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Rogue River between Agness and Illahe in the Shasta Agness Planning Area

Shasta Agness Timber Sale: Industrial Logging Dressed Up in Restoration Language

Rogue River between Agness and Illahe in the Shasta Agness Planning Area
The Rogue River between Agness and Illahe in the Shasta Agness Planning Area.

At the confluence of the Illinois River and the mighty Rogue River, below some of the wildest river canyons on the West Coast, lies beautiful Agness, Oregon. Just downstream of the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area, Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, and the Shasta Costa Roadless Area, the mountains, rivers and streams of the region are important for connectivity between the Western Siskiyou Mountains and the Coast Range.

The forests surrounding Agness have also been designated as a large Late Successional Reserve (LSR) to protect, maintain and encourage the development of habitat for the Northern spotted owl and other species requiring late successional or old-growth forests.

view across Foster Creek and large LSR forest proposed for logging in the Shasta Agness Project
A view across Foster Creek and the large LSR forest proposed for logging in the Shasta Agness Project.

The area contains an unusual mosaic of coastal mixed conifer forest, including large stands of old-growth Douglas fir and Port Orford cedar, abundant groves of tanoak, madrone and live oak, isolated deciduous oak habitats, unique serpentine woodlands, and coastal serpentine chaparral. The area supports abundant habitat for the threatened Northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet, the newly rediscovered Pacific or Humboldt marten, and the Pacific fisher.

Known for its wild rivers, old-growth forests, abundant fisheries, globally significant botanical diversity, and regionally significant wildland habitats, the area is highly important for both conservation and recreation in southwestern Oregon and along the Wild Rivers Coast.

Despite the incredibly important conservation and recreational values of the region, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has recently published a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Decision Record for the so-called Shasta Agness Landscape Restoration Project. These documents tentatively approve a series of large timber sales in the mountains surrounding Agness, along both the Rogue and lower Illinois Rivers.

Unit 150 in the Shasta Agness Project
Unit 150 in the Shasta Agness Project is proposed for serpentine pine logging treatments and is described in the FEIS as dry Jeffrey pine savanna with an herbaceous understory. Instead the stand consists of Port Orford cedar and Douglas fir with a mesic coastal shrub community (e.g. rhododendron, azalea, tanoak, and red huckleberry) in the understory. Trees up to 26″ in diameter will be removed in this stand and canopy cover could be reduced to as low as 20%. Our field monitoring found numerous trees in this stand between 20″ and 24″ in diameter to be between 143 and 224 years old. Soil productivity is low, and growth is slow on serpentine sites, making them inappropriate for commercial logging.

Although dressed up in misleading restoration language, the Shasta Agness Project is, in fact, an industrial logging project that will remove large, fire resistant trees, alter currently healthy, fire resistant stand conditions, increase fuel loading, desiccate forest habitats, and degrade or eliminate important mature to late successional forest habitats in LSR forest. The currently approved Draft Decision Record identifies 3,770 acres for commercial logging, up to 5 miles of new road construction, the reopening of 17 miles of long unused, non-system roads, and 4.3 miles of new motorized off-road vehicle trails. Does this sound like “restoration” to you?

Field monitoring conducted by the Klamath Forest Alliance demonstrates that many of the so-called oak and pine restoration treatments do not actually contain a significant oak or pine component to release, restore or maintain. Instead they are mature, closed canopy, mixed conifer forests between 80 and 140 years old with significant timber volume. The Shasta Agness Project proposes to convert these mature, closed canopy conifer forests into oak and pine habitats by logging large, old trees, dramatically reducing or removing canopy cover in LSR forest habitats and artificially planting seedlings of pine and oak species.

mature closed canopy forest oak restoration unit 150
This mature closed canopy forest has been identified as “oak restoration” unit 51 in the Shasta Agness Project. The stand contains almost no deciduous oak trees and the proposed “oak restoration” treatments would degrade habitat conditions rather than restore them. “Oak restoration” in this and many other stands will require logging nearly all conifer trees below 28” in diameter and removing nearly all conifer overstory. This will be followed by the artificial planting of small oak seedlings that will require numerous decades to mature. The highly competitive tanoak, madrone and conifer regeneration prevalent in coastal areas like Agness will outcompete these oak trees, creating thickets of coastal regeneration, not oak woodlands like the FEIS suggests.

Supposedly to achieve these goals, the agency has proposed to log trees up to 28″ in diameter and up to 140 years old in violation of existing management direction in the Northwest Forest Plan and Siskiyou National Forest Land & Resource Management Plan. The Shasta Agness FEIS discloses that up to 15,000 trees over 20″ in diameter would be logged in the timber sales approved in the Shasta Agness Project, producing significant timber volume for the industry while degrading habitat values in this important LSR forest.

northern quarter of unit 53
The northern quarter of unit 53, like many other proposed “oak restoration” units is dominated by coastal influenced mixed conifer forest. This conifer forest will be largely cleared to plant little oak seedlings and supposedly “restore” deciduous oak habitats. These treatments are inappropriate in LSR forest, will not ultimately restore oak habitats, and will dramatically increase fuel loading near communities at risk. KFA and other conservation allies are opposing these portions of the Shasta Agness Project.

Although Klamath Forest Alliance supports responsible fuel management, true ecological restoration and community fire protection work, we have opposed much of the Shasta Agness Project. Recently we filed an Administrative Objection to the Draft Decision Record and FEIS, demanding compliance with existing management plans in LSR forest, and the protection of mature to late successional forest habitats, Northern spotted owl habitat, Pacific marten habitat, as well as the withdrawal of all inappropriate pine and oak “restoration” treatments.

Please contact the Forest Service and ask them to:

  • Withdraw the proposed “plan amendments” that allow the agency to log trees over 20″ in diameter and over 80 years of age in LSR forest.
  • Cancel all proposed oak treatments in stands that do not currently contain a significant oak component. This includes units 9, 10, 51, 52, 53 (northern 1/4 of unit), 54, 73, 74 (east half), 75, 76, 78, and 79.
  • Cancel all serpentine pine and sugar pine treatments in stands that do not currently contain a significant pine component. this includes units 23, 29, 33, 39, 59, 60, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 120, 121, 123, 125, 150, 152, and 281.
  • Cancel all treatments within the home range of documented Northern spotted owls and Pacific marten sightings in the project area.
  • Cancel all commercial logging in Riparian Reserves outside plantation stands.
  • Cancel new road construction.
  • Focus restoration treatments on soil and slope exposures that are favorable for oak woodland habitats and currently contain significant oak components.
  • Implement fuel reduction treatments in strategic locations within 1/4 mile of communities.
  • Close existing illegal motorized trails rather than approve them for motorized use.

Contacts: 

Merv George, Forest Supervisor Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest: merv.george@usda.gov

Wade McMaster, District Ranger, Gold Beach Ranger District: wmcmaster@fs.fed.us

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