ANCIENT FOREST FALLING AT BERRY PATCH
The sound of saws at the Berry Patch timber sale 20 miles east of Eugene are the opening shots in this summer's ancient forest wars. Berry Patch is the first old-growth timber sale to be logged on the Willamette National Forest in more than three years.
The purchaser of Berry Patch, D.R. Johnson of Prairie City, bought the sale in 1996. They logged most of it before the bottom fell out of the market for large diameter old growth logs. After receiving market related contract extensions for years, the Forest Service is forcing the company to complete logging on the 30 or so acres that remain.
The Willamette National Forest has a dozen other timber sales that would clearcut more than 2,000 acres of ancient forest ready to go this summer. Last year the Willamette lost $30 million selling old-growth below cost. The company is logging the last ten percent of old-growth left in Oregon, trees twice as old as the United States - at a loss to the taxpayers AND to the company itself. To call the situation absurd would be too kind.
Almost all of what's left of the sale was felled the week of June 23rd.
I've been watching old-growth logging in Oregon for more than a decade, and this is some of the worst logging I've ever seen. On a recent trip to Berry Patch I saw fields of one and two log loads stripped of branches and bucked out to 30-foot lengths. Most of the logs I saw were more than 250 years old and 4 feet in diameter. The largest log I saw on the ground was 6 feet 8 inches in diameter and 478 years old, born in 1524, 30 years after Columbus stumbled on the New World. The entire 5-acre stand was probably logged in about two hours.
I spoke briefly with the night watchmen, a nice enough guy with a totally demented view of National Forest management.
"These trees are totally rotten. I doubt they can even make any lumber out of 'em anyway, but if you don't cut 'em the bugs'll just eat 'em" he said. When I asked him if I could take some pictures he said no, that the Forest Service had given the purchaser permission to close the area to the public if they liked (the Forest Service denies this, and I took a number of pictures anyway).
There were several Forest Service law enforcement agents at the site; presumably there to arrest anyone who objects to spending the taxpayers money to in order to make a timber company lose money to log 400 year old trees to starve out the local insect population. The North Winberry timber sale, which has been the site of a three-year tree-sit by the Cascadia Forest Defenders is two miles further up the road.
"This is public land and the public is pissed," said CFD's Rachel Kingston. "We're not going to just sit around as the Forest Service logs the last ten percent of Oregon's old-growth in our own backyard."
Get out to Berry Patch and check it out. Don't let it happen to your forest.
*Unit maps, photographs and more information available from the Cascadia Wildlands Project ( firstname.lastname@example.org or 541.434.1463).
See http://www.cascwild.org and http://www.nwoldgrowth.org/ for more info.
Or contact Cascadia Forest Defenders email@example.com, 541-684-8977
Directions to Berry Patch: Take I-5 south from Eugene for approximately 3 miles. Take the Oakridge/Klamath Falls exit (Exit 188A). Stay to the left onto Hwy. 58. Take 58 for approximately 13 miles and take a left at the Lowell exit (next to a white covered bridge). Drive through Lowell, take a left on W. Boundary (sign for Lowell/Fall Creek) and a right on Moss Ave (sign for Jasper-Lowell Rd.). Stay on this road for 2 miles to a four-way intersection (another covered bridge ahead and Fall Creek Tavern to the right). Take a right onto Big Fall Creek Road. In less than a half-mile, stay to the right onto Winberry Creek Road. Stay on Winberry Creek Road for 9 miles to the National Forest boundary (stay to the right at the one intersection). In 6 miles Winberry Creek Road crosses a cattle guard and turns into a windy one-lane paved road. At the National Forest boundary, take a right onto FS 1802-150 (across from a large gravel parking lot). 1802-150 turns to gravel in 5 miles. Unit 3 of Berry Patch is located on the right 1.3 miles from where 150 turns to gravel. Unit 4 is another mile up the road on the right.
Maps: Middle Fork Ranger District map, Lowell Ranger District map, Willamette National Forest map.
Berry Patch unit status (7/1/02):
Unit 3 (22 acres): Felled and unyarded. Located off 1802-150.
Unit 4 (19 acres): Felled, partially unyarded. Located off 1802-150.
Unit 6 (25 acres): Completed. Located off 1802-150.
Unit 7 (11 acres): Completed. Located off 1802-150.
Unit 11 (4 acres): Completed. Located off 1824-140.
Unit 12 (7 acres): Completed. Located off 1912.
Unit 13 (11 acres): Completed. Located off 1912.
Berry Patch facts:
The Berry Patch timber sale is 99 acres in size, producing approximately 5.8 million board feet. More than two-thirds of the Winberry Creek watershed where Berry Patch is located has already been logged and converted to even-aged tree plantations.
There are almost 5 miles of road per square mile.
The Berry Patch timber sale involves 30 miles of road reconstruction and approximately a mile of "temporary" (temporary use, permanent impact) road construction.