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Klamath Forest Alliance: 2021 Year in Review

Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) works with grassroots activists and rural communities across the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains to protect the wildlands of our region and maintain the area’s world-class biodiversity. In 2021, KFA’s Siskiyou Field Office was busy advocating for the Siskiyou Crest, the foothills of the Applegate Valley, the headwaters of the Illinois River, the spectacular Salmon River watershed, and for the permanent protection of important rivers and streams in southwestern Oregon, as new Wild and Scenic Rivers.

We also maintained our existing programs, tracking off-road vehicle use on the Siskiyou Crest and working to close down illegal routes, monitoring federal land timber sales, and when necessary opposing them, advocating for connectivity between wildlands, documenting the impact of fire suppression activities on our wilderness landscapes, and advocating for the protection of wilderness values during and after wildfire events.

KFA is fueled by our passion for the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, dedicated to the protection of these spectacular landscapes and supported by others in the region who love and appreciate this place for its wild beauty and renowned biodiversity. Please support our work. This post highlights the efforts of KFA in 2021 and a few of the projects we will be tracking in 2022.

2021 – A YEAR IN REVIEW

A Victory in the Slater Fire Footprint and for the Wildlands of the Siskiyou Crest

East Fork Illinois River Canyon
The East Fork Illinois River canyon and the snowy peaks of the Siskiyou Wilderness after the 2020 Slater Fire. This area was protected from post-fire logging by KFA and Crag Law Center litigation. Photo credit: Deer Creek Photography

In September 2020, under historic east winds, the Slater Fire burned from Happy Camp, California, over the Siskiyou Crest to both the Smith River and the upper Illinois River watersheds in Oregon. The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest responded by proposing a massive post-fire roadside logging project on 146 miles of National Forest roads above Takilma, Oregon. Proposing to log 200’ wide swaths on both sides of essentially every road in the area, the project would have created vast, linear, post-fire clearcuts throughout the region, and in total, 4,106 acres were proposed for commercial logging. This logging was proposed in Late Successional Reserve forest, Riparian Reserves, Special Wildlife Sites, in Designated Backcountry Areas and in areas directly adjacent to both the Red Buttes and Siskiyou Wilderness Areas in the East Fork Illinois River, Dunn Creek, Althouse Creek and Sucker Creek watersheds.

forest service employees stand in front of Slater Fire log deck
Forest Service employees standing with old-growth logs cut along the Takilma-Happy Camp Road near the Page Mountain Snow Park. Photo credit: USFS

The Forest Service approved this project utilizing a Categorical Exclusion, specifically designed to facilitate routine road maintenance, not widespread commercial logging. By utilizing this Categorical Exclusion, the agency was attempting to implement post-fire logging in the Slater Fire footprint without adequate environmental review, without the public disclosure of impacts, and without the public engagement processes that the law clearly requires. Unfortunately, the agency also immediately began logging and selling timber sales along the Takilma-Happy Camp Road (Road 48), which links Happy Camp, California to Takilma, Oregon.

Joining forces with Crag Law Center, KFA filed suit, challenging the use of this inappropriate Categorical Exclusion intended for routine road maintenance, that was used to approve a large commercial logging project. In October 2021, rather than defend their project in court, the Forest Service came to the negotiating table and we reached a settlement agreement that protects the portions of the project that have yet to be logged.

Under this agreement the agency withdrew approximately 75% of the logging originally proposed, and in total, approximately 3,000 acres, along 118 miles of road were spared from commercial logging. This victory on the Siskiyou Crest will dramatically reduce impacts to northern spotted owls, great gray owls, clear flowing salmon streams, regional wildlands, fire adapted forests and their naturally diverse post-fire regeneration in the mountains above Takilma, Oregon. We are proud to serve the wildlands of the upper Illinois River and to support natural, fire regeneration processes on the Siskiyou Crest!

Thanks to Crag Law Center for working alongside us on this important victory!

For more information follow this link.

Protecting Old Forests in Southwestern Oregon

For the past two years, Klamath Forest Alliance has been working to oppose the Bureau of Land Management’s Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) Project. The IVM Project has been proposed in a massive, over 800,000-acre planning area spanning across nearly the entire Medford District BLM and vast swaths of southwestern Oregon. This project would allow the BLM to log up to 20,000 acres of Late Successional Reserve forest and build up to 90 miles of road per decade without additional, site specific, public comment, environmental review or the public disclosure of impacts.

A view across the Penn Butte and Late Mungers Timber Sale areas from Mungers Butte on the divide between the Williams and Deer Creek watersheds.

Some of the first projects proposed for implementation if the IVM Project is approved include the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales in the mountains between the hamlets of Murphy and Williams, Oregon in the Applegate Valley and Selma in the Illinois Valley. Despite no official authorization to do so, the BLM has been designing these timber sales for the past year, simply assuming that the IVM Project will be approved.

Both timber sales are located in a large Late Successional Reserve designated for the protection of Northern spotted owl habitat near Mungers Butte; however, instead of protecting this important habitat, the BLM is proposing to log off large tracts of BLM land, removing Northern spotted owl habitat and degrading old forest habitat. In 2022, KFA will be working with our partners to oppose the IVM Project, the Mungers Butte Timber Sale and the Penn Butte Timber Sale.

This past fall we have also been monitoring proposed commercial logging units in the Rogue Gold Timber Sale on Medford District BLM land in the mountains between Rogue River and Jacksonville, Oregon in the Kane Creek, Galls Creek, and Foots Creek watersheds. Through our monitoring efforts we have identified numerous old forest logging units which we will continue to oppose in 2022.

Finally, throughout 2022, we intend to monitor activities proposed by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in the Upper Illinois River Project. Although still in the early planning stages, the project proposes commercial logging in the upper Illinois River watershed above Takilma and Cave Junction, Oregon. Currently, this project contains two main components: one component focused on logging ridgetop and roadside fuel brakes in the Slater Fire footprint in the East Fork Illinois River, Dunn Creek, Althouse Creek and Sucker Creek watersheds, and another components focused on a “green” tree timber sale, proposed in the mountains and old forests surrounding the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve. KFA is extremely concerned about the Upper Illinios River Project and will continue working to retain large trees, protect old forests and maintain wildlands at the headwaters of the Illinois River watershed.

For more information on the IVM Project follow this link.

For more information on the Rogue Gold Timber Sale follow this link.

Protecting the Wild and Scenic Salmon River from Old Forest Logging

Klamath Forest Alliance has a long history of advocacy in the Salmon River watershed in northern California, and has been working for the past year to oppose the Bear Country Timber Sale located on Blue Ridge, a major ridgeline dividing the North and South Fork Salmon River watersheds. The project proposes old growth and old forest logging in the Eddy Gulch Late Successional Reserve, in the Black Inventoried Roadless Area and in very important Northern spotted owl habitat, representing some of the last occupied nesting sites on the Klamath National Forest.

Unit 34 Bear Country Timber Sale
Old-growth forest proposed for logging on Matthews Creek in the Bear Country Timber Sale.

Although we can support some portions of this project, such as roadside fuel reduction on ingress and egress routes, strategically located prescribed burning and plantation thinning, the commercial components of this timber sale target old forests along the Wild and Scenic South Fork Salmon River near Matthews Campground, along the Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River near Red Banks Campground and in the surrounding watersheds.

The Klamath National Forest has also proposed the South Fork Timber Sale on the South Fork Salmon River, in the mountains above the Carter Meadows and in old growth forests adjacent to the beautiful Trinity Alps and Russian Wilderness Areas. In fact, this project proposes old forest logging in the roadless areas and connectivity corridors that connect the Trinity Alps to the Russian Wilderness, the Marble Mountains Wilderness and beyond.

Throughout 2022, KFA will be opposing these timber sales and advocating for some of the wildest watersheds remaining in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. The extensive on-the-ground monitoring we conducted in 2020, reviewing proposed timber sale units across the Salmon River watershed, will provide site specific information for our campaigns, as we work to stop these egregious old-growth timber sales on the Wild and Scenic Salmon River.

For more information about the Bear Country Timber Sale follow this link.

Protecting Wilderness Areas and Wildlands from Fire Suppression Impacts

Klamath Forest Alliance has spent many years working to reform fire suppression policies in our region, promoting Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST), the restoration of fire as a natural process, the more effective protection of communities from significant fire effects, and when possible, the management of wildfire for resource benefit.

A view across Red Cap Creek to the Salmon Divide following the 2020 Red Salmon Fire.

In recent years overly aggressive, environmentally damaging fire suppression activities, including the increasing use of wilderness bulldozing and inappropriate backburning tactics, have become commonplace, leading to significant impacts inside protected Wilderness Areas and Inventoried Roadless Areas. Each summer fire managers and Forest Service officials are approving the use of bulldozers in the iconic landscapes of our region. In recent years this has included the Siskiyou Wilderness, the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, the Soda Mountain Wilderness, The Trinity Alps Wilderness and Mt. Shasta Wilderness, forever scarring the wildlands with the impacts of industrialized and often ineffective fire suppression. Despite the mounting impacts, Klamath Forest Alliance is the only regional organizations in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains directly pushing back, questioning current suppression strategies and openly advocating directly for conservation values both during and after regional wildfire events.

In 2021, we released our 2020 Red Salmon Fire Report, which documented wilderness bulldozing in the western Trinity Alps Wilderness Area during the 2020 Red Salmon Fire. We also actively monitored fire suppression activities and proposals in real time, advocating for the protection of wilderness and roadless values while fires burned throughout our region in 2021. Although regrettably, significant environmental damage was sustained during the suppression of wildfires in 2021, our real time advocacy was effective in stopping one dozerline in the Mt. Shasta Wilderness during the 2021 Lava Fire, as well as one dozerline in the Trinity Alps Wilderness near Fox Creek Ridge, an extensive dozerline in Inventoried Roadless Areas adjacent to the Russian Wilderness, and in other sensitive locations in the South Fork Salmon River watershed during the 2021 River Fire.

In 2022, we will be working to coordinate with conservation organizations across the region to document the impacts of fire suppression this past season and expose the damage inflicted by bulldozers inside Wilderness Areas and Roadless Areas throughout Northern California in the 2021 fire season. We will also monitor fire suppression activities throughout the region in the summer of 2022.

To read KFA’s 2020 Red Salmon Fire Report follow this link.

Challenging Post-Fire Logging in Northern California

Fire affected forest proposed for logging on the Salmon River following the Red Salmon Fire. Photo credit: Kimberly Baker

In the aftermath of the 2021 fire season, the Forest Service has proposed an unprecedented post-fire logging and tree felling project throughout the National Forests of California, including many thousands of miles of post-fire roadside logging. This project, called Region 5 Post-Disturbance Hazardous Tree Management, proposes post-fire logging and hazard tree felling in forests throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou Region, from the Eel River to the Klamath River, and virtually everywhere in between, including the Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity, Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests. Additional proposals are also being made in the Dixie Fire area in the Mt. Lassen country of the southern Cascade Mountains and throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The project also proposes hazard tree felling along Wilderness trails in both the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Maps accompanying the proposal show extensive hazard tree felling proposed along backcountry trails in both the  Marble Mountains and the Trinity Alps Wilderness Areas.

The Forest Service, in their continued push to reduce or eliminate scientific analysis, public involvement and public accountability, has proposed to utilize what they call “Alternative Arrangements” to approve this massive project. This would allow the agency to avoid public scrutiny, limit scientific analysis, reduce administrative remedies and expedite the planning, approval and implementation process. The goal is to create literally thousands of miles of linear clearcuts along forest roads and wilderness trails throughout the forests and Wilderness Areas of California.

In 2022, KFA will continue tracking this project, defending our Wilderness habitats, opposing widespread post-fire logging on National Forests lands, and working with conservation partners throughout the state to support natural post-fire regeneration on public lands.

Read more about the Region 5 Post-Disturbance Hazardous Tree Management project at this link.

Wild and Scenic River Advocacy in the Applegate River watershed

Iconic streams like the Middle Fork Applegate River would be protected under the River Democracy Act.

For the past two years KFA has been working with our conservation partners in the Applegate Valley to nominate, support and secure new Wild and Scenic River protections in the Applegate River watershed and in watersheds flowing off the northern slope of the Siskiyou Crest. This includes the Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River, Elliott Creek, Carberry Creek, Little Applegate River, Pipe Fork, Slate Creek, and numerous others. Currently, a large portion of our proposal is included in the River Democracy Act introduced by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkely.

If approved, this legislation would create new Wild and Scenic River segments across the state of Oregon, including our proposals in the Applegate River watershed, and would become one of the most significant increases in Wild and Scenic River protections since the inception of the Wild and Scenic River Act. In collaboration with the Oregon Wild and Scenic River Coalition, we have also been working to support proposals across the state of Oregon, including the proposals of our conservation allies in the Illinois River watershed and on the Wild Rivers Coast of Southern Oregon. We hope to see the River Democracy Act approved in 2022 and will be working hard to support that outcome!

For more information about the River Democracy Act’s inclusion of Siskiyou Mountain rivers and streams, follow this link.

Defending Mt. Ashland from Road Paving

Mt. Ashland lupine (Lupinus aridus ssp. ashlandensis).

In the fall of 2021, the Klamath National Forest approved the Forest Service Road 20 Project with absolutely no public engagement, virtually no public notification and no scientific analysis or environmental review. This project proposes paving Forest Service Road 20 from the Mt. Ashland Ski Area to Grouse Gap Shelter and the narrow, winding gravel road that leads to Mt. Ashland, the highest summit on the Siskiyou Crest.

Mt. Ashland is also already one of the most popular and accessible backcountry retreats available to residents and visitors of southwestern Oregon. The area and its many trails are extremely popular for hiking, mountain biking, trail running, jogging, dog walking, botanizing, star gazing, and other forms of backcountry recreation on the Pacific Crest Trail, on the trails in the Ashland Creek watershed, on Road 20, and in the McDonald Peak Roadless Area. The Mt. Ashland area also contains two small backcountry campgrounds popular for their primitive solitude. This includes Grouse Gap Shelter and the Mt. Ashland Campground. The existing recreational uses and infrastructure would be negatively effected by paving and the impacts associated with overuse, increased traffic and driving speeds, a loss of solitude, and impacts to the rare and intact native plant communities so characteristic of the region.

In fact, the entire project is located within the Mt. Ashland-Siskiyou Peak Botanical Area, where numerous rare plant species could be impacted from direct, indirect and cumulative impacts associated with road paving. This includes the Mt. Ashland lupine, which is endemic to 43 acres on Mt. Ashland and found nowhere else in the world. This species and other rare plant species in the area have already been impacted by development on the mountain, roadside parking, the development of unauthorized parking areas, unauthorized use trails, trampling by recreationists and other impacts associated with overuse. These impacts will be compounded by paving roads in the area.

KFA will continue working with Applegate Neighborhood Network to defend Mt. Ashland, its rare plant species and the wild character of the region in 2022.

For more information about the Forest Service Road 20 Project follow this link.

To sign our petition to stop the paving on Mt. Ashland follow this link

Connecting Wild Places

KFA has been busy this year, working to organize a diverse group of organizations and individuals to promote wildlife crossings on Interstate 5 between Dunsmuir, California and Shasta Lake. The Sacramento River Canyon and the surrounding mountains are some of the most scenic in the Interstate 5 corridor. Running along the Sacramento River at the junction of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and the southern Cascade Mountains, the Shasta-Trinity area is particularly important for wildlife and habitat connectivity. It is also, unfortunately, a hotspot for wildlife-vehicle collisions and vehicle related wildlife mortality.

Our goal is to build a diverse coalition working to support strategically created wildlife crossings throughout the Interstate 5 corridor for both the benefit of wildlife and for the safety of drivers traversing our beautiful region. Interstate 5 is the West Coast’s busiest freeway and likely the most significant barrier to wildlife movement in the Klamath-Siskiyou region. In 2022, KFA will be working to build support and secure approval for a series of effective wildlife crossings on Interstate 5 in the Shasta-Trinity Wildlife Corridor.

For more information follow this link.

Looking forward to 2022!

In 2022, KFA will work towards the protection of worthy streams in the Applegate River Watershed with permanent Wild & Scenic River protections. We will also defend against a wide variety of immediate threats to the wildlands of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. From the Wild Rivers Coast to the arid foothills of the Applegate Valley, across the spine of the Siskiyou Crest and into the wild watersheds of the Mid-Klamath Watershed, Klamath Forest Alliance will continue working to protect, defend, restore and rewild the natural world. We are among the most passionate and committed grassroots advocates in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains! Please consider a generous year-end, tax-deductible donation to support our work. Together we can protect the last intact habitats in the Siskiyou Mountains and restore connectivity across the region. For a wilder Klamath-Siskiyou donate to Klamath Forest Alliance!

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