Wednesday, October 21, 2015

KICKSTARTER: Buckskin Fire Report

The Siskiyou Crest Blog and Klamath Forest Alliance have initiated a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Buckskin Fire Report.

The Buckskin Fire Report will explore the impact of discretionary fire suppression actions, the mosaic of this wildland fire, and the potential management implications of the Buckskin Fire and its suppression. The report will also identify policy recommendations to reform the suppression of fire throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and beyond. 

 The Buckskin Fire Report is a continuation of the Klamath-Siskiyou Fire Reports, sponsored by the Klamath Forest Alliance. The project has focused on wildland firefighting policy and strategy, as well as fire suppression actions and their impacts in the wildlands of the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion. In the last three years we have published five fire reports, investigating the fire suppression actions and impacts approved by fire managers on public lands. We have documented the discretionary impacts of fire suppression actions to wildlands, old-growth forests, botanical resources, fisheries resources, watershed values, fire severity, and other important natural resources and services provided by our public lands. 

In the reports, we analyze the natural fire mosaic, document the impact of fire suppression, and provide management and policy recommendations. The reports have played vital roles in canceling post-fire logging proposals, creating more transparency within the local firefighting community, and advocating for appropriate wildfire management. 

The Buckskin Fire Report will explore the wild, remote, and controversial South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The South Kalmiopsis is the largest and most inaccessible, unprotected wildland in the state of Oregon. The area harbors an unusual serpentine habitat, supporting extreme botanical diversity and many rare plant species. It was also effected by the 2002 Biscuit Fire, a large 500,000-acre wildland fire, infamous for its fire severity, huge financial cost associated with its suppression, and it is now iconic fire-adapted landscape.

On June 11, 2015, a lightening fire started in the depths of the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, on Baldface Creek, a wild tributary of the North Fork of the Smith River. Baldface Creek is a pristine stream and the largest producer of steelhead and coho salmon in the North Fork Smith River watershed. 

Baldface Creek is one of the most pristine streams in the Siskiyou Mountains. It is also a large roadless watershed within Oregon's largest unprotected wildland: the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area.

The area was burned in the 2002 Biscuit Fire and was not subjected to post-fire "salvage" logging. Many in the logging industry and federal land management agencies have promoted a fear of the "Biscuit re-burn," telling the public that the lack of post-fire logging in many portions of the Biscuit Fire promotes high severity re-burns and impacts the forests' ability to regenerate following wildfire. This rhetoric — despite numerous scientific studies refuting the claims — has led to extreme paranoia within the agency and firefighting community regarding new fire starts in the Biscuit Fire Area. The rhetoric has also encouraged irresponsible and overly zealous firefighting actions that have potentially dire environmental consequences.

It is clear that fire managers and agency officials decided very early on, that full suppression would be utilized in the Buckskin Fire. The fear of high intensity fire, although very real in managers' minds, was not actively playing out on the landscape, despite unseasonably hot weather and strong winds. Nonetheless, large firelines cleared with bulldozers were built along unroaded ridgelines, through rare plant communities and over non-motorized hiking trails in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, to the very boundary of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Large scale tree falling in the roadless area was approved by fire managers and crews cut their way through the roadless wildlands to create fireline. This fireline was designed to be free of snags and woody vegetation, to facilitate large, purposefully set backfires.

The natural fire, burning in unlogged, post-fire forests, burned slow and cool, never actually reaching the agency's raw, bulldozed firelines. Fire managers responded by burning the area between the fireline and the head of the fire, which was far below in the canyon of Baldface Creek. A management tactic, called Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST), was mandated in the area, but not implemented initially, allowing for larger, more intrusive environmental impacts in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The outcome of these actions is currently unknown and many fear that the vast, wild region has been irreparably harmed by irresponsible fire suppression actions. 
The Buckskin Fire burned entirely within the fire footprint of the 2002 Biscuit Fire. An in-depth review of the Buckskin Fire could provide an opportunity to explore fire severity in post-fire landscapes that were not effected by salvage logging.

It appears that much could be learned from exploring the impact of fire suppression in the Buckskin Fire area. It also appears that much could be learned from investigating the natural fire mosaic and fire severity of the Buckskin Fire, as well as the positive management implications of naturally regenerating post-fire landscapes in the Klamath-Siskiyou. 

Please help us create the Buckskin Fire Report. The report will be submitted to the appropriate land management agencies, politicians, and media outlets. It will be utilized as a tool in the effort to reform wildland firefighting policy on public lands throughout the west, and in the Kalmiopsis Region. We believe that fire suppression is one of the most persistent and urgent threats to the wildlands of the Klamath-Siskiyou. Until we address this problem, no landscape is truly protected and our wilderness is not truly wild. Join us and support the Buckskin Fire Report.

To view and contribute to the Buckskin Fire Report Kickstarter Campaign follow this link:  Buckskin Fire Report Kickstarter Project

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Klamath River TREX

 A TREX participant igniting a night burn at the Rainbow Mine on South Russian Creek near Sawyers Bar, California. October 2015.

This past week I attended the Klamath River TREX, a prescribed fire training program facilitated by a coalition of partners in Northern California, including the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, the Salmon River Restoration Council, Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, the Nature Conservancy, the United States Forest Service, Cal Fire and others. The project implements prescribed fire for fuel reduction and community safety on private and tribal lands. Currently, the Klamath River TREX is running prescribed fire crews in Happy Camp and Orleans on the Klamath River, and near Sawyers Bar on the Salmon River. I was working with the good folks on the Orleans and Salmon River crews, on the Bacon Flat, Butler Flat, and Rainbow Mine Burn Units. All units were safely and successfully conducted by hard working locals, professional firefighters, and burn bosses.

The TREX program offers private landowners the opportunity to implement prescribed fire treatments on homesteads and adjacent to communities, while providing training and experience to local residents and fire professionals. The program has brought experienced fire professionals, tribal leaders, and local residents together to learn, burn, and protect rural communities. Most of those involved are volunteering their time and resources in a grassroots effort to restore fire. 

A cool night burn on the Rainbow Mine consumed understory fuels and maintained fire safe conditions near private residences. October 2015.

The concept is to allow prescribed fire treatments to reduce fuels and maintain habitat conditions adjacent to rural communities, enabling wildfires to be managed for resource benefit in the backcountry. This is especially important in the Klamath River watershed where large swaths of roadless and wilderness lands can be found in or adjacent to the Trinity Alps Wilderness, Russian Wilderness, Marble Mountains Wilderness, and the Red Buttes Wilderness. 

These large and invaluable wilderness resources are threatened nearly annually by discretionary fire suppression tactics, including fireline creation, high severity backfiring, and other forms of impactful fire management. These areas are also impacted by fire suppression and its influence on natural fire regimes, vegetative structure and composition. By maintaining fire-resilient and fire-adapted landscapes near human communities, these impacts can be greatly reduced and more backcountry wildfires can be allowed to burn. 

The Klamath River TREX is also located within Native American country, traditionally and currently inhabited by the Karuk Tribe. The TREX program is coordinated with Karuk tribal members and authorities, implementing significant cultural burns, such as the annual Tshaniik Burn, at ceremonial grounds near Orleans, California. 

Folks on the Klamath are building resilience in their forests and communities through the utilization of fire. They are also reinitiating a long tradition of fire that has been central to the subsistence, ceremony, and culture of the Karuk Tribe. 

For time immemorial fire has played a moderating role in forest ecosystems and maintained culturally significant resources, including wild game, basketry materials, indigenous plant-based foods and medicinal herbs in the Klamath River region. 

Wildfires have also burned in the summer months due to frequent seasonal thunderstorms and lightening ignitions. These fires burn at mixed severity. The mixed severity fire regime in the Klamath Mountains is one of the most complex, fire-adapted systems in the west, promoting high levels of pyrodiversity. Combined with steep environmental gradients, diverse geology, a transitional climate, and high levels of landscape connectivity, the region is a hotspot for biodiversity. 

 Klamath River TREX: Bacon Flat Prescribed Burn near Orleans, California. October 2015

It is vital to our human communities and fire-adapted forests that we build a more productive and interactive relationship with fire. We must strive to promote more natural fire regimes, plant communities, and habitat conditions, while protecting communities at-risk to wildfire related impacts. These are the goals of the TREX program. Goals that have been achieved successfully this fall in the Klamath River country. For more information about the Klamath TREX program check out the following links: Salmon River & Orleans Complexities facebook page, The Mid-Klamath Watershed Council Prescribed Fire Program webpage, or the Catching Fire Movie made about previous TREX programs.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


The Mule Mountain Trail is not only one of the most popular hiking trails in the Applegate Valley, but also one of the most intact, low-elevation habitats in Southern Oregon. Forest Service land managers are proposing this beautiful trail system for motorized use.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Record of Decision (dROD) for the Travel Management Plan. The Travel Management Plan (TMP) was necessitated by the Travel Management Rule — a national Forest Service policy intended to address the impact of OHV use on public resources. The Travel Management Rule cites "soil erosion, water quality, and wildlife habitat," as well as impacts to "quiet recreational experiences," as issues to be addressed in each National Forests' TMP. The rule identifies criteria for the designation of OHV routes, including minimizing the potential impacts to soils, watersheds, vegetation and wildlife habitats. Other criteria includes reducing "conflicts between motor vehicle users and existing or proposed recreational uses."

The Travel Management Rule also identified parameters that should guide placement of off-road vehicle routes on the landscape, stating that, "areas are not intended to be large or numerous...These areas would have natural resources characteristics that are suitable for motor vehicle use, or would be so significantly altered by past actions that motor vehicle use might be appropriate." The guidance provided in the federal rule is clear, in that it encourages land managers to reduce impacts associated with motorized use on natural resources and other recreational uses. 
Despite recommendations in the Travel Management Rule to designate areas that are "significantly altered by past actions," pristine mountain meadows, such as this one on the Boundary Trail near Sturgis Creek, are being proposed for motorized use.

Sadly, none of these recommendations were followed when developing the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest TMP. The Travel Management Plan will be used by the Forest Service to manage off-road vehicle use on lands throughout southwestern Oregon and the Siskiyou Mountains, a region know for its wild landscapes, pristine streams, exceptional botanical diversity, and excellent opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. The recently published Draft Record of Decision, signed by Forest Supervisor Rob MacWhorter, is likely one of the worst off-road vehicle management plans approved on Forest Service lands in the Pacific northwest. 

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has declared our local roadless areas, botanical areas, research natural areas, back country non-motorized areas and sensitive habitats as sacrifice zones for extreme OHV use. The political corruption and undue influence of off-road vehicle special interest groups have created a biased and narrow Record of Decision that prioritizes off-road vehicle use over all other issues, interests, and environmental concerns. According to the FEIS "The primary potential adverse cumulative effects of these proposed actions, when considered with other past, present, and reasonable foreseeable future action are the reduction or elimination of certain kinds of motorized vehicle recreation or access opportunities on an extended area across the Pacific NW Region. The greatest potential cumulative effect is the loss of general motorized access off of designated routes (roads and trails) or outside of designated areas (cross-country travel), given the local, regional, and national application of the Travel Management Rule. There appears to be a trend for limiting motorized access to designated routes on public lands (proposed actions and decisions for implementing the Travel Management Rule on the Willamette, Umpqua, Klamath, Six Rivers, and Fremont-Winema Forests); as well as private forest and ranchlands and county lands in the local area. Given the national scope of the Travel Management Rule, there is a potentially significant adverse effect to off-road motorized access and recreation across the Pacific Northwest region. The degree to which the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is likely to contribute to this cumulative effect cannot be reasonably predicted. However, the development of proposed motorized trail systems may somewhat offset this adverse effect by providing additional designated motorized trail opportunities." 

In other words, despite a general consensus among national forest managers across the region — that off-road vehicle use should be limited to reduce significant adverse environmental and social impacts, as well as user conflicts — the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has chosen to increase motorized trail opportunities in sensitive lands such as inventoried roadless areas, botanical areas, back country non-motorized areas, and research natural areas. Apparently, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest managers are offering the wild habitats of the Siskiyou Mountains as a sacrifice zone where motorized vehicle recreation will be prioritized above reducing botanical impacts, wildlife impacts, erosion concerns, water quality issues, and user conflicts. The increase in motorized trail opportunities is most significant in the Applegate River drainage on the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District.

The agency is proposing to "amend" existing management plans to allow motorized use in areas historically closed to OHV use or designated specifically for non-motorized uses. This would include designating motorized trails in the region's Back Country Non-Motorized Areas, Research Natural Areas, Botanical Areas and Inventoried Roadless Areas, impacting the values these areas were designated to protect. The decision shows clear bias towards OHV use and a lack of appreciation for the needs of non-motorized trail users.

Many miles of back country hiking trails are proposed to be designated for motorized trail use. Below are a few specific routes that are proposed for motorized use in the TMP, despite significant social and ecological concerns. Management direction in many of these areas currently exclude motorized use, which would change under this new TMP. 

Grayback Mountain/Boundary Trail

The Grayback Mountain Botanical Area at the headwaters of O'Brien Creek is proposed for motorized trail use.

The area known as the Grayback Range is a long, high elevation ridge running north from the Siskiyou Crest. The ridge runs for over 12 miles from Sucker Gap in the Red Buttes Wilderness, to Grayback Mountain above the rural community of Williams, Oregon. The ridgeline divides the Applegate River watershed from the Illinois River watershed and has long been proposed as an addition to the Red Buttes Wilderness. The area encompasses the Oregon portion of the Kangaroo Roadless Area, a 30,000-acre swath of roadless old-growth forest, high mountain meadows, small mountain lakes, and craggy summits. It is not only a hotspot for biodiversity, but also a hotspot for non-motorized back country recreation. 

The Boundary Trail, which traverses this scenic ridgeline, is a National Recreation Trail with a long history of non-motorized trail use. This trail system provides access to the Oregon Caves National Monument, as well as the Red Buttes Wilderness (where motorized use is prohibited) and is one of the region's most treasured hiking and equestrian trails.

In 1990, due to the presence of numerous rare plant species and high quality wet meadow habitat, the LRMP designated the Grayback Mountain Botanical Area in Upper O'Brien Creek. They also prohibited motorized use off designated roads. The TMP specifically identifies a "high risk to botanical resources" associated with motorized trail use in the Grayback Mountain Botanical Area; it also identifies very sensitive hydrology that could easily be disturbed. Despite these risks, the TMP is proposing motorized trail use in the Grayback Mountain Botanical Area.

The LRMP also designated the Boundary Trail and surrounding Forest Service lands as a Back Country Non-motorized Area, one of only two on the Rogue River National Forest. This designation also prohibited motor vehicle use in the area and was intended to promote more compatible non-motorized recreational opportunities.

Unfortunately, the agency never created a Forest Order Closure, which would have made these prohibitions legally enforceable, and off-road vehicle enthusiasts took advantage, stating that, although the use was prohibited, they would ride where they please. Rather than enforce existing prohibitions and management regulations, the agency looked the other way, allowing the use to continue despite clear prohibitions in the LRMP.

Instead of finally creating a Forest Order Closure to implement the now 25-year-old motor vehicle prohibitions, the agency is proposing to allow motorized vehicle use throughout the area. The proposal includes designating numerous miles of the Boundary Trail along with the O'Brien Creek Trail, the Sturgis Fork Trail, and the Elk Creek Trail for motorized trail use.

The agency has proposed "plan amendments" that would alter current management plans to allow motorized use in a designated Back Country Non-Motorized Area. The proposed motorized trail system would also pass through the Grayback Botanical Area and the Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area, requiring more plan amendments to codify OHV use in areas currently designated for non-motorized conservation-based management. OHV use would severely impact the area's unique and important botanical values, ecological values, habitat connectivity, non-motorized recreational values, roadless character, and wildlife habitat.

Please let the Forest Service know you value the wild character, botanical diversity, and non-motorized recreational opportunities provided by the Grayback Mountain area and Boundary Trail. The Boundary Trail, Elk Creek Trail, O'Brien Creek Trail and Sturgis Fork Trail should all be closed to motorized use.

Little Grayback Trail

The Little Grayback Trail accesses the most scenic and remote sections of the Little Grayback Roadless Area. The trail should be closed to motorized traffic.
The Little Grayback Trail is perhaps the most diverse in the foothills of the Applegate Valley. It sustains high quality native grasslands and plant communities, as well as exceptional wildlife habitat. This is the wildest, most remote portion of the Little Grayback Roadless Area. 

In recent years unauthorized, user-created trails had been a problem in the area and land managers have just begun to minimize or eliminate this unauthorized and damaging OHV use. After all this, the area is now being proposed for motorized trail use in the TMP and no doubt, an increase in user-created trails and OHV impacts will follow.

The open nature of this landscape makes it particularly susceptible to damaging OHV use, and also particularly important for overwintering deer and elk dropping down from the high country of the Siskiyou Crest. The trail is also well known in the local hiking community as a quiet area with exceptional scenic beauty and recreational values. 

Local botanists enjoy the area for its diversity, its rare plant populations and the Lyman Gulch/Doe Hollow Botanical Area that was recently impacted by unauthorized OHV route development. Opening the remote area to motorized trail use is a green light to reestablish recently closed, user-created trails. These user-created trails included significant impacts to oak woodland habitats, old-growth conifer habitats, chaparral, intact grasslands, perennial streams, ephemeral streams, and the area's roadless character.

Mule Mountain Trail System

The Mule Mountain Trail loops through one of the most intact watersheds in the foothills of the Applegate Valley. The trail is well loved by non-motorized users and should be closed to motorized traffic.

The Mule Mountain Trail system is a one of the most popular non-motorized hiking trails in the foothills of the Applegate Valley. It is also important winter range habitat for the region's deer, elk, cougar, and other wildlife. Mule Creek is home to numerous spotted owls, who nest directly adjacent to the Mule Creek Trail, and would be impacted by noise disturbance associated with OHV use. 

The TMP is proposing to disregard seasonal OHV closures for critical Deer Winter Range Habitat in the Mule Mountain area. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with many local residents have requested that the Mule Mountain trail system be managed for non-motorized use. In recent years, a seasonal OHV closure has been in effect from November 1 to May 1 to protect winter range values and reduce stress to the area's large herds of overwintering ungulates. The Forest Service is disregarding these historic winter range protections and opening the Mule Mountain area to year-round motorized use.

The Mule Mountain Trail begins on private land near Upper Applegate Road. This private land has granted the Forest Service a non-motorized trail easement and is subject to a year-round motor vehicle closure. The trail is adjacent to a rural residential area on Upper Applegate Road and OHV use will create conflict and noise disturbance to adjacent properties. Motorized use is simply not compatible with the quality of life enjoyed by nearby residences.

The trail system, consisting of the Mule Mountain Trail, Mule Creek Trail, Charlie Buck Trail, Baldy Mountain Trail, and Little Greyback Trail. It is found entirely within the Little Greyback Roadlless Area. The area is an increasingly rare, low-elevation habitat that is highly susceptible to off-road vehicle damage. In recent years, numerous user-created trails have impacted botanical, wildlife, and roadless area values to the detriment of other forest users and resources. Despite the long history of heavy non-motorized trail use, multiple forest order closures prohibiting motorized use, and historic OHV impacts, the Forest Service is proposing to open the area to motorized trail use, creating an off- road vehicle park at the edge of many residential homesteads and in the wildest back country remaining in the foothills of the Siskiyou Crest.  

Cook and Green Creek Trail

The Cook and Green Creek Trail is a popular place to access the Pacific Crest Trail and Red Buttes Wilderness Area, both closed to motorized use. The trail also provides access to the Cook and Green Pass Botanical Area. The trail should be closed to motorized traffic.

The Cook and Green Creek Trail is a popular non-motorized trail accessing the Kangaroo Roadless Area, Red Buttes Wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Together with the Horse Camp Trail and PCT (which are both closed to OHV use), the Cook and Green Creek Trail makes a popular backpacking loop for hiking enthusiasts and equestrians. For decades this trail has been incorporated into backpacking loops in the Red Buttes Wilderness and has been treated as primitive backcountry. The area is known for its intact old-growth habitat, local spotted owl populations, and highly valuable non-motorized trail experience. 

The upper portions of the trail are protected as a Botanical Area, where OHV use has been prohibited in the Land and Resource Management Plan. The Forest Service claims that no rare plants are found in the vicinity of the trail, yet clearly have not looked very hard, as numerous rare orchid species including Cyprepedium californica, Cyprepedium fasiculatum, and Cyprepedium montanum can be found within feet of the existing trail tread.

The area was identified in the Middle Fork Watershed Analysis as supporting a particularly high density of stream crossing with a high probability of creating sedimentation and erosion in the mainstem of Cook and Green Creek. OHV use would compound that potential problem. The area is also within a Late Successional Reserve protected to encourage healthy old-growth habitat conditions, providing habitat and connectivity for late-seral wildlife species, such as the Pacific fisher and northern spotted owl. 

The Cook and Green Creek Trail should be closed to motorized use.

McGrew Trail

The McGrew Trail extends across the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, one of Oregon's most remote and intact landscapes.  The region is a botanical treasure and contains some of the most pristine streams in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. The McGrew Trail should be permanently closed to all motorized use.

The McGrew Trail has long been a controversial OHV route, traversing the largest unprotected roadless area in the state of Oregon, and one of the most botanically diverse regions on the continent. The area also supports some of the most pristine waters and fishery resources in the west, including highly valuable tributary streams that feed the North Fork of the Smith River and West Fork of the Illinois River with high quality, cold water refugia.

Motorized use on the McGrew Trail will significantly increase the risk of spreading the deadly Port Orford Cedar Root Rot (Phytothera lateralis). In fact, motorized vehicle use has already been implicated in the spread of Phytothera in the area of upper Rock Creek adjacent to the McGrew Trail. Motorized use will also degrade the area's roadless character, impact botanical resources and rare plant populations, and potentially impact the region's exceptional water quality and fisheries habitat.

Historically, significant off-road damage has been sustained in the area around Sourdough Camp, at the mouth of Baldface Creek and on the North Fork of the Smith River. Rill and gully erosion is common along those sections of trail that receive motorized use, creating significant erosion and sedimentation. The most remote portions of the trail (beyond Cedar Springs) have been inaccessible to all classes of motorized vehicles for many years now. These areas are currently receiving no motor vehicle use. The designation of this route as a motorized trail is inconsistent with TMP guidelines that allow designation of trails only if they are currently receiving motorized use. The section of the McGrew Trail from Cedar Springs to Sourdough Camp has been impassable for many years and should be excluded from consideration as a motorized route.  

The Forest Service has proposed to allow motorized use under a special use permit system on the McGrew Trail. This would allow motorized use in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, the largest unprotected roadless area in the State of Oregon and in one of our wildest, most remote wilderness destinations: Sourdough Camp. They have claimed that all spur roads leading off the McGrew Trail will be closed to motorized use, yet the agency's capacity to enforce these closures is minimal at best. Opening motorized trails in terrain as remote as the McGrew Trail will create a situation that is nearly impossible to monitor for impacts and enforce trail prohibitions.

Illinois River Trail

The Wild and Scenic Illinois River in the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The region is a botanical paradise and stronghold for native fisheries. It is also one of the region's most spectacular whitewater rafting trips and wilderness destinations. Innumerable important values will be impacted by encouraging motorized use.

The Illinois River Trail is one of the primer wilderness trail experiences in Southwestern Oregon. Located within the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area and Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, the trail provides a long distance non-motorized trail of the highest quality and ecological importance. The Illinois River is also one of the most highly valued whitewater rafting resources in the west. Permitting motorized trail use on the Illinois River Trail will significantly degrade both hiking and whitewater rafting experiences through noise disturbance, physical impacts, and user conflicts.

The area is also a botanical hotspot, including many rare and usual plant species and plant communities that will be impacted by OHV use.

The Illinois River corridor was designated a Back Country Recreation Area in the Siskiyou National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. This designation prohibited motorized use within the lower Illinios River area and promoted non-motorized recreational pursuits. Amendments are proposed to the Siskiyou National Forest LRMP to codify OHV use in an area currently designated non-motorized use. 

The agency is proposing seasonal OHV use that would coincide with hunting season to allow for motorized hunting of deer, elk, and black bear. The proposal would badly degrade the wilderness experience, the area's botanical resources, and coincide with recreational fishing season on this important wild and scenic river. Anglers, hikers, botanists, and the area's wildlife will all be disturbed by this proposal. The Illinois River Trail should be closed to all forms of motorized use.

Silver Peak/Hobson Horn Trail

Silver Prairie has long been a spectacular wilderness destination in the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The rolling meadow habitat is very rare in the Kalmiopsis region and is highly susceptible to damaging OHV use and the development of user-created trails. The area is an important wildlife habitat better preserved as wilderness than treated as an off-road vehicle hunting preserve.
The Silver Peak/Hobson Horn Trail is one of the most remote and pristine areas in the North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The area has long been proposed for wilderness designation, as a vital addition to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The trail climbs from the Illinois River Trail to Silver Peak. It once continued up the long, remote ridgeline to Hobson Horn. Today only four miles of the trail are passable and much of the trail has been lost due to lack of maintenance. The trail climbs very steeply to Silver Prairie, a large sloping meadow that is highly susceptible to OHV damage. Silver Prairie would be open to OHV use during the hunting season for elk, deer and black bear. The potential for lasting impacts is great and the capacity for the Forest Service to effectively monitor and enforce closures if unauthorized use develops is extremely minimal. 

Act Now!
The Siskiyou Mountains are Oregon's most botanically diverse and interesting mountain range, an increase in OHV use will threaten that natural legacy. The Siskiyou Mountains also support some of the wildest and most remote watersheds on the West Coast. It is a unique mountain habitat that should be preserved in all its integrity. The Siskiyou Mountains should not be a playground for off-road vehicle abuse. This is our home and the home to many wild creatures; it is not a sacrifice zone.
Klamath Forest Alliance and the Siskiyou Crest Blog will be working hard to oppose increased OHV use in the wild places of the Siskiyou Mountains. We intend to file an objection and work to organize local residents against the TMP.  Please consider supporting our efforts with a donation. Please identify your donation for the Siskiyou Mountain Fund. Donations can be made at the following in link: KFA Donations

Please contact Rob MacWhorter, Forest Supervisor for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and let him know you do not appreciate having our region sacrificed to extreme OHV use. Tell him you oppose motorized trail use in inventoried roadless areas, botanical areas, research natural areas, and Back Country Non-Motorized Areas. Mention the trails highlighted above and recommend OHV closure. 

Contact for Supervisor MacWhorter:

To view the entire document titled Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, Motorized Vehicle Use on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest follow the link below:
Motor Vehicle Use FEIS

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Protect Siskiyou Wild Rivers!

Taowhywee, Agness Baker Pilgrim, Takelma Indian Elder, Confederated Tribes of Siletz being a "voice for the voiceless," speaking in support of wild rivers and clean water at the public meeting in Grants Pass, OR.

This week an estimated 500 people turned out for public meetings about proposed strip mines in Rough & Ready Creek, the North Fork of the Smith River, and the southern Oregon coast. Despite the large turnout and the enormous importance of this issue, the meetings have received very little local media attention. Two public meetings were held: one in Gold Beach and one in Grants Pass, Oregon. The overwhelming majority—an estimated 95%— of those who spoke at the meetings where in opposition to the proposed strip mines and in support of mineral withdrawal for these wild rivers.

Currently, the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have implemented a two year "mineral segregation," meaning no new mining claims can be filed in the region. The mineral segregation would also require all existing mine claims to undergo a validation process, where mine claims must prove they are valid and economically viable to proceed with mine operations. This process would apply to the mines owned by the London based, Red Flat Nickel Company, which has staked claim to the proposed strip mines on Baldface Creek and the south coast. The process would also apply to claims staked by RNR Resources who is proposing a nickel strip mine on Rough and Ready Creek.  

A bill proposed by Senators Wyden and Merkley from Oregon, as well as Representative DeFazio from Oregon and Representative Huffman from California, would extend the statutes of this two year "segregation" into a five year mineral withdrawal. Environmentalists and local residents are proposing a 20 year, or better yet, permanent mineral withdrawal. The idea is to put a moratorium on new claims in the area, allowing Congress time to permanently protect the region in question from industrial mining, just as the majority of the Smith River drainage already is.

The proposed strip mines would impact some of the region's most intact watersheds, effecting thousands of acres in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. These watersheds include undammed and pristine salmon streams at the headwaters of the Smith and Illinois Rivers. Currently these watersheds support some of the highest water quality on the face of the earth; they are not only a stronghold for native fisheries, but also some of the most botanically complex regions on the continent. 

The potential impacts associated with nickel strip mining in the area are large and permanent, and the benefits to local communities are small and temporary. No amount of short-term job creation would make up for the loss of high-quality drinking water for Crescent City, or the countless northern California and southern Oregon residents who source their water from these pristine watersheds. No amount of boom and bust economic development will compensate for the loss of sustainable outdoor recreational opportunities, commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, and quality of life in the region. No amount of nickel ore is worth the desecration of this wild, pristine wilderness.

Rough & Ready Creek in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area is one of the most pristine streams in the Siskiyou Mountains, and a stronghold for rare serpentine plant species. The area's unique habitats and exceptional water quality will be devastated if strip mining was to occur.

The story is one of lost opportunities and short-sighted corporate mining schemes. In the 1980s mining companies threatened to strip mine Gasquet Mountain on the North Fork of the Smith River for cobalt, chromium, and nickel. The plans involved large strip mines, and a coal burning smelter, fed by proposed reservoirs in this important undammed river system. In 1990, in response to the proposal, the entire California portion of the Smith River was declared a National Recreation Area and withdrawn from mineral entry. 

At this time many thought the iconic Smith River, the gem of our nations Wild and Scenic River system, was adequately protected. Yet, the wildest portions of the Smith River's famous North Fork extend over the California border into Oregon. The Oregon portion of the Smith River is now threatened by the very impact the Smith River National Recreation Area was designated to protect against: nickel strip mining that would devastate the area's clear and pristine water quality, fisheries habitat and scenic recreational values.
In 2001, the Clinton Administration proposed to withdraw a large portion of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest from mineral entry, barring new claims and requiring validation of all existing mine claims. The George W. Bush administration responded by swiftly disregarding this proposal.

In 2002, as the Forest Service was pushing through the highly controversial Biscuit Fire Salvage Project, promises were made by both politicians and Forest Service officials that the unimpacted portions of the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area would be included as expansions to the current Kalmiopsis Wilderness. This included the entire area now proposed to be strip mined. The Forest Service and our elected officials proceeded to get the logs out, but refused to further explore wilderness expansion. Since this time, the Red Flat Nickel Company has staked thousands of acres of claims and is currently proposing exploratory drilling as an initial step towards mine development.

Today, we must push for mineral withdrawal, but the future remains uncertain until the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area is permanently protected as wilderness. A movement for wilderness protection is building and these threats could be the catalyst that galvanizes support for wilderness designation, much as proposed nickel mining generated the impetus for protection of the Smith River National Recreation Area.

The Forest Service is taking public comment until September 28, 2015 on the issue of mineral withdrawal and the potential for a five year extension in aid of legislation that will permanently protect these wild and amazing rivers. Please consider commenting, ask for a minimum 20 year mineral withdrawal and wilderness designation for the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. This opportunity might be our only chance. Which do you prefer: An industrial wasteland spewing toxic waste into some of our nation's most pristine salmon streams? Or a wilderness, wild, free, and forever preserved for future generations? The time to act is now. Join us!

Send comments to:
Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State Office, 
P.O. Box 2965, Portland, OR 97208-2965

To sign an online petition: 

The area proposed for mineral withdrawal on the south coast near Gold Beach, Oregon
The area proposed for mineral withdrawal in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, including Baldface Creek and Rough & Ready Creek.

Below is the "Summary of Minerals Withdrawal in Aid of Legislation." In other words, what's going on with this bill:

"On February 3, 2015, the Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act of 2015was introduced. Senators Wyden and Merkley introduced S. 346 and Representatives DeFazio and Huffman introduced H.R. 682. The legislation proposed to withdraw from the mining laws of the United States areas of National Forest System and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land with exceptionally high conservation values.

On February 4th, 2015, the U.S. Forest Service Regional Office in Portland received a copy of a letter to the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from Senators Wyden (OR) and Merkley (OR) and Representatives DeFazio (OR) and Huffman (CA) requesting that the Forest Service begin to process an application for a 5-year mineral withdrawal in aid of legislation.

The Forest Service is coordinating efforts with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); the congressional request for withdrawal encompasses approximately 95,684 acres of National Forest System land on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in addition to 5,376 acres of Federal (BLM) lands on the Medford and Coos Bay Districts of the BLM. The land is located in the Rough & Ready/Baldface Creek area in Josephine County and the Hunter Creek/Pistol River area in Curry County. Additionally, about 1,700 acres of non-Federal lands are included within the exterior boundaries of the proposed area that, if subsequently acquired by the United States, would become subject to the terms and conditions of the withdrawal.

A 90-day comment period associated with the publication of a Federal Register Notice announcing the segregation commenced on June 29, 2015 and extends through September 28, 2015. Written comments may be sent to the Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State Office, P.O. Box 2965, Portland, OR 97208-2965. Two public meetings will be held on September 9 & 10, 2015, in Gold Beach and Grants Pass, respectively, to provide opportunities for the public to provide verbal or written comments. All comments received will be considered by the contracted interdisciplinary team that is providing the environmental analysis for the withdrawal in aid of legislation.
A segregation period of up to 2 years provides time to process the withdrawal application, which includes an environmental analysis process with a 30-day public comment period during the scoping phase of the project. This will provide an additional opportunity for public comment. The Forest Service is the lead agency for the environmental analysis.

Subject to valid existing mineral rights, the withdrawal application would segregate the BLM and National Forest system lands from sale, location, and entry under the public land laws including the United States mining laws, and operation under the mineral and geothermal leasing laws while Congress considers proposed legislation.

Once the NEPA analysis is complete, the Secretary of the Interior is the deciding official, with recommendations provided by Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Supervisor Rob MacWhorter, Medford BLM District Manager Dayne Barron and Coos Bay BLM District Manager Patricia Burke. Assuming a bill is introduced in the legislature when the 5-year withdrawal period ends, the agencies may request an additional 5-year withdrawal period to the Secretary of the Interior. "

Monday, August 31, 2015

OHV Monitoring Reports Submitted to BLM and USFS

A view of the Hinkle Lake Basin and Whisky Peak from the summit of Arnold Mountain.

Recently I submitted the Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Reports and Motorized Vehicle Closure Petitions to the BLM and Forest Service. Both the BLM and Forest Service have acknowledged receipt of these documents and I am awaiting their official response. 

The reports document the impacts of OHV use in the Applegate Valley and the petitions request official closure and/or decommissioning of unauthorized and damaging OHV trails. Many local residents helped to support this project by signing on to the petition, providing me with tips and information about OHV routes, and funding the Kickstarter campaign that made it all possible. Thank you all for your support. 

I would like to specifically thank those who funded my Kickstarter campaign and supported the Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Project. Below are all the people that made the monitoring reports and petitions possible. Thanks!

David Callahan, Applegate, OR
Cherie Savoie Tintary, Forest Grove, OR
Leah Wingfield/Steve Clements, Jacksonville, OR
Chad Derosier, Ashland, OR
Chelsea Ruediger, Washington D.C.
Katherine Oldfield, Seattle, WA
Doranne Long, Grants Pass, OR
Greeley Wells, Jacksonville, OR
Jay Lininger, Talent, OR
Gary Lisman, Jacksonville, OR
Dave & Janet Kramer, Applegate, OR
Drummond Rennie, Jacksonville, OR
Cythia Cheney, Jacksonville, OR
Jane Fossen, Jacksonville, OR
Ann Gunter, Williams, OR
Rick & Louann Faist,
Karen Mitchell, Jacksonville, OR
Peter Salant, Jacksonville, OR
Mark Lansing
Eugene Weir, Ashland, OR
Morgan Lindsay, Ashland, OR
Spencer Lennard, Williams, OR
Jeff Judkins, Jacksonville, OR
Jessica Ruediger, Talent, OR
Vivian McAleavey, Jacksonville, OR
Ryan Ginn, Jacksonville, OR
Ken Chapman, Applegate, OR
Clint Driver, Jacksonville, OR
Wendy Seldon, Medford, OR
Dot Fisher-Smith, Ashland, OR
Annette Parsons, Grants Pass, OR
Dylan Owens, Ashland, OR
James Roemer
Ajit Singh, Ashland, OR
Chant Thomas & Susanna Bahaar, Jacksonville, OR
Jonathan Major, Jacksonville, OR
Jan Wright, Talent, OR
Diana Coogle, Applegate OR
Marion Hadden, Jacksonville, OR

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

OHV Monitoring Reports Released! Sign the petitions now!

OHV use is impacting many of the Botanical Areas designated to protect rare plant species and unique plant communities on the Siskiyou Crest. The Siskiyou Crest OHV Monitoring Report documents these impacts and recommends solutions. Please read the report and sign onto our petition for OHV closure on the Siskiyou Crest.

The Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Project, the Siskiyou Crest Blog and Klamath Forest Alliance have joined forces to document the impact of OHV use on public land in the Applegate River watershed. In May, the Siskiyou Crest Blog initiated a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the Applegate Valley OHV Monitoring Project. Thanks to the support of the local community the project was funded.

Since June, I have hiked many miles of OHV routes in the blazing summer heat, spent countless hours writing and organizing reports, documenting the impacts and recommending management solutions. Now we need your help to make the biggest impact possible.

 I have produced a monitoring report for Medford District BLM lands in the Applegate Valley, and a separate report exploring OHV impacts on Forest Service land on the Siskiyou Crest. There are now two separate petitions for these different agencies: one for BLM land and another for Forest Service land. 

Please sign onto our petitions requesting an emergency OHV closure on trails, routes, and roads causing significant environmental and social impacts. Links to the reports and the petitions can be found below.   Check out the reports and sign onto both petitions to protect the Applegate Valley from unauthorized OHV use. Please spread widely. Together we can make a difference!

The Medford District BLM OHV Monitoring Report documents the impact of OHV use in the foothills of the Applegate Valley, including numerous roadless areas and areas identified as "lands with wilderness characteristics." Please read the report and sign on to our petition for OHV closure. 

2015 OHV Monitoring Reports 

Siskiyou Crest/Forest Service OHV Petition 

BLM OHV Petition 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Debris Flows and Turbidity Inundate the Klamath River.

North Fork of the Salmon River on July 6, 2015 following severe thunderstorms. The turbidity and sedimentation from this event turned 230 miles of the Klamath River brown and turbid, from Beaver Creek to the mouth of the River near Klamath Glen. (Photo: Scott Harding)

           The fires on the Klamath River in 2014 burned on a vast scale across over 200,000 acres in the Klamath, Scott, and Salmon River watersheds. The fires burned in a mixed severity fire mosaic, including many acres of low severity understory fire and some large high severity burn patches. Most of these high severity patches burned during extreme weather conditions, including high winds and temperatures. At other times fires burned intensely when inversion layers lifted and created unstable atmospheric conditions. These high severity burn patches include areas of nearly complete tree mortality, where soils were, at times, scorched, causing them to become hydrophobic. Hydrophobic soils absorb water very poorly and tend to produce large volumes of runoff. 
            On July 5, 2015 the Klamath River area received intense thunderstorms, including heavy downpours, some of which were reported to have produced over 1.5” of rain in less than a half hour. On numerous afternoons the rain came down on these fragile post-fire landscapes, producing extreme sedimentation in fire-effected watersheds and turning the Klamath River itself turbid, dark and silty-brown, from Beaver Creek to the mouth of the Klamath River. This turbidity has impacted 230 miles of the Klamath River watershed. Tributary streams affected by sedimentation include Beaver Creek, Walker Creek, Grider Creek, and Elk Creek. 
           Tributaries affected by the Whites Fire of 2014—including South Russian Creek, Music Creek, and Whites Gulch—also filled the Salmon River with sediment from the upper North Fork to the mouth near Somes Bar, California. It is feared that the impacts to the spring-run Chinook salmon currently in the Salmon River will be severe. The sedimentation and debris flows pouring into some of these streams filled in a large number of pools that are very important as refugia for endangered salmon and steelhead species. Numerous of these streams are important habitat for anadromous fish because they pour cold, high quality water into the Klamath River, and many of these streams themselves also provide cold water habitat, deep pools and important spawning gravels. These gravels and pools have been filled in with fine sediment, reducing available habitat to our local salmon species. The impact has been severe, and unfortunately, could only get worse if the Klamath National Forest proceeds with the enormous post-fire logging project known as the Westside Fire Recovery Project. 

Before and after photos on the North Fork of the Salmon River (Photos: Scott Harding)

            Many of the watersheds affected by this turbidity event have one thing in common: unstable and highly erosive granitic soils. I believe this is one of the most important factors contributing to the turbidity and sedimentation. The events we have watched unfold were the perfect storm. A combination of high severity burn patches, highly erosive granitic soils, steep topography, sudden torrential downpours, and the historic impact of industrialization in our forests, including fire suppression, road building and logging. All things are connected, and likely many things contributed to the watershed impacts we are seeing, most notably high severity fire, erosive granitic soils, and unusually severe rain events.
            Unfortunately, these same fragile, granitic watersheds have been targeted for large-scale industrial logging in the Westside Fire Recovery Project. Many areas that recently experienced severe erosion, and watersheds that were seriously impacted by turbidity and sedimentation, are also proposed for clear-cut, post-fire logging, large scale road reconstruction, and other impacts associated with heavy industrial logging. Walker Creek and Grider Creek are proposed for the largest concentration of salvage logging units in the Westside Project. 

Grider Creek on July 9, 2015. Notice the heavy sedimentation piling up along the banks of the stream. Deep pools and spawning gravels have been filled with decomposed granite that washed down during the heavy rain events on July 5, 2015. Grider Creek is being targeted for large-scale, post-fire logging on very steep, erosive slopes. (Photo: Mark Moytka)

            One thing is for certain: to implement one of the region’s largest industrial-logging projects in recent history in the wake of this turbidity event and in the wake of these large fires is irresponsible. The Westside Project should be canceled and real watershed recovery projects proposed that would sustain our natural legacy into the future. The Klamath River salmon are simply too important to lose. 
        This summer turbidity event should be seen as a game-changer for the Westside Project; the situation has taken a drastic turn and a new analysis should be done to take this turbidity event into account. 
            Please contact the Klamath National Forest and tell them that the environmental baseline from which they did their analysis has changed, new information and new environmental conditions exist that should make the current Environmental Impact Statement for the Westside Fire Recovery Project null and void. Likewise, given what we have seen already, the potential for water quality and fisheries impacts associated with the Westside Project are too high. The project must be canceled!

Walker Creek has been filled with sediment, cobbles, and woody debris from debris flows. The area is also being targeted with the largest concentration of post-fire logging units in the Westside Project. The logging proposed is likely to increase sedimentation and erosion in the watershed, impacting riparian values and salmon fisheries in Walker Creek and downstream in the Klamath River. Post-fire logging in these sensitive watersheds is irresponsible and should be canceled. (Photo: Mark Mytoka)

            Contact the North Coast Water Control Board and ask them not to approve a water quality waiver for the Westside Fire Recovery Project. The stakes are simply too high.
            Contact the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS or NOAA Fisheries) and let them know that the fisheries of the Klamath River are too precious to lose and that the Westside Project will put the future of the Klamath River salmon in jeopardy.

Listen to an excellent radio interview about the issue with Scott Harding of the Salmon River Restoration Council. 

Stop the Westside Fire Recovery Project!
Contacts for the appropriate officials are posted below.   

  • NMFS: 
  • North West Water Control Board:
  • Klamath National Forest Supervisor: