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actions & protests | forest defense | save the biscuit

Pictorial report-back from the Western Regional Rendezvous on the Chetco River

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A large group of people stands around the four large maps that describe the "Preferred Alternative" of the Final Biscuit Fire Salvage Plan. Without any details, such as names of units, description of cutting and logging techniques, or depiction of Roadless areas, or Late Successional Reserves, the maps are among the best tools we have to counter this giant timber sale. The Forest Service didn't want to give them out for free, however, and Kinko's wants $800 to print them from the Forest Service-supplied CD-ROM, so good luck getting your own copy.
( Click on pictures to see larger versions )

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Hike leaders are pointing out on the maps are the sales known to be in the Matrix. The reason for holding the Western Regional Earth First! Rendezvous near the Biscuit Fire for the second year straight was to get to know the areas likely to be cut the soonest. We made camp next to a beautiful meadow, or rather, a meadow-enhancement project. It was particularly fitting to see that the Forest Service came in and cut down all the trees in the area to extend a natural meadow to the east.

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An undeniably beautiful area, but strikingly removed of all its trees. The picture to the left looks out over the clearcut toward the natural meadow.

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Around the periphery were large trees that had withstood the impact of many fire cycles. In the middle of the clearing was a cluster of similar trees that were cut down.

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And the logging was not kind to the trees used as anchors for the yarding lines.

Over the last few weeks, the Forest Service has been working hard to promulgate the idea that only 4% (four percent) of the forests burned by fire are going to be logged. The fire is widely reported to have "devastated" 500,000 acres of forest in and around the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, and now they are saying that they will just log 19,400 acres of the burned areas. Except that a vast quantity of that area is off-limits to logging. The 250,000 acre Wilderness, for example. The roadless rule should protect another 180,000 of Wilderness-quality roadless area. And another large chunk is assigned to the Late Successional Reserves, native or cut-over land which is supposed to be protected as future old-growth. The remaining Matrix land, which was designated for potential logging, is the only land they can legally cut on. Lawsuits are in the works to protect the roadless and LSR forests, while the Matrix is expected to receive an Emergency Status Determination, much like many recent salvage sales in Eastern Oregon. This haste comes only after the Forest Service was dragged its feet on planning the salvage for most of a year and a half (as pointed out in this letter Representative DeFazio sent to the Forest Service). With the Big Greens bowing out of additional lawsuits, and the Government giving it both barrels, only citizen involvement can do anything for the 50 million board feet set to be extracted from Matrix lands.

Though I wasn't feeling well, I went with a group to hike the Tincup Trail, which passed through burned roadless areas and went to the edge of the Wilderness. These forests are representative of the periphery of the Biscuit Burn in general, where many back-burns were set to control the fire. These back burns were deliberately intense, intended to remove fuels which could be consumed by the spreading fire. The Forest Service and other Federal agencies that fought the blaze didn't keep or won't share information about how much area was back-burned. Considering that about 20% of the total burn area was rated as "intense", it would be good to know just how much of that (half?) was from back-burns.

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As soon as we got into the forest, we spotted beautiful flowers in bloom, and encountered many, many Big Ole Trees. Though there was some evidence of recent fire, most trees and plants were doing very well.

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There were a lot of old conifers which had extensive fire scars. Something helps them survive, and then heal after major fire events. Some species need fire to reproduce, their cones only softening and releasing their seed after the outside has been heavily charred. The hardwoods did very well, and rumor has it that they maybe even protect the taller conifers from fire on the ground. But the timber industry hates hardwoods, as they take up valuable space that commodified fir trees could be growing in. In many of our forests, including the Tillamook, forest managers target hardwoods for removal. Removal of diversity, of animal habitat, of beauty.

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Looking up into the sky, I saw some of the most healthy canopy. Multi-storied forests allow the fire to burn under their branches and leaves, but don't provide a ready path for flames to travel upwards. When they do, they result in a localized crown fire, that doesn't spread very quickly unless special conditions like strong wind a steep slopes come into factor.

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Only native timber stands are represented in the timber sale maps. Plantations, or "reprod growth" as they are often called, burned fiercely and the small trunks that remain are not desirable to logging outfits. However, the old, untouched stands burned cooler, and have large trees within their boundaries, and even two years later, are billed as very desirable for the timber industry. The young plantations served to carry the fire farther and faster than it would normally spread, which brings into questions to efficacy of planting dense mono-crop plantations in regions with a short fire interval.

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Crossing Mislatnah Creek, we came to the North side of the ridge, where the fire burned more severely. It wasn't long before we came across healthy trees that were marked "to cut" with blue X's. These large trees were near the burn, but were little more than brushed by flame. In other areas, the trees were smaller and the fire burned more intensely, taking out an acre or more.

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I grew tired and let the rest of the hike pass on. They made it to the Wilderness boundary and swam in the Chetco River, and were very exhilarated when they came back many hours later. I sat for a while in a portion of natural forest, which was severely burned, and eventually I came to hear a small legion of bark beetles all around me, happily munching away on the dead trees. The timber-cutting industry would like to have us believe that the bark beetle is humankind's worst enemy, and not just an integral participant in our bioregion that helps snags decay, and provides food for foraging woodpeckers. Hopefully, I can know better.

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The last thing I got to do before I left the area completely, was commune with a great Mother Tree, which was obviously conveyed the ideal essence of what a fir tree could be in this area, and probably spawned most of the trees down this ridge.

For more background information about the Biscuit read this.

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