|The eastern slope of Cinnabar Ridge in the Little Applegate Valley|
|The proposed commercial logging units on Cinnabar Ridge are outlined in red. Unit 25-30 is highlighted in this blog. Units 26-30, 23-32, 23-32, and 23-30 are not marked by the BLM. As soon as these units are marked I will be reviewing the mark.|
I recently reviewed the tree removal mark for the Nedsbar Timber Sale, including units on Cinnabar Ridge. Cinnabar Ridge is the long ridgeline dividing the Upper Applegate Valley from the Little Applegate Valley. The east slope of the ridgeline drains into Grouse Creek in the Little Applegate Valley, while the west slope drains into Murphy Gulch, Boaz Gulch, Neds Gulch and Mill Gulch in the Upper Applegate Valley. The west face of the slope is arid, rocky and dominated by oak and chaparral plant communities, with large stands of conifer trees on north-facing slopes and isolated conifer "stringers" running down the face of the ridge. The eastern face of Cinnabar Ridge is more forested, but still broken by large, grassy oak woodland and dense stands of chaparral on south-facing slopes.
I visited a number of units on Boaz Gulch Road, Cinnabar Ridge and at the headwaters of Grouse Creek. Below is a report of my findings.
Unit 35-32 is an anomaly: a moist pocket of forest in the driest watershed west of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. Located within a rain shadow, the Little Applegate watershed, and particularly the lower half of the watershed, is unusually dry. Yet in a unique area at the headwaters of Grouse Creek, a small pocket of more moist and productive forest can be found. Tucked into a north-facing draw the area grows large, old trees in dense, closed stands. Although dominated by large trees, a layered, multi-age stand is developing.
|Snow bramble (Rubus nivalis) in unit 35-32.|
In British Columbia snow bramble is considered rare and has been documented to have been impacted by timber sale activities, including soil disturbance and canopy reduction. The B.C. government identifies the plant as a late seral species growing on montane sites and requiring over 75% canopy cover. Yet the BLM is proposing to reduce canopy cover to 40% on this site. The reduction of canopy here will increase exposure to sunlight and drying winds, impacting habitat conditions for this unusual population of snow bramble, possibly ruining the snow bramble's chance to persist at this elevation in the Little Applegate Valley.
The late-seral conditions in unit 35-32 also sustain roosting and foraging habitat for the northern spotted owl. Logging this stand to 40% canopy cover and the subsequent removal of large, fire-resistant trees will impact these important habitat values. Trees up to 42" in diameter are marked for removal in this unit. Although BLM stand age data identifies the unit as between 100-150 years old, it is very likely that many trees in the unit, and in fact, many trees marked for removal in this unit, are much older.
|Another large tree marked for removal in unit 35-32.|
Unit 35-32 is an unusually moist location supporting a unique micro-climate and disjunct plant species requiring closed and moist habitat. Logging this site will impact the specific conditions allowing this plant community to thrive. Proposed logging treatments will also impact the northern spotted owl, remove old, fire-resistant trees and increase fuel hazards due to an aggressive "shrub response" following canopy reduction treatments. The unit should be canceled from the Nedsbar Timber Sale to protect its unique botanical diversity.
Unit 27-34 is located on a north-facing slope above Neds Gulch, at the lower end of Boaz Gulch Road. The unit consists of mid- to late-seral Douglas fir stands, supporting closed canopy conditions. The understory is generally quiet open and mossy with short and scattered shrub-form live oak and hazel. The eastern portion of the unit consists of late seral, fire resilient forest, while the western half has been more impacted by past timber harvesting practices.
The BLM prescription for this unit is Douglas Fir-Selective Thinning, proposed to be cut to 40% canopy cover. The canopy is currently estimated to about 80% canopy coverage, meaning canopy levels will be drastically reduced. This heavy canopy reduction will likely increase fuel hazards on site by encouraging dense shrubby in-growth.
Currently shrub-form live oak grows in the understory, but its short stature does not present a fuel hazard. Logging that reduces the canopy to 40% will "release" the currently suppressed live oak understory and allow it to grow into tall and dense thickets. Large thickets of shrub-form live oak can create hot and flashy fuel loads, increasing fire risks and fuel laddering into the canopy of trees retained following logging operations.
|The unit is "leave tree" marked, meaning the tree at my back, marked yellow, will be retained. The lower tree — a large, fire-resistant Douglas fir over 30" in diameter — is proposed for removal.|
Unit 27-34 currently supports roosting and foraging habitat for the northern spotted owl, the proposed canopy reduction to 40% will impact northern spotted owl habitat values. Much of the stand is identified by the BLM to be between 100 and 200 years old, although numerous large, dominant trees in the stand are likely much older. Massive, old Douglas fir trees are scattered throughout the small draws that dissect the unit. Trees up to 33" in diameter are marked for removal in this stand. The entire eastern portion of unit 27-34 should be canceled from the Nedsbar Timber Sale. This would include the helicopter yarding portions of the unit. The Nedsbar Community Alternative defers this portion of the unit, while allowing thinning of trees less than 20" in diameter, to 60% canopy cover in the western portion of the stand.
Unit 25-30 is a beautiful, late-seral stand of Douglas fir on the east face of Cinnabar Ridge. This unit is located adjacent to a large clear-cut, harvested by the BLM in the Cinnabar West Timber Sale. This timber sale was a galvanizing moment in the development of the conservation movement here in the Applegate Valley. Unfortunately, despite strong community opposition, the sale was cut and roads were built across Cinnabar Ridge in the 1980's. Today, the BLM is coming for what's left. Once again, strong community opposition has developed as the BLM proposes to log off large sections of the Little Applegate Valley.
To the south of unit 25-30 is a large, grassy bald with harsh exposure and shallow soils. Currently, the unit is a refugia habitat, providing connectivity across the landscape for late-seral dependent species. The majority of the stand is closed canopied forest with trees from 2'-4' diameter. According to the BLM the stand is between 100 and 150 years old, yet individual trees in this late-seral stand are likely much older.
The stand is classified as roosting and foraging habitat for the northern spotted owl. The proposed 40% canopy retention level would downgrade this habitat to the lowest level of dispersal habitat, no longer providing sufficient late-seral characteristics to provide for roosting and foraging needs. It is also important to note that many units — in four consecutive timber sales in the Little Applegate Valley — have been illegally over-cut by the BLM in recent timber sales. In these sales the agency claimed that logging operations would "treat and maintain" spotted owl habitat. This requires the agency to maintain adequate canopy cover to protect current spotted owl habitat values. In Nesting, Roosting and Foraging (NRF) habitat the minimum canopy requirement is 60% and in dispersal habitat the minimum canopy is 40%. The BLM unfortunately has been consistently missing the mark in the Little Applegate Valley, yet they continue to proposed treatments that will downgrade habitat.
|The large trees with prominent white marks are proposed for removal in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Many trees between 24" and 30" in diameter are proposed for removal in this stand.|
Stand conditions include a very open understory with minimal fuel loads and a high, fire-resistant canopy. Thinning this stand to 40% canopy cover will increase fuel hazards by increasing the level of sunlight reaching the forest floor. This will increase conifer reproduction in the understory and develop brushy fuel loads. It will also increase the potential for crown fire by drying out stands and exposing them to high winds during fire events.
The most significant fuel risk in the area is the the adjacent plantation stand, clear-cut in 1980 and planted in straight, tightly packed rows of ponderosa pine. The old clear-cut was recently thinned by the BLM, using plantation management techniques, where they cut, but did not remove or burn trees targeted for removal — they simply left cut trees on the forest floor. The result was a drastic increase in dry, fine, fire-available fuel, cut up like kindling on the forest floor. The tightly packed trees and homogenous stand conditions are ripe for a high severity fire and the BLM has only made the situation worse. Logging unit 25-30 will compound these fire risks and reduce the stand's resilience to fire. Unit 25-30 should be canceled.
The marking review will be ongoing; we still have more controversial units to evaluate. The Applegate Neighborhood Network and Klamath Forest Alliance have again joined forces to conduct citizen-based monitoring and conservation advocacy. Please consider supporting this effort with a donation. We depend on community members to defend the wildlands that surround our homes.