Keeping California Wild

By
Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Photo by Kimberly BakerEPIC has been talking a lot about the revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan. The Northwest Forest Plan is the governing document for all national forests in the Pacific Northwest and it is undergoing major revisions. This is one of our best opportunities in 20 years to critically affect National Forest management. For more in the series on the Northwest Forest Plan revisions, please click here.

Late-Successional Reserves are a core component of the Northwest Forest Plan. Under the Plan, these areas are dedicated to “mature” forests, either protecting existing mature forests or developing younger forests to become mature. To do so, many activities, such as logging strictly for commercial timber purposes, are supposedly prohibited under the Plan. However, there is a gulf between theory and practice.

As revealed by the Klamath National Forest’s Westside timber sale, which you can read about here, the Forest Service has started targeted Late Successional Reserves for timber harvest. Under the guise of hastening the development of new forests, the Forest Service has proposed to cut over 6,000 acres of Late Successional Reserves. Many of the proposed cuts are within the Grider Creek area, a critical habitat component linking the Marble Mountains to points north. While EPIC has stood up to the Forest Service on Westside, more drastic change is needed. These wild and rare areas need permanent protection, not subject to the politics and profits of the Forest Service.

Wilderness Areas are part of the solution to an agency gone rogue. In Wilderness Areas, the Forest Service is limited in its management; the Service may only do things that are consistent with the wild nature of the land. Thus, logging, road building and other destructive activities are generally prohibited;  instead, the land is preserved for the benefit and use of humans and wildlife. Wilderness Areas are our best way to permanently protect the land through greedy hands.

The upcoming Northwest Forest Plan revisions offer an opportunity to designate eligible Wilderness Areas. The Forest Service is required to assess the potential for new wilderness areas (36 C.F.R. § 219.6(b)(15)) and to recommend new areas for inclusion as Wilderness ( 36 C.F.R. § 219.7(c)(2)(v)). In this way, we can protect critical areas—those with outstanding beauty, such as North Fork Salmon River watersheds or those that connect areas of high habitat value, like Grider Creek.

EPIC can—and will—suggest new Wilderness Areas for consideration by the Forest Service, including areas slated for harvest under the Westside timber plan. But we need your help to identify the best, most productive areas. So we say unto you, our adventurous membership, go forth on to our public lands and find those areas: (1) under federal ownership and management; (2) consisting of at least five thousand acres of land or are connected to previously existing wilderness areas; (3) where human influence is “substantially unnoticeable”; (4) where there are opportunities for solitude and recreation; and (5) possess “ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.” Explore the land and let us know what you find!