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Nedsbar Timber Sale: A threat to wildlands in the Applegate Valley

The forested portions of Trillium Mountain in the Dakubetede Roadless Area are being proposed for logging in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. This photo was taken from the popular Sterling Ditch Trail where Trillium Mountain dominates the skyline for many miles. Commercial logging units in the Dakubetede Roadless Area should be canceled and the area protected for its scenic, recreational and ecological values.

The Medford District BLM has recently proposed a large timber sale in the Applegate Valley of southwestern Oregon. This is the result of recent litigation won by Swanson-Superior Lumber based in Glendale, Oregon. The Medford District BLM has been given a court order, currently under appeal, to drastically increase timber production for corporate logging interests at the expense of regional wildlands, communities and wildlife. In response to the litigation the agency proposed the Nedsbar Timber Sale, encompassing 3,400 acres, or 5 square miles of proposed units spread across much of the Little Applegate Valley and a portion of the Upper Applegate Valley. 

Proposed project prescriptions  include regeneration logging (i.e. clearcut logging), disease management and new road construction. Regeneration prescriptions would require retention of only 16-25 trees per acre, while disease management prescriptions would require retention of only 6-8 trees per acre. These proposed forms of clearcut logging would remove large, fire-resistant trees and open up currently closed-canopy forests to encourage the “regeneration” of young trees in the understory.  

The BLM’s Scoping Notice for the project identifies no objectives beyond timber management, leaving many public
resources and important forest management objectives outside the purpose and
need of the proposed project. The project does not
contain management objectives that include a broad range of forest values, including
the maintenance and recovery of threatened or endangered species, the retention of late successional
characteristics, the management of fire/fuel hazards, or the maintenance and
recovery of watershed values such as fisheries and water quality. The Little Applegate River is designated a  key
watershed for salmon habitat. Given this, along with the large amount of Wildland Urban Interface located in the planning area, the region’s high biodiversity, wildland values,
and unique plant communities, this singular focus fails to serve the public interest.

Regeneration and Disease Management Logging
The Little Applegate River is the driest watershed
west of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. Regeneration logging has often
historically led to reforestation failures and heavy fuel loads due to an
increase in highly flammable activity slash, the “regeneration” of young trees in the understory, and a vigorous shrub and
hardwood response. Given the dry nature of the Little Applegate watershed, these issues associated with regeneration logging will only be compounded. The use of regeneration, disease management, and/or overstory removal
prescriptions will have negative impacts to the region’s fire/fuel hazard,
forest health concerns, Endangered Species Act (ESA) habitat values, and late successional
characteristics. These prescriptions will also lead to increased wind exposure,
sun exposure, and thus decreased soil moisture, drought stress and increased
fire risks.
All forms of regeneration and disease management logging proposed in the Nedsbar Timber Sale should be canceled. 

New Road Construction
It appears that the BLM will be proposing new road construction to access commercial timber units for the Nedsbar Timber Sale. New road construction could impact the Boaz Mountain, Dakubetede and Buncom Roadless Areas. All new road construction should be opposed to retain wildland characteristics and reduce watershed impacts. 
A map of proposed units in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Light Blue units are proposed for helicopter logging. Purple units are proposed far cable logging, green units are tractor logging, and the brownish/pinkish units are proposed, non-commercial fuel reduction units.

Impact to wildland habitats, roadless areas, and proposed Primitive Areas
            The Nedsbar Timber Sale, if implemented, would log three important roadless areas in the Applegate Valley foothills, including the north slope of Trillium Mountain in the Dakubetede Roadless Area, Cinnabar Ridge in the Buncom Roadless Area, and the north slope of Boaz Mountain in the Boaz Mountain Roadless Area. Commercial logging units in these roadless wildlands should be canceled to preserve the region's pristine character, scenic values, and exceptional recreational opportunities. Both the Buncom and the Dakubetede Roadless Areas have been identified for protection in recent legislative proposals by Senator Wyden as the Dakubetede Primitive Area. All commercial units within the proposed Dakubetede Primitive Area should be canceled until appropriate management objectives are identified for these areas and a formal decision is made regarding their management.  These units should also be canceled due to the impact to scenic values and viewsheds on the Sterling Ditch Trail and the proposed Jack-Ash Trail, a trail that would connect the tourist economies of Ashland and Jacksonville, OR. Much of the local economy (vineyards, property values, recreation, etc) is based around the area's scenic values; industrial logging treatments such as overstory canopy removal, regeneration and disease management will impact this flourishing, localized economy by degrading this scenic, recreational resource.
Wildlife Impacts
The Little Applegate River area provides a narrow “pinch point” in connectivity for late successional species, providing habitat to and from the the Upper Applegate Valley and the Ashland watershed. This connectivity must be retained in any proposed action. The impact of proposed commercial timber extraction to habitat conditions for Pacific fisher and northern spotted owl is well documented, especially when regeneration and disease management logging are involved. Disease management logging is of special concern because documentation shows that 90% of all spotted owl nests in the Applegate drainage are found in dwarf mistletoe brooms in large Douglas fir trees. These are the very trees targeted for clearcut logging in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Simplified stand conditions and canopy reduction from logging activities have also been associated with downgrades in nesting, roosting and foraging habitat for the spotted owl and should be avoided in the Nedsbar Planning Area.

Soil Impacts and Watershed Health:
            The Nedsbar Timber Sale is largely located within the Little Applegate River basin, a key watershed designated in the NW Forest Plan. The potential impact to soil and watershed health due to the Nedsbar Project could be significant, including new road construction, increased OHV use, skid trail development, increased road use due to hauling and timber sale implementation, tractor and cable yarding, regeneration logging, disease management logging, the loss of downed wood recruitment and habitat, soil compaction, etc. The impact of these activities has been shown to negatively effect fisheries resources, ESA habitat and recovery needs, turbidity, water temperature, water quality, water quantity, soil stability, peek flows, etc. These impacts should be avoided in the Little Applegate River watershed for the benefit of important anadromous fish species.

Public trust and Collaborative Efforts
            The project as outlined in the BLM's scoping notice is bound to generate significant amounts of local controversy and will only encourage mistrust between the BLM and local residents. After years of collaborative efforts the community expects more from the agency then irresponsible hand-outs to the timber industry.  If the BLM sees collaboration as a key to future forest management, then accountability is needed from the agency. Far to often the agency talks forest restoration and ecological management, then violates the public trust with disastrous timber proposals including heavy canopy removal, regeneration logging, disease management logging, and new road construction. If the agency does not want to step back into the timber war mentality, then new road construction, regeneration logging, disease management, and aggressive canopy removal should not be proposed in the Nedsbar Project. To include these prescriptions will only generate litigation, protest, mistrust, and public outrage. Trust is built when the BLM walks its talk. Hollow words and business as usual will only further polarize the debate. The wildlife habitat, streams, fisheries habitat, and significant regional biodiversity require a more holistic approach to land management. The current approach is singularly focused, irresponsible, and unacceptable. 
The forested portions of the ridge in the foreground would be logged in the Nedsbar Timber Sale.

An opportunity to get involved
A public meeting is being hosted by the BLM to discuss the Nedsbar Timber Sale with the local community. This is our opportunity to comment and raise concerns about the project and its proposed prescriptions. Please consider attending this important meeting and speaking on behalf of the recreational economy, forests, wildlands, and streams of the Applegate Valley.

Public Meeting: Nedsbar Timber Sale
Where: Jacksonville Public Library
When: July 22, 2014 5:00-7:00 PM


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