Tipping the Scales

By
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Horse Creek watershed July 2017 showing checkerboard ownership. Private lands logging has already begun, the untouched portions are targeted by the Klamath National Forest.

EPIC recently submitted an objection to the Horse Creek Project— 1,700 acres of post-fire clearcutting in the 2016 Gap Fire footprint. An administrative objection is the way to formally challenge a Forest Service project, prior to litigation. Our lawsuit against the Klamath National Forest, for clearcutting nearly 10,000 acres after the 2014 Westside Fires, has yet to be heard in Federal Court. Both of these timber sales expect to kill or adversely harm salmon and their essential fish habitat.

Wild Salmon are Suffocated by Sediment

Wild salmon are struggling to survive and experiencing collapse after the lowest numbers in history while post-fire logging and the Klamath National Forest are pushing them closer to extinction. Unstable watersheds which provide vital cold water refuge to ailing fish have seen heavy use by thousands of logging trucks or have experienced massive road failures and landslides including, Beaver, Horse, Walker and Grider Creeks to name a few. The Horse Creek project invites more of the same.

Coho salmon in Southern Oregon and the Klamath Basin have been declared threatened for twenty years. In 2011, EPIC petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the spring-run Chinook salmon and to designate critical habitat. That petition was denied because, the Service argued, the springers were not genetically distinct from fall-run Chinook. Now six years later, thanks to research by UC Davis, springers have been proven to be genetically distinct. The Karuk Tribe has submitted a notice of intent to, once again, petition to list the species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Our Future with Fire

Getting a smart grip on pre- and post-fire management is key to the salmon’s survival. There are over 50,000 acres of wildfire on the Klamath National Forest and approximately 225,000 acres on the Six Rivers, Modoc and Rouge-Siskiyou National Forests. The wet winter has certainly helped these fires burn cooler and some strategic allowances of fire for ecosystem benefit have been made. However, as witnessed, scouting for opportunities to clearcut our forests and in turn to lose money, harm wildlife and water quality begins before the smoke clears.

EPIC will defend wild salmon, water quality and wildlife in the wake of post-fire madness with the goal of reversing the damaging and continuous cycle we are beginning to see every year. Wildfires are inevitable and can have an impact. It is industrialized timber sales, which take all the big trees and leave all the flammables behind (which may or may not be treated), in our salmon dependent watersheds that are entirely avoidable.

We are slowly trending in the right direction. We continue to live with fire and learn from Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Prescribed burning is increasing, more cultural burning is revitalized and pre-fire strategies are gaining traction with implementation pending. After fires break out, depending on leadership, less extreme fire fighting tactics are being considered and forest communities are better prepared. However, we need a sense of urgency throughout California and beyond to shift from the age of the military-style fire industrial complex and massive post-fire logging to protecting communities and our wild places. As embers burn and smolder responsible officials and agencies need to stand up, follow their missions, make sound decisions and work fast to restore the last strongholds of wild salmon.

Help Support EPIC’s Forest Defense Work.

From collaborating and working with the agencies to groundtruthing proposed logging sites, writing comments, objections and lawsuits- EPIC works tirelessly to protect wild places and wild salmon. As a membership organization, we are powered by your generosity. Thank you!