Klamath Forest Alliance: 2022 A Year in Review
For over 30 years, Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) has been working across the broader Klamath-Siskiyou region, advocating for forests, wildlife, wildlands, watersheds, and biodiversity. Our goal is simple: the protection of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and their natural environments. Our approach includes passionate grassroots advocacy, extensive on-the-ground monitoring, in-depth scientific analysis, public education, and if necessary, litigation.
Working with conservation partners throughout both northern California and southern Oregon, we have achieved significant victories in 2022, but we also see significant threats ahead in 2023 that must be addressed through aggressive advocacy and thoughtful, strategic action.
We need your support to defend some of the wildest watersheds remaining on the West Coast of North American. Please make a generous year end donation to KFA!
Below we highlight our efforts and successes in 2022 and the work ahead of us in 2023.
Protecting the Siskiyou Crest Land Bridge: Victory at Mt. Ashland!
The Siskiyou Crest is one of the most important habitat connectivity corridors in the Pacific Northwest, connecting the volcanic Cascade Mountains with the lush coastal forests of the Siskiyou Mountains in northwest California and southwest Oregon. This “land bridge” is not only geographically important and biologically significant, it is also the axis of biodiversity on the West Coast of North American and one of the most spectacularly diverse landscapes in the region.
In the summer of 2021, the Klamath National Forest proposed and approved a project to literally pave paradise and put up a parking lot at Mt. Ashland, the highest peak on the Siskiyou Crest, called the Mt Ashland Road Paving Project. This hotspot for botanical diversity, and extremely popular recreation area is located on the easternmost Siskiyou Crest region, near the ranges collision with the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and in a pinch point for regional connectivity.
Utilizing an improperly applied “Categorical Exclusion” for routine road maintenance, the agency approved the project without public comment, without a full analysis of impacts, and without the public disclosure of project impacts. They also approved the project under the faulty assumption that the roads in question were previously paved and, therefore, could again be paved as “routine road maintenance.”
In February of 2022, Klamath Forest Alliance, Applegate Siskiyou Alliance and local resident Eric Navickas filed a notice of intent to sue over the inappropriate use of a Categorical Exclusion, a failure to properly analyze or publicly disclose the project’s impacts, and a failure to provide adequate public comment in the Mt. Ashland Road Paving Project. We also challenged the claim of “routine road maintenance” by exposing the false assertion that Road 20 and Mt. Ashland Summit Road had been previously paved. Shortly after filing our notice of intent to sue, forest managers at the Klamath National Forest admitted their errors and found definitive evidence demonstrating that the roads in question had, in fact, never been paved.
Our legal filings and this “new” information led to the agency’s official withdrawal of the project and we officially stopped the Klamath National Forest from paving paradise and putting up a parking lot at Mt. Ashland! Thanks to KFA’s litigation and our well founded claims, the Mt. Ashland Road Paving Project was permanently canceled and funding from this project was eventually utilized to maintain the area’s existing gravel roads. We believe this outcome was win-win, maintaining and enhancing public access, while sustaining both the quality of the environment and the backcountry recreational experience at Mt. Ashland.
Protecting forests in southwestern Oregon: Victory in the Applegate Foothills!
Starting in 2019, KFA began working with conservation allies in the Applegate River watershed to oppose the Bear Grub Timber Sale. The Bear Grub Timber Sale proposed logging over 1,100 acres of mature and old forest habitat in the foothills of the Applegate Valley, in the Wellington Wildlands, a 7,500 acre roadless area near Ruch, Oregon, and along the extremely popular East Applegate Ridge Trail. Utilizing extensive “group selection” logging, the project proposed to create a patchwork of small, staggered clearcuts in currently closed canopy, mature and old forest habitat.
Targeting older trees and stands, the project was heavily opposed by Klamath Forest Alliance and others in the surrounding community, but was approved by the Medford District BLM and sold to Timber Products Company at auction. Utilizing the last “administrative remedy” left to the opposition, numerous local residents and organizations, including Klamath Forest Alliance, filed Administrative Protests with the BLM and in so doing, deferred any active timber harvest on the Bear Grub Timber Sale until our protests had been reviewed, resolved and responded to.
This past summer, the BLM finally responded by withdrawing the Decision Notice for the Bear Grub Timber Sale due to unanalyzed impacts to the Pacific fisher. For now, the project has been withdrawn, but we hope to see the project permanently canceled. In 2023, we are committed to building off this success and securing the permanent cancellation of the Bear Grub Timber Sale.
Defending old forests throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains
In 2022, Klamath Forest Alliance was busy working throughout the region to protect mature, late successional and old-growth forests on both Forest Service and BLM lands in northern California and southern Oregon.
Northern California Forest Protection
On the Klamath National Forest, two large timber sales have been proposed in the Salmon River watershed. This includes the Bear Country Timber Sale, proposed in both the Wild and Scenic North and South Fork Salmon River watersheds. The project proposes thousands of acres of 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. Through our work, the Bear Country Timber Sale was identified by the Climate Forest Coalition as one of the ten worst timber sales in the country from a climate perspective in the Worth More Standing Report. We expect a Decision Notice on this project any day now and will continue fighting this egregious timber sale in 2023.
We are also opposing the South Fork Timber Sale on the South Fork Salmon River near the popular recreation area, campgrounds and trailheads surrounding Carter Meadows. In this project, the Klamath National Forest has proposed logging beautiful old forests in a connectivity corridor and Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forest located between the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area and the Russian Wilderness Area to the north. Following the 2021 River Complex Fire in the Salmon River watershed, we documented “changed circumstances” in the South Fork Timber Sale area due to nearby fire effects. Recently, the Klamath National Forest put this project “on hold” and in 2023 we will work to ensure the project is permanently canceled. Our work has led to this project being highlighted in the Climate Forest Coalition’s new America’s Vanishing Climate Forests report, which identifies 12 timber sales across the country that have inappropriate climate and habitat impacts.
We are also currently working to oppose the massive Region 5 Post-Disturbance Hazardous Tree Management Project. This massive, unprecedented logging project has been proposed throughout National Forests in California (Region 5) to log “hazard trees” adjacent to forest roads and trails. More specifically we are working on the “North Zone” of this project, which includes the Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity, Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests. The proposal calls for logging up to 300′ from both sides of over 2,700 miles of National Forest roads and 340 miles of trails, removing both dead standing snags, and in some cases live trees, that survived the recent fire events. This includes remote, little-used forest roads and hiking trails outside, but directly adjacent to or leading into the Wilderness Areas across the region. Currently, the project has been approved and KFA is working on Administrative Objections to large portions of the project, including logging adjacent to low standard, little used forest roads and scenic backcountry trails.
Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
In 2021 KFA litigation led to the cancellation of the Slater Fire Re-entry Project, a large post-fire roadside logging project at the headwaters of the Illinois River. In response, the agency has worked throughout 2022 to design a new project to achieve the same goal: logging wide swaths adjacent to roads in the Slater Fire area. To that end, the agency recently proposed the Slater Re-open Project, in July of 2022.
This new project is located south of Takilma, Oregon in the East Fork Illinois River and Dunn Creek watersheds, as well as portions of the nearby Sucker Creek watershed, and would log over 200 miles of National Forest roads, removing both fire killed snags and some live, green trees that survived the Slater Fire. Having already stopped this project once, we will continue to track the project in 2023 and advocate for a reasonable approach focused on true hazard tree mitigation, not large scale timber and biomass production disguised as “hazard tree” abatement.
We also expect the Wild Rivers Ranger District to formally propose the Upper Illinois Project in 2023. According to the still very minimal information that has been made available, this timber sale would extend from the Oregon Caves National Monument to Takilma, Oregon in the southern Illinois Valley. The area proposed for logging in this project is a stronghold for both mature and old-growth forests and anadromous fisheries. In 2023, we will continue tracking activities on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
Oregon Caves National Monument
The Oregon Caves National Monument is located in the headwaters of the Illinois River watershed, near the Siskiyou Crest. The area contains spectacular forests, swift flowing streams, a small section of high country in the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area, and of course, the beautiful marble caves that are a national attraction.
In April of 2022, Oregon Caves National Monument released a Scoping Notice for a new Oregon Caves Fire Management Plan. The proposal identified three options: a no action alternative, an alternative allowing wildland fire suppression, manual fuel reduction and prescribed fire, as well as an alternative allowing “mechanical” fuel reduction with large equipment and potential commercial harvest. Klamath Forest Alliance provided detailed comments discouraging commercial logging as part of the Oregon Caves Fire Management Plan and will continue monitoring this project as it develops in 2023.
Medford District BLM
As usual, the Medford District BLM is also keeping us busy with mature and old forest timber sales across the Rogue and Applegate Valleys of southwestern Oregon. The most egregious is the IVM Project, which authorizes up to 20,000 acres of commercial logging and 90 miles of new road construction over the next decade in Late Successional Reserve forests throughout the region. This proposal also eliminates numerous important public involvement processes, scientific review, and site-specific environmental analysis for timber sales proposed under the IVM framework, allowing the BLM to design timber sales in secret and operate without transparency or public accountability. The goal is to produce timber from Northern spotted owls reserves, while cutting the public out of the process. Our work contributed to the IVM Project being identified in the Worth More Standing report as one of the ten worst federal timber projects in the country.
In 2022, the agency began implementing the IVM Project in the Applegate River watershed, proposing both the Late Mungers Timber Sale and Penn Butte Timber Sale. Located in the mountains above Williams, Murphy and Selma, Oregon, these projects target mature and old forest stands with heavy industrial logging and have been identified by the Climate Forest Coalition to be some of the worst federal land timber sales currently proposed in the country.
For months in 2022, we scoured the woods, identifying units, documenting the timber sale mark, and organizing opposition to these damaging logging projects. Our monitoring efforts demonstrate that spectacular, fire resistant, carbon-rich, old forest habitats are targeted for logging, including many large, old trees between 30″ and 42″ in diameter. These efforts also informed local residents and the conservation community about the realities of the IVM Project, its negative influence on public involvement, its potential environmental impacts, and the damaging industrial logging it facilitates. In 2023, we will continue opposing these projects and exposing the irresponsible old forest logging routinely eoccurring or being proposed on Medford District BLM lands.
Also proposed in the Applegate Valley is the Big Ben LSR Project, another large-scale timber sale proposed under the secretive IVM Project framework. Little is known about this project and the BLM is refusing to provide meaningful information to the public until the project has been fully designed, marked for tree removal and “finalized.”
What we do know is that the project will be located in Late Successional Reserve forest near Tallowbox and Ben Johnson Mountain in the Middle and Upper Applegate River watersheds. KFA will continue tracking this project in 2023, defending native forest habitats, and opposing any project that eliminates or minimizes the public’s right to participate in the public land management planning process.
Finally, in the west hills of the Rogue Valley near the towns of Gold Hill, Rogue River and Jacksonville, the BLM has proposed the Rogue Gold Timber Sale. Targeting the last mature and old forest habitats in the Galls, Foots, and Kane Creek watersheds, this project will impact habitat values and increase fire risks in BLM forests adjacent to towns and residential communities. In 2023, we will continue tracking the Rogue Gold Timber Sale, providing feedback to the BLM during public comment periods, and defending the last old stands in these heavily fragmented watersheds.
Protecting the Wilderness from Fire Suppression Impacts
In 2022, our Klamath-Siskiyou Fire Reports program released the Region 5 Fire Report highlighting the impact of wilderness fire suppression activities in the 2021 fire season throughout northern California. We worked with residents and non-profit conservation organizations throughout the region to document fire effects and fire suppression impacts in four large wildfires. This includes the Lava Fire in the Mt. Shasta Wilderness, the River Complex in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, the Monument Fire in the Trinity Alps Wilderness and the proposed Pattison Wilderness Area near Hayfork, California, and the massive Dixie Fire that burned in the Bucks Lake Wilderness Area in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Each of these fires burned during the 2021 fire season and each of these fires included excessive wilderness fire suppression impacts. Documenting the increase of wilderness bulldozing and damaging fire suppression practices on Region 5 Forest Service lands in California and in adjacent southern Oregon, the report demonstrates the mounting impact of fire suppression in the wildland and wilderness landscape and provided policy recommendations that could reduce these sorts of impacts in the future.
We also worked with conservation organizations across the West to engage elected officials and high level Forest Service leadership about the impact of wilderness bulldozing and other fire suppression impacts during the 2021 fire season. We organized factsheets and photo essays about fire suppression impacts with partners throughout the West for a congressional oversight hearing called by California Representative Ro Kahna on wildfire response and Forest Service forest management policy.
In 2023, we intend to continue our advocacy with policy makers, with congressional staffers, firefighting agencies, and high level Forest Service officials. We also intend to continue our Klamath-Siskiyou Fire Reports Program by monitoring fires that burned during the 2022 fire season for both fire suppression impacts and fire effects.
Looking forward to 2023
In 2023, KFA will continue working to protect and defend the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, but we need your support! We work tirelessly to protect the wildlands of our region, and your small monthly donation makes sure we can continue this important work. Please consider a tax deductible, year-end donation. Start out 2023 by giving back to land! Make a recurring donation and give a little each month.