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ACTION ALERT: Tell the Forest Service to Save Mature Forests Near Lake Siskiyou

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Mount Shasta over Lake Siskiyou.
Mount Shasta over Lake Siskiyou. Photo by KevinAndMelissa22 via Wikimedia Commons (PD).

The Forest Service has proposed over 8,000 acres of commercial logging just to the west of Lake Siskiyou near Mount Shasta. This forest borders Lake Siskiyou, the Castle Crags Wilderness Area, and the Pacific Crest Trail. This beautiful landscape would be dramatically changed by the proposed project and it's not too late to speak up.

The South Fork Sacramento Project is a good example of overly aggressive “fuels reduction” which would cause significant environmental impacts for questionable benefits. The total project area is 16,285 acres and would include nearly 7,000 acres of “fuel management zones,” which is another term for logging. The fuel management zones would dramatically remove most of the forest canopy, including within older forest and riparian reserves.

Forest maturity west of Lake Siskiyou, with mature forests in blue and young forests in red.
Forest maturity west of Lake Siskiyou, with mature forests in blue and young forests in red. Map from

Reducing the canopy in this way would have significant impacts on wildlife species. This area lies along an important connectivity corridor for animals moving east or west in Northern California. Forest mapping shows that this area contains an island of mature forest surrounded by relatively young and less desirable habitat. The area contains important habitat cores for Pacific fisher and Pacific marten as well as a breeding pair of northern spotted owls. Reducing canopy cover would reduce the value of this habitat as well as decrease connectivity within the forest.

The Forest Service downplayed the impacts, claiming only that the project would likely adversely affect the owls. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was more concerned that logging would “take” one of the few remaining reproductive owl pairs in the forest; in other words, that it would kill or disturb the owls to an extent that triggers the Endangered Species Act. Given the absolutely dire straits the species is in, taking a breeding pair of northern spotted owl should be off the table, but unfortunately the Forest Service is moving forward anyway.

Castle Crags Wilderness.
Castle Crags Wilderness. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Given the wildlife impacts associated with this project, it's important that the logging would have real, tangible benefits. For fuels reduction treatments to work they need to be regularly maintained. Otherwise, the forest will simply grow back with even thicker vegetation and cause an even more flammable landscape. Right now, the agency already has a long list of past projects that are overdue for maintenance. Given the environmental costs, should the Forest Service really be proposing to remove forest cover across 8,000+ acres when it can not keep up with its current fuels reduction maintenance backlog?

In addition, opening the canopy has real wildfire risks. Studies have shown that open forests become drier and have stronger winds, intensifying wildfire activity. Trees are often thought of as fuel for fire, but they also hold water. Closed canopy forests hold onto moisture and provide cooler microclimates, providing refuge for wildlife and often lowering fire intensity.

Despite these concerns, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest is plowing ahead. They are attempting to approve this project under a special emergency exemption that would reduce public participation and review. Now is the chance to tell them the project could be improved. Please send a message today!


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