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Siskiyou Mountain Range

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Bear Grub Timber Sale: A Threat to the Forests and Communities of the Applegate Valley

Unit 13-1 directly below the East Applegate Ridge Trail contains open, fire resistant forest dominated by large, old trees.

The Medford District BLM recently proposed a new timber sale in the foothills of the Applegate and Rogue River Valleys within the rainshadow of the Siskiyou Crest. The arid forests targeted for logging in the Bear Grub Timber Sale are the driest forest habitats in Western Oregon. Although designated for timber production, as “timber harvest landbase” by the Medford District BLM, these forests simply cannot sustain the level of logging proposed in the Bear Grub Timber Sale while still maintaining important social and biological values. 

Biodiversity & Wildlife

Large trees marked for removal in unit 13-6 along the East Applegate Ridge Trail.

Found within a larger mosaic of chaparral, oak woodland, hardwood forests and arid grasslands, the forests of the Bear Grub Timber Sale are extremely important for their habitat values, connectivity and biodiversity. The area supports a unique assemblage of Pacific Northwest, California foothill, and Great Basin species found nowhere else in the state of Oregon. 

The forests of the region support endangered wildlife such as the Northern spotted owl and Pacific fisher, significant populations of the Great gray owl, and more common species such as black bear, cougar, coyote and large herds of black tailed deer. The region’s mature, closed canopy forests provide nesting, roosting and foraging habitat for the Northern spotted owl, denning and resting habitat for the Pacific fisher, nesting habitat for Great gray owls, and thermal cover for a variety of wildlife species. 

Unit 14-2 in the lower Poorman’s Creek watershed and within the viewshed of the East Applegate Ridge Trail has been marked using a group selection prescription. All trees in this photograph would be removed despite the open, resilient stand conditions.

In the Bear Grub Timber Sale the BLM has proposed to fragment and degrade mature forest habitats with “group selection” logging. This includes many acres of mature, closed canopy, fire resistant forest and the last unlogged forests in the Bear Grub planning area.

Group selection logging would allow the BLM to clearcut numerous blocks of mature, closed canopy forest, up to 4 acres in size, in each timber sale unit. These staggered clearcuts can account for up to 30% of a given timber sale unit, dramatically altering the forest composition and structure, fragmenting forest canopies, reducing late successional habitats and dramatically increasing fire risks. 

Community Fire Risks

A group selection unit implemented in the 2014 Sterling Sweeper Timber Sale in the Little Applegate has filled in with dense, young growth and has transformed formerly cool, shaded forest into a hot, windy environment more susceptible to high severity fire following past logging treatments.

The Bear Grub Timber Sale proposes to remove whole groves of large, fire resistant trees using group selection logging “prescriptions.” This will convert cool, shaded habitats into dry, windy environments more susceptible to high severity fire. The increased sunlight and wind penetration will dry forest fuels, increase wind-driven fire events, and create an overabundance of young, highly flammable vegetation. Canopy gaps created by group selection logging will respond by regenerating abundant woody trees and shrubs, increasing both fuel loads and fire risks. 

A whole grove of fire resistant trees marked for removal.

In fact, according to BLM management guidelines, if group selection openings do not regenerate into highly flammable thickets, they will replant them with young, highly flammable and commercially valuable conifer species.  

Recent environmental analysis
in the BLM’s Griffin Halfmoon Timber Sale near Hyatt Lake and the Clean
Slate Timber Sale near Selma, demonstrates that similar logging
proposals have been shown to increase fire risks in Southwestern Oregon. According to the BLM, following logging treatments these stands, “could exhibit higher flame lengths, rates of spread and fire intensity. Fires started within these stands could be difficult to initially attack and control. For 5 to 20 years following planting, the overall fire hazard would increase” (Clean Slate Environmental Assessment P. 192, Griffin Halfmoon Environmental Assessment P. C-17).

The Bear Grub Timber Sale and its
extensive group selection logging prescriptions will have similar effects; however, due to the significantly more arid growing conditions and slower conifer growth
rates in the dry Applegate foothills, these fire risks could be more persistent on the landscape. This is particularly important because the entire Bear Grub Timber Sale is located within a Wildland Urban Interface and proposes to implement commercial logging treatments directly adjacent to homes and communities.

Fire resistant forest proposed for logging in the Wellington Wildlands.

If implemented as currently proposed, the Bear Grub Timber Sale will threaten hundreds of rural homes with additional fire risks in the Applegate Valley, as well as the communities of Talent and Phoenix in the Rogue River Valley. Although the BLM’s 2016 Resource Management Plan requires them to implement activities in the dry forests of Southwestern Oregon that will reduce fire risks and increase fire resilience, it appears that the Medford District BLM has prioritized timber production over the safety and welfare of nearby communities. The Bear Grub Timber Sale will increase fuel loading, increase fire severity, increase fire risks and create significantly higher levels of future home and infrastructure loss during wildfire events. For these reasons alone, the Bear Grub Timber Sale should be canceled.

                                                  Impacts to Recreation

Trees marked for removal along the East Applegate Ridge Trail in unit 13-6 of the Bear Grub Timber Sale.

Group selection logging is also proposed along the extremely popular East Applegate Ridge Trail and Jack-Ash Trail. These relatively new trails were designed, built and funded entirely with community donations and grants and significant public support. As soon as the trails were built, hikers began flocking to the area due to its unusual combination of accessibility and extreme beauty. Local community members spent over 5 years working with the BLM to develop these trails and they have quickly become the pride of the Applegate Valley. They are also cherished by residents of the Rogue River Valley and tourists visiting the area.

These trails contribute significantly to the quality of life in the region, and ultimately the Applegate Ridge Trail and Jack-Ash Trails are proposed to travel over 80 miles, connecting the communities of Ashland, Jacksonville, Grants Pass and the Applegate Valley. Together these non-motorized trails would highlight the beauty of the Siskiyou Mountains and benefit nearly every community in the region. 

The East Applegate Ridge Trail winds down to Highway 238 on lower Poorman’s Creek. The forest across the canyon is targeted for group selection logging in the Bear Grub Timber Sale.

In fact, the sections of currently developed trail on the East Applegate Ridge Trail and Jack-Ash Trail are already receiving extremely abundant use by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers throughout Southwestern Oregon. The trails are heavily supported throughout the region and provide both a significant recreational draw and economic opportunity for the area. 

Despite widespread public support for these trail systems, the Bear Grub Timber Sale proposes to implement group selection logging adjacent to the Jack-Ash Trail and the East Applegate Ridge Trail. The timber sale also proposes units along proposed trail segments currently being designed as future additions to both the Jack-Ash and Applegate Ridge Trails. 

Wellington Wildlands
Looking down China Gulch in the Wellington Wildlands to the Applegate Valley near Ruch, Oregon.

While driving Highway 238 through the Applegate Valley you can’t miss the numerous Save Wellington Wildlands signs posted across the community. Wellington Wildlands is a 7,527-acre roadless area located between Ruch and Humbug Creek at the heart of the Applegate Valley. An effort is underway to save the Wellington Wildlands from the Bear Grub Timber Sale, which proposes to commercially log portions of this ecologically important landscape and degrade its wildland characteristics.

Well loved and heavily supported in the region, Wellington Wildlands is a uniquely accessible, low elevation habitat with intact
oak woodland, chaparral, grasslands, and dry mixed conifer forests. It is also proposed as a central feature of the Applegate Ridge Trail between Jacksonville and Grants Pass.

A proposed timber sale unit in the China Gulch Watershed in the Wellington Wildlands.

11 commercial timber sale units have been identified at the headwaters of China Gulch in the Wellington Wildlands. These units contain stands of mature forest with scattered old-growth trees. Logging these stands will impact biological values, degrade Northern spotted owl habitat and reduce the acreage of this roadless area, dropping it below 5,000 acres by logging significant acreage. The units would also isolate nearly 2,000 acres from the eastern portion of the roadless area. If these portions are logged or severed from the roadless area, future protection of Wellington Wildlands will become far more difficult to secure. Please help us save Wellington Wildlands!

A Lack of Public Involvement 

Concern is also growing about the BLM’s lack of transparency and failure to collaborate with local community members during the Bear Grub Timber Sale planning process. Currently the project is being planned behind closed doors and without speaking to those who will be most impacted. The BLM’s Bear Grub Timber Sale represents not only a transition towards clearcut logging and increased timber production, but also a transition away from public collaboration and public involvement. 

Although this project surrounds many homes and communities, the agency has made no attempt to provide meaningful public involvement opportunities beyond the mandated scoping comment period. In fact, the agency has completely refused to meet with local residents to discuss this timber sale being marked in their backyards. Instead, the BLM is telling community members that they will only meet with them after official proposals have been solidified and the Environmental Assessment has been released, minimizing the public’s ability to influence the project during the crucial early planning phase. 

Old-growth forest proposed for logging in unit 21-2 in the Bear Grub Timber Sale on the north slope of Bald Mountain above Talent, Oregon.

             Stop the Bear Grub Timber Sale!

The Bear Grub Timber Sale will threaten local communities with increased fire risks, impact important wildlife habitat and degrade recreational opportunities. The Bear Grub Timber Sale and its complete lack of meaningful public involvement reflects the policies of the Trump Administration trickling down to the local level, into our region and our forests. Public land managers at the BLM are now encouraged to avoid public involvement, expedite the NEPA process, minimize environmental analysis and emphasize resource extraction on public land. Its up to us to push back! Our forests and communities are not sacrifice zones! Please take action now to support the forests of the Siskiyou Mountains and the communities of Southwestern Oregon. You can help stop the Bear Grub Timber Sale!

Send a letter to the BLM and to elected officials in the State of Oregon sharing your concerns. The forests of the region need your help.

Send letters to: 

BLM Officials
Elizabeth Burghard, Medford District Manager

Lauren Brown, Ashland Resource Area Manager

Elected Officials:
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley

The blue polygons depict proposed commercial logging units in the Bear Grub Timber Sale. The yellow polygons depict “potential fuel reduction” units.