Monday, June 1, 2020

Bald Mountain, Biodiversity and the Bear Grub Timber Sale

The upper slopes of Bald Mountain support a diverse mosaic of habitats, including grassland, shrubland, oak woodland and dry mixed conifer forest.

Bald Mountain is little known, heavily threatened and spectacularly diverse. Rising from the rugged Little Applegate River Canyon to its broad 5,500' summit, the mountain also creates the headwaters of Wagner Creek above the small town of Talent in the Rogue Valley. Like a patchwork quilt, the area is transitional and supports a rich mosaic of plant communities spread across the face of the mountain. A stronghold for regional biodiversity, the area contains plant communities from across the West, each in its own unique microclimate or habitat. 

Like much of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains the diverse soils, steep environmental gradients and complex topography of Bald Mountain create beautifully contrasting ecosystems. The mountain's harsh south and west facing slopes support a diverse mixture of high desert and California foothill species, where oak woodland, arid grassland, chaparral, and dry mixed conifer forest mingle with small populations of western juniper and species more commonly found in the sagebrush steppe east of the Cascade Mountains. Meanwhile, the mountain's north and east facing slopes are dominated by relatively moist conifer forests with lush understory vegetation indicative of the Pacific Northwest. 

Siskiyou Mariposa lily blooming on Bald Mountain.
This unique biodiversity supports numerous rare or unusual plant species. These include what is likely the rarest plant in Oregon, the Siskiyou Mariposa lily (Calochortus persistens). Known from only three distinct populations, the species is found in two populations west of Yreka, California, and one population in Oregon. The Oregon population consists of literally a few mature plants on a single rock outcrop on Bald Mountain. 

Henderson's lomatium blooming on Bald Mountain.
The area also supports a large and newly discovered population of Henderson's lomatium (Lomatium hendersonii). While Henderson's lomatium is found mostly in arid juniper or sagebrush habitat from Modoc County, California to Jefferson County in Central Oregon, the newly discovered Siskiyou Mountain populations are the only populations documented west of the Cascade Crest. On Bald Mountain they are found on small rock outcrops and in gravelly soils on the mountain's south and west facing slopes.

Tall bugbane blooming on Bald Mountain.
Finally, the mountain contains a robust population of tall bugbane (Cimicifuga elata var. alpestris). This species is more common in the mountains and forests of the Pacific Northwest and reaches is southern extent in the Applegate River watershed. Bald Mountain contains a particularly spectacular population on its northeastern face. The area contains open, old forests dominated by stands of large, fire resistant Douglas fir trees.

The understory in these forests can be quite lush and abundant with species indicative of moist forest clearings. The vibrant, green forest floor contains swaths of flowering herbaceous species such as Bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa), Starry false Soloman's seal (Maianthemum stellatum), Candy flower (Claytonia siberica), Stream violet (Viola glabella) and large colonies of tall bugbane. Much of this understory remains green late into the fire season and creates a natural fuel brake along the ridgeline. This phenomena lasts late into the summer after the adjacent south and west facing slopes have dried out and become acutely flammable.
Beautiful, open, flower-filled forest proposed for logging in unit 21-2 of the Bear Grub Timber Sale. About half the trees in this photograph are unmarked and are proposed for removal in the Bear Grub Timber Sale.
Unfortunately, these same forests are also littered in bright orange flagging delineating timber sale unit boundaries, and the trees have been stripped in florescent orange paint, marking the trees that would be retained in unit 21-2 of the BLM's Bear Grub Timber Sale. The remaining unmarked trees would be logged, removing much of the forest complexity, opening and drying out these exposed ridgetop stands, encouraging the development of dense woody regeneration, increasing fire hazards, promoting further canopy loss through windthrow, and eliminating abundant natural snag and downed wood recruitment. 

If the BLM approves these units, trees will be felled and yarded in the clearings and throughout the open forest that currently supports such beautiful herbaceous plant communities and robust populations of tall bugbane. The soil disturbance and vegetative damage associated with logging activity is certain to impact this unique tall bugbane population, introduce non-native and noxious species and impact the surprisingly lush and abundant herbaceous understory found on Bald Mountain's northeastern slope. 
Unit 27-4 of the Bear Grub Timber Sale near the summit of Bald Mountain. The tree marked with orange paint is identified for retention, while the rest of the large trees in this photograph are unmarked and are proposed for removal.
The BLM has also proposed two more Bear Grub Timber Sale units (unit 27-4 and 27-8) along the spine of Bald Mountain. These forests are drier than unit 21-2, but still support open groves of fire resistant old forest. The BLM is proposing to log trees between 20" and 41" diameter in these units. The loss of canopy will dry out these stands, recruit dense, highly flammable understory vegetation, increase fire hazards, and degrade wildlife habitat in a vital connectivity corridor connecting Anderson Butte, the foothills of the Applegate Valley and the Siskiyou Crest. 

The area is important for wildlife and represents a narrow "bottleneck" in connectivity between the Siskiyou Crest and the Applegate foothills. The forests around Wagner Gap have been heavily logged in recent years by private industrial timber interests, and historic clearcut logging on BLM lands has left only a narrow corridor or mature forest and intact habitat on the ridgeline of Bald Mountain. These last wild forests and the wildlife habitat they create are particularly important for species such as Great grey owls, Pacific fisher, Northern spotted owls and others that require complex forest for denning or nesting habitat. They are also important for species such as elk and black tailed deer that overwinter in the lower elevation foothills surrounding the Applegate Valley, but migrate during the summer months to utilize high elevation habitats on the Siskiyou Crest. 
Open, fire resistant forest proposed for logging in the Bear Grub Timber Sale. This photograph shows conditions in unit 27-8. About half the trees in this photo are unmarked and are proposed for removal.

Bald Mountain is a special place, with extremely high biological values. The area should be protected as the Bald Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) and withdrawn from the BLM's "timber harvest land base." Those who know Bald Mountain value it for the connectivity it provides, for it's biodiversity, rare plant species, spectacular wildflower displays, wildlife habitats and beautiful old forests, Unfortunately, BLM does not support those values and has proposed management activities that will not sustain the region's biodiversity and connectivity into the future.

Please join Klamath Forest Alliance as we work to protect Bald Mountain from the Bear Grub Timber Sale. 

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Wellington Wildlands Threatened with Clearcut Logging in BLM's Bear Grub Timber Sale

Beautiful fire resistant forest is proposed for group selection logging in the Bear Grub Timber Sale. These units are located at the headwaters of China Gulch and in the Wellington Wildlands. The trees marked with white paint are proposed for removal and are nearly all over 30" in diameter. 
Since the fall of 2019, Klamath Forest Alliance has been working with Applegate Neighborhood Network and residents throughout the Applegate Valley to oppose the Medford District BLM's Bear Grub Timber Sale and to protect the Wellington Wildlands.

Fire resistant forest on China Gulch marked for removal.
The Bear Grub Timber Sale proposes "group selection" logging, a form of staggered clearcut logging that removes whole groves of mature, fire resistant forest in patches up to 4 acres in size and across up to 30% of a timber sale unit. 

By removing large overstory trees and whole groves of fire resistant forest, these habitats will be converted into dense, highly flammable patches of young trees and shrubs. This form of forestry and the structural conditions it creates has been shown to increase fire hazards and significantly reduce habitat values for imperiled species like the Northern spotted owl and the Pacific fisher. 

Wellington Wildlands

To make matters worse, the Bear Grub Timber Sale targets some of the most intact, mature to late successional forest in the foothills of the Applegate Valley. In fact, the Bear Grub Timber Sale proposes group selection logging at the headwaters of China Gulch in the Wellington Wildlands, a 7,526-acre roadless area between the hamlets of Ruch and Applegate, Oregon. 

The Bear Grub Timber Sale proposes to remove whole groves of large, old trees on China Gulch. The trees marked with white paint are proposed for removal.
The Wellington Wildlands are well loved by local residents who regularly recreate in the area's highly accessible and spectacularly scenic wildland habitats, and who support the area's permanent protection. Due to its unique beauty the area is proposed as a central feature of the Applegate Ridge Trail, which would traverse the area on its way between Grants Pass and Jacksonville, Oregon. 

This non-motorized Applegate Ridge Trail proposal benefits from broad public support, and many believe the region is more valuable for wildlife, biodiversity, recreation, and as a scenic backdrop for the homes, farms, ranches, and vineyards of the Applegate Valley, than as dry, extremely marginal logged over timberland. 

Unfortunately, the local community and the BLM have very different plans for the Wellington Wildlands. While the public cherishes this wild and beautiful region, the BLM's Bear Grub Timber Sale proposes to log off this scenic corridor, sacrificing community values, recreational values, and biological values for short-term timber industry profits.

A group selection clearcut proposed in open, fire resistant forest at the headwaters of China Gulch. Nearly every tree in this photograph has been marked for removal.
The China Gulch Units

Located in the rainshadow of the Siskiyou Mountains, the forests of the eastern Applegate Valley are the driest in Western Oregon. Surviving on only about 20" of annual precipitation, conifer forests are limited in distribution and survive mostly in protected canyon bottoms and on north- or east-facing slopes. Vast portions of the landscape are too arid to support forested habitats and are instead dominated by oak woodland, grasslands, and chaparral. 

Much of the Bear Grub Timber Sale proposes logging in extremely arid, harsh forested habitats and at levels that cannot be sustained into the future. For example, the largest contiguous forest in the China Gulch Watershed (a few hundred acres) has been proposed for group selection logging in the Bear Grub Timber Sale, removing up to 30% of the current forest canopy.

The largest contiguous conifer forest in the China Gulch Watershed, in the southeastern portion of Wellington Wildlands, is targeted for group selection logging. If the Bear Grub Timber Sale is implemented the forests in this photograph will be fragmented with a series of staggered clearcuts. 

Growing from extremely steep gravelly slopes, this large forested stand consists of predominantly Douglas fir with patches of bigleaf maple lining the dry, gravelly drainages. Much of the forest is open, spacious and dominated by large, old trees. The understory supports low grass and very little fuel loading. Although the trees are generally well spaced, they create an overstory canopy that suppresses understory shrub growth, while allowing enough light for a diversity of native grasses and wildflowers.

Despite the current level of fire resistance and despite the local communities' love for the Wellington Wildlands, BLM has proposed to clearcut patches of mature, closed canopy forest, increasing fire hazards, degrading wildland habitats, and damaging recreational values at the headwaters of China Gulch.

Forests of Douglas fir and big leaf maple proposed for group selection logging at the headwaters of China Gulch. 
Please help us Stop Bear Grub and Save Wellington Wildlands! 

Take Action! 
Contact the Medford District BLM and express your concerns. They need to hear from you! Ask them to cancel the Bear Grub Timber Sale and protect the Wellington Wildlands. 

Elizabeth Burghard-Medford District BLM, District Manager

Lauren Brown-Medford District BLM , Ashland Resource Area Manager


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Medford District BLM Timber Program Actively Increases Fire Risks throughout Southwestern Oregon

A stand of mature, fire-resistant forest proposed for group selection logging in the Bear Grub Timber Sale. Nearly every tree in this photographs is proposed for removal in a group selection "opening."
The Klamath Forest Alliance recently teamed up with the Applegate Neighborhood Network to publish a detailed analysis of recent timber sales approved or proposed by the Medford District BLM. The report, "Medford District BLM Fire/Fuel Analysis for Timber Sales Authorized under the 2016 Resource Management Plan for Southwestern Oregon," explores the potential impacts associated with these timber sales and highlights BLM's own analysis, which concludes fire hazards will increase following the majority of commercial logging treatments.

This report demonstrates that since 2016 roughly two-thirds of the acres approved for commercial logging by the Medford District BLM can be expected to increase fire hazards for at least 20 years. This can include group selection logging, regeneration logging and even commercial thinning that compromises canopy conditions. 

By removing large, fire resistant trees and replacing them with dense, young vegetation, fire hazards will increase and forest resilience will decrease in many areas subjected to BLM logging treatments. Unfortunately, if implemented, the currently approved and proposed timber sales on the Medford District BLM will increase fire hazards across Southwestern Oregon, threatening many rural homes with increased fire risks. 

Dense, young vegetation regenerates in a group selection logging unit cut in the BLM's 2016 Sterling Sweeper Timber Sale above Sterling Creek in the Little Applegate Valley. Four years after logging treatments occurred this stand is now drier, more windswept and choked with highly flammable fuel loads. Fire hazards have dramatically increased in this once fire resistant stand of mature forest.
Our analysis includes the following Medford District BLM Timber Sales:
  • Clean Slate Timber Sale outside Selma, Oregon
  • Oh Windy Timber Sale and Blown Fortune Timber Sale in the watersheds of both Cow Creek and the Rogue River
  • Griffin Halfmoon Timber Sale near Howard Prairie in the Greensprings
  • Bear Grub Timber Sale in the mountains between Ruch in the Applegate Valley and Talent, in the Rogue Valley.  

Take Action!
After reading our report please reach out to your public officials and demand that the Bear Grub Timber Sale be canceled. Ask that group selection logging, regeneration logging and heavy commercial thinning that both compromises forest canopy conditions and increases fire hazards be discontinued on public lands. These logging methods are inconsistent with the BLM's 2016 Resource Management Plan for Southwestern Oregon, which directs the agency to reduce fire hazards and increase forest resilience in both the harvest land base and in conservation reserves.


Elizabeth Burghard, Medford District BLM, District Manager:

Malcolm McGeary, Natural Resource Director for Senator Wyden:

Amy Amrhein, Southwestern Oregon Staff for Senator Merkley

Monday, March 9, 2020

Bear Grub Timber Sale: A Threat to the Forests and Communities of the Applegate Valley

Unit 13-1 directly below the East Applegate Ridge Trail contains open, fire resistant forest dominated by large, old trees.
The Medford District BLM recently proposed a new timber sale in the foothills of the Applegate and Rogue River Valleys within the rainshadow of the Siskiyou Crest. The arid forests targeted for logging in the Bear Grub Timber Sale are the driest forest habitats in Western Oregon. Although designated for timber production, as "timber harvest landbase" by the Medford District BLM, these forests simply cannot sustain the level of logging proposed in the Bear Grub Timber Sale while still maintaining important social and biological values. 

Biodiversity & Wildlife

Large trees marked for removal in unit 13-6 along the East Applegate Ridge Trail.
Found within a larger mosaic of chaparral, oak woodland, hardwood forests and arid grasslands, the forests of the Bear Grub Timber Sale are extremely important for their habitat values, connectivity and biodiversity. The area supports a unique assemblage of Pacific Northwest, California foothill, and Great Basin species found nowhere else in the state of Oregon. 

The forests of the region support endangered wildlife such as the Northern spotted owl and Pacific fisher, significant populations of the Great gray owl, and more common species such as black bear, cougar, coyote and large herds of black tailed deer. The region's mature, closed canopy forests provide nesting, roosting and foraging habitat for the Northern spotted owl, denning and resting habitat for the Pacific fisher, nesting habitat for Great gray owls, and thermal cover for a variety of wildlife species. 
Unit 14-2 in the lower Poorman's Creek watershed and within the viewshed of the East Applegate Ridge Trail has been marked using a group selection prescription. All trees in this photograph would be removed despite the open, resilient stand conditions.

In the Bear Grub Timber Sale the BLM has proposed to fragment and degrade mature forest habitats with "group selection" logging. This includes many acres of mature, closed canopy, fire resistant forest and the last unlogged forests in the Bear Grub planning area.

Group selection logging would allow the BLM to clearcut numerous blocks of mature, closed canopy forest, up to 4 acres in size, in each timber sale unit. These staggered clearcuts can account for up to 30% of a given timber sale unit, dramatically altering the forest composition and structure, fragmenting forest canopies, reducing late successional habitats and dramatically increasing fire risks. 

Community Fire Risks

A group selection unit implemented in the 2014 Sterling Sweeper Timber Sale in the Little Applegate has filled in with dense, young growth and has transformed formerly cool, shaded forest into a hot, windy environment more susceptible to high severity fire following past logging treatments.

The Bear Grub Timber Sale proposes to remove whole groves of large, fire resistant trees using group selection logging "prescriptions." This will convert cool, shaded habitats into dry, windy environments more susceptible to high severity fire. The increased sunlight and wind penetration will dry forest fuels, increase wind-driven fire events, and create an overabundance of young, highly flammable vegetation. Canopy gaps created by group selection logging will respond by regenerating abundant woody trees and shrubs, increasing both fuel loads and fire risks. 
A whole grove of fire resistant trees marked for removal.

In fact, according to BLM management guidelines, if group selection openings do not regenerate into highly flammable thickets, they will replant them with young, highly flammable and commercially valuable conifer species.  

Recent environmental analysis in the BLM's Griffin Halfmoon Timber Sale near Hyatt Lake and the Clean Slate Timber Sale near Selma, demonstrates that similar logging proposals have been shown to increase fire risks in Southwestern Oregon. According to the BLM, following logging treatments these stands, "could exhibit higher flame lengths, rates of spread and fire intensity. Fires started within these stands could be difficult to initially attack and control. For 5 to 20 years following planting, the overall fire hazard would increase" (Clean Slate Environmental Assessment P. 192, Griffin Halfmoon Environmental Assessment P. C-17).

The Bear Grub Timber Sale and its extensive group selection logging prescriptions will have similar effects; however, due to the significantly more arid growing conditions and slower conifer growth rates in the dry Applegate foothills, these fire risks could be more persistent on the landscape. This is particularly important because the entire Bear Grub Timber Sale is located within a Wildland Urban Interface and proposes to implement commercial logging treatments directly adjacent to homes and communities.
Fire resistant forest proposed for logging in the Wellington Wildlands.

If implemented as currently proposed, the Bear Grub Timber Sale will threaten hundreds of rural homes with additional fire risks in the Applegate Valley, as well as the communities of Talent and Phoenix in the Rogue River Valley. Although the BLM's 2016 Resource Management Plan requires them to implement activities in the dry forests of Southwestern Oregon that will reduce fire risks and increase fire resilience, it appears that the Medford District BLM has prioritized timber production over the safety and welfare of nearby communities. The Bear Grub Timber Sale will increase fuel loading, increase fire severity, increase fire risks and create significantly higher levels of future home and infrastructure loss during wildfire events. For these reasons alone, the Bear Grub Timber Sale should be canceled.

                                                  Impacts to Recreation
Trees marked for removal along the East Applegate Ridge Trail in unit 13-6 of the Bear Grub Timber Sale.
Group selection logging is also proposed along the extremely popular East Applegate Ridge Trail and Jack-Ash Trail. These relatively new trails were designed, built and funded entirely with community donations and grants and significant public support. As soon as the trails were built, hikers began flocking to the area due to its unusual combination of accessibility and extreme beauty. Local community members spent over 5 years working with the BLM to develop these trails and they have quickly become the pride of the Applegate Valley. They are also cherished by residents of the Rogue River Valley and tourists visiting the area.

These trails contribute significantly to the quality of life in the region, and ultimately the Applegate Ridge Trail and Jack-Ash Trails are proposed to travel over 80 miles, connecting the communities of Ashland, Jacksonville, Grants Pass and the Applegate Valley. Together these non-motorized trails would highlight the beauty of the Siskiyou Mountains and benefit nearly every community in the region. 
The East Applegate Ridge Trail winds down to Highway 238 on lower Poorman's Creek. The forest across the canyon is targeted for group selection logging in the Bear Grub Timber Sale.

In fact, the sections of currently developed trail on the East Applegate Ridge Trail and Jack-Ash Trail are already receiving extremely abundant use by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers throughout Southwestern Oregon. The trails are heavily supported throughout the region and provide both a significant recreational draw and economic opportunity for the area. 

Despite widespread public support for these trail systems, the Bear Grub Timber Sale proposes to implement group selection logging adjacent to the Jack-Ash Trail and the East Applegate Ridge Trail. The timber sale also proposes units along proposed trail segments currently being designed as future additions to both the Jack-Ash and Applegate Ridge Trails. 

Wellington Wildlands
Looking down China Gulch in the Wellington Wildlands to the Applegate Valley near Ruch, Oregon.

While driving Highway 238 through the Applegate Valley you can't miss the numerous Save Wellington Wildlands signs posted across the community. Wellington Wildlands is a 7,527-acre roadless area located between Ruch and Humbug Creek at the heart of the Applegate Valley. An effort is underway to save the Wellington Wildlands from the Bear Grub Timber Sale, which proposes to commercially log portions of this ecologically important landscape and degrade its wildland characteristics.

Well loved and heavily supported in the region, Wellington Wildlands is a uniquely accessible, low elevation habitat with intact
oak woodland, chaparral, grasslands, and dry mixed conifer forests. It is also proposed as a central feature of the Applegate Ridge Trail between Jacksonville and Grants Pass.
A proposed timber sale unit in the China Gulch Watershed in the Wellington Wildlands.

11 commercial timber sale units have been identified at the headwaters of China Gulch in the Wellington Wildlands. These units contain stands of mature forest with scattered old-growth trees. Logging these stands will impact biological values, degrade Northern spotted owl habitat and reduce the acreage of this roadless area, dropping it below 5,000 acres by logging significant acreage. The units would also isolate nearly 2,000 acres from the eastern portion of the roadless area. If these portions are logged or severed from the roadless area, future protection of Wellington Wildlands will become far more difficult to secure. Please help us save Wellington Wildlands!

A Lack of Public Involvement 

Concern is also growing about the BLM's lack of transparency and failure to collaborate with local community members during the Bear Grub Timber Sale planning process. Currently the project is being planned behind closed doors and without speaking to those who will be most impacted. The BLM's Bear Grub Timber Sale represents not only a transition towards clearcut logging and increased timber production, but also a transition away from public collaboration and public involvement. 

Although this project surrounds many homes and communities, the agency has made no attempt to provide meaningful public involvement opportunities beyond the mandated scoping comment period. In fact, the agency has completely refused to meet with local residents to discuss this timber sale being marked in their backyards. Instead, the BLM is telling community members that they will only meet with them after official proposals have been solidified and the Environmental Assessment has been released, minimizing the public's ability to influence the project during the crucial early planning phase. 
Old-growth forest proposed for logging in unit 21-2 in the Bear Grub Timber Sale on the north slope of Bald Mountain above Talent, Oregon.

             Stop the Bear Grub Timber Sale!

The Bear Grub Timber Sale will threaten local communities with increased fire risks, impact important wildlife habitat and degrade recreational opportunities. The Bear Grub Timber Sale and its complete lack of meaningful public involvement reflects the policies of the Trump Administration trickling down to the local level, into our region and our forests. Public land managers at the BLM are now encouraged to avoid public involvement, expedite the NEPA process, minimize environmental analysis and emphasize resource extraction on public land. Its up to us to push back! Our forests and communities are not sacrifice zones! Please take action now to support the forests of the Siskiyou Mountains and the communities of Southwestern Oregon. You can help stop the Bear Grub Timber Sale!

Send a letter to the BLM and to elected officials in the State of Oregon sharing your concerns. The forests of the region need your help.

Send letters to: 

BLM Officials
Elizabeth Burghard, Medford District Manager

Lauren Brown, Ashland Resource Area Manager

Elected Officials:
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley

The blue polygons depict proposed commercial logging units in the Bear Grub Timber Sale. The yellow polygons depict "potential fuel reduction" units.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

2018 Klamathon Fire Report: Natural Fire Effects, Unauthorized Wilderness Bulldozing, & Violations of the Wilderness Act

Pilot Rock rises above upper Hutton Creek in the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area. The 2018 Klamathon Fire burned through this area at low to moderate severity, reinforcing a spectacular mosaic of mixed conifer forest, oak woodland, arid grassland, chaparral and basalt outcrops.
Klamath Forest Alliance's Klamath-Siskiyou Fire Report Program has recently released the 2018 Klamathon Fire Report exploring the fire effects and unfortunate fire suppression impacts sustained while crews from the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) worked to suppress the Klamathon Fire. 

Some time has elapsed since the fire, and during that time Klamath Forest Alliance submitted a detailed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in order to fully inform our investigation. We waited 10 months to receive the FOIA documents which delayed the release of the report. Unfortunately, the BLM did not provide all the documents we requested and many key documents were either omitted or redacted, including basic maps, forms documenting daily fire suppression activities, and other applicable information. Despite spending tens of millions of public dollars on fire suppression activities and damaging important natural resource values, the Medford District BLM has refused to be open and transparent about their activities in the Klamathon Fire. Yet, the information we did acquire demonstrates that significant violations of the Wilderness Act and applicable BLM management plans occurred. 

To view the whole report follow this link:

On July 5, 2018 the Klamathon Fire began as an escaped burn pile south of Hornbrook, California and rapidly swept through the small rural community, destroying 31 homes and tragically taking the life of an area resident who was fatally burned. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency, and for the first few days the fire burned with intensity through private ranch land and timberland. The fire jumped Interstate-5, forced the highway's closure and threatened many rural residential homes in the Colestin Valley. In just three days, the fire burned over 30,000 acres and sent large smoke plumes across the region.
The mosaic of low to moderate severity fire in old-growth forests on upper Slide Creek in the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area.

The Klamathon Fire then burned into the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area; however, within these areas the fire had a much different character. It crept and smoldered in the backcountry, burning an ecologically beneficial, mixed severity fire mosaic. After reaching the Wilderness boundary, the weather moderated and the wind shifted, pushing the fire back onto itself. The change in weather conditions limited fire intensity and dramatically reduced fire spread.

As the fire spread more slowly into the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area it crossed the Oregon/California border, entering the jurisdiction of the Medford District BLM and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), who implements fire suppression activities on BLM land. 

Dozerline was built in the Soda Mountain Wilderness and adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail. This dozerline was built miles from the fire perimeter in old-growth forest and rocky meadow habitat.
Unfortunately, ODF aggressively attacked the slow moving fire, building an estimated 30 miles of bulldozed fireline and vehicle access roads into the heart of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area. For six days, ODF bulldozed across the wilderness, opening old jeep tracks, destroying wilderness hiking trails and degrading the scenic values of the Pacific Crest Trail, all without proper authorization from the BLM. While conducting these unauthorized wilderness suppression actions, ODF badly damaged the wilderness qualities of the Soda Mountain Wilderness and the biodiversity values the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was designated to protect.

Although still a wild, beautiful and vibrant landscape, the untrammeled wilderness values were violated by ODF bulldozers and repeated motor vehicle use. The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument remains a stronghold for biodiversity, connectivity and unique or rare plant communities, but some of the most intact, wilderness-quality habitats in the region were damaged during ODF fire suppression activities. 

A mortar and archeological site bulldozed in the wilderness.
ODF crews bulldozed east to west across the Soda Mountain Wilderness, building extensive vehicle access routes, helipads, hoist sites and safety zones. Wilderness suppression strategies such as Minimum Impact Suppression Techniques (MIST) were never implemented and bulldozers pushed straight through streams, springs, and riparian areas, rare plant populations, and Native American archeological sites. The BLM knowingly allowed these activities to occur without authorization, from July 6 to July 12, 2018, when they retroactively approved all wilderness fire suppression activities implemented by ODF. 
A massive "safety zone" bulldozed in the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area on the Salt Creek/Camp Creek Divide.

Populations of the endangered Gentner's fritillary were bulldozed.
For at least three months the Medford District BLM operated as if the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area was temporarily rescinded, or did not exist. During this time, the BLM and ODF violated the very idea of wilderness by building roads into the designated Wilderness Area and by allowing extensive non-emergency vehicle access. What occurred in the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area during and after the Klamathon Fire has seriously harmed the area's wilderness values and leads many to question the ability of both ODF and the BLM to manage public wilderness resources. The fire suppression actions taken were not implemented in accordance with BLM policy and were in clear violation of the Wilderness Act.

These unprecedented impacts associated with BLM/ODF fire suppression activities in the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area demonstrate a need for reform of fire suppression policies on Medford District BLM lands. ODF, in particular, has demonstrated that it is not qualified to manage wildfire in Wilderness Areas, National Monuments, Botanical Areas and other sensitive public lands, and its current fire suppression contract with ODF should not be renewed. 
The Lone Pilot Trail was bulldozed deep inside the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area and turned into a motor vehicle access route utilized by fire crews for three months after full fire containment. This photo shows a bulldozed stream crossing on upper Scotch Creek.

During the Klamathon Fire, BLM land managers failed to adequately protect public resources and public lands under their jurisdiction. Klamath Forest Alliance has submitted a request for an Inspector General Investigation and changes to BLM fire suppression policy inside Wilderness Areas. 

To view the whole report follow this link:
2018 Klamathon Fire Report

To read the Executive Summary:
Executive Summary
Vegetative recovery just months after the Klamathon Fire at the Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area.

Klamath Forest Alliance is the only regional environmental organization in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains actively working to reform fire suppression policy, document fire suppression impacts, and limit industrialized fire suppression activities in our most cherished wilderness landscapes. We promote progressive and effective fire management that restores the natural process of fire to backcountry areas, maintains wilderness habitats, reduces fire suppression related impacts, and protects human communities from damaging wildfire effects.

Vegetative recovery on Scotch Creek and in the Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area the spring after the Klamathon Fire in April of 2019.