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, with open meadows, salmon streams and shaded forests. Many of the public forests managed by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service were cut down and planted with densely packed tree plantations from the 1950s until the 1980s. These are fire prone forests, in a watershed with many community values including recreation, roadless lands, water sources, and wildlife habitat.
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 over a year in the Upper Applegate 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.
Unfortunately, the Forest Service has been slow to move on this project, instead prioritizing projects where there is more timber volume like the massive Chetco Timber Sale. If Forest Service staff continue to get moved away from working on this project in favor of timber driven quotas from new Forest Service leadership, we might lose a valuable opportunity.
The primary purpose of the project is to protect and enhance community and agency identified values by improving watershed and forests conditions, protecting communities from wildfire, and allowing the landscape to become more able to rebound from natural disturbances. KS Wild is very excited about this project as it has been collaboratively developed by the agencies and many stakeholders.
Here are some of the important issues we have been tracking 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.
Enhance Pollinator Habitat: The project would introduce low intensity prescribed fire and seeding to promote native pollinator plants.
Meadow and Wetland Restoration Projects: We support the meadow and wetland restoration but are asking the agencies to consider girdling (kill) and leaving encroaching conifers and use prescribe fire. We are concerned with large machinery in sensitive meadows and wetlands.
Non-Motorized Recreation: We support the additional non-motorized recreational opportunities.
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.