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KLAMATH NATIONAL FOREST PROPOSES MASSIVE POST-FIRE LOGGING PROJECT IN 2014 FIRES

View of the fire mosaic from the Happy Camp Fire in the Grider Creek Roadless Area. Numerous salvage logging units proposed in the Westside Fire Recvoery Project can be seen in this photo. All salvage logging in the Grider Creek watershed should be canceled as it is an important wildlife connectivity corridor.

The wildfires this past summer on the Klamath River burned in the Marble Mountains Wilderness, Russian Wilderness, Salmon River, Lower Scott River, and along the Klamath River between Happy Camp and Hamburg. In all, 215,371 acres burned in the Mid-Klamath watershed, creating a mosaic of mixed severity fire. The fires burned in a characteristic pattern, including roughly two-thirds low to very low severity fire. Many areas burned in the understory, clearing back fuel beneath a canopy of trees; some areas burned in a mixed pattern, thinning the overstory, while others sustained canopy fire, creating snag fields of fire-scorched timber. The result was the landscape-scale restoration of fire in a region with one of the west’s most intact fire regimes.


Despite the regenerative nature of this summer’s fires, the Klamath National Forest has proposed a massive salvage logging project — the Westside Fire Recovery Project (WFRP) — that would log over 40,000 acres of important post-fire habitat on public lands. The treatments proposed would log both green, live trees and fire killed trees. According to the agency’s scoping notice, it is anticipated “that the majority of trees within salvage units will be harvested,” including trees that survived the fire but the agency has decided are likely to die.


In my initial field research I have found numerous WFRP units that include high elevation species adapted to high to moderate severity fire, and stands that sustained less than 50% mortality. In many of the units I have visited, many large, green trees have survived the fires of 2014, but will they survive the logging frenzy to follow? 

Unit 511-Proposed for salvage logging in high elevation mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) forest adjacent to the Lake Mountain Botanical Area and the world’s northern most stands of foxtail pine (Pinus balfouriana). The unit burned at low to moderate severity.

Unit 508- Partially burned red fir (Abies magnifica) forest at over 6000′ proposed for salvage logging

Unit 508- A very large unit on the south face of Tom Martin Peak. Much of the unit burned at low to moderate severity, including this interesting transition zone between serpentine woodland and high elevation forest.
Unit 535- This unit in the Grider Creek watershed and adjacent to the Grider Roadless Area contains many live, old-growth trees of fire adapted species such as jeffery pine and incense cedar. Much of the unit burned at moderate to low severity and natural fire effects helped to maintain an open, fire adapted condition.

Currently the Klamath National Forest is accepting public comments on the Westside Fire Recovery Project. It is important that they hear from you. Below is a list of exclusion zones, project design features, and minimum prescription guidelines that could be incorporated into a public comment on this important issue. 

Exclusion areas
·     
No salvage logging or planting units within
Inventoried Roadless Areas, including the Grider, Tom Martin, Russian, Snoozer,
Kelsey, or Johnson Roadless Areas.
·     
No salvage logging on sensitive soils, active
landslides, earth flows and other erosive soil types.
·     
No salvage units on decomposed granite.
·     
No salvage and no tree planting units in Late
Successional Reserves.
·     
No salvage units in Riparian Reserves.
·     
No salvage units in special habitat designations
such as Northern spotted owl (NSO) activity centers, peregrine falcon or
goshawk activity centers.
·     
No salvage units in Bald Eagle Management Areas.
·     
No salvage in Critical Habitat for NSO.
·     
No salvage logging in designated or recommended
Wild and Scenic River segments.
·     
No salvage units in the Grider Creek drainage to
protect roadless values, watershed values, scenic values — such as the Pacific
Crest Trail (PCT) and connectivity between the Marble Mountains Wilderness and
the adjacent LSRs.
·     
No salvage units should be proposed in the
following watersheds or areas to protect ecological values, scenic values, and
recreational qualities within and adjacent to large Inventoried Roadless Areas
or Wilderness Areas. This would include the following areas:
                  Happy Camp Fire: Grider Creek, N. Fork
Kelsey Creek, McGuffy Creek,                     Kuntz
Creek, Tom Martin Creek
                        Whites
Fire
: E. Fork Whites Gulch, Sixmile Creek, South Russian Creek,                           Tanners Peak area
·     
No salvage in endemic or rare conifer stands and
adjacent available habitat. This would include foxtail pine (Pinus balfouriana),
Baker’s cypress (Cupressus bakeri), and Brewer spruce (Picea breweriana) to
allow for natural regeneration.
Project design features
·     
No new roads, either permanent or temporary.
·     
No tree planting units; natural regeneration is
adequate due to generally small patch size from high severity fire effects. Seed
trees are nearly always present and regeneration adequate. Plantation style
planting will only increase future fire risk and should be avoided at all costs.
·     
No helicopter units. Activity slash left from
helicopter units is very difficult to cleanup and will increase fire activity
in future fires. Likewise the economics of helicopter logging necessitates the
removal of large, old trees and snags.
·     
No salvage logging should take place in
partially burned stands that sustained minimal (less than 70%) mortality.
Undamaged or partially fire damaged stands provide disproportionately important
roles in ecological recovery and refugia for the survival of particular biota.
·     
No salvage logging in high elevation sites above
6,000’, including mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), red fir (Abies magnifica), and white fir (Abies concolor) plant communities. These habitat types are
adapted to long fire return intervals and relatively high severity fire
effects. Scattered snag patches are natural, and due to the landscape location
and short growing season, will recover slowly and create minimal fuels as
succession takes place.  
Minimum prescription guidelines for salvage units
·     
Emphasize the retention of biological legacies
such as large live trees, large snags, coarse woody debris, and intact thickets
of unburned vegetation. These features should be retained in falling and
yarding operations. (Lindenmeyer & Franklin 2008 p.29-34 & 143-146)
·     
Retain adequate large downed wood for slope
stability and regeneration.
·     
Retain adequate snags for downed wood
recruitment and cavity nesting habitat. This may include significantly higher
levels of snag retention than in other logging applications — up to 25 snags
per acre — due to attrition and collapse of damaged trees. The impact of
salvage logging can often accelerate windthrow and attrition in snag fields.
·     
Snags with broken or forked tops, complex
branching, cat faces, fire damage that will encourage hollows and cavity
creation, large diameter trunks, and/or rot resistant species should be
retained.
·     
Retain the largest live trees and snags in all
salvage units. Consider the retention of snags in aggregates with scattered
large snags in between the aggregates. Consider retaining groupings of snags
around existing live trees.
·     
Retain all trees with green foliage. No “bycatch”
logging of green trees should occur in any salvage unit.
·     
No salvage units on slopes exceeding 60%
·     
Burn all activity slash.
Please send public comments
Westside Fire Recovery Project
 Wendy Coats/Klamath National Forest
wcoats@fs.fed.us  

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