A Blueprint for Public Lands: Upper Applegate Project

The Upper Applegate Watershed sits between Ruch, Oregon and the Applegate Dam. It is a mix of mostly public lands with adjacent farms, homes and industrial timber owners. These are hot, dry slopes on summer months, interspersed with open meadows, salmon streams and shaded forests. Many of the public forests managed by the U.S. Forest Service were cut down and planted with densely packed tree plantations from the 1950s until the 1980s. These are now fire prone forests, in a watershed with many community values including recreation, water sources, and wildlife habitat. 

Take action and thank the Forest Service for proposing to protect and restore forests in the Applegate Valley.

While several thousands of acres of tree plantations, meadows and dry forest have been identified for restoration forestry, the remaining older forests in the watershed will not be the target of these treatments. Instead, thinning will aim to protect these important forests from future high severity fire.

While several thousands of acres of tree plantations, meadows and dry forest have been identified for restoration forestry, the remaining older forests in the watershed will not be the target of these treatments. Instead, thinning will aim to protect these important forests from future high severity fire.

The stage is set for what should become a blueprint for public lands in the dry forests of southern Oregon. 

KS Wild and dozens of people that live in Southern Oregon have been engaged for several years in the Upper Applegate Watershed Project. We are very excited that this project holds promise as a blueprint to restore forests and salmon streams and to get controlled fire back on the ground in a watershed that desperately needs it. 

Here are some of the important issues we have been tracking in the project:

1) Collaboration and Adaptive Management Works. By including the public early and utilizing community values to identify project goals, the Forest Service has achieved support from a wide range of stakeholders and neighbors. This model is superior to the "my way or the highway" heavy logging prescriptions we often see on Bureau of Land Management land in southwest Oregon.

2) This is what treatments for forest and fire resiliency really look like. Small diameter thinning and prescribed fire that reduce fire hazard is what research shows works. Not clearcutting or old-growth logging that actually increase fire hazard. The Forest Service got it right here. And they got it right because they listened to their neighbors, looked objectively at the research, and adjusted the proposal to match the realities on the ground.

3) The stated “Purpose and Need” is something everyone can get behind. The public and agency identify values that are to be enhanced and protected, including: aquatic health, terrestrial biodiversity and community and culture. Commercial products are a byproduct, not a driver, of protecting and enhancing those shared values.

A typical plantation forest in the Upper Applegate Project where KS Wild would like to see more thinning.

A typical plantation forest in the Upper Applegate Project where KS Wild would like to see more thinning.

Here are the specific actions in the project:

Forest Thinning: There are MANY previously logging plantations that would be the focus of thinning. These areas were clearcut in the late 1950s through the 1970s and have grown back into flammable young mono-culture forests. By thinning these with what is called "variable density" management the agency can increase the habitat value for wildlife and decrease the likelihood that these plantations will burn very severe in future fires. We are asking the Forest Service to avoid logging un-entered or lightly entered mature forest stands. There are other forests that the Forest Service and BLM have identified that are very dense where we support restoration based forest management including thinning and burning. 

Road Restoration: The project would decrease road-related sediment through road maintenance, repair and restoration. The agencies have recommended reducing road density and unneeded roads in this watershed, which has also been identified as a "Key Watershed" for the recovery of salmon. 

Gentner's Fritillary Habitat: The proposal would protect and bolster the endangered Gentner's Fritillary (Fritillaria gentnerii) population and habitat, which are more open areas with meadows. 

Prescribed Fire: Several thousand acres of prescribed fire are planned that would to benefit native plant communities and to reintroduce fire into these fire dependent forests and meadows. 

Gentner's Fritillary is only found in the mountains of southern Oregon.

Gentner's Fritillary is only found in the mountains of southern Oregon.

Getting fire back on the ground in controlled conditions can reduce fuels and restore meadows and open forest, potentially reducing future fire severity.

Getting fire back on the ground in controlled conditions can reduce fuels and restore meadows and open forest, potentially reducing future fire severity.

Enhancing Pollinator Habitat: The project would introduce low intensity prescribed fire and seeding to promote native pollinator plants.

Meadow and Wetland Restoration Projects: We will be monitoring this project to ensure that large machinery does not harm sensitive meadows and wetlands.

Establishing New OHV Routes: We are concerned with the new motorized trails being considered in this project. Please avoid designating new off highway vehicle routes in hydrologically recovering areas such as Boaz Mountain and Hanley Gulch. We are concerned about encouraging OHV use on routes not shown on the Motor Vehicle Use Map.

Unroaded Areas: KS Wild highly values the Kinney and Little Greyback Inventoried (officially designated) roadless areas. We are asking the agencies to protect the native forests in unroaded native forests stands in the Hanley Gulch, lower Brushy Gulch and Upper Palmer Creek watersheds are not appropriate locations for commercial logging in our opinion. 

KS Wild appreciates the Forest Service focus on restoration and willingness to reach out to impacted communities and work with stakeholders. The plan and the process hold promise as a blueprint for managing forests in the era of climate change.  

Quotes about the project and the Applegate Adaptive Management Area where the project is located:

“Emphasis of the Applegate Adaptive Management Area: Developing and testing of forest management practices, including partial cutting, prescribed burning, and low impact approaches to forest harvest (e.g., aerial systems) that provide for a broad range of forest values, including late-successional forest and high quality riparian habitat.” - Northwest Forest Plan, D-12

“Key features of the Adaptive Management Areas…Innovation in community involvement is encouraged, including approaches to implementation of initial management strategies and perhaps, over longer term, development of new forest policies.” - Northwest Forest Plan, D-2.

“The primary sediment source in the Applegate-Star/Boaz Watershed Analysis Area appears to be from road surfaces, fill slopes, and ditchlines.…Drainage areas with high numbers of road stream crossings are likely to experience the most sediment movement into stream channels.” Applegate-Star/Boaz WA, Page 60

  
To track the project on the U.S. Forest Service site, go here