Saturday, April 23, 2016

Support the Applegate Trails Association Kickstarter Film

A view from the Applegate Ridge Trail into the Wellington Butte Roadless Area.
The Applegate Trails Association (ATA) is a non-motorized trail organization dedicated to creating and preserving non-motorized trails in the Applegate Valley, while encouraging respect for our natural environment. Having started five years ago today, on April 23, 2011, the group has become a strong local voice promoting non-motorized recreation and advocating for protection of the Wellington Butte Roadless Area. In 2013 the BLM designated the Wellington Butte Roadless Area as "Lands with Wilderness Characteristics." This designation can largely be attributed to ATA's unrelenting advocacy for the Wellington Butte Roadless Area. 

ATA's largest project is the creation of the Applegate Ridge Trail (ART). The ART is a 40-mile-long, non-motorized trail proposed to extend from Jacksonville, Oregon to Grants Pass, Oregon. Numerous miles of the trail would skirt the edge of the Wellington Butte Roadless Area. On Sterling Creek Road, the ART would join the Jack-Ash Trail. The Jack-Ash Trail would extend across the foothills of the Little Applegate Valley, across the arid face of Anderson Butte, through the Dakubetede Roadless Area and over the 7,253 foot summit of Wagner Butte, and into downtown Ashland, Oregon.

Currently the trails exist only in theory. Although some existing trails would be incorporated into the route, much of the "trail" is currently undefined and non-existent. 

This spring two ATA board members (Josh Weber and myself) intend to be the first to thru-hike both trails from downtown Ashland to Grants Pass, Oregon. We will turn the adventure into a documentary film, promoting the trail, documenting its beauty and the many benefits it will bring to surrounding communities. We are raising funds to hire a professional filmmaker to create a high quality documentary film promoting and supporting the ART. We have initiated a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.

In celebration of Earth Day and ATA's 5th birthday, please consider supporting this project. For more information or to make a donation follow this link: ATA Thru-Hike Kickstarter

A view into the Dakubetede Roadless Area and the Little Applegate River Canyon from the proposed Jack-Ash Trail.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

O'Lickety Timber Sale: Illegal BLM Logging and the Continuing Loss of Northern Spotted Owl Habitat in the Applegate Valley

Extensive blowdown in unit 61-1 of the O'Lickety Timber Sale. Canopy reduction was drastic in many logged units in the O'Lickety Timber Sale, leaving the remaining trees more susceptible to mortality associated with blowdown, drought stress and beetle infestations.

The BLM's O'Lickety Timber Sale was logged by the Murphy Company in November of 2013. The BLM's Environmental Assessment (EA) for the sale claimed all logging units would "treat and maintain" northern spotted owl habitat, meaning existing habitat designations would not be compromised by logging treatments. Analysis in the BLM's EA and United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) consultation was based on a presumption that "treat and maintain" prescription parameters would be met. Unfortunately, the prescriptions and tree removal mark approved by the BLM failed to meet the requirements identified to "maintain" northern spotted owl habitat conditions, and instead the habitat was downgraded or entirely removed. 

The O'Lickety Timber Sale was one of four consecutive BLM timber sales in the Little Applegate Valley that illegally over-cut spotted owl habitat between 2008-2014. Every unit logged in the O'Lickety Timber Sale and Lick Stew Stewardship Project eliminated or downgraded northern spotted owl habitat conditions, and all but one unit was over-cut in the Bald Lick Timber Sale. This includes units that were cable yarded and tractor logged.

The BLM's resource management plan requires the retention of 16-25 large trees per acre on all forest lands south of Grants Pass, Oregon. In numerous units this retention target was not met.


Unit 35-32 of the Nedsbar Timber Sale represents high quality spotted owl Nesting, Roosting, Foraging (NRF) habitat. The unit is proposed for logging to 40% canopy and includes trees up to 42" in diameter marked for removal.
Unit 64-1 of the O'Lickety Timber Sale was northern spotted owl Nesting, Roosting, Foraging (NRF) habitat, within 0.5 mile of an owl nesting site, and within the home range of two more occupied owl sites. The unit was proposed by the BLM as a "treat and maintain" prescription, but instead, the owl habitat was either downgraded or eliminated by BLM logging treatments. Continuing canopy loss from blowdown is further diminishing habitat values in unit 64-1.

The BLM manages two separate classifications of suitable northern spotted owl habitat: Nesting, Roosting, Foraging (NRF) habitat and dispersal habitat. 

NRF habitat is generally the most suitable habitat on the landscape with sufficient habitat complexity, canopy cover, large diameter trees, and prey populations. These areas support all habitat needs for the northern spotted owl, including nesting, roosting, foraging and dispersal. The minimum canopy cover required to maintain NRF habitat is 60%. Other habitat elements include large snags, coarse woody debris and a multi-layered canopy. 

Dispersal habitat provides for connectivity or "dispersal" across the landscape, allowing northern spotted owls to travel from suitable habitat to suitable habitat, providing the owl some degree of protection and some foraging opportunity. The minimum requirements for dispersal habitat include conifer stands with an average diameter of approximately 11 inches and 40%-60% canopy cover. Some dispersal units were over-cut to as low as 28% canopy cover in the O'Lickety Timber Sale, eliminating suitable northern spotted owl habitat on the stand level for many years to come. 

Blowdown in unit 61-1 of the O'Lickety Timber Sale. This unit was dispersal habitat, but the habitat was removed during implementation of the O'Lickety Timber Sale. Further reductions to canopy cover are occurring due to blowdown associated with heavy canopy reduction in the timber sale.

The BLM has taken responsibility for the over-cutting, saying it was a product of inappropriate tree marking, insufficient review of stand conditions, and inadequate coordination between silvicultural staff, wildlife biologists, and BLM timber marking crews. The end result was hundreds of acres of degraded habitat in the following four sales. 


  • Wagner-Anderson Timber Sale: This sale was bought by Boise Cascade, but it was subcontracted to Estremado Logging, a company based out of Gold Hill, OR.
  • Bald Lick Timber Sale: Bought and logged by Estremado Logging from Gold Hill, Oregon.
  • O'Lickety Timber Sale: Bought and logged by Murphy Company, corporate headquarters are in Eugene, OR.
  • Lick Stew Stewardship Project: Logged by Lomakatsi Ecological Services, Ashland, OR (the for-profit wing of the Lomakatsi Restoration Project).


The results of the Wagner-Anderson Timber Sale. Take note of the number of broken-topped snags from blowdown and the continuing mortality from drought stress and beetle infestations. Post-harvest mortality in unit 17-1 of the Wagner-Anderson Timber Sale has been significant. 
2015 Medford BLM Post-Harvest Monitoring Report

The BLM discovered that spotted owl habitat had been over-cut and illegally downgraded in July of 2014. Additionally, community members concerned about habitat conservation also brought to light occurrences of over-cutting. In response the BLM began a district-wide monitoring effort and recently released a report that worked to "determine if there was systemic failure in project implementation across the district or if the implementation failures found in the four projects were isolated cases." The report also explores the "potential implications with the district's spotted owl habitat baseline and the need for reinititation of past consultations." 

The report shows that between 25%-51% of NRF habitat proposed for "treat and maintain" logging prescriptions since 2008, was either illegally downgraded or removed. This includes timber sales extending from the western Cascade Mountains, to the dry forests of the Siskiyou, and the hills north and west of Grants Pass, Oregon on Medford District BLM lands. Unfortunately, this report arbitrarily excludes the four Applegate timber sales that triggered the monitoring efforts in the first place; thus, the actual extent of illegal northern spotted owl habitat downgrades on the district is significantly higher than is being reported by the BLM. In the report, the BLM claims that only 13 units across the district were found to have been over-cut, yet 38 units were over-cut in the Bald Lick, Lick Stew and O'Lickety Timber Sales alone.

Unit 97A of the Bald Lick Timber Sale. The unit was considered both NRF and dispersal habitat, the habitat was eliminated by BLM logging. Canopy gaps are expanding and canopy cover diminishing, as large pine trees have fallen in winter storms. The heavy canopy reductions that downgraded owl habitat also made the stand susceptible to blowdown. The newly exposed trees with poor height-to-crown ratios are falling in winter storms and under heavy snowloads.


The BLM's monitoring report has concluded that implementation failures were not systemic across the district; however, many critics point to the downgrading or removal of 25%-50% of all harvested NRF habitat as a clear pattern of implementation failure. The report identifies over a dozen units across the district — including all resource areas and 11 separate timber sales — that exceeded the approved northern spotted owl impacts. Even excluding the four Applegate sales, the problem was documented to have been widespread.

Over 75% of the acres harvested since 2008 have not been monitored for compliance with Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation effects. How many more acres have been downgraded or eliminated that were not surveyed for this report? What is the true spotted owl baseline?
Blowdown in unit 64-1 of the O'Lickety Timber Sale.

Since logging was completed on the O'lickety Timber Sale, stand conditions have continued to deteriorate. Canopies already compromised have been made susceptible to blowdown, drought stess and increased beetle infestations. In numerous units a significant number of trees can be found up-rooted, and many trees, especially pine trees with poor height-to-crown ratios, have snapped off under the weight of wet, heavy, El Nino snowloads. The result has been a continued decline of canopy cover in units already overcut by the BLM during the O'Lickety Timber Sale. Large tree retention targets of 16-25 trees per acre were already not being met in several units, and as large trees fall or break under heavy snow, the deficiency becomes more pronounced. The over-cutting of O'lickety has undermined the resilience of the effected forest stands. This condition is known as "accelerated overstory mortality," which can be triggered by the over-cutting of forest stands. The effect is a continuing loss of canopy, habitat complexity, and large tree retention, along with an increase in ground fuels. 
Canopy conditions in uncut, late-seral NRF habitat in the Little Applegate watershed. The photograph was taken in unit 35-32 of the Nedsbar Timber Sale, a unit proposed to be logged to 40% canopy closure. Unit 35-32 should be canceled to protect late-seral and northern spotted owl habitat values. 
Canopy conditions in unit 64-1 of the O'Lickety Timber Sale. The unit used to be considered NRF habitat. The unit was badly over-cut and is now suffering from severe blowdown. The combined effect has been the removal of northern spotted owl habitat and a loss of forest resilience. Impacts to the long-term trajectory of this stand and many others in the O'Lickety Timber Sale have been severe.  

The continued loss of canopy in O'Lickety Timber Sale units will drastically increase fire hazards in the long term. The combined effects of soil disturbance from yarding operations and increased sunlight from canopy loss will trigger a significant increase in woody understory vegetation, including regenerating conifers, hardwoods and brush species. The many blowdown trees will also contribute pulses of fine fuels to the forest floor. Fuel loading and fuel laddering will increase; wind speeds and ambient temperatures will also increase; while fuel moisture decreases due to the exposed, post-logging conditions. These conditions can lead to high levels of fire severity in future wildland fires and extend fire seasons. 

Fire resilience has been drastically effected as large, fire-resistant trees are logged or continue to blowdown. The condition will create dense, even-age stands regenerating from logging disturbances and canopy loss. These stands are highly susceptible to high severity fire.
Increased fuel loading from blowdown in unit 61-1, O'Lickety Timber Sale.


The recent BLM monitoring report also identifies numerous units suffering from significant blowdown. Nearly all these units are located on the Ashland Resource Area and were also over-cut during project implementation. It appears that a pattern is developing that correlates heavy canopy reduction and northern spotted owl habitat impacts to blowdown and continued habitat degradation. This pattern is especially troubling given the claims by the BLM and USFWS, that short-term impacts to northern spotted owl habitat from commercial logging will be offset by long-term gains. They also often claim that canopy conditions will close over the course of the next twenty years due to increased vigor in the remaining trees. This conclusion is questionable when blowdown, drought stress, mechanical damage, and other impacts associated with logging operations create a self-reinforcing pattern of canopy loss, mortality, habitat degradation, heavy fuel loading and structural simplification. 

It is possible that the O'Lickety and Bald Lick timber sales generated unanticipated "take" (i.e. kill) of northern spotted owls. Consultation on these sales should be re-initiated by USFWS and current conditions reevaluated to identify areas that may have suffered further habitat downgrades due to accelerated mortality and significant winter blowdown. 

Portions of the Bald Lick, Wagner-Anderson and O'Lickety Timber Sales are clearly experiencing accelerated overstory mortality. This is leading to further undocumented reductions in northern spotted owl habitat. These continuing losses in northern spotted owl habitat are currently not accounted for in the northern spotted owl habitat baseline that informs the analysis of impacts and consultation of pending timber sales like Nedsbar. 

Unfortunately, despite the recent illegal BLM logging and its unintended consequences on northern spotted owl habitat conditions in the Little Applegate watershed, the agency has recently identified numerous units in the Nedsbar Timber Sale that will be downgraded from NRF to dispersal habitat, or downgraded from dispersal to non-habitat, further impacting an already compromised northern spotted owl habitat baseline. Unfortunately, rather than demonstrate that the Medford District BLM can "treat and maintain" habitat in their timber sale program, the agency has decided to do the opposite and continue degrading owl habitat in the area. The agency is focused on providing large volumes of timber to the industry, not restoring, preserving or protecting the owl or fire resilient forests.

For more information or to read the 2015 Medford BLM Post Harvest Monitoring Report.
 
Blowdown and canopy loss in unit 64-2 of the O'Lickety Timber Sale. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Nedsbar Timber Sale: Bald Mountain Units

The view south from Bald Mountain and across the Little Applegate River watershed from the proposed Jack-Ash Trail. This area is one of the scenic highlights of this proposed long distance hiking trail that would connect the communities of Ashland and Jacksonville, Oregon. The BLM has proposed to log directly adjacent to the proposed Jack-Ash Trail on Bald Mountain. All logging units on Bald Mountain should be canceled. These forests provide a larger contribution to our quality of life and economy as standing forests than they do logged off and sent to the mill. 

The Bald Mountain area is a wild and beautiful region located at the headwaters of the Little Applegate River. The mountain supports a distinct variety of plant communities, including open and grassy balds, shrub fields, rock outcrops, old-growth forest, late seral forest and small sections of oak woodland. The mountain is also an important connectivity corridor, connecting the high elevation McDonald Peak Roadless Area near Wagner Butte with the Dakubetede Roadless Area at low elevations in the Little Applegate Valley. The old-growth forests in the Bald Mountain area allow late-seral species such as the Pacific fisher and northern spotted owl to disperse across the landscape from high to low elevations and from roadless wildland to roadless wildland.
Trees marked for removal on the proposed Jack-Ash Trail. 
The area is also highly valued by local residents and recreational enthusiasts. The slopes of Bald Mountain are scenic and somewhat remote, but also very well loved. The Jack-Ash Trail — a long distance hiking trail designed to link the communities of Jacksonville and Ashland — is proposed to be located on the high ridgeline, following the route of the historic Front Range Trail. The Front Range Trail was historically routed across Bald Mountain to provide access to ranchers, miners, and the fire lookout on Anderson Butte. Today it is a somewhat obscure, but an increasingly popular hiking trail.
The trees marked white for removal would be logged in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Trees over 40" diameter are proposed for removal, which would damage old-growth characteristics and important connectivity habitat for the
 Pacific fisher and northern spotted owl. 

 The BLM is proposing to log old, complex forest on the south face of Bald Mountain in the Nedsbar Timber Sale, with trees marked for removal directly adjacent to the proposed Jack-Ash Trail. The proposed logging would heavily impact one of the most scenic portions of the trail, degrading the recreational experience of trail users for generations to come.  

The Jack-Ash Trail is destined to become a thoroughfare for non-motorized recreationalists, yet the BLM has proposed heavy industrial logging in the trail's most spectacular old-growth forest on Bald Mountain. The extensive industrial logging proposed in the Nedsbar Timber Sale would impact the trail's forests and viewshed. The impact to the popular Sterling Ditch Trail would also be significant, marring large portions of the trail's viewshed with Nedsbar logging units.
Trees marked white would be logged in the Nedsbar Timber Sale.
The forests of Bald Mountain are more productive than most of the stands proposed for logging in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Being slightly higher in elevation, the stand supports higher precipitation and fairly productive soils. Much of the stand consists of large, well-spaced Douglas fir trees mixed with white fir and a few scattered ponderosa pine, along with thickets of serviceberry and  rocky outcrops.

Forests in the area support the physical characteristics and stand structures that allow for exceptional fire resiliency. A closed canopy of massive, old trees rises above the forest floor, suppressing understory growth and inhibiting the development of dense understory fuel loads. Trees are relatively well spaced, support high canopies, and thick insulating bark. They are naturally fire resilient and should be maintained in that condition. 



Complex and multi-layered northern spotted owl habitat on Bald Mountain proposed for logging in the Nedsbar Timber Sale unit 28-10A. 

Roughly half of the 65 acres proposed for logging on Bald Mountain's southern face is identified by the BLM as roosting and foraging habitat for the northern spotted owl. Much of the remainder is dispersal habitat. Two northern spotted owl nest sites are found nearby and the owls likely forage at least occasionally in the area. It is highly likely that the Pacific fisher is also found in the area and that both deer and elk utilize the forest as important thermal cover on cold winter nights. Black bear, cougar, bobcat, and countless other creatures call this place home and depend on its beautiful old forests for habitat.

A beautiful stand of large, old trees marked for logging on the south face of Bald Mountain in unit 28-10A.


The units on Bald Mountain are likely some of the worst in the entire Nedsbar Timber Sale. Trees over 40" in diameter are marked for removal. In fact, in units 28-10A and 28-10B, the BLM has marked 316 trees over 24" in diameter for removal in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Complex, old, fire-resistant stands would be helicopter logged to between 40%-60% canopy cover, leading to an increase in understory fuels. Many old snags would be removed as safety hazards in helicopter yarding operations. The old-growth characteristics of the stand would be heavily impacted, canopies seriously compromised and recreational opportunities degraded by proposed BLM logging treatments. 


BLM graph from their 1993 document "Seral Stage Vegetation of the Little Applegate Valley."  Seral stage classes refer to stand age: early seral is younger forest, mid seral is middle-aged forest, and late seral is older forest.
Units 28-10A, 28-10B, 28-10C, and 28-11B should not be logged. In fact, the units should be canceled from the Nedsbar Timber Sale. They are a remnant of complex, old forests that once covered nearly half the Little Applegate Watershed. With less than 15% remaining, it is time for the BLM to reform their timber program, stop logging old-growth trees and support rural communities by reducing fuels, providing recreational opportunities, contributing to the quality of life in rural areas, and learn to be good neighbors. Stop Nedsbar!

 What can you do:
  • Consider sending an email to the BLM and ask them to drop the controversial units across the Nedsbar Timber Sale, and particularly in the Bald Mountain area. 
  • Consider reading these blog posts and use what you have learned to write an official public comment this spring when the Environmental Assessment is released to the public.
  • Consider making a donation to support the work of Klamath Forest Alliance in the Applegate Valley. 
BLM contacts:
Krisit Mastrofini, Assistant Field Manager, 
kmastrof@blm.gov

Diane Parry, Acting Field Manager
dparry@blm.gov

Dayne Barron, District Manager
d1barron@blm.gov

Jerome Perez, State Director
jperez@blm.gov


Below are maps and a photo essay of Nedsbar's Bald Mountain units. 



The units identified in this post are circled in black. You can see the density of timber sale units in the immediate area, potentially creating a significant increase in fuel hazards due to canopy reduction, increased logging slash, shrubby in-growth, and the logging of large, fire resistant trees.



A view across Bald Mountain from the proposed Jack-Ash Trail. The Nedsbar Timber Sale units would log the forest in the foreground to between 40% and 60% canopy cover. To reach these canopy cover targets many large, highly scenic, fire resistant trees would be removed.


A photo of Bald Mountain from the Little Applegate River canyon. The proposed Jack-Ash Trail will traverse the ridgeline from Bald Mountain through the top of the Nedsbar Timber Sale units circled in red in the photo above.
A beautiful old grove marked for logging on Bald Mountain. 
A grouping of large old trees marked for removal in unit 28-10A.

The marking guidelines for the Nedsbar Timber Sale state that the "preference is to retain trees with old-growth characteristics." Clearly this tree, over 40" in diameter and marked for removal, is one of the older trees in this old-growth stand.

A heavy mark in unit 28-10A. Trees marked white would be removed in the proposed logging operations. This stand is proposed to be logged to 40% canopy cover. The forests of Bald Mountain are located at higher elevations than any other in the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Heavy snow loads, high winds, and the proposed canopy reduction will likely lead to windthrow and snowdowned trees, especially in these higher elevation stands. This problem is evident at much lower elevations in the recently cut O'Lickety Timber Sale, where canopy conditions continue to deteriorate from the impacts of windthrow and logging-induced mortality.
Large Doug fir marked in unit 28-11. In this unit the BLM marked trees yellow as "leave" trees, meaning these large fir marked blue would be removed.

More large trees marked for removal in the Bald Mountain Roadless Area. 
The marking guidelines for the Nedsbar Timber Sale encourage the retention of clumps or groupings of old trees. Yet, in many places in the Nedsbar Timber Sale, these groupings are proposed to be compromised by removing old tree cohorts. Old tree groupings should be retained in all circumstances to protect habitat values and maintain fire adapted stand structure. 
A view north from Bald Mountain and the Jack-Ash Trail across the Rogue Valley to the Cascade Mountains. The Bald Mountain area is wild yet accessible, making it a recreational resource for the communities of both the Rogue and Applegate Valleys. The area offers more to our regional economy as intact ancient forest than it does as logs shipped to the mill. We must take a long-term approach to economic development in the eastern Siskiyou Mountains, prioritizing recreational uses over industrial resource extraction. This will preserve solitude and our region's natural beauty as urban areas in the Rogue Valley grow and expand. Generations of local residents will enjoy these mountains if they remain wild. Short-term profits are not worth the impact to our quality of life and the quality of wildlands that surround us. Stop Nedsbar!




   

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Nedsbar Timber Sale: Buncom Roadless Area Units

Looking southeast across the Buncom Roadless Area to unit 14-30. The unit would be logged to 40% canopy cover. The unit boundaries are outlined in red in the photo above. The proposed new road is depicted in blue. One of the two new helicopter landings is located at the light blue triangle near the center of the photo. 

The Buncom Roadless Area is a small, rugged wildland on the ridgeline dividing the Upper Applegate and Little Applegate Valleys. Although small in size, the region dominates the skyline of the Little Applegate Valley from its confluence with the Applegate River to above Buncom and the Upper Applegate Valley up to Star Ranger Station. Cloaked in chaparral, oak woodland, stands of live oak and isolated conifer forests, the roadless area provides relatively undisturbed low elevation habitat, a highly scenic natural setting for many rural residential properties, and habitat connectivity between the Little and Upper Applegate Valleys. 

I recently hiked into the Buncom Roadless Area to review the tree removal mark in units 14-30 and 15-30 of the Nedsbar Timber Sale. 

Unit 14-30
The large Douglas fir trees in this photo are marked white for removal in logging operations. Trees up to 30" diameter are marked in unit 14-30.

Unit 14-30 is located on the dark, north-facing slope of a small mountain I call "Silk Tassel Butte." This small hump of a mountain extends off the lower end of Cinnabar Ridge just before it crashes down towards the confluence of the Upper and Little Applegate Valley. 

Unit 14-30 overlooks the lower end of the Little Applegate Valley, and even from the valley bottom, the forest stands out as an isolated late-seral stand of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. The forest is broken by vertical strips of oak woodland and chaparral. Some of the most extensive silk tassel (Garrya fremontii) stands in the region colonize the mountain's south-facing slope, along with buckbrush, manzanita and white oak.

Over one-half mile of new road construction within the Buncom Roadless Area would be necessary to access unit 14-30. The BLM is proposing to build new road up from the Little Applegate Valley to a low saddle west of unit 14-30, then across the steep north face of the mountain. The new road would require a rather large footprint due to the steepness of terrain. Two new helicopter landings would also be created to facilitate commercial logging. 

Proposed units 14-30 and 15-30 in the Buncom Roadless Area. The blue and pink lines denote new road construction. The pink triangles identify the location of new helicopter and log landings. Areas in green cross-hatching would be helicopter logged, the remaining portion of unit 14-30 will be tractor yarded. The black line at the left margin of the map is Upper Applegate Road. The black lines at the top of the photo are roads in the Little Applegate Valley. Yellow areas are BLM land, green is Forest Service and white is private land.

The unit is proposed for a Selective Thinning-Douglas fir  prescription. The prescription proposes to maintain 40%-50% canopy cover following logging operations. The canopy cover targets in this unit are necessitating the removal of many large, fire-resistant Douglas fir trees.

Currently the stand is relatively open spaced and spacious with very little understory fuel. Fuel loading in the unit is minimal with the mature forest canopy suppressing understory growth. Directly adjacent to the unit is a small section of land previously logged by the BLM. These logged stands, adjacent to unit 14-30, have dense understory fuel and compromised forest canopies; the result has been a dramatic increase in flashy understory fuel and an increase in overstory mortailty. The prescription proposed for unit 14-30 would create similar results, increasing fire hazards in the area and removing large, fire-resistant trees.


The view looking south from the unit boundary into the proposed commercial logging unit. Notice the minimal understory fuels and lack of ladder fuels.

From the unit boundary looking north into stands that had previous commercial thinning by the BLM. Notice the increase in understory and ladder fuels leading into the canopy of the trees retained following logging operations. Aggressive canopy reduction in BLM commercial thinning units has increased fuel loads in Applegate Valley timber sales.


The western half of the unit, much of which is located in a small draw, is proposed for tractor yarding, meaning soil disturbance and compaction will be significant. Noxious weeds will likely spread in the tractor treads and the dragging of large logs through the stand will pierce through the soil, disturbing a large portion of the unit. The soil disturbance associated with tractor yarding has also been shown to increase reproduction of woody understory species, creating a dramatic increase in fuel loads. 

The draw in the western half of the unit is proposed to be tractor yarded, disturbing and damaging soils. The large Douglas fir trees marked with white paint are marked for removal.

The BLM has identified the unit as about half dispersal and half roosting and foraging habitat for the northern spotted owl. The removal of large, old trees and the heavy reduction in canopy cover will impact northern spotted owl habitat, likely downgrading or eliminating habitat conditions necessary for the owl. BLM stand data claims the stand is between 100-150 years old, yet many trees older than 150 years are present throughout the stand. Some of these trees are marked for removal. 

The eastern portion of the unit would be helicopter logged, requiring two new and large helicopter landings, one at the western edge of the stand and one directly at the center of the unit. Helicopter logging will require the removal of large wildlife snags within the unit to facilitate worker safety. Helicopter yarding will also impact wildlife and local residents with substantial noise disturbance during the operational period. 

Unit 14-30 is unroaded and wild, a fragment of late-seral forest surrounded by non-forest plant communities and young conifer stands. The unit represents the most fire-resilient landscape in the immediate vicinity, as well as the most important habitat for the northern spotted owl and thermal cover for local wildlife species. Building new road and logging this stand to 40%-50% canopy cover will impact the area's unroaded character, reduce its resilience to natural disturbances (e.g. fire and insect infestation), downgrade northern spotted owl habitat conditions, reduce thermal cover for local ungulates, and increase fuel loads adjacent to rural homes in the Little Applegate Valley. Unit 14-30 should be canceled.

Unit 15-30
Seventy-one trees over 20" in diameter are proposed to be removed from unit 15-30. The unit is a 17-acre, fire-resilient conifer stand surrounded by chaparral and oak woodland. The trees marked with white paint are proposed to be removed in BLM logging operations.

Unit 15-30 lies on the western face of Cinnabar Ridge, directly above the intersection of Eastside Road and Upper Applegate Road. The unit is located within the Buncom Roadless Area on a brushy west-facing slope of silk tassel, buckbrush, manzanita, and patches of white oak. The arid soils support nearly all "non-forest" plant communities in a diverse patchwork predicated by solar exposure, slope position, soils, and fire history. The area burned in 1987 and behaved much like a fire would be expected to given the droughty conditions and generally scrubby plant communities. 

Much of the chaparral burned at high severity, as it naturally does, and has regenerated into a vigorous community of stump-sprouting silk tassel and patches of chaparral that sprouted from the soil's seed bank after the fire. The community is naturally resilient to fire; its strategy is to grow quickly following fire on poor sites, colonizing the space opened by high severity fire and limited by exposure. The chaparral community mingles with stands of white oak, some that burned off in the fire and are now sprouting into multi-stemmed trees, and stands where the fire dropped to the ground and left the oak canopy unscathed. 

The fire also dropped to the ground in Nedsbar Timber Sale unit 15-30, an isolated conifer habitat on the north slope of a low spur ridge. Surrounded by chaparral and a natural high severity fire regime, the stand appears to have sustained very little mortality in the 1987 fire — burning in the understory, clearing out small patches of brushy fuel and maintaining a canopy of large old trees. 

Open forest in unit 15-30.
A mixture of pine and fir colonize the upper portion of unit 15-30 in open, fire adapted groves. A few tree-form maple grow scattered among the conifer stands in an open and park-like setting. The stand is relatively open spaced, yet the canopy is closed enough to suppress understory growth and minimize understory fuel development. It has reached an equilibruim, where the stand can maintain minimal fuel loads for long periods of time. It is, by far, the most fire-resilient portion of the immediate landscape. 

Seventy-one fire resilient trees between 20" and 26" in diameter are marked for removal in unit 15-30. Nearly all these trees are in the top half of the 17-acre unit. The upper portion of unit 15-30 is a model for fire resiliency in the brushy foothills of the Applegate Valley. Unit 15-30 has survived recent fires and maintained  consistently low fuel loads. 

Currently, the upper portion of the stand does not need any fuel reduction and canopy removal will only increase fuel hazards and understory fuel loads. Canopy removal will increase sunlight to the forest floor and the dense brushy fuels surrounding the unit will move in from the edges, creating a contiguous and highly flammable layer of woody understory vegetation. 

Many large, fire-resistant trees are marked for removal in the upper portion of unit 15-30. Wildfire burned through this stand at low severity in 1987, maintaining a healthy fuel mosaic and the stand's late-seral characteristics. The trees marked with white paint are marked for removal in the Nedsbar Timber Sale.

Canopy reduction in this stand will shift the fuel dynamics from equilibrium and fire resiliency, from an understory, low severity fire regime, to a chaparral ecology of high severity fire. The diversity of the Applegate Valley foothills is one of complex patch mosaics, abrupt edge effects, and a kaleidoscope of intertwined but distinctive plant communities. This mosaic can easily be converted to homogenous chaparral fuels, especially when fire resilient vegetation types are not maintained.  

The stand provides a model of healthy, fire-adapted forest conditions in the Applegate foothills. These conditions should be maintained on the landscape by deferring treatment of unit 15-30. The unit should be canceled from the Nedsbar Timber Sale.


More work ahead on Nedsbar: 
The Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN) and Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) have joined forces to fight the Nedsbar Timber Sale. Please consider supporting our work. Donations can be made to the Klamath Forest Alliance Please support the campaign to stop Nedsbar

Nedsbar Timber Sale: Commercial logging unit 30-20 and Fuel Reduction unit F-30

Some of the most beautiful oak woodland in the Applegate Valley is located in fuel reduction unit F-30 of the Nedsbar Timber Sale.
On a gentle, east-facing slope, directly above the farms and pasture land at the confluence of Yale Creek and the Little Applegate River, is a beautiful series of dry meadows surrounded by massive, wide-branching white oak. This isolated oak habitat is one of the most intact oak woodlands in the Applegate Valley, including many old-growth oak trees. The stand supports a mixture of stand structures and types, including oak woodland, oak savanna, and closed oak forest. In many cases, these three major stand types are scattered about in a random mosaic among small thickets of buckbrush or manzanita, open-grown pine, and broad, grassy meadows. 

This magical piece of the Applegate Valley foothills is also identified as fuel reduction unit F-30 in the Nedsbar Timber Sale; in fact, it is the largest unit proposed in the timber sale, despite being located within the proposed Dakubetede Primitive Back-Country Area.
Big, old white oak (Quercus garryana) in unit F-30.


Historically, BLM fuel reduction treatments have degraded oak woodland and chaparral sites in the Applegate Valley, creating a novel ecosystem and spreading noxious weeds. Fuel reduction treatments in chaparral and oak woodland in the Applegate Valley have been touted as restoration projects that will increase ecosystem resilience and invigorate understory plant communities, most notably native bunchgrass species. In reality, the opposite has been true; non-native annual grasses have been found to colonize the freshly disturbed soils and open conditions, putting native herbaceous plants and grasses at risk.

Oak woodland heavily thinned and invaded by non-native annual grasses, mullein and star thistle following BLM fuel reduction treatments. This area in the Lick Gulch watershed was once a mostly closed-canopied oak woodland known for its intact native plant communities. The site was heavily degraded, not restored as the BLM often claims.

In general, native grasses in the interior valleys of southwest Oregon are found in the dappled shade of oak woodland canopies. Sites that are more open, such as oak prairie, oak savanna, and grasslands have been degraded by a variety of impacts and transformed into weedy habitats overrun with non-native annual grasses such as cheat grass and medusa head. 

The transition to non-native annual grass dominance can be associated with the excessive removal of oak canopy in woodland stands. Many non-native species are simply more competitive in these open habitat types. By aggressively cutting woodland stands and converting these historic oak woodlands to more savanna form, the BLM has impacted habitat values, facilitated the spread of noxious weeds and degraded oak woodland communities unique to the Applegate Valley of southwestern Oregon.

This photo depicts V-shaped oak woodland structure in unit F-30 including legacy oak trees. The structure of large old trees can provide insight into the stand's historic structure. 
The majority of oak habitat in the foothills of the Applegate Valley  has been shown to have been more adapted to woodland form and structure. Legacy oaks in the area support v-shaped canopies rather than the round, open-grown crowns of savanna-form trees. In many cases, the growth rates of oak trees in the Applegate Valley are uniquely slow, with old-growth trees taking on a relatively small stature with stout and stocky branching patterns. 

The most important influences on stand structure in the foothills of the Applegate Valley include soil conditions, harsh exposure and climatic conditions.The area's extremely slow growth rate means that, in many cases, the structure and general functionality of oak communities have changed very little since the advent of fire suppression. 

Many old "legacy" oak trees have been removed in past fuel reduction treatments. For example, the Upper Applegate Road Project (UAR) implemented by the Forest Service, was documented to have cut a surprising number of small diameter, yet very old trees.

If unit F-30 is subjected to the same overly-simplified prescriptions, habitat values will be degraded in one of the most intact oak woodlands in the Applegate Valley.

The Nedsbar Community Alternative has proposed a complex treatment of fuel reduction and restoration in unit F-30 involving judicious thinning and prescribed fire. This prescription calls for six separate treatment types to address the needs of the site's numerous plant communities and stand structures. 

Follow this link to access numerous interesting scientific papers about oak and chaparral management in the Applegate Valley and southwestern Oregon.


Unit 30-20
The two large Douglas fir trees marked in white are proposed for removal in the Nedsbar Timber Sale

Embedded within the oak woodlands, tall pines and young fir stands of fuel reduction unit F-30, is a small stand of mid- to late-seral forest identified by the BLM as commercial logging unit 30-20. This unit is the only stand of mid- to late-seral forest in the area, providing an important, relatively undisturbed island of complex, old forest. Unit 30-20 is proposed for a Douglas fir thinning treatment to 40% canopy cover.

The unit provides important thermal cover for wildlife due to its fairly closed canopy, yet open understory condition. This thermal cover, provided by a canopy of large, old trees, creates an important piece of the area's winter range habitat for black tailed deer and other wildlife species. 

The unit is also identified by the BLM as roosting and foraging habitat for the northern spotted owl; however, the unit's habitat rating will be downgraded to the lowest level of dispersal, by reducing canopy cover to 40%. In other words, habitat that was sufficient to act as the bedroom and kitchen for the the spotted owl, will be downgraded to be only sufficient as an area within which the spotted owl can freely move between connected habitat, but not good enough to be the bedroom or kitchen anymore.


A large, fire-resistant tree proposed for removal.
According to the BLM, portions of the stand are documented to be between 150-200 year old. Last winter, while working on the Nedsbar Community Alternative, I bored a few trees in the stand — one a 26" diameter fir that was 212 years old, and a 21" fir that was 170 years old. The stand is a good example of the slow growth rates on dry sites in Little Applegate and the potential for relatively small diameter trees to be quite old. This is of concern when implementing commercial thinning treatments and a reasonable diameter limit should be instituted to protect old-growth, yet relatively small diameter trees.The Nedsbar Community Alternative proposes a 20" diameter limit across the entire timber sale. The BLM is refusing to institute a diameter limit in their "proposed action."

A large, old-growth snag in unit 30-20.
At the eastern end of the unit groupings of large madrone grow among fir, pine and a few scattered old-growth snags. These hardwood groupings and important wildlife snags are likely to be impacted by tree felling and cable yarding operations. This impact has become a severe problem in cable yarding units in the Applegate Valley. Hardwoods and large diameter snags are routinely removed in commercial logging units due to mechanical damage and tree felling to facilitate safe and/or efficient timber felling operations and cable yarding corridors. 

Although the stand's largest trees would be retained in unit 30-20, the stand's late successional character and resilience to fire would be severely set back.  Groupings of large dominant trees are marked for removal throughout the stand. These trees, in the 20-24" diameter class, could easily be old-growth in this slow growing, droughty stand. Large snags will likely be felled and magnificent old hardwoods badly damaged in logging operations. 


Unit 30-20 is "leave tree" marked, meaning the yellow marked trees will be retained in logging treatments. The three large trees adjacent will all be logged in the proposed Nedsbar Timber Sale.


The stand in unit 30-20 is currently relatively open and supports only scattered patches of dense understory fuel. Commercial logging to 40% canopy cover will only increase fuel concerns in the long term, by opening the site up to harsh sun, drying winds, and the associated build up of dense understory fuels. These impacts are well documented across the Applegate Valley in BLM logging treatments making our forests less fire resilient. 

Unit 30-20 was deferred from commercial treatment in the Nedsbar Community Alternative, a community and conservation-based proposal provided to the BLM by the local Little and Upper Applegate Valley communities. Instead, the Nedsbar Community Alternative proposed treating unit 30-20 for fuel reduction, along with the adjacent fuel reduction unit F-30. The proposal would treat young understory fuels while maintaining late-seral characteristics.  The Nesbar Community Alternative is an innovative and collaborative forest restoration project providing an alternative to the BLM's timber heavy proposal (Alternative 4). Just as the BLM's Alternative 4 proposal should be opposed, the Nedsbar Community Alternative should be supported.

Logging unit 30-20 will impact the area's wildlife and wildlands, while increasing fuels hazards adjacent to residential properties in the Little Applegate Valley. Unit 30-20 should be canceled from the Nedsbar Timber Sale. 

A map of unit 30-20 and F-30 at the confluence of the Little Applegate River and Yale Creek.