Applegate Siskiyou Alliance and our partners at Klamath Forest Alliance just released a short video about the Applegate Headwaters Wild and Scenic River proposal. The video highlights wild streams previously proposed for protection under Senator Wyden’s River Democracy Act, including the Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River, Cook and Green Creek, Whisky Creek, and Elliott Creek.
Unfortunately, Senator Wyden recently released a new version of his legislation and removed many streams in the Applegate River watershed from proposed protections, including all streams at the headwaters of the Applegate River in northern California. We are working to restore these streams to the River Democracy Act and support their protection as new Wild and Scenic River Segments.
2022 was a busy year in the Applegate Siskiyous, with significant conservation victories and numerous emerging threats to the region. In 2023, Applegate Siskiyou Alliance (ASA) will continue responding to these threats and working to expand and multiply our victories.
Although we spend incredible amounts of time working to address the seemingly endless barrage of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) timber sales in the Applegate Valley, we also find time to work proactively, building support for long-term conservation goals through the Siskiyou Crest Coalition. We coordinate community-based, public land stewardship projects, work to approve and build new non-motorized trails, lead public hikes in the wildlands of the Applegate, and offer educational opportunities that build a stronger sense of place and a deeper appreciation for the Siskiyou Mountain’s unique biodiversity.
From the Applegate River’s confluence with the Rogue River to its headwaters on the Siskiyou Crest, no other organization works specifically to protect, defend, rewild and restore the entire Applegate River watershed and the Applegate Siskiyous!
All donations over $100 made between now and January 1, 2023 will receive an Applegate Siskiyou Alliance t-shirt (organic & fair trade). Please make sure to include your email address with the donation and we will contact you for sizing and mailing information.
Below are highlights from 2022 and ongoing projects we expect to continue working on throughout 2023:
Success in the Applegate Siskiyous!
Victory at Mt. Ashland!
In February of 2022 ASA and Klamath Forest Alliance filed suit to halt the proposed paving of Road 20 near Mt. Ashland and the Mt. Ashland summit road. Our lawsuit claimed that road 20 had never been paved and therefore the use of a Categorical Exclusion for “routine road maintenance” was inappropriate. Concerned by the implications of this project on the environment and its effect on the wild character of the region, our suit also claimed that the Klamath National Forest did not adequately analyze the project or provide sufficient public involvement.
In short order, the Klamath National Forest realized we were correct, the Categorical Exclusion being used to approve the project was invalid, and the road, in fact, had never been paved. The agency withdrew the project and we, in turn, withdrew our litigation. Following withdrawal of the project, the Forest Service used the funding available for road maintenance to regrade and re-gravel road 20, providing public benefit without paving paradise on the Siskiyou Crest.
Victory for the Bear Grub Timber Sale!
Since 2019 ASA has been working to stop the Bear Grub Timber Sale located in the mountains above Ruch and the Little Applegate Valley. This timber sale proposes nearly 1,100 acres of commercial logging, including 293 acres in the Wellington Wildlands, an over 7,500-acre roadless area between Ruch and Humbug Creek on BLM lands. It also includes logging units along the popular East Applegate Ridge Trail.
The timber sale proposed extensive “group selection logging,” a form of staggered clearcut forestry that would increase fire risks, degrade forest habitats, and impact both the scenic and recreational values of the Applegate Valley, the Wellington Wildlands and the East Applegate Ridge Trail.
Following the BLM’s approval of the Bear Grub Timber Sale, ASA, numerous local residents and other conservation organizations in the region filed Administrative Protests documenting the numerous project impacts that were not adequately considered, disclosed or analyzed in the Bear Grub Timber Sale. Fortunately, the BLM is required to resolve these Administrative Protests before the timber sale, which sold to the Timber Products Company at auction, can be officially awarded and logging can begin.
In August of 2022, the Medford District BLM finally addressed our Administrative Protests and was forced to rescind its previous decision. The agency stated that impacts to the Pacific fisher were not adequately addressed and must be reconsidered. This means the Bear Grub Timber Sale has been rescinded, but not permanently canceled, and the agency could simply reanalyze, reauthorize, and once again target the beautiful forests of the Applegate with old forest logging.
Although this is a massive victory for the forests of the Applegate, we need help to ensure it is more than temporary!
Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands (IVM) Project
For the past two years ASA has been opposing the BLM’s massive Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands (IVM) Project. Although cloaked in misleading euphemisms and the language of “restoration,” the project is not about “restoration” or land resiliency, and instead proposes widespread industrial logging across 800,000 acres of Medford District BLM lands in southwestern Oregon, including the Applegate Valley.
In fact, the IVM Project allows the BLM to log up to 20,000 acres and build up to 90 miles of new roads per decade without additional site-specific scientific review, public comment, public involvement or the disclosure of environmental impacts.
The intent of the project is simple: to increase timber production on BLM lands by cutting the public out of the process, and to make matters worse, the IVM Project specifically proposes this logging in Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forests set aside to protect old forest habitat for the Northern spotted owl.
ASA will continue our opposition to the IVM Project in 2023!
Late Mungers/Penn Butte Timber Sales
The Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales are the first projects to be proposed under the IVM Project. The projects target old forest habitats in the mountains between Williams and Murphy in the western Applegate Valley, including beautiful old forests and large, old trees that exceed the BLM’s 36” diameter limit.
ASA spent much of the last year monitoring timber sale units, advocating for old forests habitats, and spreading the word about these horrible old forest timber sales. We also held public meetings, field trips, protests and hikes into proposed timber sale units. We have engaged the media, our elected officials and residents throughout the region. We also worked with the Climate Forest Alliance to produce the Worth More Standing report, which identifies the IVM Project, Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales as some of the worst timber sales in the country from a climate perspective. Unfortunately, despite widespread public opposition, the BLM appears to be moving forward and a decision on these sales could be released any day.
In 2023, we are dedicated to protecting the old forests of the region and stopping both the Penn Butte and Late Mungers Timber Sale. Please sign our petition to stop the IVM Project, the Late Mungers Timber Sale and the Penn Butte Timber Sale before they damage our forests, increase fire risks and degrade wildlife habitats in the last old forests remaining in the watersheds of southwestern Oregon.
Recently, the Medford District BLM has proposed yet another timber sale in the Applegate Valley under the IVM Project framework, but is refusing to provide the public with information about the project. Located in the mountains between Upper Applegate, Ruch and Thompson Creek, the project proposes logging in the area surrounding Ben Johnson and Tallowbox Mountain.
Proposed under the IVM Project, this means the agency will fully design the timber sale, mark the trees for removal, and “finalize” the project before engaging the public in any way. Community concerns will not be incorporated into the proposal and environmental impacts will not be adequately disclosed to the public or analyzed in environmental documents.
What we do know, is that thus far, the BLM has chosen to implement the 800,000-acre IVM Project exclusively in the Applegate Valley alone, and in no other location in that massive area, avoiding public accountability, insulating itself from public opposition, and cutting the public out of the process.
The Applegate is tired of being the focus of the BLM’s timber sales. At any one time the Applegate has 2-5 BLM timber sales planned out of both the Medford District and Grants Pass District BLM offices, more than any other watershed or community in southwest Oregon. The Big Ben LSR Project will be yet another we have to fight.
ASA will continue opposing the IVM Project and all timber sales proposed under its provisions. We believe meaningful public engagement and a robust scientific review should be required for all federal land management projects, and we oppose the BLM’s secret, unaccountable logging plans in the Applegate Valley and throughout southwestern Oregon.
Rogue Gold Timber Sale
The Rogue Gold Timber Sale is located in the mountains between Rogue River, Gold Hill and Jacksonville on the ridgeline divide between the Applegate and Rogue River watersheds. Located predominantly in Kane, Galls, and Foots Creeks, the project proposes to log the last old forest habitats remaining in these already heavily fragmented watersheds, and either remove, downgrade or degrade the last islands of suitable Northern spotted owl habitat in the area.
The removal of large, old trees up to 36″ DBH, the removal of significant forest canopy and the implementation of “group selection” logging will not only impact endangered species habitat, but it will also increase fire risks in the watershed’s last fire-resilient, old forest habitats.
In previous years, ASA conducted extensive on-the-ground monitoring of timber sale units and submitted extensive public comments in the BLM’s Scoping process. It appears that BLM may be looking to move this project forward in 2023, and we intend to continue tracking this project and advocating for the retention of old trees and old forests in the Rogue Gold Planning Area.
Proactive Habitat Protections
Wild and Scenic Rivers
For the past few years ASA and others across the state have been working with Senator Wyden’s staff to nominate streams for protection as new Wild and Scenic River segments. This process has led to the River Democracy Act, federal legislation that would protect thousands of miles of rivers and streams in Oregon watersheds as new Wild and Scenic Rivers.
Recently, Senator Wyden released a new version of the River Democracy Act, that now excludes some of the wildest and most scenic streams in the Applegate watershed, including all streams in California. Unfortunately, the newest version of the bill reduced the stream miles proposed for Wild and Scenic River designation in the Applegate from nearly 154 stream miles to 62.7 miles, a nearly 60% reduction in the Applegate River watershed.
Although we will continue to support the River Democracy Act and are appreciative of the streams still included in the legislation, we will also continue to vigorously advocate for the biggest, wildest, most worthy streams in the region at the headwaters of the Applegate River in California. This includes Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River, Cook and Green Creek, Whisky Creek, and Elliott Creek. We will also continue to advocate for the protection of Upper Pipe Fork, upper Whisky Creek, O’Brien Creek, and Brush Creek in the Oregon portion of the watershed.
Just because the Applegate’s wild headwaters are in California, it doesn’t mean they aren’t just as deserving of the same protections as other worthy streams that Oregon communities rely on for clean water and recreation.
Currently, our goal is to secure the inclusion of these streams in Senator Wyden’s River Democracy Act. Please sign our petition below.
For the past two years ASA has been working to support the Siskiyou Crest Coalition, a collaboration of local conservation organizations and residents in the region working towards the permanent protection of the Siskiyou Crest. Currently, we are working to promote the region and support new Wild and Scenic River designations in our area through the River Democracy Act.
Organizing for future conservation campaigns, we are building appreciation for the region and its many important values, while documenting and highlighting the region’s unique biodiversity, spectacular wildlands, carbon rich forests, world class biological values, regionally significant habitat connectivity and incredible recreational values.
The Siskiyou Crest Coalition is a network of passionate local residents and experienced conservation advocates working to build a stronger sense of place in the Siskiyou Crest region, and more appropriate levels of habitat protection.
Private Timber Land Buyout
For many years ASA has been working with conservation allies to promote the public acquisition of private timber land on the Siskiyou Crest. These lands include old-growth forests in the Elliott Creek canyon, parcels at the headwaters of the Little Applegate River, sections of land on Yale Creek, Beaver Creek and near Big Red Mountain.
In recent years we have made significant progress towards finding willing sellers and large-scale land conservancy organizations interested in funding a significant conservation purchase. Our goal now is to entice Forest Service officials to work with this diverse coalition of industrial timber companies, local residents and conservation interests, towards a private industrial timber land buyout and the consolidation of public lands in the Siskiyou Crest region.
Please join us in encouraging our public land managers to embrace this proposal. The consolidation of public land on the Siskiyou Crest would provide significant public benefits and could very well be the most consequential conservation effort affecting the Siskiyou Crest region in many, many years. Help us secure this once-in-a-lifetime conservation opportunity and sign our petition to support the public buyout of private industrial timber lands on the Siskiyou Crest.
This past spring, ASA designed and laid out approximately 10 miles of new hiking trail on the west side of the Upper Applegate Valley, extending from Kanaka Flats, just below the Applegate Dam (where the salmon ceremony used to take place), to the Gin Lin Trail through the Collings-Kinney Inventoried Roadless Area and the surrounding wildlands in the Kanaka Gulch, Buck Gulch, Kinney Creek and Palmer Creek watersheds. Portions of the trail will follow old mining ditches, similar to other hiking trails in the Applegate.
This first step of designing and laying out the trail on the ground provides a template for future trail development and future environmental review. The Forest Service has committed, in writing, to working towards approval of this new non-motorized trail by conducting the appropriate level of environmental analysis and addressing any site-specific concerns that might arise.
We hope to see the agency follow through with this commitment by prioritizing the analysis, and hopefully the approval of the Upper Applegate/Palmer Ditch Trail in 2023.
ASA has worked for numerous years on the Upper Applegate Watershed Restoration Project. During this process we advocated for pollinator and native plant restoration and responsible, low impact forest management geared towards habitat restoration and community fire risk reduction. We also proposed the Tallowbox Trail, a new non-motorized trail on Ladybug Gulch and on the south-facing slopes near Tallowbox Mountain in the Burton-Ninemile Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC).
The Burton-Ninemile LWC is one of only two protected roadless areas, or at least somewhat protected roadless areas, on BLM lands in the Applegate Valley. The area encompasses the southern slopes of Burton Butte, Baldy Mountain, and Tallowbox Mountain above Star Gulch. It also includes a portion of Ninemile Creek, with its uncut forests near the headwaters of Thompson Creek.
Currently, the Burton Ninemile LWC contains no trails, but we saw an opportunity to provide responsible public access along a long decommissioned and partially recontoured road on Ladybug Gulch. The BLM approved the Tallowbox Trail as part of the Upper Applegate Watershed Restoration Project decision record, and currently, we are working to lay out the trail and hope to break ground on the Tallowbox Trail early in 2023!
Upper Applegate Pollinator and Native Plant Restoration
For the past six years ASA has been working on a pollinator and native plant restoration project in the Upper Applegate Valley at Nick Wright Flat. Located on Forest Service land, this project consists of planting and seeding native flowering plants in a dry clearing with oaks above the Applegate River. This fall we planted over 1,800 native plants at the site with 10 volunteers in November 2022.
We hope to continue working to restore native plant communities for the benefit of native pollinators and native plant conservation, as well as the surrounding community on this small, but rare piece of valley-bottom public land in the Upper Applegate Valley in 2023.
Looking Forward to 2023!
Although many troubling projects have been proposed in our watershed, ASA is rising to the challenge and commits to working everyday, to defend the wildlands of the Applegate Siskiyous. In 2023, we will advocate with the same passion, fight with the same tenacity, and move forward with the support of our community. Please support out work!
As mentioned in our previous blog post, Senator Wyden recently released new revisions to the River Democracy Act, legislation intended to protect Oregon watersheds through new Wild and Scenic River designations. Unfortunately, this new revision included significant cuts in every corner of the state. Yet, our corner of the state received the most significant cuts, including a reduction from 154 to 62.7 stream miles proposed for protection in the Applegate River watershed. This 60% reduction is approximately twice as steep as cuts made anywhere else in the state, and included many streams worthy of Wild and Scenic River protections.
Disappointingly, these cuts were made by removing all tributaries of the Applegate River at its remote headwaters in northern California. They were also made by cutting tributary streams from worthy Wild and Scenic River segments in Oregon. This included cutting tributaries, but maintaining proposed protections for the mainstem of Little Applegate River, Mule Creek, Palmer Creek, Star Gulch, Pipe Fork, Steve’s Fork Carberry Creek and Sturgis Fork Carberry Creek. Cuts were also made to whole streams in the upper Applegate, like Kinney Creek.
Currently, Applegate Siskiyou Alliance is asking Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley, who co-sponsored the River Democracy Act, to restore proposed Wild and Scenic River protections to numerous streams in northern California, including Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River, Cook and Green Creek, Whisky Creek and Elliott Creek. Our recent blog post highlights these California streams, the value of their protection, and their importance to our watershed and to downstream communities.
We are also asking to include additional streams in Oregon, such as upper Pipe Fork Creek, upper Whisky Creek on the eastern face of Whisky Peak, and two tributaries of Carberry Creek, including Brush Creek and O’Brien Creek. If all these streams in both the Oregon and California portions of the Applegate were included in the River Democracy Act, the most spectacular and important streams in the Applegate River watershed would be proposed for protection and our watershed would receive the same level of protection and consideration as other watersheds around the state. We believe this is a matter of both equity and biological integrity, because the streams in the Applegate are as deserving, diverse, wild and well-loved as any in the region.
Although we are grateful for the protections proposed in the Applegate River watershed and the beautiful streams currently included in the River Democracy Act, the legislation as currently drafted would not adequately protect our watershed and its many important attributes. Our goal is to encourage our elected officials to think like a watershed, and protect the wild streams of the Applegate River watershed. Some of our wildest, most intact streams still need protection under the River Democracy Act!
Protections for the following Oregon streams should be restored in the River Democracy Act:
Upper Pipe Fork Creek
During Senator Wyden’s recent revision process a headwater fork of Pipe Fork Creek was removed from proposed protection in the River Democracy Act; however, we believe this important stream should receive Wild and Scenic River designation. Currently, the lower reaches of Pipe Fork Creek are proposed for protection, but the western headwaters that drain the northern slopes of Big Sugarloaf Peak were not.
Pipe Fork is an island of rain forest, located in the more arid mountains of the Applegate Siskiyou. Pipe Fork Creek contains the easternmost population of Port Orford-cedar in Oregon and this lush headwater stream is important in maintaining local stream flows, microclimate conditions, and regional Port Orford-cedar populations. The tributary in question is the highest elevation stream in the Pipe Fork drainage, and supports beautiful old-growth forests in the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area and Pipe Fork Research Natural Area.
As the last intact tributary of Willams Creek, Pipe Fork is vital in sustaining adequate stream flows and maintaining cold water refugia for the last wild coho salmon, chinook salmon and steelhead in the watershed. Coho salmon, in particular need low gradient streams, and Williams Creek provides ample habitat, but suffers from water quantity and quality problems. Pipe Fork Creek is the most important contributor of clean, cold water in the East Fork Williams Creek watershed and should be protected as a Wild and Scenic River in the River Democracy Act.
Upper Whisky Creek
Upper Whisky Creek flows off the eastern face of Whisky Peak just north of the Oregon border, below the Whisky Peak Botanical Area and adjacent to both the Whisky Peak and Stricklin Butte citizen-identified roadless areas. Upper Whisky Creek contains montane forests and intact stream reaches that flow east into the Middle Fork Applegate River. Together, with other portions of Whisky Creek in California, Wild and Scenic River designation would help to protect the natural character and old-growth forest found in the region.
O’Brien Creek is a major tributary of Carberry Creek’s Sturgis Fork. The stream flows from the beautiful high country on the eastern flank of Grayback Mountain, located within the vast Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area.
Upper O’Brien Creek is accessible by the O’Brien Creek Trail which follows the stream through old-growth forests, intact mountain meadows, wetlands, glades, and rare plant populations. The historic Grayback Snow Shelter, built in the 1930s is located at the lower end of a long sloping meadow designated as the Grayback Mountain Botanical Area. At the head of the meadow and at the stream’s gurgling headwaters at Cold Spring, the O’Brien Creek Trail ties into the Boundary National Recreation Trail.
From Sturgis Fork to Grayback Mountain, O’Brien Creek contains beautiful forests, rugged canyons, and unique Siskiyou Mountains biodiversity that deserves protection.
Brush Creek is a low elevation tributary of Carberry Creek. The stream flows between Steamboat Mountain and Burnt Peak at the edge of the Collings-Kinney Inventoried Roadless Area. The area contains rugged terrain with steep rocky slopes, beautiful mixed conifer forests, large stands of knobcone pine, interesting chaparral communities, flower filled rock outcrops, and large stands of both live oak and madrone.
Isolated from human populations today, Brush Creek flows through moss covered bedrock into small, clear pools as it winds through a significant historical district. The remains of old hardrock mines, mining equipment, old mining-era cabins, and mining infrastructure lie strewn about the canyon memorializing the area’s unique history. Very active in the early 1900s, this area contained significant gold deposits that fueled the boom town of Steamboat on Carberry Creek. The main producer was the Steamboat Mine on the southern face of Steamboat Mountain, but other mines were scattered throughout the mountains and canyons of lower Carberry Creek.
Protecting Brush Creek would allow for the preservation of both historic and biological values in the greater Carberry Creek watershed.
After signing our petition,please contact Senator Wyden and let him know you support the River Democracy Act, but would like to see more adequate protections for the Applegate River Watershed.
Suggested talking points:
Thank Senator Wyden for his leadership on the River Democracy Act and encourage him to do more to protect the Applegate River watershed.
The Applegate River watershed and its wild streams are important for their historical, biological, recreational and community based values. The residents of interior SW Oregon deserve to have our wild rivers, clear swimming holes, old-growth forests, and intact mountain streams protected, just like others in the state. Please restore additional stream segments to the final legislation.
Streams previously proposed for protection, but removed in the newest revisions should be restored to the legislation, including upper Pipe Fork Creek, upper Whisky Creek, O’Brien Creek, and Brush Creek in Oregon, and the Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River, Cook and Green Creek, lower Whisky Creek, and Elliott Creek in California.
By including all the above mentioned streams in the final version of the River Democracy Act, protections for the Applegate River watershed would be similar to those throughout the state.
All Applegate River streams currently included in the River Democracy Act should be protected in the final legislation.
For the past three years Applegate Siskiyou Alliance (ASA) and others across Oregon have been working with Senator Wyden’s staff to nominate streams for protection as new Wild and Scenic River segments. This public nomination process led to the River Democracy Act, federal legislation that would protect thousands of miles of rivers and streams in Oregon watersheds as new Wild and Scenic Rivers.
ASA proposed streams for designation across the Applegate River watershed and Senator Wyden’s original version of the River Democracy Act included approximately 154 miles of streams in the Applegate River watershed, including the headwaters of the Applegate River in northern California.
Unfortunately, Senator Wyden recently released a revision of the River Democracy Act that dramatically reduced the stream miles proposed for Wild and Scenic River designation in the Applegate River Watershed. This included a reduction from 154 stream miles in the Applegate to 62.7 miles. This nearly 60% reduction in stream miles proposed for protection in the Applegate River watershed was the largest in the state on a watershed by watershed basis.
Much of this unfortunate reduction came by dropping tributary streams on the Little Applegate River, Palmer Creek, Star Gulch, Carberry Creek, Mule Creek, and Pipe Fork, while the mainstem of each stream remains proposed for Wild and Scenic River protection. Tragically, still more reductions came by removing all Applegate River streams located just over the border in northern California, including the Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River, Cook and Green Creek, Whisky Creek, Elliott Creek and many others.
Clearly a political decision, these headwaters streams, although located in northern California, are by far the wildest and most scenic in our region. They also support the most intact habitats, with the most significant stream flows, the most popular recreation areas, the biggest stands of old-growth forest, and the largest, most spectacular wildlands surrounding the Red Buttes Wilderness Area. Despite being the heart of our proposal and the most worthy streams in the Applegate River watershed, these streams are unfortunately no longer proposed for protection in Senator Wyden’s legislation.
On a more positive note, this new version of the River Democracy Act did expand proposed protections in two important Applegate River watersheds. Although not included in the original legislation, the newest version extends protections to 5.5 miles of Silver Fork Elliott Creek, below Dutchman Peak in a deep forested canyon. It also includes an additional 5.5 miles on Slate Creek, in a beautiful red rock canyon filled with rare plants, Port Orford-cedar groves, old-growth mixed conifer forests, twisted Jeffrey pine woodlands and the Applegate River’s only population of the carnivorous cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica) west of Wilderville, Oregon.
Although ASA will continue to support the River Democracy Act and we are appreciative of the important streams still included in the legislation, we will also continue to vigorously advocate for the biggest, wildest, most worthy streams in our region at the headwaters of the river in California. This includes the Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River, Cook and Green Creek, lower Whisky Creek and Elliott Creek. It also includes upper Whisky Creek in Oregon near Whisky Peak, upper Pipe Fork on the northern slope of Big Sugarloaf Peak above the Williams Valley, as well as two additional tributaries of Carberry Creek including O’Brien Creek and Brush Creek.
Please sign our petition and support this effort to appropriately protect the headwaters of the Applegate River in California and other worthy streams throughout the watershed. Better yet, send a personal letter to Senator Wyden letting him know your love for the headwaters of the Applegate River, your relationship to these places, and your desire to protect more worthy streams in the Applegate River watershed. Please specifically ask him to include the Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River, Cook and Green Creek, lower Whisky Creek, Elliott Creek, upper Pipe Fork, Brush Creek, and O’Brien Creek.
This weekend Applegate Siskiyou Alliance worked with a hardy group of 10 volunteers to plant over 1,800 native grass and wildflower plants at a habitat restoration site in the Upper Applegate Valley at Nick Wright Flat.
For six years Applegate Siskiyou Alliance has been stewarding this beautiful river terrace above the Applegate River. An unusual piece of publicly owned valley bottom land, nestled between homesteads and ranches, the site includes a large open meadow which has been largely converted to non-native grasses and weeds, along with some small remnants of native herbaceous vegetation. The site also includes open-grown ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, black oak, white oak, live oak and small tufts of bedrock protruding from the otherwise relatively level, meadowy river terrace.
Working in collaboration with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District, who own the land, we have planted small areas within the grassy river terrace, year after year, in order to reintroduce native grasses and flowering species for the benefit of native butterflies, bees and other pollinating species. In some locations, older more established plantings are now providing both pollen and nectar for pollinators and beautiful floral displays that National Forest visitors can appreciate. In other locations plantings and seedlings are still getting established, and on our recent volunteer planting day new plugs, donated by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds were planted in blocks throughout the site.
In this round of planting we planted six species and approximately 1,800 containerized plugs, including the following species: showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa), narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), cobwebby or western thistle (Cirsium occidentale), squirreltail grass (Elymus elymoides), and Roemer’s fescue (Festuca roemeri) donated by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
A tray of 25 tall woolly wild buckwheat (Eriogonum elatum var. villosum), an uncommon species in Oregon, were donated by Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds for planting at the site. These plants were grown from seeds from existing tall woolly wild buckwheat plants that grow near the restoration site naturally. Tall woolly wild buckwheat only grows in a handful of locations along the rocky banks of the Applegate River today, but was likely much more abundant before historic mining impacts altered the Applegate River’s native flora, so we are pleased to increase this beautiful and important species’ population in its historic range along the Applegate River corridor.
We are both excited and proud to steward this beautiful piece of the Applegate Valley, by reintroducing native species and removing non-native and invasive plants throughout the site. We also enjoyed a beautiful winter day, under blue skies and beautiful mountain ridges, working with our friends and neighbors in the Applegate.
Thanks to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds for the donated plant material, and thanks to the volunteers that came out and helped! We couldn’t do this important work without awesome volunteers!
In recent years, the Medford District BLM has become increasingly secretive, non-transparent and hostile to both the environment and to the communities of southwestern Oregon. In areas like the Applegate Valley where opposition to old forest logging has been consistent and overwhelming, the BLM has changed the rules of engagement and has begun cutting the public out of the public land management planning process.
Rather than address public concerns or opposition to old forest logging proposals, the agency has instead insulated itself from critique by expediting the planning process, eliminating all avenues for meaningful public input and by refusing to implement site-specific scientific analysis and/or a credible environmental review process. This means that the BLM no longer notifies the public of its logging plans until the are “finalized” and no longer discloses, quantifies or analyzes a proposed project for cumulative and direct environmental impacts.
For many, many years the BLM has worked to circumvent its obligation to the public and the NEPA process, while pushing for increased timber production throughout western Oregon. In our region, this began to intensify in 2016 when the agency eliminated the Applegate Adaptive Management Area, a designation specifically meant to encourage open, transparent planning processes and public collaboration. Unfortunately, this trend has now culminated with the IVM Project where the public is being largely shut out of the process and timber sales are designed in the dark, without public oversight or engagement.
According to the IVM approval documents, public involvement is now fully discretionary on over 630,000 acres of BLM land in Southwestern Oregon, and the agency can log these landscapes with little to no public accountability. Although the BLM claims the IVM Project is based on the concepts of forest restoration, to many it is clear that the real goal is not just to get the cut out on BLM lands, but to also cut the public out of the process.
The Medford District BLM recently published its 2023 Timber Sale Plan identifying the commercial logging projects the agency intends to implement during the next year. On this list are four major timber sales in the Applegate River watershed, totaling 1,674 acres and an estimated 13.7 million board feet of public timber.
These four timber sales are proposed throughout the watershed on Sterling Creek, in the Middle Applegate, and on Williams Creek, where two large timber sales are currently proposed. Although these timber sales contain a wide variety of habitat types and forest conditions, they share one thing in common: a distinct lack of meaningful public involvement and a total lack of credible scientific analysis or environmental review.
The Late Mungers, Penn Butte, and Big Ben LSR timber sales are proposed for implementation under the provisions of the IVM Project. In these areas, the BLM has authorized a “program of work” which would log up to 20,000 acres and build up to 90 miles of new road in the next ten years, and the agency has begun implementing the IVM Project exclusively in the Applegate River watershed.
Each individual project or timber sale implemented under the IVM Project is now being fully designed, marked for timber sale removal and tentatively approved with a Draft Determination of NEPA Adequacy before the BLM notifies the public of their plans or incorporates a single shred of public input. Only after “finalizing” their timber sale proposal will the BLM release any information or accept public comment on the proposed projects.
No longer serving the public interest or working on our behalf, the Medford District BLM has fully committed to serving the interests of the private timber industry — the secrecy surrounding these four timber sales drives that point home.
Currently, the Medford District BLM has proposed, but not fully approved the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales above Williams and Murphy in the western portion of the Applegate Valley. These controversial timber sales propose logging old forest habitats in the Mungers Late Successional Reserve, an area designated specifically to protect northern spotted owl habitat and connectivity between watersheds. Yet, instead of protecting habitat, the project proposes logging old forests, degrading northern spotted owl habitat conditions and damaging the important connectivity that the area provides.
For two years, BLM timber planners designed the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales under the provisions of the still unauthorized IVM Project and they did so in secret, refusing to provide any information to the public, despite repeated requests for information and project maps.
Although neither of these projects are currently approved, the agency has identified a March 2023 timber sale auction date for the Penn Butte Timber Sale, which has proposed logging 480 acres, producing an estimated 6.6 million board feet of timber. Meanwhile, the agency has identified a July 2023 auction date for the Late Mungers Timber Sale, which has proposed logging 312 acres totaling 2.5 million board feet.
For more information on the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales, please review our recent blog posts and monitoring reports at the Applegate Siskiyou Alliance Blog.
Big Ben LSR Timber Sale
Currently very little is known about the Big Ben LSR Timber Sale and the BLM is refusing to provide information on this sale to either the public or to elected officials. Working totally in the dark, the agency has refused to provide basic information on the location of timber sale units and is designing yet another Applegate Valley timber sale in secret, with no public accountability or input.
Despite repeated requests for information, the BLM is claiming that no information can be made publicly available, yet they have identified a September 2023 auction date. Currently the agency has identified approximately 700 acres of logging units, and 3.5 million board feet of timber proposed for logging in the Big Ben LSR Project.
With an auction date in less than a year, clearly more is known about this sale than the BLM will share; however, all we have been told is that “the project will be roughly located South of Applegate and Ruch, bounded by the Applegate River and Thompson Creek.”
Lower Sterling Mortality Salvage
Although not propose for implementation under the IVM Project, the BLM has proposed to auction off the Lower Sterling Mortality Salvage Timber Sale including units along the extremely popular Sterling Mine Ditch Trail without any public comment or involvement. The newly released Categorical Exclusion and Decision Record identifies 182 acres proposed for logging while the 2023 Timber Sale Plan identifies up to 1.1 million board feet proposed for removal.
The project is located in the Deming Gulch, Armstrong Gulch and Hukill Hollow watersheds, where repeated commercial thinning operations have increased drought stress by reducing canopy, damaging microclimate conditions and logging large, old trees. This in turn has triggering a series of large bark beetle mortality events in the area, which are now targeted for “salvage” logging.
Rather than encouraging “resilience” and “forest health,” these previous timber sales have become the center of the most pronounced bark beetle outbreak in the Little Applegate River watershed, and a similar story is also playing out on Thompson Creek, Ferris Gulch and in other portions of the Middle Applegate River watershed.
Following the Buncom Timber Sale of the 1990s and the Sterling Sweeper Timber Sale of 2014, many stands commercially thinned by the BLM on lower Deming and Armstrong Gulch have became hotter and drier, with more open canopies and more pronounced drought stress. Since 2016, previously thinned stands on lower Deming Gulch, Armstrong Gulch, Hukill Hollow and other areas around the region have sustained large bark beetle and flat headed fir borer outbreaks. Instead of experiencing increased resilience and vigor, many of the trees in these stands have been colonized by bark beetles or flat headed fir borers, creating vast swaths of beetle-killed Douglas fir and ponderosa pine between Sterling Creek and Wolf Gap.
This same area was also “salvage” logged in 2018 during the Squishy Bug Timber Sale, which was intended to both “salvage” economic value from beetle killed timber, and to reduce the scope and scale of the beetle infestation. Yet, apparently like the “forest health” timber sales implemented before the Squishy Bug Timber Sale, the logging had no positive effect on future bark beetle mortality and may have made things worse. Now, for the second time in less than five years, the BLM is “salvage” logging directly within their previous timber sale units due to significant bark beetle mortality following commercial logging operations.
Secret Timber Sales & the End of Collaboration on BLM Lands
Totaling 13.7 million board feet, these four timber sales are being proposed for implementation in our watershed without considering our concerns, soliciting meaningful public input or disclosing the project proposals until timber sales have been “finalized” and fully designed.
In the Applegate Valley, we hear a lot from our public land managers and elected officials about collaborative forest management, while at the same time we watch the BLM erode the process, eliminate all avenues for meaningful public collaboration and operate in secrecy. Open access to information is the foundation of collaboration and the BLM is consistently refusing to provide basic information on timber projects affecting the communities and watersheds of the Applegate Valley. While we work towards meaningful dialogue and sound environmental stewardship, the BLM continues in the opposite direction.
Please join Applegate Siskiyou Alliance as we defend the forests of the Applegate and the right of the public to participate in public land management! Support our work with a generous donation and speak for the forests that surround you!
For the past three years Applegate Siskiyou Alliance has fought the Bear Grub Timber Sale, a large commercial logging project proposed by the Medford District BLM in the Wellington Wildlands, an over 7,000-acre roadless area west of Ruch, in the smaller Bald Mountain Roadless Area at the headwaters of the Little Applegate River, along the extremely popular East Applegate Ridge Trail, and many areas in between. This project proposed logging in the last remaining mature and old forest habitats surrounding Ruch, Little Applegate, and in the mountains above Talent, Oregon in the Rogue River Valley.
In October 2021, the Medford District BLM approved the Bear Grub Timber Sale and auctioned the sale off to the Timber Products Company, who had hoped to quickly begin logging; however, the BLM received 18 official Administrative Protests and was required to resolve these protests before the timber sale could be awarded and logging could begin. These included a detailed 52-page Administrative Protest submitted by Applegate Siskiyou Alliance and our partners at Klamath Forest Alliance. It also included numerous Administrative Protests from concerned residents in the Applegate Valley, who worked selflessly for over two years to stop this destructive timber sale.
Thankfully, this past week the Medford District BLM rescinded the decision to proceed with the Bear Grub Timber Sale due to issues surrounding these Administrative Protests and an admission that the project’s impact on the Pacific fisher was not adequately analyzed.
In the BLM’s cover letter that came with their 102-page “Response to Protests,” they unjustifiably deny a multitude of other valid Administrative Protest points that should have been addressed more meaningfully. However, they also officially notified those that submitted Administrative Protests that the Bear Grub Timber Sale Decision Record will be rescinded and our protests were at least partially granted.
What this means, we are not entirely sure, but the BLM stated they will rescind the decision record and that the agency will “further review” the Environmental Assessment (EA) in regard to project impacts and the Pacific fisher. We believe that this controversial, environmentally damaging and counterproductive timber sale should be withdrawn all together. It was developed with little to no meaningful public input, in portions of the landscape that are wild, well loved, and would not benefit from the logging treatments proposed. The Bear Grub Timber Sale would directly impact the Wellington Wildlands, the East Applegate Ridge Trail, as well as the forests and human communities of the Applegate Valley — it should be canceled!
Please also consider supporting our work with a tax deductible donation. From Bear Grub to the IVM, to our tireless work to protect the Siskiyou Crest, Applegate Siskiyou Alliance is the most passionate advocate for the Applegate Siskiyous, and the only environmental organization focused entirely on protecting the wildlands of the entire Applegate River watershed. Your contribution will help us Stop Bear Grub!
The Applegate Siskiyou Alliance (ASA) is proud to support and work as active members of the Climate Forest Coalition. The Climate Forest Coalition is a network of conservation organizations from across the country promoting the protection of mature, late successional and old-growth forests on federal lands as a natural and effective climate solution. The group is currently coordinating a national campaign to highlight the immediate threat old forest logging poses to our federal lands and our climate. We are also working to ensure that President Biden’s Earth Day Executive Order on forests is utilized to protect forests and store carbon on the landscape, as both a climate mitigation and adaptation strategy.
To that end, the coalition has recently published a report, Worth More Standing: 10 Climate Saving Forests Threatened by Federal Logging. In this report, activists and conservation organizations reviewed timber sales from across the country and unsurprising to us, they found some of the worst timber sales right here on the Medford District BLM. In fact, the Medford District BLM is the only land management agency in the country with two timber sales on this unfortunate list, including the IVM Project and the Poor Windy Timber Sale north of Grants Pass, Oregon.
ASA has worked extensively to oppose the IVM Project due to its impact on mature, late successional and old-growth forests, as well as its impact on northern spotted owl habitats, Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forests, Riparian Reserves, and carbon rich, climate mitigating forests, here in the Applegate Valley and throughout southwestern Oregon.
The IVM Project is a landscape scale logging proposal, focused on logging LSR forest, previously set aside to help recover populations of the threatened northern spotted owl and preserve its old forest habitat. It also eliminates numerous public involvement opportunities, public comment periods and current requirements for site specific environmental analysis and review. Simply put, the IVM Project is intended to authorize timber sales specifically in old forest habitats, without openly considering the potential impacts or the input of local communities.
The first timber sales proposed for implementation under the IVM Project are the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sale above Williams and Murphy, Oregon in the Applegate Valley. Reportedly, the BLM also intends to begin planning large timber sales in the Middle Applegate LSR, under the IVM’s administrative framework. The Middle Applegate LSR extends all the way from Williams to Ruch, on the forested slopes south of the Applegate River. Where exactly within this vast landscape the Middle Applegate LSR Timber Sale will be proposed is unclear, and just like the Late Mungers Project above Williams, the BLM is not required to engage or inform local communities of their plans until after they have been fully designed, marked on the ground and tentatively approved with an internal document called a “Determination of NEPA Adequacy.”
What is clear, is that forests in the Applegate, like forests across the country, provide important habitat values, watershed values, scenic values, and recreational opportunities. Forests also provide one of the most effective, natural climate solutions available to combat climate change and store carbon on federal lands. Research has demonstrated that old forests can act as climate and fire refugia, buffering ecosystems from the most damaging effects of climate change.
Permanently protecting and preserving these mature and old forests on federal lands is an important first step towards climate resilience and must be a significant priority if the Biden Administration is serious about its efforts to address climate change. Immediate action must also be taken by high level officials in the Biden Administration, the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture to cancel damaging old forest timber sales and logging projects like the IVM. The Medford District BLM will not stop logging old forests or work to ensure their timber sales are consistent with President Biden’s Executive Order unless they are forced to do so.
We are asking President Biden and his cabinet level officials to carry out his campaign promises and meaningfully address the climate crisis by enacting permanent, enforceable administrative rules protecting all mature and old forests on federal lands. Please sign our petition to protect the forests of southwestern Oregon from the IVM timber grab. Speak for the trees and protect our climate! STOP THE IVM!
The Late Mungers Vegetation Management Project includes two large, industrial timber sales on the ridge system dividing the Applegate from the Illinois Valley. This ridge system is important for habitat connectivity and includes a large block Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forest set aside to protect habitat for the northern spotted owl.
Located in the mountains above Williams, Oregon, we have reported extensively on the Penn Butte Timber Sale, which proposes logging units on Mungers Creek, China Basin Creek, and Powell Creek above the pastoral Williams Valley and the small hamlet of Williams, Oregon.
However, another timber sale is also being proposed in the mountains between Murphy in the Applegate Valley, and Selma in the Illinois Valley. Known as the Late Mungers Timber Sale, the BLM has proposed logging a series of timber sale units totaling approximately 500 acres of LSR forest.
Recently, we visited the Late Mungers Timber Sale which targets mature, late successional and old-growth forest with heavy industrial logging. Although the treatments proposed throughout the timber sale will be damaging, this post will identify the worst units we have surveyed in the Late Mungers Timber Sale.
Unit 5-1 is located at the headwaters of both Black Canyon Creek and Grays Creek. These obscure tributaries flow north into the Applegate River from the forested ridgeline below Pennington Butte, downstream of Provolt, Oregon.
Small portions of the unit extend below road 38-5-6.1 in the Black Canyon Creek watershed, while other, more intact portions are located above the road and extend to a forested ridgeline, then into the headwaters of Grays Creek. These more intact portions of the unit include mature and late successional forest, along with a significant block of old-growth, surrounded on two sides by young, dense stands regenerating from previous clearcut logging operations. This corridor of old forest provides connectivity in an area otherwise devoid of mature and late successional habitat. Unfortunately, this corridor of habitat is also proposed for logging in the Late Mungers Timber Sale.
Much of this beautiful stand is relatively open spaced, with groupings of mature and old-growth trees growing in a diverse clump formation. The stand contains important closed forest habitat, dominated by large, old trees between 20″ and over 50″ diameter, including Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and sugar pine. Between the large conifer groupings a well developed mosaic of live oak and madrone woodland has colonized the canopy gaps and matured into a diverse and productive mixture of habitat types.
At the headwaters of Grays Creek, the unit contains mature, mid and late successional forest habitats, including closed stands of pine and fir targeted for aggressive group selection logging and heavy commercial thinning operations.
The proposed tree removal mark throughout this unit is extremely heavy handed and will damage LSR forests, late successional habitat values, habitat connectivity, and habitat complexity. In many locations, trees between 30″ and 45″ diameter have been identified for removal, and in other locations, entire old forest groupings dominated by large, carbon and habitat rich trees are proposed by the BLM for removal. This includes a number of large, old Douglas fir trees up to 45″ diameter and open-grown ponderosa pine trees up to 30″ diameter. (Note: The Late Mungers Timber Sale is “leave” or “retention tree” marked, meaning only trees marked with red or yellow paint would be retained in timber sale units. Trees that will be logged are not marked with spray paint.)
Many of the trees targeted for removal exceed the 36″ diameter and 156-year-old tree removal limits identified in the BLM’s 2016 Resource Management Plan (RMP). The removal of these trees is a violation of existing management plans, is inconsistent with LSR management and will impair northern spotted owl habitat values for decades to come.
Unit 5-1 contains important old forest habitat that should be retained as high quality northern spotted owl habitat, for its carbon storage, and for its naturally high levels of fire resistance.
On the northern slope of the ridgeline dividing Powell Creek from Murphy Creek, unit 7-1 is located at a higher elevation than most of the Late Mungers Timber Sale, and extends into a more productive montane forest of Douglas fir and scattered white fir at the headwaters of Murphy Creek. The stand contains mature to late successional forest components, large old trees, a closed canopy, and patches of structural complexity.
Unit 7-1 surrounds a large block of nesting habitat for the northern spotted owl, and although not identified as such by the BLM, it appears to support nesting habitat as well. Given the relatively productive forest conditions, this stand will continue developing habitat complexity, accumulating and recruiting large snags, downed wood and living trees through forest succession and time. The logging proposed in the Late Mungers Timber Sale will only disrupt this process, degrade habitat conditions, and remove important habitat elements.
This stand is also relatively fire resistant with a high canopy, a dominance by large trees, and relatively cool, moist habitat conditions. The canopy shading provided by large old trees also serves to suppress understory growth, and in so doing, naturally reduces fire risks.
The dramatic canopy cover reduction, the removal of large, fire resistant trees, and the alteration of microclimate conditions proposed in the Late Mungers Timber Sale will trigger both stand drying and the development of dense, woody understory fuels as young, highly flammable trees and shrubs regenerate and fill in the canopy gaps created by group selection logging and heavy commercial thinning operations.
Additionally, roughly one mile of new road is proposed for construction on the beautiful ridgeline above and across the steep mountain slopes of unit 7-1. This new road will impact intact habitats, increase noxious weed spread, create excessive erosion, and encourage illegal OHV use, while facilitating commercial logging that will degrade forest habitats, increase fire risks and contribute to the climate crisis.
Unit 22-1 is located at the headwaters of Murphy Creek in an area heavily logged decades ago. Much of unit 22-1 is a plantation forest recovering from previous logging treatments, yet the narrow eastern portion of the unit contains a beautiful mature and mid-successional mixed conifer forest with snags, downed wood, some large dominant trees, and generally complex forest habitats that have never been logged. The soils are extremely rocky with some impressive rock outcrops and very little understory growth. Understory fuel development is currently moderated by overstory canopy growth, keeping fire risks to a minimum. The lower portion of the stand also contains a beautiful mountain spring at the head of Murphy Creek.
We found a few 30” diameter trees and a large 38″ diameter tree identified for logging in this unit, and if implemented, enough canopy would be removed through logging to both trigger an understory shrub response and significantly degrade habitat conditions for the northern spotted owl.
Unit 15-1 straddles the ridgeline between Deer Creek and Murphy Creek, and contains some large, old trees over 50” diameter. The south-facing slopes in the Deer Creek watershed contain mixed conifer and hardwood groves with intact stands of live oak and madrone woodland. Patchy, low density groves of large, fire-resistant conifer species growing as islands among the canopy of hardwood trees that have colonized this harsh, ridgetop since the last mixed severity fire.
The forest and woodland in unit 15-1 do not need fuel reduction or forest health treatments and are maturing nicely without intervention. Despite minimal overstory conifer growth, trees up to 36” are identified for removal in the stand, removing some of the most fire resilient, mature trees to pierce through the canopy of hardwood forest.
This unit also extends onto the north-facing slope which contains a significant hardwood component and younger stands of Douglas fir.
The logging proposed in the Late Mungers Timber Sale would dramatically reduce canopy cover, remove large, fire resistant trees, alter microclimate conditions, degrade habitat complexity, damage northern spotted owl habitat, reduce old forest, snag and downed wood recruitment, release abundant stored carbon and increase fire risks.
Recent research by scientists at Oregon State University has demonstrated that the logging and wood products industry are the biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions in the state of Oregon (Law. 2018). The type of old forest logging proposed in the Late Mungers Project is particularly troubling because it proposes to transform our beautiful old forests from important carbon sinks into dangerous carbon sources. The Medford District BLM is steadily converting carbon rich old forests across southwestern Oregon into carbon bombs that will only further compound current climate impacts.
The agency is also steadily converting fire resistant old forest, with currently cool, moist habitat conditions, into hot, dry, windswept habitats dominated by young, highly flammable regeneration. The removal of large, old trees and excessive levels of canopy cover (to as low as 30%) would increase fire risks on BLM lands and threaten nearby communities. The large, dominant trees proposed for logging in the Late Mungers Timber Sale and the excessive canopy reduction identified on the ground will dramatically increase fire risks on both the stand and landscape scale.
The Late Mungers Timber Sale and the old forest logging it proposes is a violation of President Biden’s Executive Order on forests and an unacceptable impact to the mature and old-growth forests that stabilize our climate, maintain fire resilience, and safeguard our clean water. We ask the Medford District BLM to comply with President Biden’s Executive Order on old forest and climate, to become part of the solution, and to cancel the Late Mungers Project!
The Medford District BLM recently approved the Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands (IVM) Project, a purposefully misleading attempt to conflate their proposals for heavy industrial logging with so-called “forest resiliency” work.
At our recent Provolt Rally, a sign was displayed by a particularly astute local resident declaring the IVM, Intentionally Very Misleading — we could not agree more!
To sign our Late Mungers Petition follow this link.
The Applegate Siskiyou Alliance has been tracking and actively opposing the IVM Project since its initial proposal in 2019, and now that the IVM has been approved, the BLM has proposed to begin implementation of the IVM Project in the mountains between Williams and Murphy, Oregon in the Applegate River watershed.
This first project, called the Late Mungers Vegetation Management Project, includes the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales. Located in a Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forest designated to protect and develop old forest habitat for the northern spotted owl and other forest dwelling species, these timber sales extend across the Mungers Creek and Powell Creek watersheds above the Williams Valley, across numerous tributaries of the Applegate River, including Murphy Creek, and small portions of the Deer Creek watershed above Selma. Together the timber sales would log 8 million board feet of timber on 800 acres of LSR forest.
Although the BLM claims these projects will build fire resilience, restore fire-adapted stand conditions, reduce the relative abundance of “overly dense” closed canopy forest stands on the landscape scale, and develop northern spotted owl habitat through heavy industrial logging, we strongly disagree.
We disagree with the following BLM claims for the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales:
1. The treatments proposed in the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales are necessary, beneficial or are intended to increase fire resilience;
2. The logging treatments proposed will actually increase fire resilience on the stand or landscape level;
3. The logging treatments proposed are actually targeting “overly dense,” forest stands that are “departed” from the range of historic variability; and
4. The logging treatments proposed will develop complex forest habitat for the northern spotted owl through large tree removal and heavy canopy reduction.
For over a month, we have been out monitoring timber sale units throughout both the Penn Butte and Late Mungers Timber Sales. During that time we have found many examples of fire resilient, mature, late successional or old-growth forests proposed for logging; however, unit 26-1A is among the most egregious examples.
Unit 26-1A contains mature, montane fir forest located at roughly 5000′ elevation on the eastern face of Morgan’s Buckhorn and at the headwaters of Powell Creek. The forest in unit 26-1A burned at low severity in the 2018 Spencer Creek Fire, a complex of three small fires that burned approximately 200 acres in the mountains between Murphy, Williams, and Selma.
In unit 26-1A the fire backed downhill and burned moderately beneath groves of large, relatively open spaced Douglas fir. The fire burned through duff layers, downed wood, young understory trees and stump sprouting shrub species without altering overstory canopy conditions. The stand’s closed canopy sheltered the area from strong winds and intense sunlight, and suppressed understory growth enough to naturally moderate fuel loading. These factors combined with favorable weather conditions to limit fire intensity in unit 26-1A, maintaining fire-adapted stand conditions and rejuvenating understory vegetation, including young trees, shrubs and herbaceous species.
Four years later the forest floor contains very little dead material, virtually no significant fine fuel, and fresh, green growth, including young shrubs, herbaceous flowering growth and a new cohort of Douglas fir seedlings. The current mixture will remain largely unburnable for the next few years, and having survived the last fire unscathed, the overstory fir trees maintain high levels of fire resistance.
Ironically, despite the extremely positive fire effects sustained during the 2018 Spencer Creek Fire, the agency has decided that the fire did not kill enough trees in this stand or create the arbitrary stand conditions that BLM claims are most beneficial. The agency is now proposing to log off many of the large, fire resistant trees in unit 26-1A that survived the 2018 Spencer Creek Fire.
Utilizing a so-called “Ecosystem Resilience-open” prescription, the agency has proposed logging, large, fire resistant trees over 30″ diameter and reducing canopy cover to as low as 30% in this stand. This would require removing more than half of the stand’s living trees, and rather than restoring habitat conditions, these treatments would replace functional closed canopy forests with a mere scattering of open grown trees. The logging proposed would eliminate protective cover important for wildlife species, including the northern spotted owl, degrade canopy conditions, eliminate significant habitat complexity and contribute to microclimate alterations that will dry out forest stands, increase temperatures, and regenerate highly flammable young trees and shrubs where fire resistant forest once stood.
Unit 26-1A is “leave” tree or “retention” tree marked, meaning only those trees marked with red paint will be retained if the Penn Butte Timber Sale is implemented and old forest logging occurs. The proposed logging would degrade this currently intact, beautifully fire-adapted forest and undermine the benefits of the Spencer Creek Fire by removing fire resistant trees and damaging the natural post-fire rejuvenation and new cohort of young conifer seedlings sprouting up after the fire. The logging will also impact sensitive fire-affected soils and spread noxious weeds in currently intact fire-adapted, native plant communities.
Unit 26-1A does not need “treatment” to maintain fire-adapted forest conditions, benefit the northern spotted owl or enhance native plant communities, — the 2018 Spencer Creek Fire naturally achieved these goals.
The logging treatments proposed in unit 26-1A of the Penn Butte Timber Sale have no credible biological justification, just clear economic motivations. Despite the BLM’s rhetoric regarding “forest restoration” and “forest resilience,” the Penn Butte and Late Mungers Timber Sales are the latest and perhaps most brazen examples of industrial, old forest timber sales masquerading as restoration projects on public lands in southwestern Oregon.
To sign our Late Mungers Petition follow this link.
You can find more information on this project on recent Applegate Siskiyou Alliance blog posts. The public comment period ends on June 28.