Posts Tagged ‘Aquatic Resources’

Off Road Vehicles Proposed by Forest Service in the Smith River National Recreation Area

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
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Smith River NRAEPIC, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center and other conservation allies submitted comments regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Smith River National Recreation Area (NRA) Restoration and Motorized Travel Management on June 9th, supporting a travel management decision that protects the outstanding natural values found in the Smith River NRA by reducing road maintenance costs, protecting and restoring aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and reducing the spread of Port Orford cedar root disease through road and route decommissioning.

The Forest Service needs to refrain from adding routes and motorized trails to the road system that occur within occupied sensitive plant habitat as well as fully analyze and disclose the impacts of foreseeable illegal off-road use. In addition, the Forest Service must disclose the actual efficacy of agency road gating, blocking, and closure mechanisms. Furthermore, the final travel management decision must contain meaningful and substantive protections for Port Orford cedar populations across the planning area.

The DEIS for the Smith River NRA Restoration and Motorized Travel Management was released to the public on April 11, 2014. The aim of the project is to make changes to the National Forest Transportation System (NFTS) and Motorized Vehicle Use Maps , including adding, upgrading, downgrading, and decommissioning roads to provide for recreation opportunities, administrative needs, and to reduce risk.

In the Smith River NRA DEIS, six alternatives were identified. The Forest Service prefers Alternative 6. Unfortunately, Alternative 6 is primarily based upon the preferences of a collaborative group whose stated purpose was to determine how to add “high risk” controversial user-created routes to the Smith River NRA NFTS. These “high risk” routes provide no administrative or recreational purpose other than to fulfill the desire to engage in extreme off-road travel. In addition, the preferred alternative would add routes and motorized trails to the NFTS that occur within occupied sensitive plant habitat. It is undeniable that the existing network of roads and routes within the NRA are major causes of chronic sedimentation problems in streams, cause damage to rare and endemic plant populations, contribute to the loss of roadless wildland recreational opportunities, and increase the spread of Phytophthora lateralis (plant pathogen that causes Port Orford cedar root disease). Although the Forest Service acknowledges these problems, it plans to monitor less than 1 in 5 of these “high risk” routes over the next 10 years if funding is even available.

Under the Smith River National Recreation Act, the Forest Service has a responsibility to preserve, protect, and enhance the unique biological diversity of the NRA. EPIC and its supporters feel that the Forest Service’s preferred alternative, which favors the interests of 1.1% of the Six Rivers Forest visitors, does not adequately protect the significant ecological, recreational, and hydrological values the Smith River NRA is charged with protecting. EPIC and its allies  hope that the preferred action is not pre-ordained and that its substantive, technical, and site-specific comments are adequately acknowledged and addressed.

This article was written by Jason Landers, an intern with EPIC for the 2014 summer.

Click here to read the full comments.


Protect the Wild Salmon River – Stop “Salvage” Logging

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
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Photo#1_KellyGulchTake Action! The Wild and Scenic (W&S) North Fork Salmon River is threatened with post-fire “salvage” logging. The Salmon/Scott River Ranger District of the Klamath National Forest (NF) is proposing to streamline logging on over 1,000 acres of steep slopes, including road construction over trails and overgrown roads.  Over 60% of the project area is within Critical Habitat for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl.  The W&S North Fork Salmon River is designated a Key watershed, meaning it is critical for salmon recovery.  The river is also listed under the Clean Water Act as being impaired. This project jeopardizes the wild and rugged nature of the North Fork Salmon River.

The Klamath NF Environmental Analysis of the Salmon Salvage project continues to claim that no new roads are needed, however one of the “existing” roadbeds, nearly a mile long, has not been used for decade. It is grown over, laden with landslides and located on a steep and unstable hillside. Heavy equipment and severe earth moving would be required to make it ready for 18 wheeler logging trucks. Where there are roads, there are landings to accommodate heavy equipment.  Landings are bulldozed flats that are 1/2-acre to up to two-acre openings.

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Kelly Gulch A Spur “Existing” Road

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Same “road” look close for flagging, which indicates location of the road

Over 300 acres of the project is within larger forest stands.  One of these areas along the Garden Gulch Trail provides high quality Critical Habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, and is a popular gateway that leads into the Marble Mountain Wilderness.  EPIC and the conservation community have been defending this beautiful forest stand for a decade, first fighting the Knob Timber Sale, and then recently in opposition to the Little Cronan Timber Sale.  The agency is calling the trail an “existing” road, and now proposes to open the Garden Gulch trail, which is adjacent to a creek, to 18-wheeler logging trucks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment.

Garden Gulch Trail next to the creek and proposed road location

Garden Gulch Trail next to the creek and proposed road location

This particular forest stand, Unit 345, contains hundreds of big older trees, many of which are still very alive and green. It provides a vital link for wildlife connectivity and exemplifies high quality mixed conifer post-fire habitat.  The area burned at moderate to low severity contributing to the ecological quality of this ideal post-fire forest stand.  These trees are providing shade and valuable wildlife habitat, creating a healthy complex forest structure, all part of a natural process. Bulldozers, trucks, roads and landings do not belong on this trail or in this showcase post-fire habitat forest stand.

Southern Boundary next to the Garden Gulch Trail

Southern Boundary next to the Garden Gulch Trail

There are five Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) home ranges within the project vicinity.  Recent science shows that the owls benefit from burned forest stands and that post-fire logging has the potential to increase extinction rates, especially when done within core areas.  The NSO species Recovery Plans calls for “conserving and restoring habitat elements that take a long time to develop (e.g., large trees, medium and large snags, downed wood).

In their rush to implement this ecologically damaging project, the agency has sought an Emergency Situation Determination (ESD) from the regional forester.  If the request for an ESD were to be granted it would mean that trees can be cut down as soon as a decision is issued and a contract is signed, despite any appeal or claims brought in court.  Seeking an ESD circumvents judicial review, eliminating the public’s recourse in challenging poor decisions that threaten our public lands.

Take Action Today to Stop the Salmon River Salvage Project! Let Patricia Grantham, Forest Supervisor of Klamath National Forest know that you oppose post-fire logging that results in habitat destruction and road construction in designated Key watersheds like the North Fork Salmon River. Post-fire landscapes are considered to be one of the most rare, endangered, and ecologically important habitats in the western U.S.  They are rich, vibrant and alive and often provide more biodiversity than green forests.  Read more about the environmental effects of post-fire logging.  Take a walk in Garden Gulch.   See the overgrown unused Kelly Gulch A Spur Road on steep and unstable hillsides proposed for re-construction.  View more photos here.