Nedsbar Timber Sale: Unit 36-20
|Unit 36-20 consists of mostly closed canopy, mid-seral forest that provides habitat for the northern spotted owl; the unit is adjacent to an owl nesting site.
Unit 36-20 is located on a west facing slope in the Left Fork of Lick Gulch. The unit is also located within the Trillium Mountain portion of the Dakubetede Roadless Area. The unit begins high on the ridge and drops into the Left Fork of Lick Gulch. Roughly one mile of new road construction is proposed under the BLM’s preferred alternative (Alternative 4) to access unit 36-20. The proposed new road construction would be located within approximately 100′ of the Left Fork of Lick Gulch and would severely impact riparian function, hydrology, and sediment delivery regimes. A significant portion of the old, currently closed road would also have to be reconstructed to provide logging access. The reconstruction of this road would also create high levels of sediment and erosion into Lick Gulch. In fact, this very road was recently closed, and blocked by the BLM with a large berm, due to poor location in a riparian reserve and a high risk of sediment delivery in large or small rain events. The new road construction proposed within the riparian reserve of Left Fork Lick Gulch should be canceled and the currently decommissioned road should be allowed to fully heal — it is already on its way — so that the intended restorative effects of road decommissioning can be achieved.
Shown here is the currently closed section of road that is proposed for reconstruction to access unit 36-20. Nearly one mile of new road construction will extend beyond the area in this photo. Both the road construction and road reconstruction will take place within 100′ of the stream corridor.
Unit 36-20 consists of mid to late seral ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. Much of the stand supports a relatively closed canopy with scattered openings colonized by large madrone and manzanita. The northern half of the unit faces southwest and supports a higher percentage of pine, while the southern portion of the unit faces northwest and subsequently supports more Douglas fir. A small ephemeral stream lined in large Douglas fir trees divides the unit into two fairly equal sections. The unit lies directly adjacent to an “owl core,” that protects a known spotted owl nesting site. Unit 36-20 supports nesting, roosting, and foraging (NRF) habitat for the northern spotted owl at its eastern end, while the western portion has been classified as “dispersal.” Nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat represents intact habitat that can support all life cycles of the northern spotted owl. The “owl core” adjacent to unit 36-20 still supports relatively high levels of nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat, making the suitable habitat and dispersal habitat in unit 36-20 that much more important.
The BLM is proposing that the unit be treated with a “Selective Thinning Ponderosa Pine 40%” prescription, meaning that forests in the area will be reduced to 40% canopy closure. This would downgrade the unit’s NRF habitat and disturb habitat conditions adjacent to a known owl nesting site. 40% is the lowest allowable canopy closure required within spotted owl habitat.
Although portions of the unit could be thinned with good results, such an outcome depends upon successful and responsible implementation. Based on the outcome of previous timber sales in the area, many in the community are nervous.
On the ridgeline above unit 36-20 are a number of units from the recent O’Lickety Timber Sale, including unit 64-1 where logging occurred in what was NRF habitat for the spotted owl. These units provide a stark example of what the BLM intends for unit 36-20. Although the O’Lickety Timber Sale was intended to maintain habitat for the spotted owl, numerous units have been documented to have been over-cut, downgrading northern spotted owl habitat from NRF to dispersal or from dispersal to non-habitat. Canopy closure in the O’Lickety Timber Sale was to be maintained at a minimum of 40% and has been documented to have been reduced to as low as 28% in some units. The yarding corridors in the O’Lickety units break the forest into vertical swaths of heavily thinned trees, divided by soil churned and gouged by heavy logs as they were dragged against the slope and up to a log landing. Many large, old trees were removed while many trees retained were badly damaged by yarding operations.
Unit 64-1 in the O’Lickety Timber Sale. After this unit was logged, the forested stand was “downgraded” from nesting, roosting and foraging habitat for the northern spotted owl, to dispersal habitat, a lower quality habitat. This means that forest once considered suitable for the entire lifecycle of the spotted owl currently provides only the opportunity for “dispersal” through the area.
Those of us who live in the Applegate Valley and who will have to live with the outcome of the Nedsbar Timber Sale are concerned. It is our homes that will be threatened with increased fuel hazards; it is our quality of life that will be disrupted; it is our views, water quality, wildlife habitat and forests that will be degraded and abused. Due to the persistent problem of over-cutting and downgrading spotted owl habitat by the Medford District BLM, all Nedsbar units in NRF habitat should be canceled, including unit 36-20. Likewise, all new road construction should be canceled, especially new road construction within riparian reserves, like the road proposed on the Left Fork of Lick Gulch.