regenerating forest?

Please send your public comment as an email message, plain text (.txt), rich text (.rtf), or word (.doc) formats to: 
comments-pacificnorthwest-siskiyou-goldbeach@fs.fed.us  

Talking Points for Public Comment
  • Cancel all post-fire logging units in complex, early successional habitat throughout the planning area. 
  • Cancel all units in undeveloped areas identified in the planning area. 
  • Cancel all units in Post-Fire Foraging habitat for the Northern spotted owl. 
  • Cancel all new road construction to protect aquatic habitats and water quality in the Chetco River watershed. 
  • Cancel all artificial reforestation units. Natural tree regeneration provides adequate reforestation, creates a more healthy habitat mosaic, harbors higher levels of biodiversity, and provides more patchy, fire resilient, early-seral habitats than artificial reforestation. 
  • Cancel all units in Quail Prairie Creek, Mineral Hill Fork, Eagle Creek, around Packer's Cabin and Long Ridge, above the Chetco River, near High Prairie above Road 1376, and above Mislatnah Creek.
  • Conduct activities that provide for public safety, maintain undeveloped habitats, encourage complex, early successional forests, biodiversity, and create more fire resilient habitats adjacent to the community of Brookings. Backcountry logging and artificial reforestation provides absolutely no benefit to communities at risk in the Brookings area.  
  • Cancel all units that will impact the viewshed for recreational users along the Chetco River and its tributaries. Recreation on the Chetco River helps sustain the economy of southern Oregon's coastal communities. Logging public land will diminish the recreational experience along the Wild and Scenic Chetco River and its tributaries. 

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