Monday, November 10, 2014

KLAMATH NATIONAL FOREST PROPOSES MASSIVE POST-FIRE LOGGING PROJECT IN 2014 FIRES


View of the fire mosaic from the Happy Camp Fire in the Grider Creek Roadless Area. Numerous salvage logging units proposed in the Westside Fire Recvoery Project can be seen in this photo. All salvage logging in the Grider Creek watershed should be canceled as it is an important wildlife connectivity corridor.

The wildfires this past summer on the Klamath River burned in the Marble Mountains Wilderness, Russian Wilderness, Salmon River, Lower Scott River, and along the Klamath River between Happy Camp and Hamburg. In all, 215,371 acres burned in the Mid-Klamath watershed, creating a mosaic of mixed severity fire. The fires burned in a characteristic pattern, including roughly two-thirds low to very low severity fire. Many areas burned in the understory, clearing back fuel beneath a canopy of trees; some areas burned in a mixed pattern, thinning the overstory, while others sustained canopy fire, creating snag fields of fire-scorched timber. The result was the landscape-scale restoration of fire in a region with one of the west's most intact fire regimes.

Despite the regenerative nature of this summer's fires, the Klamath National Forest has proposed a massive salvage logging project — the Westside Fire Recovery Project (WFRP) — that would log over 40,000 acres of important post-fire habitat on public lands. The treatments proposed would log both green, live trees and fire killed trees. According to the agency's scoping notice, it is anticipated "that the majority of trees within salvage units will be harvested," including trees that survived the fire but the agency has decided are likely to die.

In my initial field research I have found numerous WFRP units that include high elevation species adapted to high to moderate severity fire, and stands that sustained less than 50% mortality. In many of the units I have visited, many large, green trees have survived the fires of 2014, but will they survive the logging frenzy to follow? 

Unit 511-Proposed for salvage logging in high elevation mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) forest adjacent to the Lake Mountain Botanical Area and the world's northern most stands of foxtail pine (Pinus balfouriana). The unit burned at low to moderate severity.

Unit 508- Partially burned red fir (Abies magnifica) forest at over 6000' proposed for salvage logging

Unit 508- A very large unit on the south face of Tom Martin Peak. Much of the unit burned at low to moderate severity, including this interesting transition zone between serpentine woodland and high elevation forest.
Unit 535- This unit in the Grider Creek watershed and adjacent to the Grider Roadless Area contains many live, old-growth trees of fire adapted species such as jeffery pine and incense cedar. Much of the unit burned at moderate to low severity and natural fire effects helped to maintain an open, fire adapted condition.

Currently the Klamath National Forest is accepting public comments on the Westside Fire Recovery Project. It is important that they hear from you. Below is a list of exclusion zones, project design features, and minimum prescription guidelines that could be incorporated into a public comment on this important issue. 


Exclusion areas
·      No salvage logging or planting units within Inventoried Roadless Areas, including the Grider, Tom Martin, Russian, Snoozer, Kelsey, or Johnson Roadless Areas.
·      No salvage logging on sensitive soils, active landslides, earth flows and other erosive soil types.
·      No salvage units on decomposed granite.
·      No salvage and no tree planting units in Late Successional Reserves.
·      No salvage units in Riparian Reserves.
·      No salvage units in special habitat designations such as Northern spotted owl (NSO) activity centers, peregrine falcon or goshawk activity centers.
·      No salvage units in Bald Eagle Management Areas.
·      No salvage in Critical Habitat for NSO.
·      No salvage logging in designated or recommended Wild and Scenic River segments.
·      No salvage units in the Grider Creek drainage to protect roadless values, watershed values, scenic values — such as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and connectivity between the Marble Mountains Wilderness and the adjacent LSRs.
·      No salvage units should be proposed in the following watersheds or areas to protect ecological values, scenic values, and recreational qualities within and adjacent to large Inventoried Roadless Areas or Wilderness Areas. This would include the following areas:
                  Happy Camp Fire: Grider Creek, N. Fork Kelsey Creek, McGuffy Creek,                     Kuntz Creek, Tom Martin Creek
                        Whites Fire: E. Fork Whites Gulch, Sixmile Creek, South Russian Creek,                           Tanners Peak area
·      No salvage in endemic or rare conifer stands and adjacent available habitat. This would include foxtail pine (Pinus balfouriana), Baker’s cypress (Cupressus bakeri), and Brewer spruce (Picea breweriana) to allow for natural regeneration.

Project design features
·      No new roads, either permanent or temporary.
·      No tree planting units; natural regeneration is adequate due to generally small patch size from high severity fire effects. Seed trees are nearly always present and regeneration adequate. Plantation style planting will only increase future fire risk and should be avoided at all costs.
·      No helicopter units. Activity slash left from helicopter units is very difficult to cleanup and will increase fire activity in future fires. Likewise the economics of helicopter logging necessitates the removal of large, old trees and snags.
·      No salvage logging should take place in partially burned stands that sustained minimal (less than 70%) mortality. Undamaged or partially fire damaged stands provide disproportionately important roles in ecological recovery and refugia for the survival of particular biota.
·      No salvage logging in high elevation sites above 6,000’, including mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), red fir (Abies magnifica), and white fir (Abies concolor) plant communities. These habitat types are adapted to long fire return intervals and relatively high severity fire effects. Scattered snag patches are natural, and due to the landscape location and short growing season, will recover slowly and create minimal fuels as succession takes place.  

Minimum prescription guidelines for salvage units
·      Emphasize the retention of biological legacies such as large live trees, large snags, coarse woody debris, and intact thickets of unburned vegetation. These features should be retained in falling and yarding operations. (Lindenmeyer & Franklin 2008 p.29-34 & 143-146)
·      Retain adequate large downed wood for slope stability and regeneration.
·      Retain adequate snags for downed wood recruitment and cavity nesting habitat. This may include significantly higher levels of snag retention than in other logging applications — up to 25 snags per acre — due to attrition and collapse of damaged trees. The impact of salvage logging can often accelerate windthrow and attrition in snag fields.
·      Snags with broken or forked tops, complex branching, cat faces, fire damage that will encourage hollows and cavity creation, large diameter trunks, and/or rot resistant species should be retained.
·      Retain the largest live trees and snags in all salvage units. Consider the retention of snags in aggregates with scattered large snags in between the aggregates. Consider retaining groupings of snags around existing live trees.
·      Retain all trees with green foliage. No “bycatch” logging of green trees should occur in any salvage unit.
·      No salvage units on slopes exceeding 60%
·      Burn all activity slash.

Please send public comments
Westside Fire Recovery Project
 Wendy Coats/Klamath National Forest
wcoats@fs.fed.us  






Thursday, November 6, 2014

Presentation: Rock Garden Plants of the Siskiyou Crest

Brown's peony (Paeonia brownii) growing in the Little Grayback Roadless Area in the foothills of the Siskiyou Crest.

The Siskiyou Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society is hosting a presentation by Luke Ruediger about the rock garden plants of the Siskiyou Crest. Luke's talk will focus on flowering plants in the high mountains of the Siskiyou Crest and the Applegate foothills.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 
7pm
Location
UCC/Lidgate Hall at 1801 E. Jackson in Medford (just north of Hedrick Middle School).






Presentation: The Siskiyou Crest: Trails, Treks & Biodiversity

Bigelow Lakes in the Grayback Range

Luke Ruediger will give a presentation about the Siskiyou Crest as it extends from the Coast Range of northern California to the southern Cascade Mountains near the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Renowned for its biodiversity and the amazing connectivity corridor  this unusual east-west tending mountain range provides, the region also offers miles of backcountry trails and wildland habitats. This lecture is part of The Siskiyou Field Institute's  Friday Evening Free Lecture Series.


Friday, November 14, 2014
6:30 pm
Location: Deer Creek Center in Selma, OR
For more information, visit thesfi.org or call 541-597-8530







Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Wilderness...


Linderman Lake in the South Warner Wilderness in Modoc County, California

        The Shaw Historical Library — an affiliate of the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Oregon — is a bioregional archive of human and natural history for the "Land of the Lakes," a large bioregion encompassing south central Oregon, southeastern Oregon, northeastern California, and northwestern Nevada. Published annually, this year's Journal of the Shaw Historical Library commemorates the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act for its 50th anniversary. Titled, Why Wilderness...50 Years of Wilderness in the Land of the Lakes, the journal — more of a book, really — explores wilderness areas of the region with personal accounts, essays, maps, and beautiful color photography. Why Wilderness... features essays from local ecologist and professor emeritus of biology at SOU, Frank Lang; executive director of Oregon Wild, Sean Stevens; hiking guide author Bill Sullivan; Crater Lake National Park Historian, Stephen Mark; regional editor for the Klamath Falls Herald and News, and Chair of the Shaw Historical Library Journal Committee, Lee Juillerat, and many more, including an essay from myself, Luke Ruediger

        Below is my essay featured in Why Wilderness...50 Years of Wilderness in the Land of the Lakes. Copies of the journal can be purchased for $20.00 from the Shaw Historical Library website.


Why Wilderness?
Summit Lake and the Diamond Peak Wilderness

Wilderness is a place on the landscape acknowledged for its wildness, a refuge from the industrialization of our modern world. In some cases it exists as a political reality, in some cases it does not and remains imminently threatened. Wilderness can be a majestic mountain paradise or dusty sagebrush flat speckled in bunchgrass and teeming with antelope; it can be an impenetrable slope of chaparral or quiet oak woodland; it can be a wild blue river in a deep rocky canyon or a plateau of scrubby lodgepole pine. It is a place where wolves can howl, elk can wallow, cougar can scream, salmon can spawn undisturbed in streams, and all things wild can live free. Where fire, flood, extended drought, volcanic eruptions, violent storms, and other forms of natural disturbance sculpt countless unique biological communities in a vast mosaic across the face of the land. Either sublime and dramatic, or seemingly typical and lacking in scenery, wilderness exists as a blank space on the map, yet fills an important void in our society. 

     Wilderness is a refuge for all wild things, where the forces of nature have shaped forests, grasslands, rivers, valleys, and peaks, and where the greedy hands of industry have yet to reach. Wilderness has not been commodified. It exists outside the current base of capital where resources are steadily churned into profits at the expense of our earth and to the detriment of future generations. Wilderness is the only landscape in our society where spiritual and ecological values outweigh economic values and the pressure of global markets to plunder local resources. Wilderness exists as an acknowledgement that exponential growth and development are threats to the earth and our own wellbeing. 

     Wilderness represents humility and restraint in a society where such values are distinctly lacking. It provides a feeling of reverence not found within the confines of the Wal-Mart reality. It offers a deep sense of place, and a respect for that place, to all that are open to it. Wilderness provides a connection, a window into the past and hope in the face of an uncertain future. Wilderness, through its silent persuasion, its awe-inspiring beauty and its untapped abundance, provides us with a way forward.

           
Mt. Thielsen Wilderness, a volcanic landscape in the Land of the Lakes.
      Wilderness allows us a moment to sit on a ridgeline at sunset, like so many have before us, and gaze across the horizon contemplating our world and the role we play in it. It allows us the clarity to see the connections and acknowledge our role as stewards among this natural community. After a night under the stars the wilderness allows us to awaken in the dirt, from a slab of stone, or the verdant green growth and welcome the sunrise as a part of this community. It allows us to feel the power of a charging bear or the silent terror of a stalking cougar, yet it also provides the protection of an ancient forest canopy or the bliss of singing songbirds and flower-filled meadows on a summer day. In these fleeting moments we can find our truth, we can find our way, we can become one with the sky and the land and the water that flows across it; we can feel the innate connection that makes us human animals among a natural community.

     Wilderness is not land free of human influence; it does not ignore the stewardship of indigenous people nor negate their legacy. Wilderness is a reflection of its history, yet largely free from the homogenizing imprint of modern industrial society. Wilderness is stewardship and management for biodiversity, trumping tree plantations, logging roads or strip mines.

     Wilderness, although a modern human construct, provides an immersion in nature that builds deeper relationships, spiritual ties and stronger land ethics. Our ability to build a new society based on sustainable, responsible and respectful interactions with the natural world will depend upon our sense of humility, restraint and interconnectedness. 
     Through wilderness we can once again discover these ancient traditions.
Luke Ruediger
2/2/14

Crater Lake National Park, although the crown jewel of the Land of the Lakes, it has no protected wilderness.

Monday, September 1, 2014

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF WILDERNESS


Red Butte, the namesake of the Red Buttes Wilderness, is only nominally protected. Unfortunately, the entire roadless south slope of the mountain was precluded from the 1984 wilderness designation.

          September 3, 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Lyndon B. Johnson signed this landmark conservation bill into law in 1964, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS). Initially the NWPS set aside 9.1 million acres of wilderness; however, with the support of the American public, Congress has added over 100 million acres over the past fifty years.
          The Wilderness Act of 1964 states, “In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness. For this purpose there is hereby established a National Wilderness Preservation System to be composed of federally owned areas designated by Congress as "wilderness areas," and these shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character, and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as wilderness.”
            Howard Zahniser, former Wilderness Society Executive Director, drafted the bill in 1956 with the intention of protecting the nation’s last remaining wildlands. Sadly, Zahniser died just months before it was signed into law, after drafting sixty-six versions of the bill and working for nearly a decade to ensure its passage. Although he never got to see his amazing and lasting legacy, the American people will benefit for generations to come.
            The NWPS system today includes more than 750 wilderness areas, 109,511,966 acres of protected wilderness, and a wilderness area in all but six U.S. states. Wilderness areas represent the nation’s highest form of land protection, allowing for natural processes to occur while prohibiting mechanization and damaging human activities such as logging, road building, OHV use and new mining claims. The preservation of wilderness areas throughout the country is, in my opinion, the most significant environmental achievement in the modern era. The protection of wilderness has safeguarded our natural legacy by protecting water quality in many of our cherished rivers and waterways, preserving the wild portions of the landscape for wildlife, and buffering intact forests, woodlands, grasslands, deserts and chaparral from the onslaught of industrialized land management.  Although much has been achieved, the preservation of wilderness in the United States is not complete. More areas of wilderness character should be included within the National Wilderness Preservation System, especially those areas that provide connectivity across broad landscapes.

Looking north from the Mount Jefferson Wilderness in the central Oregon Cascades. The Mount Jefferson Wilderness is one of twenty-three wilderness areas designated in the High Cascades that provide connectivity across the state of Oregon, ensuring clean water, quality wildlife habitat, primitive outdoor recreation and a beautiful natural legacy for generations to come. Much has been achieved in the Cascade Mountains, yet more areas must be added to the wilderness preservation system to begin piecing together connectivity between high and low elevation habitats.
             To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the wilderness act this summer, my wife and I hiked the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The Oregon section of the PCT follows the spine of the Cascade Mountains 500 miles from the Columbia River to its intersection with the Siskiyou Mountains near the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument above Ashland, Oregon. The Cascade Mountains provide a north-south connectivity corridor across Oregon, dividing the dry east side of the state from the temperate forests to the west. While hiking the Cascade Crest I was often struck by the connectivity of wilderness habitat that allows for a healthy dispersal of wildlife species throughout the state and beyond. Despite a long history of resource extraction and development on the flanks of the Cascade Range, much of the high country remains an intact connectivity corridor due to the designation of twenty-three different wilderness areas.  New wilderness additions have further enhanced this connectivity in recent years, with additions to the Mt. Hood, Salmon-Huckleberry, Badger Creek, Bull of the Woods, and Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness Areas.
            In contrast, the connectivity provided by the Siskiyou Crest does not benefit from such an extensive network of official wilderness designation or other protected status. Today, only two designated wilderness areas can be found along the spine of the Siskiyou Crest—the Siskiyou Wilderness and the Red Buttes Wilderness—despite the presence of numerous roadless wildlands worthy of wilderness designation. Several of these wilderness-caliber areas could be made into new wilderness, and both the Siskiyou Wilderness and the Red Buttes Wilderness are in desperate need of additions.
           The Red Buttes Wilderness, located at the headwaters of the Applegate River, was designated wilderness in 1984, amid much controversy. Unfortunately, because of politics and pressure from extractive industries at the time, much of the roadless, wild terrain surrounding the Red Buttes was left out of the officially designated wilderness. The Red Buttes Wilderness is on the small side, only encompassing 20,250 acres. Extending from the forested flank of the Middle Fork of the Applegate River, and south to the Siskiyou Crest, the wilderness encompasses the Butte Fork drainage, the headwaters of Carberry Creek’s Steve Fork, and the dark forests of the Right Hand Fork of Sucker Creek.  Although richly endowed with ancient and diverse forests, the region is defined by the rugged summits of the Siskiyou Crest, including the area’s spectacular namesake, Red Butte.

Pictured above is the unprotected Fort Goff watershed in the California portion of the Kangaroo Roadless Area. Some 60,000 acres located above the Klamath River were precluded from wilderness designation in 1984. 

           
         Large sections of adjacent wilderness were excluded from the Red Buttes in 1984, including miles of ridgeline and large areas of ancient, uncut forest. At the time of wilderness designation, the entire Grayback Range—containing vast tracts of productive forest—was left conveniently unprotected, and was later impacted by Forest Service timber sales such as China Left and Sugarloaf. This area, known as the Oregon portion of the Kangaroo Roadless Area, or the Grayback Range, exists today as a 31,778-acre island of forest, meadow, high peak, and wild mountain stream. Also left unprotected were large portions—some 60,000 acres—of the Kangaroo Roadless Area in California, dropping to the banks of the Klamath River. During the initial push for wilderness designation much of the support for protection came from Southern Oregon, rather than Northern California. In 1984, the California timber industry lobby was able to preclude the entire California portion of the Kangaroo Roadless Area from wilderness protection, ensuring that all forested watersheds draining into the Klamath River would be open and available for logging into the future. To this day the California-Kangaroo remains unprotected and vulnerable to extractive industries. Thirty years after wilderness designation the need for further protection is still warranted, yet will only be possible if local citizens and conservationists organize and advocate for additions to the Red Buttes Wilderness.   
         In this era of seven billion people and climate change, it is more imperative than ever to protect native ecosystems. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act it is time to push for new additions to the Red Buttes Wilderness and further protect the roadless wildlands of the Applegate River watershed.

The forested ridge in the foreground of this photo is located within the unprotected Grayback Range Roadless Area, an area that should have been included in the Red Buttes Wilderness designation in 1984. The large cuts at the center of the photo are part of the China Left Timber Sale, logged despite citizen protest and direct action in the summer of 1997 and 1998. This large timber sale was eventually halted due to a court injunction on behalf of the endangered Coho salmon and Northern spotted owl, but only after much damage was done. A spirited and organized campaign for wilderness designation is needed to ensure that no more wilderness quality landscapes suffer the fate of China Left. Additions to the Red Buttes Wilderness are desperately needed before more land is impacted in ways that preclude them from wilderness designation. The choice is ours: either get proactive now or accept permanent losses to our cherished wildlands.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Nedsbar Timber Sale: A threat to wildlands in the Applegate Valley


The forested portions of Trillium Mountain in the Dakubetede Roadless Area are being proposed for logging in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. This photo was taken from the popular Sterling Ditch Trail where Trillium Mountain dominates the skyline for many miles. Commercial logging units in the Dakubetede Roadless Area should be canceled and the area protected for its scenic, recreational and ecological values.

The Medford District BLM has recently proposed a large timber sale in the Applegate Valley of southwestern Oregon. This is the result of recent litigation won by Swanson-Superior Lumber based in Glendale, Oregon. The Medford District BLM has been given a court order, currently under appeal, to drastically increase timber production for corporate logging interests at the expense of regional wildlands, communities and wildlife. In response to the litigation the agency proposed the Nedsbar Timber Sale, encompassing 3,400 acres, or 5 square miles of proposed units spread across much of the Little Applegate Valley and a portion of the Upper Applegate Valley. 

Proposed project prescriptions  include regeneration logging (i.e. clearcut logging), disease management and new road construction. Regeneration prescriptions would require retention of only 16-25 trees per acre, while disease management prescriptions would require retention of only 6-8 trees per acre. These proposed forms of clearcut logging would remove large, fire-resistant trees and open up currently closed-canopy forests to encourage the "regeneration" of young trees in the understory.  

The BLM's Scoping Notice for the project identifies no objectives beyond timber management, leaving many public resources and important forest management objectives outside the purpose and need of the proposed project. The project does not contain management objectives that include a broad range of forest values, including the maintenance and recovery of threatened or endangered species, the retention of late successional characteristics, the management of fire/fuel hazards, or the maintenance and recovery of watershed values such as fisheries and water quality. The Little Applegate River is designated a  key watershed for salmon habitat. Given this, along with the large amount of Wildland Urban Interface located in the planning area, the region's high biodiversity, wildland values, and unique plant communities, this singular focus fails to serve the public interest.

Regeneration and Disease Management Logging
The Little Applegate River is the driest watershed west of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. Regeneration logging has often historically led to reforestation failures and heavy fuel loads due to an increase in highly flammable activity slash, the "regeneration" of young trees in the understory, and a vigorous shrub and hardwood response. Given the dry nature of the Little Applegate watershed, these issues associated with regeneration logging will only be compounded. The use of regeneration, disease management, and/or overstory removal prescriptions will have negative impacts to the region's fire/fuel hazard, forest health concerns, Endangered Species Act (ESA) habitat values, and late successional characteristics. These prescriptions will also lead to increased wind exposure, sun exposure, and thus decreased soil moisture, drought stress and increased fire risks. All forms of regeneration and disease management logging proposed in the Nedsbar Timber Sale should be canceled. 

New Road Construction
It appears that the BLM will be proposing new road construction to access commercial timber units for the Nedsbar Timber Sale. New road construction could impact the Boaz Mountain, Dakubetede and Buncom Roadless Areas. All new road construction should be opposed to retain wildland characteristics and reduce watershed impacts. 

A map of proposed units in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Light Blue units are proposed for helicopter logging. Purple units are proposed far cable logging, green units are tractor logging, and the brownish/pinkish units are proposed, non-commercial fuel reduction units.

Impact to wildland habitats, roadless areas, and proposed Primitive Areas
            The Nedsbar Timber Sale, if implemented, would log three important roadless areas in the Applegate Valley foothills, including the north slope of Trillium Mountain in the Dakubetede Roadless Area, Cinnabar Ridge in the Buncom Roadless Area, and the north slope of Boaz Mountain in the Boaz Mountain Roadless Area. Commercial logging units in these roadless wildlands should be canceled to preserve the region's pristine character, scenic values, and exceptional recreational opportunities. Both the Buncom and the Dakubetede Roadless Areas have been identified for protection in recent legislative proposals by Senator Wyden as the Dakubetede Primitive Area. All commercial units within the proposed Dakubetede Primitive Area should be canceled until appropriate management objectives are identified for these areas and a formal decision is made regarding their management.  These units should also be canceled due to the impact to scenic values and viewsheds on the Sterling Ditch Trail and the proposed Jack-Ash Trail, a trail that would connect the tourist economies of Ashland and Jacksonville, OR. Much of the local economy (vineyards, property values, recreation, etc) is based around the area's scenic values; industrial logging treatments such as overstory canopy removal, regeneration and disease management will impact this flourishing, localized economy by degrading this scenic, recreational resource.
         
Wildlife Impacts
The Little Applegate River area provides a narrow “pinch point” in connectivity for late successional species, providing habitat to and from the the Upper Applegate Valley and the Ashland watershed. This connectivity must be retained in any proposed action. The impact of proposed commercial timber extraction to habitat conditions for Pacific fisher and northern spotted owl is well documented, especially when regeneration and disease management logging are involved. Disease management logging is of special concern because documentation shows that 90% of all spotted owl nests in the Applegate drainage are found in dwarf mistletoe brooms in large Douglas fir trees. These are the very trees targeted for clearcut logging in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Simplified stand conditions and canopy reduction from logging activities have also been associated with downgrades in nesting, roosting and foraging habitat for the spotted owl and should be avoided in the Nedsbar Planning Area.

Soil Impacts and Watershed Health:
            The Nedsbar Timber Sale is largely located within the Little Applegate River basin, a key watershed designated in the NW Forest Plan. The potential impact to soil and watershed health due to the Nedsbar Project could be significant, including new road construction, increased OHV use, skid trail development, increased road use due to hauling and timber sale implementation, tractor and cable yarding, regeneration logging, disease management logging, the loss of downed wood recruitment and habitat, soil compaction, etc. The impact of these activities has been shown to negatively effect fisheries resources, ESA habitat and recovery needs, turbidity, water temperature, water quality, water quantity, soil stability, peek flows, etc. These impacts should be avoided in the Little Applegate River watershed for the benefit of important anadromous fish species.


Public trust and Collaborative Efforts
            The project as outlined in the BLM's scoping notice is bound to generate significant amounts of local controversy and will only encourage mistrust between the BLM and local residents. After years of collaborative efforts the community expects more from the agency then irresponsible hand-outs to the timber industry.  If the BLM sees collaboration as a key to future forest management, then accountability is needed from the agency. Far to often the agency talks forest restoration and ecological management, then violates the public trust with disastrous timber proposals including heavy canopy removal, regeneration logging, disease management logging, and new road construction. If the agency does not want to step back into the timber war mentality, then new road construction, regeneration logging, disease management, and aggressive canopy removal should not be proposed in the Nedsbar Project. To include these prescriptions will only generate litigation, protest, mistrust, and public outrage. Trust is built when the BLM walks its talk. Hollow words and business as usual will only further polarize the debate. The wildlife habitat, streams, fisheries habitat, and significant regional biodiversity require a more holistic approach to land management. The current approach is singularly focused, irresponsible, and unacceptable. 

The forested portions of the ridge in the foreground would be logged in the Nedsbar Timber Sale.

An opportunity to get involved
A public meeting is being hosted by the BLM to discuss the Nedsbar Timber Sale with the local community. This is our opportunity to comment and raise concerns about the project and its proposed prescriptions. Please consider attending this important meeting and speaking on behalf of the recreational economy, forests, wildlands, and streams of the Applegate Valley.


Public Meeting: Nedsbar Timber Sale
Where: Jacksonville Public Library
When: July 22, 2014 5:00-7:00 PM


           

           




Friday, July 4, 2014

Monarch Butterflies in the Siskiyou Mountains

Got Milkweed?

Monarch butterflies that live east of the continental divide embark on a spectacular annual migration to winter roost sites in oyamel fir trees in the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico. They are the only butterflies to accomplish such a long, two-way migration each year, something more commonly associated with species like birds, wales, salmon or caribou. Unlike these other species, however, it takes three to four generations of monarchs to complete the annual migration. It is a multigenerational feat. Most monarchs only live a few weeks as adults during the migration, except for the last generation in the migratory process, the overwintering monarchs, which can live up to seven or eight months. Despite their seemingly fragile nature and their short lifespan, individual monarchs can travel hundreds to thousands of miles. Monarchs use the sun as their primary navigational tool, but according to a recently published paper in the journal Nature Communications, they are also capable of using an internal magnetic compass on cloudy days.  

It is less known that monarch butterflies that live west of the continental divide, including monarchs that migrate through the Siskiyou Mountains, overwinter in various groves of trees along the central and southern California coast where they are generally protected from freezing temperatures. Monarchs aggregate in more than 25 roosting sites along the California coast each winter, but their overwintering habitat is threatened by coastal development.

 According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), "In the most recent migration, fewer of the orange- and red-winged monarchs made it to the end of the journey than ever before. The monarch butterfly population in Mexico was the lowest ever since 1993 (the year scientists started to monitor monarch butterfly colonies), according to research just released by the WWF-Telcel Alliance and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve Office of the Mexican government. The research shows a 43.7% decrease (nearly three acres) in the total amount of forestland occupied by monarchs in and near Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The research was conducted over several weeks in December 2013 and the decrease is in relation to December 2012 research."

The WWF lists the monarch butterfly as "near threatened," or a species that is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature calls the monarch migration an endangered biological phenomenon.
 
Graphic by Journey North
Population of monarchs at the overwintering grounds in Mexico 

Monarch population chart for monarchs living west of the continental divide that overwinter in California

In May, 2014 both Jackson and Josephine Counties in Oregon passed ballot initiatives that will ban the planting of GMO crops. The landslide victory in Jackson County shows that most people don't want GMO crops planted in Jackson County. The measure passed 65.9% Yes to 34.1% No. In Josephine County the results were 58% to 41%   These two measures will greatly improve the chances of monarch recovery in the Siskiyou Mountains.

Threats to Monarch Butterflies
  • Loss of milkweed
  • Logging of overwintering grounds in Mexico
  • Climate change
  • GMO crops
  • Pesticide use
  • Coastal development of overwintering grounds in California 




Photo essay: The lifecycle of monarch butterflies in the Siskiyou Mountains


On May 15, 2014 I spotted two monarch butterflies fluttering around two separate showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) patches that my wife, Suzie, planted nine years ago. One patch is in our vegetable garden and the other in a native rock garden on the side of the road. Previously we had only seen one tattered monarch scoping out our patches, so this was a hopeful sign. When Suzie got home from work that day I told her what I saw and she immediately inspected for eggs. Sure enough, there were about fifty eggs combined on both the patches of milkweed.  Research has shown that a female monarch typically lays about 700 eggs in its lifespan, so this was not a huge number of eggs.


Monarch caterpillar eggs on milkweed
Monarch caterpillar eggs are very small


Monarch caterpillars are tiny and vulnerable when they first emerge.

Around ten days later the eggs started to hatch and an estimated 15-20 tiny, little caterpillars emerged. They were hard to spot because they hid within the plants and it was hard to keep track of them and know for certain how many there were.

When small the caterpillars stayed within flower buds.

The caterpillars eat the milkweed plant and grow bigger.





The tiny caterpillars got bigger as they ate the milkweed plant, mostly staying within the protection of the flower buds. They never denuded the plants, but rather took little chunks out here and there, allowing for the viability and sustainability of their host plant.



As they get bigger they are easier to spot.
Sometimes they eat the flower buds.




Some small caterpillars died of mysterious causes.


Over the course of a few weeks a number of caterpillars disappeared, but those that remained got bigger and fatter. Monarchs have natural predators, parasitoids, and parasites that can harm monarch eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults. It's a tough world for monarchs in their natural setting, and human impacts to habitat just compound the threats.

In just two weeks a caterpillar will grow and need to shed its skin five times. Each skin is called an instar. The stages of a caterpillar's life are referred to as the first instar, second instar, third instar, fourth instar, and the final fifth instar. We observed the caterpillars eating the skin after it was shed, as if it was a source of nutrition.
Hanging out on milkweed

Munching on milkweed

The caterpillars rested under the leaves
5th instar caterpillar

Monarch caterpillar hanging in "J" shape on June 23, 2014.

The caterpillar has attached itself with a cremaster and hangs in a "J" shape as it prepares to shed its old larval skin and begin the formation of the chrysalis.



Monarch in a chrysalis formed on June 24, 2014. 
The scientific name for the monarch butterfly is Danaus plexippus, a Greek term meaning "sleepy transformation." This reflects the species' metamorphosis.


Monarch on showy milkweed in May, 2014

 After its metamorphosis into a butterfly the monarch will eat, mate and lay eggs if it is a female. They will search out and find whatever milkweed they can. Monarchs will use any plant in the genus Asclepias, even cultivars of the native species.  The last generation in the migration will then head south to the California coast to overwinter and start the cycle anew as has happened for millennia.



Monarchs fall to the ground while mating. This photo was taken at the end of January at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove in California.



Monarch butterflies cluster together for warmth as they overwinter at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove in California. This colony is one of the largest in the United States.

For further information visit the following:

Journey North

Monarch Watch