With an increasingly intense proliferation of timber sales on our national forests the Forest Service is working hard to “get the cut out” despite growing evidence of long term harm to wildlife and salmon, and the decimation of old growth forests. With a new ranger in charge, projects on the Salmon River are getting increasingly worse.
Nearly all projects are justified by a fear of wildfire and claim that the forest is overly dense. However, science shows that logging can increase the risk of fire. Generally, northerly aspects are moist and dense, and southerly aspects are more open with an inherently higher chance of burning. Our forests need fire, and high severity fire is part of a healthy ecosystem that typically burns less than 10% of any given fire event.
The Partially Good: The Eddy Gulch project covers a huge expanse of land, 25,969 acres, between the North and South Forks of the Salmon River, including 8,291 acres of commercial tree harvest, 17,524 acres of underburning and thousands of acres of brush clearing.
Guidelines call for protecting trees over 20 inches in diameter, and units are concentrated on ridge tops where most fires start and where there is a chance to stop fire from entering into the next watershed. However, much of this area is set aside for protecting old growth forest habitat, there are 23 Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) nest sites in these watersheds, and yet some stands would be reduced to 40% canopy closure.
The Bad: The Little Cronan project is being done with minimal environmental review with no opportunity for appeal. This project is on the Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River, which is critical for salmon recovery. The FS is proposing to use a trail as a logging road, and is targeting old growth trees to make the forest “healthier.” However, it is those older, bigger, fire resistant trees that provide the best habitat for old growth dependent species.
The Ugly: The Petersburg Pines Healthy Forest Restoration Act Project proposes over 2,000 acres of commercial logging on the South Fork Salmon River. The USFS claims that it is following the Salmon River Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). This is a blatantly false claim. The CWPP calls for 80% canopy retention and demands a discussion for harvesting any trees over 27 inches in diameter. Despite this, more than half the project targets ancient trees in old growth/late seral stands. The project would remove NSO habitat and reduce canopy down to 40%.
The USFS has no current baseline population information for the NSO, yet it continues to target habitat for logging. The Recovery Plan for the owl states that the main threats are competition from barred owls, and past and current habitat loss. Recent research indicates that logging reduces the competitive advantage that spotted owls have in dense forest and increases the chance for barred owl invasion. (Dugger et al. In Press, Transient dynamics of invasive competition: barred owls, spotted owls, habitat, and the demons of competition present. Ecological Applications. [doi:10.1890/10-2142.1])
EPIC believes that management should prioritize small diameter forest stands and plantations (previous clearcuts). Our message is clear: no logging old growth, stay out of spotted owl territories, no new roads, keep adequate canopy and protect the soil, water, fish and wildlife.