The Klamath National Forest has done it again, planning over 1,200 acres of post-fire logging adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail on the steep slopes of the Siskiyou Crest. The Seiad-Horse Creek project would: significantly increase sediment in already impaired watersheds critical for salmon, require “take” or killing of threatened species, harm wildlife connectivity, and affect Roadless and Botanical Areas. Rather than fully address the impacts through an Environmental Impact Statement, the Forest Service released a Draft Environmental Analysis (EA) initiating the public scoping comment period.
All twelve of the creeks within Seiad and Horse Creek watersheds, which are tributaries to the Klamath River, are listed as 303(d) impaired for temperature and sediment under the Clean Water Act. This means that the current conditions do not meet water quality standards. According to Forest Service models, many of the streams are already over the “threshold of concern” yet the project would increase the risk of soil loss, sediment delivery and landslides and would further exacerbate adverse effects to aquatic and riparian habitats.
Wild salmon populations on the Klamath River are the lowest in history, suffering from disease and warm water as a result of dams, decades of mismanagement, years of consecutive wildfire, wildfire suppression activities and subsequent widespread industrial post-fire logging. Coho salmon are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and the Karuk Tribe recently submitted a petition to list the Klamath spring-run Chinook salmon, which is currently being considered. The Seiad-Horse project has a “May Affect, Likely to Adversely Affect” determination for coho salmon and for coho and Chinook essential fish habitat. Unconvincingly, the EA claims that logging over 1000 acres in impaired watersheds would improve aquatic conditions in the future by placing large woody debris in Horse Creek and by treating some sediment sources from roads sometime within the next twenty years.
Like salmon, northern spotted owl (NSO) populations continue to decline. Both the Seiad-Horse and recent Westside project have a “Likely to Adversely Affect” determination. Westside allowed the take (harm or kill) of up to 100 owls. The directly adjacent Horse Creek post-fire logging project has a “May Affect, Likely to Adversely Affect” determination. This Klamath region has been recognized for being critical for NSO conservation by providing a “source” population; however, the intense harm in these watersheds from the Klamath National Forest continues to multiply.
The Siskiyou Crest connectivity corridor provides habitat for fishers, martens, wolverines, bald eagles, northern goshawks, bats and the endemic Franklin’s bumblebee and Siskiyou Mountain salamander. Vast swaths of clearcuts would create large and contiguous openings, which may impact all of these species. Fire-affected forests are fully functioning habitats. High severity patches generate critical ecological pulses of dead trees (biological legacies) that are associated with extraordinary levels of biodiversity and provide complex forest structure used by a plethora of animals.
The project area is central to the Klamath Siskiyou bioregion, which is home to the largest expanse of wild lands on the West Coast. These forests are a stronghold for rare species and ranks third in species richness (for taxa ranging from butterflies and plants to birds and mammals) for all temperate conifer forests across the continent. Seiad and Horse Creeks specifically rank some of the highest in biodiversity in the state. These forests also contain some of the highest biomass-dense forests in North America, sequestering carbon and storing carbon long after a fire.
The Pacific Crest Trail runs just above the Siead-Horse project. Logging on 1,270 acres is proposed between the Kangaroo and Condrey Mountain Roadless Areas, entirely within the Johnny O’Neil Late Successional Reserve, an area designated to maintain and restore habitat for old-growth dependent species. Post-fire logging is unequivocally damaging to fire-rejuvenated forests and aquatic ecosystems. The impacts to ecological, recreational and scenic values will be severe if the project is implemented.