The Rogue Gold Timber Sale: Logging the Last Old Forest above the Rogue River Valley
The Rogue Gold Timber Sale has been proposed by the Medford District BLM in the heavily logged Kane Creek, Galls Creek and Foots Creek watersheds. The project proposes commercial logging on 2,052 acres, including logging in the so-called “harvest land base,” in Late Successional Reserves (LSR) — forest designated to protect habitat for the Northern spotted owl — and in Riparian Reserves designated to protect aquatic habitats and water quality.
The project also targets some of the last, old forests remaining in the mountains between Jacksonville, Gold Hill and Rogue River, Oregon for commercial logging. Like most other timber sales on the Medford District BLM, the agency has tied old forest logging that will increase fire risks and degrade intact forest habitats, to fuel reduction adjacent to homes and communities.
Exploiting the public’s fear of fire, the agency has rebranded every timber sale, no matter how egregious, as a fuel reduction or “forest health” project. Under current BLM double speak, all logging is beneficial to the environment, including significant canopy reductions, the removal of Northern spotted owl habitat, the removal of large diameter trees, and the implementation of staggered clearcut logging that the BLM misleadingly calls “group selection” harvest. Additionally, the BLM claims that virtually any level of logging and tree removal will reduce wildfire risks to nearby communities. Yet, the reality on the ground is often far more complicated.
In fact, in BLM’s own recent analysis the agency admits that the group selection logging proposed in every timber sale since 2016 will increase fire risks for at least 20 years.
“For the first one to five years after harvest, these stands would remain a slash fuel type until the shrubs, grasses, and planted trees become established. After establishment of regeneration, these stands would move into a brush fuel type. Brush fuel types are more volatile and are susceptible to high rates of fire-caused mortality. Stands could exhibit higher flame lengths, rates of spread, and fire intensity during this time. Fires started within these stands could be difficult to initially attack and control… For five to 20 years following planting, the overall fire hazard would increase in these stands, resulting in young high density, stand establishment structure that has a relatively higher fire hazard (Griffin Halfmoon EA).”
Yet in the arid watersheds of the Rogue Gold Timber Sale area the BLM is both claiming to “reduce stand susceptibility to disturbances such as fire,” and proposing both group selection logging and heavy canopy removal, which will increase fire risks for at least 20 years following logging operations.
The BLM also claims in their Scoping Notice for the Rogue Gold Timber Sale that their LSR logging will, “Promote the development of nesting-roosting habitat…for the northern spotted owl,” when in fact, the logging proposed with either degrade, downgrade or remove currently suitable Northern spotted owl habitat.
Make no mistake, the Rogue Gold Timber Sale and other timber sales proposed by the BLM are designed to produce board footage for the mills and money for the timber industry, not to improve habitat or protect communities from the threat of wildfire. Indeed, when monitoring the Rogue Gold Timber Sale, we found numerous fire resistant, old-growth or late successional forests have been targeted for commercial logging.
On Kane Creek, Foots Creek and at the headwaters of Galls Creek we have visited multiple old growth or late successional forest stands proposed for logging in the Rogue Gold Timber Sale. Surrounded by fresh private land clearcuts, historic BLM clearcuts and timber plantations, these habitats are important as some of the last islands of old forests in the watershed. Some stands have been identified as LSR forest where complex old forest should be maintained as Northern spotted owl habitat, while other stands include protected Riparian Reserves, and still others are conifer stringers extending into exposed slopes of oak and chaparral.
Please contact the Medford District BLM before October 24, 2021 and ask them to:
- Retain the last islands of old forest in these degraded watersheds and cancel all old forest logging units over 80 years of age.
- Institute a 20″ upper diameter limit in the planning area due to historic logging impacts, a significant shortage of old forest and a general lack of large diameter trees.
- Do not implement “group selection logging” anywhere in the planning area. This form of logging degrades forest habitat, degrades Northern spotted owl habitat, and increases fire risks.
- Maintain at least 60% canopy cover in all stands treated with manual thinning treatments, as additional canopy loss will degrade suitable Northern spotted owl habitat and increase fire risks.
- Cancel all commercial logging units in Nesting, Roosting, and Foraging habitat to maintain habitat for the Northern spotted owl and reduce competition from barred owls.
- Maintain all suitable Northern spotted owl habitat for the recovery of the species and for the benefit of additional late successional species like the Pacific fisher.
- Build no new temporary or permanent roads in the already heavily roaded planning area.
- Reduce road density by decommissioning existing roads within Riparian Reserves, in geologically unstable areas, and in locations not necessary for the future management of BLM lands.
- Address unauthorized off-road vehicle activities by conducting Travel Management Planning and closing those off-road routes that were built without authorization and/or contain significant cumulative ecological impacts.
To view BLM documents and submit electronic comments: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2015764/510
Email your comment to the BLM at: BLM_OR_AFO_VMP@blm.gov
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