Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Klamath National Forest is Clearcutting the Siskiyou Crest near Cook and Green Pass

A view southeast from near Copper Butte on the Siskiyou Crest. The Copper Timber Sale proposes to clearcut almost the entire burnt ridgeline in the foreground. The sale extends nearly to the Siskiyou Crest and down the east facing slopes into the headwaters of Horse Creek.
As soon as the smoke cleared from the 2017 Abney Fire, the Klamath National Forest began working to clearcut the region's fire affected forests. As usual, the Klamath National Forest took a very unscientific and opportunistic approach, proposing clearcut, post-fire logging throughout important conservation areas. Klamath National Forest land managers decided to locate much of the proposed timber sale near the spine of the Siskiyou Crest, in and around the Condrey Mountain and Kangaroo Roadless Areas, near the Cook and Green Pass Botanical Area, the Pacific Crest Trail and in a large Late Successional Reserve designated to protect complex, old forest habitat.

The region around Cook and Green Pass has long been cherished for its wilderness quality habitats and incredible biodiversity. In fact, Cook and Green Pass has been identified as one of the most botanically diverse locations in the state of California. It is also at the center of the Siskiyou Crest, one of the most important connectivity corridors in the West Coast. Unfortunately the Klamath National Forest has pushed forward with the Seiad Horse Project, proposing over 1,000 acres of clearcut, post-fire logging in the area. 
Post-fire regeneration and vegetative recovery has begun in timber sale units throughout the project area. Post-fire logging will damage forest regeneration, vegetative recovery, sensitive post-fire soils, and introduce noxious weeds into currently vibrant post-fire plant communities. This photo was taken in the summer of 2018, just one year after the Abney Fire burned through upper Seiad Creek. The native plant response has been both abundant and beautiful.

With the Abney Fire literally still smoldering, the Klamath Forest Alliance and our conservation allies began working to stop this atrocious timber sale. Although we are challenging the timber sale with litigation, the Klamath National Forest is rushing forward to log off the Seiad Horse Project before our day in court. 

Post-fire logging units clearcut by the Klamath National Forest after the 2014 Happy Camp Fire in the Westside Project. This photo was taken in the summer of 2018, four years after the Happy Camp Fire.
Although this situation sounds unfair (and it is), the Klamath National Forest often rushes forward with post-fire logging projects before legal challenges can be fully resolved in court. This has been done on numerous recent post-fire logging projects including the massive Westside Project, following the 2014 Happy Camp Fire. 

For the past few decades the Klamath National Forest has largely used post-fire logging as their defacto timber program. By doing so, they have focused their attention on logging conservation areas that would otherwise be off limits to such blatant, clearcut logging proposals. Instead of thinning dense, fuel-chocked plantations or reducing fuel around communities within or adjacent to the Klamath National Forest, the agency has spent much of the last few decades devastating conservation areas and backcountry habitats with industrial, post-fire logging projects. Unfortunately, Cook and Green Pass may be their next victim.
A forest proposed for logging in the Seiad Horse Project.

To make matters worse, the plantation stands established after post-fire logging have been proven to increase fire severity in future wildfires. They have also been shown to impact late successional habitats, forest complexity, biodiversity, and wildlife habitat. The sediment produced from clearcut logging, yarding, building new roads and constructing large log landings will also impact both water quality and fisheries habitat in Horse Creek and Seiad Creek. 

The Seiad Horse Project consists of three timber sales. The Low Gap Timber Sale on Horse Creek has already been logged, logging  has also begun in the Copper Timber Sale and on the flank of the Siskiyou Crest, while the Pitchfork Timber Sale on Seiad Creek has not yet been subjected to industrial, post-fire logged. Unfortunately, the devastation could begin at any time and shamefully the Klamath National Forest is currently working to log off our wildlands as soon as possible. 

For those of us who love this area, the decision is heartbreaking and for the wildlands of the Siskiyou Crest, it is an absolute tragedy.  Klamath Forest Alliance and our allies will continue our fight for the Siskiyou Crest. We still have hope that legal action can save some of these spectacular fire-adapted forest habitats. We believe the Siskiyou Crest is worth the fight. Please consider making a donation to support our work.

Much of the old forest near Cook and Green Pass area burned at low to moderate severity in the Abney Fire. Yet, the Klamath National Forest is now targeting Bee Camp Road within the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area for "hazard tree" logging. These large old trees will be logged to within 50' of the Pacific Crest Trail and will damage the natural mixed severity fire mosaic.

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