Not-So-Clean Slate, logging old growth and putting communities at risk
The Medford Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is pushing ahead with plans to log large old trees within old growth forests in the Illinois Valley of southwest Oregon. KS Wild has been working to protect these ancient forests, while pushing the BLM to focus on the real management needs: restoring watersheds, reducing wildfire threats around homes and communities, and managing the backlog of highly flammable tree plantations on the public lands they manage.
This latest project is called "Clean Slate." However, there are a lot of dirty truths once you get on the ground and see what is proposed in this project. The Clean Slate Forest Management Project has the same flaws as the BLM's abandoned Pickett West Deer Slate timber sale in the same area. Clean Slate would log forest stands 150-180 years and log old growth trees over 160 years.
Do you want a WOW! forest or a stump field with scattered trees?
The Deer Creek Watershed is a pacific wonderland where you’ll find ancient ecosystems and majestic old-growth trees, is now targeted in Clean Slate. This is the BLM’s 6th attempt in 20 years to log old growth forests in the Illinois Valley. BLM’s Field Manager misused his authority to do the classic "bait and switch".
First, the BLM baited the public with the Pickett West Project in 2017 under the NW Forest Plan that included current Clean Slate units. Citizens spent hundreds of hours writing scoping letters, attending field trips, writing comment letters to contribute to the Environmental Assessment (EA), submitting protests and doing citizen science. In October 2017, the Field Manager discovered he could not evade the survey and manage requirements of the NW Forest plan that would protect old trees and old growth forests from the BLM’s insatiable timber greed, so he abandoned the Pickett West/ Deer Slate timber sale.
KS Wild is also disappointed that BLM failed to respond to repeated requests for formal collaboration on the Clean Slate project. This process is identified in Department of Interior regulations “for consensus-based management approach” to BLM projects. KS Wild believes a consensus of most interested parties is possible with an alternative that would eliminate logging old growth forests while maintaining an average 40% canopy in Douglas fir logging units, while true oak/pine sites on southern exposure could go lower. The BLM provided flawed analysis of the project because it failed to engage interested parties in formal collaboration as requested in December 2017.
BLM goes big
The proposed action targets structurally diverse forests with heavy canopy removal where there has been little or no previous logging. The BLM fails to disclose that forests 150 years and older that have had little or no previous logging are being proposed for intensive logging (units 3-11, 21-12, 9-5, 3-9, and 22-5). These older forests have low fuel loading and low fire hazard. The proposed logging will increase fire hazards for decades as understory shrubs and conifer saplings increase into dense fire prone thickets.
The BLM fails to describe the proposal in terms of logging of large trees. Specifically, the BLM failed to disclose that the proposed action logs an estimated 2,080 large trees greater than 20”diameter breast height (DBH) and that an undisclosed number of these large trees are greater than 32” DBH and older than 160 years (i.e. old growth). The BLM’s analysis is defective because it failed to inform that old growth stands and old growth trees are being logged. Logging old growth trees is a significant federal action that must be disclosed by the BLM regardless of discussion and analysis in the BLM’s regional planning.
The BLM also failed to disclose that large old open grown Douglas-fir trees with greater than 75% crown base ratios are identified for logging in unit 3-11 and other units contrary to direction in the 2016 Resource Management Plan and statements the BLMs project level analysis. These are forests that quality as the highest quality Nesting, Roosting, and Foraging habitat and Recovery Action 32 forests that are important for the recovery of the Northern spotted owl. These are being proposed for logging in the eastern portion of unit 3-11, the eastern portion of unit 21-12 and elsewhere.
The Proposed Action is defective because it failed to mark for retention all trees greater than 20” in diameter in the middle of a riparian (streamside) reserve. These large trees are needed to maintain adequate large wood supply for adjacent stream channels as directed by the BLM’s very own Resource Management Plan.
Want to learn more about the forests at stake in this sale? Come to our upcoming hike and see for yourself!