Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Update: Nedsbar Timber Sale

Unit 25-23 in the Trillium Mountain portion of the Dakubetede Roadless Area supports open groves of large, fire resistant Douglas fir. The unit is proposed for commerical logging in the Nedsbar Timber Sale, but it should be seen as a "reference condition," providing a model for forest health and resilience. Treatments proposed in unit 25-23 would reduce canopy cover to 40%, impacting Northern spotted owl habitat and likely increasing fuel loads due to increased "shrub response" in the understory. The unit is now marked for logging and is in need of community monitoring and review. The unit should be canceled.

Last winter the Siskiyou Crest Blog, Klamath Forest Alliance and the Applegate Neighborhood Network joined forces to oppose the Nedsbar Timber Sale, a large, landscape-scale logging project proposed in the Little and Upper Applegate Valleys of southwestern Oregon.

The Nedsbar Timber Sale was developed by the Medford District BLM in response to a Swanson-Superior Lumber Co. Lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The court decision required the BLM to increase timber production in Southern Oregon on Medford and Roseburg District lands. This decision has since been struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals and is now null and void.

Unfortunately, the design, unit selection and development of the proposed action for the Nedsbar Timber Sale was heavily influenced by the now invalid Swanson-Superior court ruling. The now overturned court decision was interpreted by BLM to require aggressive and unsustainable timber production in the driest, most fire-prone watershed west of Oregon's Cascade Mountains. The agency had originally included nearly all available timber in the Little Applegate area, to satisfy the demands of the Swanson-Superior lawsuit. 

The original Nedbar Timber Sale proposal included "structural retention regeneration harvest" units — another name for clear-cut logging. This technique has not been used in recent years on federal lands in the Applegate watershed because it significantly increases fire hazards, and because it is extremely difficult to adequately "regenerate" conifer stands in the harsh climate and terrain found here in the rain shadow of the Siskiyou Crest. The BLM also proposed logging in important Northern spotted owl habitat, in late-seral and old-growth stands, and in roadless wildlands.

Unit 27-20 in the Trillium Mountain portion of the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Extensive road construction through roadless oak woodland would be required to log this isolated north slope stand. Many old-growth trees can be found throughout the stand, which contains high quality Northern spotted owl habitat. Unit 27-20 should be canceled.

Luckily, the Klamath Forest Alliance and the Siskiyou Crest Blog started the Nedsbar Community Monitoring Project and conducted extensive field work, surveying all 70-plus units in the timber sale. The information was publicized on the Siskiyou Crest Blog and incorporated into the efforts of the Nedsbar Community Alternative Working Group. Much was achieved through this process, including forcing the BLM to cancel numerous timber sale units, amend all "structural retention regeneration harvest" units, and drop some sections of proposed new road development.

The field work also provided vital information to area residents and activists who were creating an ecologically-based alternative to the Nedsbar Timber Sale, called the Nedsbar Community Alternative. This proposal would maintain all Northern spotted owl habitat, reduce fuels, encourage forest health, eliminate all proposed new road construction, and institute a 20” diameter limit to protect large, old trees. 

The BLM has agreed to analyze the Nedsbar Community Alternative in the upcoming Nedsbar Environmental Analysis (due out April 15, 2016), along with the BLM's proposed action. To be clear, they have agreed to analyze the Community Alternative, not to actually chose this ecologically and economically viable option. Despite strong community support for the Community Alternative, the BLM is currently designing a "proposed action" that includes many miles of new road construction and a large number of roadless, late seral, or old-growth logging units. Field Manager, John Gerritsma, is responsible for this decision. 

Unit 25-20 supports old-growth mixed conifer forest in open, diverse groves. This unit, located on the roadless, north slope of Trillium Mountain in the Little Applegate Canyon, provides excellent spotted owl habitat, fire resilient stands, and diverse stand structure. The unit is proposed for commercial logging, new road construction, and the development of new log landings in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Unit 25-20 should be canceled.

After a long hiatus, the BLM has recently begun marking timber sale units and preparing for implementation of the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Additional Community Monitoring is needed to review the agency's tree removal mark, especially in the most controversial and intact forests proposed for industrial logging. Likewise, community members must continue to show broad-based support for the Nedsbar Community Alternative and opposition to the BLM's proposed action.

The BLM has refused to cancel numerous of the most egregious units proposed for industrial logging. These units are relicts from the original Nedsbar Timber Sale proposal, intended to maximize timber production at the expense of other important resource values. Numerous old-growth and late-seral units remain in the BLM's current proposed action. These proposed units would include uncut roadless habitat, miles of proposed new road construction, extensive impacts to the northern spotted owl, and dramatic increases in fuel loads due to heavy canopy removal and the associated increase in brush and other flammable regeneration in the understory.

Unit 14-30 in the Buncom Roadless Area is targeted for commercial logging in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. This uncut, natural stand contains large, old-growth trees, fire resilient stand conditions, minimal understory fuels, and excellent wildlife habitat. Much of the unit is also nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for the Northern spotted owl. Unit 14-30 should be canceled.

Recently community members from the Nedsbar Community Alternative Working Group have proposed to the BLM, that collaboration continue on the west half of the Nedsbar Timber Sale on Upper Applegate Road and Grouse Creek, using the framework of the Applegate Adaptive Management Area (AMA). The AMA promotes community collaboration and innovative forestry practices. Focusing on the west half would allow us to emphasize shared goals and avoid the controversy involved with the numerous units concentrated in the Little Applegate Canyon that include intact native forest in roadless wildlands. These units lie within important wildlife habitat and are in the viewshed of the Sterling Ditch Trail. Unfortunately, the BLM has refused to accept this proposal, putting into question their commitment to collaboration and ecologically appropriate timber practices.  

As a community we need to keep the pressure on and advocate for real conservation-based solutions, not token gestures. Please consider contributing to the Klamath Forest Alliance by supporting our on-the-ground efforts or making a donation. We can not continue this important work without your support. Our current priorities include: surveying the trees marked for cutting in controversial units of intact, old forest, documenting the BLM mark, publicizing those results, advocating for cancelation of these inappropriate timber sale units, building support for the Nedsbar Community Alternative, and demonstrating the strong community opposition to the BLM's proposed action.  The units highlighted in this post have been marked, but have not been monitored by community members or Klamath Forest Alliance activists. We cannot be complacent and expect the BLM to do the right thing. They must be encouraged with valid science, community activism, public pressure, and effective, informed collaboration. Please support these efforts.

Please send the BLM a holiday email. Ask them to merge the west half of the Nedsbar Project with collaborative AMA efforts. Please also ask that units: 14-30. 14-31, 15-30, 25-20, 25-21, 25-23, 26-20, 26-21, 27-20, 28-10, 28-11, 33-30, 34-30 be canceled. Finally, express your support for the Nedsbar Community Alternative. Bring in the New Year with a little support for the wildlands of the Applegate Valley. Stop Nedsbar!

Send your emails to:
State Director, Jerry Perez
Field Manager, John Gerritsma
Silviculture, Kristi Mastrofini

Donate to Klamath Forest Alliance to support our work.

Please specify that your donation is for the Nedsbar Timber Sale

Unit 15-30 in the Buncom Roadless Area burned at low severity in 1987 and supports open, fire resilient characharacteristics. The stand needs no treatment and should be canceled.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds

Now is the time to sow native plant seeds for habitat restoration, native pollinators or simply for your own enjoyment! Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds is a small, local business selling wildcrafted native seed for gardeners, nursery operations, habitat restoration practitioners, pollinator advocates and private landowners. Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds sells over 100 species of wildcrafted annual wildflowers, perennial wildflowers, woody shrubs and trees. Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds is owned and operated by Suzie Savoie and Luke Ruediger — who also operate the Siskiyou Crest Blog. Check out our website and consider supporting sustainable, ecological horticulture, habitat restoration and economic activity in the Siskiyou Mountains. 

Check it out here: klamathsiskiyouseeds.com

Friday, December 11, 2015

Guest Opinion: Protecting wild places creates economic boon

Whitebark pine snag on the rim of Crater Lake.

I wanted to share this Guest Opinion from the Medford Mail Tribune newspaper, written so succinctly by George Wuerthner. In it he responds to the following article regarding the Jackson County commissioners passing a resolution opposing the Crater Lake Wilderness. 

The proposed Crater Lake Wilderness is a 90 mile chain of roadless wildlands extending from Diamond Peak to Mt. McLaughlin. The proposal would expand three existing wilderness areas and provide further protections to backcountry areas in Crater Lake National Park. The Crater Lake Wilderness proposal would protect 500,000 acres in Oregon's Southern Cascade Mountains, creating a world-class recreational resource and conservation area. The proposal should be supported; it should also provide inspiration for similar efforts in the Siskiyou Mountains.

Overlooking the Crater Lake Wilderness

By George Wuerthner
December 08. 2015 12:01AM
Medford Mail Tribune, Oregon

Guest Opinion: Protecting wild places creates economic boon

Recently the Jackson County commissioners passed a resolution opposing the Crater Lake Wilderness supported by Oregon Wild, in part, based upon the presumed negative impacts on the local economy. Unfortunately most people see their economies in the rear view mirror. In the case of Jackson County, many folks long for the days when timber was the main economic driver and hope it can be revived.

Bend, where I live, once celebrated its timber industry. But the timber companies overcut and left town, forcing Bend to consider other ways for people to make a living. By focusing on and celebrating its natural attributes, including its surrounding wildlands, Bend transformed itself. It now is one of the most sought-after places to live in the West, with a diversified economy, in part, because of the close proximity to protected wilderness and natural landscapes.

Given Jackson County’s proximity to wild country, a similar transformation is possible — if people only have the vision to look forward instead of backward. Any reading of conservation history demonstrates that protecting land as parks and/or wilderness ultimately proves to be advantageous to local/regional economies. Numerous studies back up my assertions (check out Headwaters Economics — headwaterseconomics.org — for references).

History is full of examples how wrong the local people were about the economic impacts of protecting lands. Starting with Yellowstone National Park in 1872, local papers in Bozeman, Mont., and elsewhere expressed opposition to the park and the "lock up" of resources. However, for more than a 143 years Yellowstone has been creating employment and supporting the area's economies — and has been much more stable for the economy than the mining, logging and other resource extraction that park creation precluded.

Looking north from Crater Lake, across the Crater Lake Wilderness, to the sharp summit of Mt. Thielsen in the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness.
Today Bozeman bills itself as a gateway to Yellowstone, is considered one of the most desirable communities for business relocation and retirement due to perceived high quality of life attributes, which in part are due to its proximity to the park.

When Grand Teton National Park was created, locals predicted Jackson would become a ghost town. Some 18,000 ghosts live there today — all in one way or another there because of the park and surrounding wild areas.

Even more recently, after President Clinton created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, locals predicted the demise of their communities. Here are some recent quotes from Dennis Waggoner, president of the Escalante Chamber of Commerce, in response to an article claiming that the monument was “stifling” the community’s economy.

"I don't believe the town of Escalante is being stifled at all. To the contrary, the monument is a major reason why our town is thriving."

He goes on to note:
"There are many other examples of expansion in the town of Escalante. During the last five years, a new medical clinic has opened with pharmacy and dental services. We are all proud of the new hardware store and home center. Structures along Main Street are being renovated and are open for business. New construction is prevalent, and there is difficulty getting contractors (i.e. plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc.) because of the number of new and renovated projects."

The experience of Escalante has been repeated dozens of times around the West. What are known as “footloose” entrepreneurs and individuals flock to communities near protected landscapes: parks, national monuments and wilderness areas. They bring their businesses or their savings.

If people in Jackson County are opposed to economic growth and stability, they should continue to resist the Crater Lake Wilderness proposal. However, if creating new economic opportunities for you and your children, as well as attracting new talent to your communities is a goal, then one should think about supporting the Crater Lake Wilderness proposal.

George Wuerthner has published 38 books, including several on national parks and wilderness. He lives in Bend.

During the winter months, snow covers the Crater Lake Rim Road and the entire park becomes wilderness, open only to non-mechanized travel.

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December 02. 2015 5:01PM

Jackson County Commissioners oppose Crater Lake wilderness proposal

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is voicing its opposition to a proposed Crater Lake Wilderness Area.

Commissioners Rick Dyer and Colleen Roberts voted Wednesday to proclaim their strong opposition to a proposal to designate a Crater Lake Wilderness Area encompassing Crater Lake National Park and surrounding U.S. Forest Service lands in the Umpqua and Rogue River national forests.

Commissioner Doug Breidenthal, who has been criticized for missing at least 30 commissioners' meetings so far this year, was on a trip to Colorado for a National Association of Counties meeting. Dyer said Breidenthal also supports the proclamation.

Commissioners cited a list of concerns, including increased wildfire risks and a wilderness area ban on the use of motorized vehicles.

In 2009, several environmental groups proposed a new 500,000-acre wilderness area that would include the national park. It would connect the existing wilderness areas around Diamond Peak, Mount Thielsen and Mount McLoughlin, creating a 90-mile swath of new wilderness stretching from north to south.

The wilderness area would surround the west and east sides of Diamond Lake, according to a map by Oregon Wild, one of the groups supporting the proposal.

In a proclamation, commissioners said "much of the area is a high-use recreational area around Diamond Lake and Crater Lake for summer and winter activities, nearly all centered around motorized uses."

Motorized vehicles, as well as bicycles, cannot be used inside wilderness areas.

"Public lands can be utilized responsibly by motor-sport users," said Dyer.

According to Oregon Wild, a wilderness area designation would not affect access roads and the Crater Lake Rim Road used by the public. It would affect backcountry routes and areas.

Dyer said commissioners are also concerned Crater Lake National Park's let-it-burn wildfire policy could be extended throughout the proposed wilderness area. Wildfire could escape a wilderness area boundary.

"We're concerned about the let-it-burn policy and the potential for uncontained wildfire and its effect on land around it," he said.

The proclamation cites potential wildfire danger to cabins, lodges and campgrounds in the area. It also notes wildfire smoke from the Diamond Lake area could negatively impact air quality in the Rogue Valley.

Crater Lake National Park has a policy to let wildfires burn during most years if they don't threaten buildings, homes and public-use areas.

Earlier this year, park officials announced a temporary policy change to suppress all fires because of record low snowfall last winter. Firefighters battled the lightning-sparked National Creek Complex fires during the summer. The two fires burned nearly 21,000 acres total in the northwest corner of the national park and in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Oregon Wild Communications Associate Arran Robertson said the area around Crater Lake is important habitat for deer and elk, which are disturbed by motorized vehicles. He said Oregon Wild has reached out to snowmobile clubs to try and discuss the issue.

Robertson said environmental groups also have reached out to mountain bikers and are willing to adjust the boundaries of their wilderness area proposal to avoid impacts on biking routes.

As for wildfire, Robertson said fires have been suppressed by humans for more than a century, leading to overgrown forests and increased wildfire activity.

"We don't have the resources to continue to write a blank check for firefighting every year," he said, referring to the soaring cost to fight wildfires in the West.

Allowing wildfires to burn naturally would help forests return to a natural state in which fire regularly burned through areas, he said.

Robertson said people who build structures in fire-prone areas need to be able to accept wildfire risk.

He said the timber industry wrote language opposing the wilderness area designation and is passing it around to elected officials.

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution in late November opposing the designation. The Klamath County Board of Commissioners took a similar action Tuesday.

Robertson said the moves are being orchestrated by the timber industry.

Douglas Timber Operators Executive Director Bob Ragon presented a resolution against the wilderness designation to commissioners in Douglas County at their meeting in late November. He said at the time Jackson, Josephine and Klamath County officials also would be asked to sign the resolution, according to news accounts.

Ragon said snowmobile clubs and businesses had signed the resolution as well.

No one gave a presentation about the anti-wilderness area proclamation at the Jackson County commissioners meeting Wednesday.

Dyer said he didn't know the genesis of the proclamation, other than the issue was brought forward by Breidenthal.

"This is something brought to our board's attention recently," Dyer said.

Robertson said the environmental groups have collected 31,000 signatures in support of the designation and submitted those to U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

He said 200 business and organizations also have signed on in support of the designation.

Environmental groups supporting the designation include the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, Umpqua Watersheds, Crater Lake Institute and Environment Oregon, according to Oregon Wild.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

PCT thru-hiker enjoying the view.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Environmental Impacts of the "Green Rush"

The "Green Rush"
Image: California Fish and Wildlife Service

The Jackson County Planning Commission is taking public comment on proposed regulations for commercial cannabis cultivation in Jackson County, Oregon until December 10th, 2015. Similar regulations are being considered in surrounding counties as well, affecting commercial cannabis cultivation for both medical and recreational purposes. The topic is also currently one of the hottest environmental and political issues in northern California, with environmental groups like EPIC and Friends of the Eel River at the forefront, directly tackling the environmental concerns of cannabis cultivation head on. Like it or not, cannabis is here to stay, but it is how we manage and regulate this industry that will decide whether or not the industry will significantly impact the quality of life, habitat, and environment that surrounds us in southern Oregon and northern California.

Due to the failed policy of marijuana prohibition, the cannabis industry has continued to be kept in the closet, unregulated, and shrouded in secrecy. Although recreational marijuana was recently made legal in Oregon, federal cannabis prohibitions are fueling the black market, the secrecy, and the lack of regulations, as well as the environmental and social impacts. It is time for state and county agencies to move beyond the prohibition mentality. They should stop enforcing “marijuana laws” and start enforcing environmental laws and zoning regulations intended to protect our environment and communities. Cannabis is legal in Oregon and should be treated as such, yet environmental and social concerns surrounding the industry must be addressed as they are for any other industry, agricultural product, or commercial activity.

Southwestern Oregon has a long history of boom and bust industry, starting with the region's early development during the Gold Rush. During this era our streams, rivers, and fisheries were severely impacted by mining operations. The mining boom led to agriculture in our area and its associated impacts to rivers, streams, fisheries, and valley bottom habitat. Waves of resource extraction and environmental degradation have unfortunately defined our economy, such as the timber boom that spread across the region from the 1950s to the early 1990s. Our resources have been unsustainably extracted or produced, leading to the collapse of fisheries and the degradation of habitats across the region.

Recently a new industry has flooded into the region, seeking to maximize profits from our water, soil and sunlight. This new influx of economic activity, the cannabis industry, has been coined the Green Rush due to its sometimes irresponsible and opportunist nature. Cannabis cultivation has quickly become an economic mainstay for many in northern California and southern Oregon. Its economic importance in the region is significant and has the potential to support a meaningful cottage industry of responsible growers, contributing to a diversified regional economy and implementing Best Management Practices that protect our water quality, wildlife habitat, and rural communities. Unfortunately, an increasing number of irresponsible, inconsiderate, and unsustainable cannabis growers have put this positive economic influence at risk, threatening our quality of life in rural southwestern Oregon and northern California. For some, our region is simply a place to make large sums of money by illegally bulldozing large landings and growing large amounts of cannabis to be sold on the black market for even larger sums of cash. 

Density of cannabis grow sites in Oregon. Southwestern Oregon, with its Mediterranean climate, supports the largest density of cannabis growers in the state.  Map: oregonlive.com

Our economic system promotes this greed and short-sighted behavior — capitalism is a system of excess, and cannabis cultivation is a multi-billion dollar industry. The cannabis industry now has CEOs, lobby groups, industry spokespeople, media representatives, public relations specialists, and growing political clout. Cannabis cultivation has become another industry, with all its vice and corruption. Scott Greacen, director of Friends of the Eel River in northern California, has said of the cannabis industry: “What we need is to change the culture of silence that surrounds the industry today, to a culture of accountability. One that recognizes making messes you don’t plan to clean up and harming species who have as much right to be here as we do, not just as unfair business practices, but as threats to the integrity and viability of our community.”

Unfortunately, like any lucrative industrial pursuit, the profits of the cannabis industry come with impacts to our local rivers and streams, forests, oak woodlands, chaparral habitats, wildlife, and human communities. The influx of new people, new values, and new cannabis grows have created development, gentrification, shortages in affordable housing, habitat fragmentation, environmental impacts, and tension in many rural neighborhoods.

The environmental impacts of the cannabis industry are cumulative, building on top of one another, grow after grow, after grow. The impacts include the haphazard bulldozing of roads, landing pads, and hillside terraces, creating erosion, vegetation loss and increased sedimentation. Illegal water diversion and withdrawal can lead to extreme impacts to salmon bearing streams, reduced stream flows, the clearing of riparian vegetation, diesel spills (from pumps), and nutrient runoff from fertilizers. The conversion of forest land to industrial cannabis cultivation sites is a major concern. It is also currently a major problem in northern California, and increasingly in southern Oregon as well. This practice includes clear-cut logging and vegetation removal. In southwestern Oregon cannabis cultivation is impacting chaparral, oak woodland, conifer forests, and riparian vegetation. Noxious weeds are being introduced into otherwise relatively undisturbed areas, habitat is being removed and/or fragmented, and landings bulldozed.

Post Mountain, Humboldt County, CA 2005. Taken from "Resource Impacts of Marijuana Cultivation in Northern California" California Fish and Wildlife Service
Post Mountain 2012. Only seven years later, forest fragmentation due to commercial cannabis cultivation in Humboldt County, California grew exponentially.

The Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion has been the site of many trespass grows on public land, where, at times, mammals and birds are poisoned by rodenticides used to keep down rats, woodrats, and mice that girdle or eat young cannabis plants. Rodenticide poisoning can also occur on private land in legal cannabis grows. A study in northern California authored by Mourad Gabriel found that almost 80 percent of Pacific fishers found dead by researchers between 2006 and 2011 had been exposed to high levels of rodenticide exposure. The exposure and harm to wildlife from rodenticides is widespread. Poisonings have been documented in at least 25 wildlife species in California alone, including: San Joaquin kit foxes, Pacific fishers, golden eagles, bobcats, mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, gray foxes, red foxes, Cooper’s hawks, red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, barn owls, great horned owls, long-eared owls, western screech owls, spotted owls, Swainson’s hawks, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, turkey vultures and crows. Many of the animals are killed by eating poisoned rodents and are in turn exposed. Anticoagulant rodenticides result in a disruption of blood clotting, resulting in uncontrollable bleeding and death.                                                                  

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking action to ban hazardous d-CON rat and mouse poisons nationwide after d-CON refused to remove super-toxic rodenticides from the residential market. Sixteen California jurisdictions have also passed resolutions urging the public and pest control operators to avoid the most harmful rodent poisons. Those jurisdictions include San Francisco, Marin County, Berkeley, Richmond, Albany, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Belmont, San Anselmo, Brisbane, Foster City, Malibu, Whittier, Fairfax, Calabasas and Humboldt County. Jackson County should do the same, and ban rodenticide use in cannabis cultivation.
Pacific Fisher
Photo: USFWS

Many small-scale cannabis growers are responsibly producing a legal product to be sold within the cannabis industry. Commercial growers who are utilizing appropriate agricultural lands and do not convert forestland to cannabis plantations; who are minimizing impacts to riparian areas, streams and fisheries; who do not utilize toxic herbicides, pesticides, rodenticides, or chemical fertilizers should be supported. Growers who are acting as good neighbors should be acknowledged for their responsible behavior. Yet these same growers should also speak out within their own industry and advocate for sustainable industry practices and neighborly behavior, just as organic farmers do within the organic/sustainable farming community. An increasing number of residents, environmentalists, neighbors, and responsible growers are demanding a sustainable future. Join us!
Please advocate for the following regulations in your comments to the Jackson County Planning Commission:

  • Do not allow forestland conversion by allowing large-scale commercial cannabis operations to become established on land zoned for forest resources. This includes woodland resource land and commercial forestland. The spread of commercial growing operations into forestland reduces available habitat for forest species, increases habitat fragmentation, development and sprawl, and encourages conversion of forestland into commercial cannabis farms. The impact has reached severe proportions in northern California. Check out this eye-opening video documenting the results of forest conversion in Humboldt County, California. Video: Forest fragmentation from cannabis growing in Humboldt County, CA
  • Require permitting on all large commercial grows to verify that environmental laws and regulations are being met. This would include the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, protections for wetlands and streams, regulations on grading (bulldozing) and land clearing, road development, and other forms of land management associated with commercial cannabis cultivation and other industrial or agricultural activities.
  • Require all commercial grows to meet Best Management Practices. Best Management Practices should include practices that address social, environmental, and neighborhood compatibility concerns.  This would apply to land clearing, grading, herbicide and pesticide use, road building, and other agricultural or industrial projects.
  • Require setbacks from riparian areas and stream corridors for all commercial grows. This will protect riparian areas from unnecessary impacts associated with grading (bulldozing), clearing and sedimentation. It will also reduce the potential for contamination from pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers.
  • Ban the use of rodenticides, such as D-con and Talon, in commercial cannabis cultivation. Rodenticides associated with some cannabis production have been shown to severely impact and/or kill Pacific fishers and other wildlife that prey on rodents or eat carrion killed by rodenticides.
  • Create a Jackson County/OSU extension certification program that offers education for salmon-friendly, forest-friendly, organic, and other responsible cannabis growing practices. This program could become an avenue to educate the local cannabis growing population about the environmental regulations effecting the cannabis industry. The program could certify local growers in sustainable outdoor growing practices, educate about Best Management Practices and environmental regulations affecting the industry, and build a culture of stewardship within this budding (no pun intended) industry. The certification could be used to market our local cannabis products as ecologically sustainable and promote responsible growing practices.       
To comment on the proposed regulations send a comment to:
Kelly A. Madding
Jackson County
Development Services Director
10 S. Oakdale, Rm 100
Medford, OR  97501
(541) 774-6519

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Update: Westside Fire Recovery Project

The Happy Camp Fire near Hamburg on the Klamath River.

The Westside Fire Recovery Project is an enormous post-fire logging proposal targeting intact, Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forest and wild salmon streams in the Mid-Klamath watershed. The project is one of the largest post-fire salvage logging projects proposed in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains in many years. 

The project area extends across the large 2015 fire footprint on the Klamath River, including the Happy Camp, Whites, and Beaver Fires. Units can be found across this vast landscape from Beaver Creek to Happy Camp, and as far west as Sawyers Bar on the North Fork of the Salmon River. Units are located up Scott River, Grider Creek and Walker Creek near Seiad Valley, which are adjacent to the Marble Mountains Wilderness, in important wildlife habitat, and in the Pacific Crest Trail corridor.  Units can also be found on Elk Creek south of Happy Camp, and many other portions of the Klamath National Forest (KNF). This massive logging project would require 14 separate timber sales on roughly 10,000 acres of public land. The KNF has already mapped, planned, designed and invested large amounts of agency energy and taxpayer-provided funding into this devastating proposal.

Yet a few large hurdles still lie in their path. First and foremost, the project is likely illegal for a variety of reasons involving environmental laws and regulations, clean water violations, and endangered species protections. The agency has still not released a Record of Decision approving specific timber related activities and project proposals; thus, the agency could still cancel the project and focus on protecting rural communities on the Klamath River, rather than sending large, old logs to distant mills. 

The project has yet to acquire a Water Quality Waiver from the North Coast Water Quality Control Board, by proving the project will not significantly increase sedimentation or create water quality concerns. This will be no easy task on the steep, geologically unstable slopes the agency has proposed for clearcut logging, or in the critical salmon habitat and numerous cold water tributary streams directly below. 

The KNF has proposed salvage logging in unstable watersheds like Grider Creek, where sedimentation has become a concern following the Happy Camp Fire. Salvage logging operations will only compound the erosion and water quality concerns already impacting these important salmon streams.

Finally, the KNF has not yet finalized consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding impacts to the northern spotted owl. The northern spotted owl is threatened with extinction, due largely to habitat destruction from commercial logging. Recent research has shown that northern spotted owls can inhabit and, in fact, thrive in fire-effected forests as long as biological legacies such as large, old snags are maintained. In a recent letter to the KNF regarding the Westside Fire Recovery Project, USFWS states, "it is estimated that up to 70 spotted owl activity centers may be adversely impacted by the proposed action."

The USFWS letter also states, "Low, moderate, and in some cases high severity fire can maintain habitat conditions conducive for spotted owls, and we recommend minimizing salvage or harvest activities were spotted owls remain post-fire... In general, most scientists agree that salvage logging does not contribute positively to the ecological recovery of the naturally disturbed forests." 

The USFWS letter reminds the KNF of Recovery Action 12, in the recovery plan for the northern spotted owl, and its recommendation to retain, "post disturbance legacy structures (such as large, dead trees whether standing or down) in areas that are managed for spotted owl habitat because these features greatly improve the quality of habitat over time. It is important for action agencies to seek ways to implement important fuel reduction work without over utilizing salvage logging that can adversely affect the restoration of natural conditions." 

Late seral forest stands affected by moderate severity fire, yet proposed for salvage logging in the Westside Fire Recovery Project. This stand is near Tom Martin Peak, on the divide between Scott River and the Klamath River.

Finally, the USFWS letter identifies their concern with the current all or nothing approach taken by the KNF, in which the KNF is demanding that old-growth, clearcut, post-fire LSR logging be tied to other less controversial activities involving public safety, community wildfire protection and forest health projects. The USFWS states: "We are concerned if aspects of salvage logging operations targeted to public safety or forest health improvement are financially underwritten by commercial harvest of on-site timber (i.e., wildlife legacy structure) that would otherwise be retained to meet forest health and wildlife conservation goals. If that is the case with parts of the Westside Project, we recommend that you consider alternative sources of implementation funding that would reduce impacts to forest health and wildlife. We greatly appreciate the budget constraints under which the Forest Service is operating and the need to consider such funding sources. However, we suggest alternative approaches may be more cost effective in the long run given the high level of controversy associated with this project and the potential for costly litigation." 

It appears that USFWS might agree with the many local residents, environmentalists and scientists who oppose the Westside Fire Recovery Project. Post-fire salvage logging does not facilitate recovery in naturally disturbed forests in the Klamath Mountains, nor does it facilitate forest health, fuel reduction or wildlife conservation needs. Northern spotted owls do utilize fire-effected forests, even high severity areas, and the impact of degrading an estimated 70 owl activity centers is unacceptable. Salvage logging significantly impacts northern spotted owl habitat and an illegal "take" of at least one northern spotted owl has already been documented due to salvage logging on private land in the Beaver Fire Area. Promoting damaging, illegal, and controversial timber sales in areas designated for conservation is counterproductive and categorically dishonest. Luckily, the KNF has not approved a record of decision and the project could still be canceled. Contact Forest Supervisor Patricia Grantham and ask her to cancel the Westside Project. 

Forest Supervisor Patricia Grantham:

For more detailed information on the Westside Project: http://www.wildcalifornia.org/blog/westside-post-fire-logging-project-informational-meeting/  

Buckskin Fire Report: Fully Funded!

The Buckskin Fire Report will explore wildfire, as well as fire suppression impacts, in one of the most unusual wilderness habitats on the west coast: serpentine woodland.

Thanks to our many supporters, the Siskiyou Crest Blog and Klamath Forest Alliance have secured funding for the Buckskin Fire Report, an exploration of wildfire, as well as fire suppression impacts, in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area.  The South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area is the largest unprotected wildland in the state of Oregon. Many large streams and wild rivers originate in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and surrounding roadless areas; these streams contain important salmon habitat, unusually high levels of water quality, and high concentrations of rare and/or endemic plants species. 

The area was affected by the 2002 Biscuit Fire and is one of the region's most dramatic fire landscapes. Recent wildfire activity has affected nearly the entire wildland, creating vast fire-adapted habitats. Large swaths of serpentine woodland and forest were burned at high severity during the Biscuit Fire, including portions of Baldface Creek. The 2015 Buckskin Fire reburned through the Baldface Creek area, mostly at low and moderate severity, creating a mixed severity mosaic and maintaining a diverse, resilient forest community.  

Unfortunately, the Forest Service responded to this slow moving fire with brute force, bulldozing many miles of wilderness hiking trail, creating fireline, large helipads, staging areas and denuded safety zones. The agency then backburned large swaths of forest from ridgetop fireline to the canyon of Baldface Creek.

The Buckskin Fire Report will explore the mosaic of this fire and the impact of its suppression. The Buckskin Fire Report will also identify policy reform recommendations and a more restorative approach to wildland fire. Stay tuned for more information on the Buckskin Fire Report.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

KICKSTARTER: Buckskin Fire Report

The Siskiyou Crest Blog and Klamath Forest Alliance have initiated a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Buckskin Fire Report.

The Buckskin Fire Report will explore the impact of discretionary fire suppression actions, the mosaic of this wildland fire, and the potential management implications of the Buckskin Fire and its suppression. The report will also identify policy recommendations to reform the suppression of fire throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and beyond. 
  Photo: inciweb.ncwg.gov

 The Buckskin Fire Report is a continuation of the Klamath-Siskiyou Fire Reports, sponsored by the Klamath Forest Alliance. The project has focused on wildland firefighting policy and strategy, as well as fire suppression actions and their impacts in the wildlands of the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion. In the last three years we have published five fire reports, investigating the fire suppression actions and impacts approved by fire managers on public lands. We have documented the discretionary impacts of fire suppression actions to wildlands, old-growth forests, botanical resources, fisheries resources, watershed values, fire severity, and other important natural resources and services provided by our public lands. 

In the reports, we analyze the natural fire mosaic, document the impact of fire suppression, and provide management and policy recommendations. The reports have played vital roles in canceling post-fire logging proposals, creating more transparency within the local firefighting community, and advocating for appropriate wildfire management. 

The Buckskin Fire Report will explore the wild, remote, and controversial South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The South Kalmiopsis is the largest and most inaccessible, unprotected wildland in the state of Oregon. The area harbors an unusual serpentine habitat, supporting extreme botanical diversity and many rare plant species. It was also effected by the 2002 Biscuit Fire, a large 500,000-acre wildland fire, infamous for its fire severity, huge financial cost associated with its suppression, and it is now iconic fire-adapted landscape.

On June 11, 2015, a lightening fire started in the depths of the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, on Baldface Creek, a wild tributary of the North Fork of the Smith River. Baldface Creek is a pristine stream and the largest producer of steelhead and coho salmon in the North Fork Smith River watershed. 

Baldface Creek is one of the most pristine streams in the Siskiyou Mountains. It is also a large roadless watershed within Oregon's largest unprotected wildland: the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area.

The area was burned in the 2002 Biscuit Fire and was not subjected to post-fire "salvage" logging. Many in the logging industry and federal land management agencies have promoted a fear of the "Biscuit re-burn," telling the public that the lack of post-fire logging in many portions of the Biscuit Fire promotes high severity re-burns and impacts the forests' ability to regenerate following wildfire. This rhetoric — despite numerous scientific studies refuting the claims — has led to extreme paranoia within the agency and firefighting community regarding new fire starts in the Biscuit Fire Area. The rhetoric has also encouraged irresponsible and overly zealous firefighting actions that have potentially dire environmental consequences.

It is clear that fire managers and agency officials decided very early on, that full suppression would be utilized in the Buckskin Fire. The fear of high intensity fire, although very real in managers' minds, was not actively playing out on the landscape, despite unseasonably hot weather and strong winds. Nonetheless, large firelines cleared with bulldozers were built along unroaded ridgelines, through rare plant communities and over non-motorized hiking trails in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, to the very boundary of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Large scale tree falling in the roadless area was approved by fire managers and crews cut their way through the roadless wildlands to create fireline. This fireline was designed to be free of snags and woody vegetation, to facilitate large, purposefully set backfires.

The natural fire, burning in unlogged, post-fire forests, burned slow and cool, never actually reaching the agency's raw, bulldozed firelines. Fire managers responded by burning the area between the fireline and the head of the fire, which was far below in the canyon of Baldface Creek. A management tactic, called Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST), was mandated in the area, but not implemented initially, allowing for larger, more intrusive environmental impacts in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The outcome of these actions is currently unknown and many fear that the vast, wild region has been irreparably harmed by irresponsible fire suppression actions. 
The Buckskin Fire burned entirely within the fire footprint of the 2002 Biscuit Fire. An in-depth review of the Buckskin Fire could provide an opportunity to explore fire severity in post-fire landscapes that were not effected by salvage logging.

It appears that much could be learned from exploring the impact of fire suppression in the Buckskin Fire area. It also appears that much could be learned from investigating the natural fire mosaic and fire severity of the Buckskin Fire, as well as the positive management implications of naturally regenerating post-fire landscapes in the Klamath-Siskiyou. 

Please help us create the Buckskin Fire Report. The report will be submitted to the appropriate land management agencies, politicians, and media outlets. It will be utilized as a tool in the effort to reform wildland firefighting policy on public lands throughout the west, and in the Kalmiopsis Region. We believe that fire suppression is one of the most persistent and urgent threats to the wildlands of the Klamath-Siskiyou. Until we address this problem, no landscape is truly protected and our wilderness is not truly wild. Join us and support the Buckskin Fire Report.

To view and contribute to the Buckskin Fire Report Kickstarter Campaign follow this link:  Buckskin Fire Report Kickstarter Project