Nesdbar Timber Sale: Bald Mountain Units
|Old-growth Douglas fir trees in unit 28-10C
This week a group of Little Applegate residents joined me for a day of monitoring of the Nedsbar Timber Sale. We drove up Little Applegate Road and up BLM logging roads to the western flank of Bald Mountain. Our goal was to survey units 28-10A, 28-10B, 28-10C, and 28-11B. The units sit in a cluster and border one another making a roughly 65-acre timber harvest area. Together they also support a contiguous swath of old, complex forest. Much of the 65 acres has never been logged — except a narrow strip along the road that was selectively logged many years ago — and the forest still functions as refugia for old-growth dependent species such as the Pacific fisher and northern spotted owl. In fact, the area lies within close proximity to an “owl core,” designated to protect a documented spotted owl nesting site. Much of the area was identified in the Bald Lick Timber Sale — which also proposed to cut this area, but did not sell — as nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat (NRF) for the northern spotted owl. The area is more productive than most of the Nedsbar Timber Sale area and the stands support a significant population of old-growth trees. As shown in the photo below, these old-growth trees were often found in groupings or clusters, however, we also found found them in ancient old-growth groves. We took measurements of trees which ranged from 24″-56″ in diameter.
|Old-growth Douglas-fir trees in unit 28-10B, with trees marked in blue to be removed under the old Bald Lick Timber Sale.
|Using an increment borer to determine tree age in unit 28-10A
Units 28-10A, 28-10B, and 28-10C are proposed to be selectively logged to 40% canopy coverage. Unit 28-11B would be logged using a “group selection” cut, meaning trees would be removed in groupings, creating logged-off forest openings. Trees would also be retained in groupings, leaving a broken, patchy canopy. Openings could comprise 25% of the stand, creating fragmentation of important late seral habitat. A small sliver of unit 28-11B near the road is proposed to be thinned to encourage ponderosa pine. Trees up to 48″ were found to have been marked for removal in the old Bald Lick Timber Sale mark — which didn’t sell and wasn’t logged — and it is highly likely that large trees would “need” to be logged in the Nedsbar Timber Sale to reach the proposed 40% canopy coverage. This level of canopy reduction would downgrade spotted owl habitat from nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat to dispersal habitat, a lower quality habitat. This means that forest currently supporting the structural characteristics required to fulfill all portions of the owl’s lifecycle will only function to allow owls to “disperse” through the stand in search of more suitable habitat.
The BLM’s proposed prescriptions would also increase fire and fuel hazards in the Bald Mountain area by increasing solar infiltration and generating dense, young growth, creating ladder fuels and heavy fuel loads. This is particularly important for two reasons: First, the stand is surrounded on three sides by dense shrub fields of bitter cherry, hazel, serviceberry, and ocean spray. It is likely that this dense shrubby growth will encroach upon the forest stand after the canopy is reduced through logging. Second, because the BLM recently logged (Bald Lick/White Hat Timber Sale) or is proposing to log a large portion of the area in the Nedsbar Timber Sale, the combined effect would be a drastic increase in fuel loads and subsequent fire hazards in the area.
The units identified
Units units 28-10A, 28-10B, 28-10C, and 28-11B exist within a small 1,500 acre roadless area, supporting dry grasslands, oak woodlands, mixed conifer forests and hardwood stands. The area provides connectivity between the low elevation Dakubetede Roadless Area and the high elevation wildlands in the McDonald Peak Roadless Area.
The Bald Mountain area is also proposed as a portion of the Jack-Ash Trail, a non-motorized trail that would lead from Ashland to Jacksonville, Oregon. The Jack-Ash Trail would also provide access to the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, a popular non-motorized trail system in the Little Applegate watershed. The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail was recently designated a State Scenic Trail by the state of Oregon. The trail is widely known and loved by residents of the Rogue and Applegate Valleys. Hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers are increasingly taking to this trail for its ecological, scenic, and recreational qualities. The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail and the proposed Jack-Ash Trail have been promoted by a local trail group called the Siskiyou Uplands Trail Association. The trail is being proposed to enhance the thriving tourist economies of both Ashland and Jacksonville. An undesignated trail, that is proposed to serve as a portion of the Jack-Ash Trail, currently traverses Nedsbar unit 28-10B and would look out over units 28-10A, 28-10C, and 28-11B.
A photo of Bald Mountain from the
Little Applegate River canyon. The proposed Jack-Ash Trail will traverse the
ridgeline from Bald Mountain through the top of the Nedsbar Timber Sale units
circled in red in the photo above.
Those of us who hiked these beautiful stands left with one unanimous feeling: that units 28-10A, 28-10B, 28-10C, and 28-11B should not be logged. In fact, the units should be canceled from the Nedsbar Timber Sale. They are a remnant of complex, old forests that once covered nearly half the Little Applegate Watershed. With less than 15% remaining, it is time for the BLM to reform their timber program, stop logging old-growth trees and support rural communities by reducing fuels, providing recreational opportunities, contributing to the quality of life in rural areas, and learn to be good neighbors.
|BLM graph from their 1993 document “Seral Stage Vegetation of the Little Applegate Valley.” Seral stage classes refer to stand age: early seral is younger forest, mid seral is middle-aged forest, and late seral is older forest.
|Measuring trees in unit 28-10A
|Measuring trees in unit 28-10B