Biscuit Fire Timber Sale Public Hearing, comments still needed
On December 17, 2003, in what seemed to be a rather bland setting, the one and ONLY four hour public hearing took place regarding the BISCUIT FIRE RECOVERY PROJECT, the largest proposed timber sale in modern history by the USDA's USFS and the DOI's BLM.
Public Hearing or appeasement of the process to get the cut out?
On December 17, 2003, in what seemed to be a rather bland setting, the one and ONLY four hour public hearing took place regarding the BISCUIT FIRE RECOVERY PROJECT, the largest proposed timber sale in modern history by the USDA's USFS and the DOI's BLM. The Biscuit Fire took place in southern Oregon and northern California, began on July 13, 2002 and reached 499,965acres and was controlled on November 9, 2002 (120 days).
The public was greeted by the Forest Service's own public relations employees or were they? As one entered the fairground building, to the left was the sign in sheet for those wanting to watch, to the right, those who wanted a chance to speak. It felt almost as everyone was forced to share who he or she was and where he or she lives.
Speakers of the public wishing to provide public comment were given only 3 minutes to speak. Let me remind you, this is not just a small 40-acre proposed clear-cut timber sale on a steep hillside with a little controversy, this sucker is enormous. This is a proposed project of a HALF-BILLION board feet of so-called timber recovery with an estimated cost to the taxpayers of 150 million dollars. The project is to be the BIGGEST public subsidy to the timber industry since the Tongass NF giveaways in the eighties. The Biscuit Fire Recovery Project scoping process has taken place during the holiday season, with the spoken public comment period occurring a week before Christmas. Close to eighty speakers spoke throughout the evening. A stenographer sat at the table next to the two men representing the agencies in charge of these projects. Additionally, a USFS employee kept time and another was there to cut off anyone going over the three-minute time limit.
An overwhelming majority of the speakers stated this project was out of control. Speakers ranged from landowners adjacent to the project, knowledgeable ecologists, citizen groups, and a few timber contractors. One recovery logger even was outraged by the scope and size of the project. Having worked in the woods most of his life, he was perplexed at how this project was even being considered. He recommended it to be scrapped or scaled back to the alternative 4 option without the science leveling RESEARCH FACET proposed. The research facet is a proposal to clear-cut selected areas and start a scientific study on the effects of a burned area heavily logged and what its regeneration potential is.
Who is in Charge?
Jim Reuwsaat from the Medford BLM District sat at the front of the hearing along with his equal COUNTERPART from the US Forest dis-Service. Scott Conroy, the USFS project coordinator, sat idly at the table throughout the public hearing. Many came to look the two in the eyes to let them know their concerns over this controversial project. Occasionally, Mr. Reuesaat would jot down a note or two regarding individuals testimonial concerns. However, one wasn't too sure whether he was penciling into his weekly planner important appointments he had scheduled in the weeks to come with folks back in Washington D.C. or whether he was actually making notes of concerns.
Meanwhile, Mr. Conroy sat blank with little expression, almost as if he knew, get past this four hours and I'm home free to assault the forests and set myself up with a private sector job with a big timber company once this project has gotten the cut out. A few spoke at the hearing about the logging industry lobbyist and current Undersecretary of Agriculture, Mark Rey as being the man with the plan for this scheme in Washington. The Bush administration or someone seems in a frenzy to avoid legal challenges to these timber giveaways at a time when the lumber market is already suppressed and overflowing with abundant products. (SEE HTTP://WWW.WHITEHOUSE.GOV/INFOCUS/HEALTHYFORESTS OR HTTP://WWW.FS.FED.US/PROJECTS/HFI ) Its rumored little George's administration in D.C. is keeping a close eye on how the salvage sale plays out.
The two men sat disinterested looking while a majority of the speakers opposed the project, but spoke from the heart. Many did not speak to the effects that the project has placed the burden on the public to prove why the science behind the selection of the proposed alternative in this project is flawed. Most seemed to not realize that this process required them to get into the record substantive comments which could be challenged in a legal process. Many were barely provided information on how the process works. The only material sets out by the Federal agencies were blown up maps on a table guarded by the cops. A copy of the draft environmental impact statement was only to be seen by one member of the public who provided on point arguments within the document, which contradicted itself and seemed to provide reasons why this project should be scrapped. The agencies are not required to provide the whole document regarding the sale at the public hearing.
Seven Alternatives to the Biscuit Sale
One: No Action. Describes area as it will evolve with existing policies, but with no active salvage, only natural reforestation, and no fuels management.
Two: Salvage in matrix only, mid-range in terms of reforestation, fuels and roads management. Stand Scale learning study. HARVEST: 5,169 ACRES WITH AN ESTIMATED POTENTIAL RECOVERY OF 82 MILLION BOARD FEET (MMBF). FMZ (FUEL MANAGEMENT ZONE) CONSTRUCTION WOULD MAKE AN ADDITIONAL 14 MMBF COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE. TOTAL OF (96MMBF)
Three: Emphasizes timber subsidies. Salvage logging in matrix and old growth forest. No fuels or road management. No thinning of the forest near structures. Includes clear cutting of tracts of forest to supposedly study effects of fire and clearcuts. HARVEST: A TOTAL 251 MMBF OF TIMBER WOULD BE MADE AVAILABLE FROM 16,753 ACRES.
Four: Modeled after Beschta (HTTP://WWW.SAVEAMERICASFORESTS.ORG/CONGRESS/FIRE/BESCHTA-REPORT.HTM ) report. Scientific report written in 1995 regarding the flaws in forest mis-management of lands post fire and problems associated with doing recovery based on getting the cut out. Conservative salvage, reforestation, roads and fuel management. Includes clear cutting of tracts of forest to supposedly study effects of fire and clear-cuts. HARVEST: 105 mmbf would be made available from 7,290 acres.
Five: Mid-range salvaging of old growth and reforestation includes logging old growth to replant in a matrix fashion; fuels and road management all maximized. Includes clear cutting of tracts of forest to supposedly study effects of fire and clear cuts. HARVEST: 133 MMBF of dead timber cut from matrix, LSR and FMZs.
Six: Modeled after wise-use George Sessions, an Oregon State University forest engineer who prepared a report paid for by the Douglas County Commissioners (the Biscuit fire did not affect Douglas County) for this timber sale. Maximum salvage of old growth forest and tree plantation reforestation, including Inventoried Roadless Areas. Includes clear cutting of tracts of forest to supposedly study effects of fire and clear cuts. HARVEST: 1.02 BILLION BOARD FEET (BBF) OF TIMBER WOULD BE SALVAGE HARVESTED FROM 59,328 ACRES.
Seven: Enters Inventoried Old Growth Roadless Areas, maximizes effects of disturbing Roadless area. Blends alternative 3 old growth logging theme with alternative 5 fire/road restoration theme and extends alternative 5into some inventoried Roadless areas. Included are clear cutting of tracts of forest to supposedly study effects of fire and clear cuts. If the most aggressive salvage proposal were implemented, the total amount of land recruited into intensive management silvicultural development would be approximately 68,000 acres including nearly 50,000 ac of Roadless areas and nearly 18,000 ac of other special management lands.
Preferred Alternative is option seven according to the Freddies!
Seven: THREATENING to drive chainsaws into the heart of the Siskiyou Wild Rivers AREA, the extreme "preferred alternative" in the DEIS would:
*log 518 million board feet of trees about twice all the logging on National Forests in Oregon and Washington last year combined
*log 12,000 acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas - including the beautiful, wild North and South Kalmiopsis roadless forests
*degrade a total of 57,000 acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas --LIKELY preventing them from being protected as Wilderness in the future
*increase fire risk by removing large trees and leaving behind flammable slash on the ground
*harm natural rejuvenation of native trees and plants
*harm sensitive soils and increase erosion
*artificially plant tens of thousands of acres -- contaminating the world-class diversity of the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area. Roadless areas to be hammered.
Thousands of acres within the Biscuit Fire's boundary have no roads and never have been logged. These are the areas that Clinton set-aside during his tenure in 2001 under the Roadless conservation ruling. The Bush administration is determined to subsidize the logging industry while driving down timber prices to an all time low. The mills in the area of the proposed cut cannot handle the amount of lumber to be cut by this project. Allowing a great deal of the timber to be shipped out of the area and process in mills far away from the region. The other option is that a boom bust economy will occur. Higher rates of work and triple shifts for a short period of time until the lumber is processed and the logs dry up and families of the mill worker will once again be faced with where to find a sustainable job.
At Bush's urging, the Roadless conservation rule would likely vanish, in large part because the present administration has refused to defend it against legal challenges brought by big timber. A federal lawsuit by the timber industry ruled against the Roadless rule in July. If the decision survives appeal, logging would be legal in Roadless areas within the Biscuit burn.
Assuming that case stands, the Forest Service's co-opted plan would permit logging of more than 12,000 acres of Roadless forest, that would influence a even bigger area, and would disqualify a total of 57,000 acres from the Roadless designation within the biscuit burn. .
The large Roadless areas north and south of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness would shrivel, and two smaller Roadless areas would lose their Roadless distinction altogether. This should give pause to the public, what really is the purpose and intent of this salvage logging and its overall effect? If roads go in those areas, they no longer can be considered for expansion of the forest's wilderness.
The Kalmiopsis Wilderness, much of which burned in the center of the massive fire, contains 179,000 acres of the Siskiyous. Environmentally friendly groups have sought to protect the area called the Siskiyou Wild Rivers, which includes parts of the Rogue and Illinois rivers. These two rivers are listed as federal wild and scenic rivers. The rivers contain a WIDE array of botanical plants and amazing geological formations dating back to the glaciations period.
Is a battle brewing?
Looming in the background and outside the fairground building were a dozen law enforcement officials from the city of Grants Pass, along with the Josephine County sheriffs and the timid USFS Federal Agents. Why so much law enforcement presence? Noticing the police uniforms might tell a little of the story. The patches on the Josephine Sheriffs arm logos tell a telling story where this process is heading. The logo has a clear-cut on it with a lumber truck hauling out raw logs from the cut.
A few courageous folks spoke of China Left (WWW.UMPQUA-WATERSHEDS.ORG/PROTEST/CHINALEFT.HTML) at the Biscuit hearing. According to the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Oct. 1997, the China Left Timber Sale was awarded to Rough and Ready lumber in 1995, the majority of the sale had already been clear-cut but these five units were delayed for consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service and were the only ones within a Late Successional Reserve. China Left was included in the infamous 318 rider "from hell" which exempted numerous Roadless area and Old Growth sales from judicial review, prompting massive direct action in 1996 and 1997 to prevent the further destruction of prime Old Growth habitat in the Klamath Siskiyou bioregion.
A few individuals spoke and said they would meet again on the front lines should the sale come to fruition. The direct action seems to be brewing at a time when the snow and rainfall prevents the public from assessing much of this controversial sale.
One of the few who spoke in favor of the sale, asked to bring on the war. "If we have to have a war, to take back our forest, from a non-management future of destruction" He claimed the two men proposing the project had been verbally assaulted throughout the night. Having been to dozens of public hearings, let us just say that this hearing was fairly tame and mild. All who spoke did it with dignity and respect considering the enormity of this preposterous project. He pleaded that the timber wars should resume. The wise-use guy promoted POLARIZATION of the community and requested an all out assault on the community challenging this disastrous project.
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED TO JANUARY 20,2004. Provide comment to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Provide new information pertaining to any alternative
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Identify a different way (alternative) and/or modify existing alternatives considered
Develop and evaluate alternatives not previously considered to meet the underlying need
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