By Paul Fattig
Some 45 million board feet of timber would be harvested if the proposed alternative is selected for a logging project in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest between Prospect and Crater Lake National Park.
The deadline is Feb. 14 for commenting on the just-released, 290-page environmental assessment for the 16,215-acre Bybee vegetation management project in the High Cascades Ranger District.
The project is designed to improve forest health, provide a sustainable supply of timber products and reduce the risk to forest resources from wildfire, according to the document signed by Forest Supervisor Rob MacWhorter.
The timber harvest target for the forest for 2013 is 40 million board feet, officials noted.
The Bybee acreage is scattered throughout a block shaped like the state of Oregon between Highway 230 and Crater Lake National Park. The southern tip of the tract is about 15 miles north of Prospect.
“This is very encouraging — this would be a great sale,” observed Dave Schott, executive vice president of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association.
Although he cautioned that he is just beginning to study the thick document, he noted he was impressed after a cursory look at the proposal.
Schott, who is a member of the Southern Oregon Small Diameter Coalition, which includes members of the environmental community and the timber industry, said the timber harvest would be miniscule compared to the annual growth in the forest.
“The mills here are desperate for federal timber,” he said. “Right now, the timber prices are excellent. The price of logs has gone up pretty dramatically in Oregon and Washington because of the demand. … Rob MacWhorter, to his credit, is getting some stuff out, at least getting it proposed.”
George Sexton, conservation director for the Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, expressed disappointment after reading the proposed alternative. Like Schott, he has yet to study the thick document in depth. But he said it appeared the agency was bent on logging old-growth timber while paying scant attention to watersheds and forest health.
“The High Cascades District has had a track record of producing timber in a way that leaves old-growth forests and watersheds in healthier condition,” he said. “But now it looks like all the values except for producing timber have been thrown out. I was floored when I read the proposed action.”
He noted his group had supported the Rustler timber sale, which produced some 40 million board feet of timber in the district, because it left the big trees and cut small-diameter trees while striving to reduce the number of roads on the unit. KS Wild endorsed the Big Butte Springs timber sale for the same reasons, he said.
He cited former district rangers Kerwin Dewberry and Joel King for their efforts to include all the stakeholders in the process.
“But this proposed alternative doesn’t represent the type of multidiscipline collaboration approach with stakeholders that produced timber while respecting the other values in the forest,” he said. “It seems like a radical departure from what had been working. I was disheartened.”
The proposed alternative has been modified since the project was first studied in 2010, officials said, noting that temporary road construction has been reduced and one unit has been proposed for helicopter logging.
Under the proposed alternative, 3,622 acres would be treated with a variety of silvicultural methods, including “free thinning” on 2,881 acres, which calls for removing trees to control stand density and favor desired tree species, while retaining legacy trees, officials said. Overstory removal would be employed on 438 acres, meaning that upper canopy layers would be removed to release trees or other vegetation in an understory, they noted.
Roughly 85 percent — 3,095 acres — would be logged by tractor or other ground-based systems. Cable logging would be used on 83 acres. A combination of both tractor and cable systems would be used on 410 acres. Helicopter logging would be employed on 34 acres.
Another alternative would provide 34 million board feet of timber, and another would harvest 10 million board feet.
For more specifics on the project and how to comment, see http://tinyurl.com/bkgelgh.
The EA is available for review at the Medford Interagency Office, 3040 Biddle Road, Medford.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.