Biscuit Survives Summer
http://o2collective.org/archives/1120_web.jpgIt is hard to imagine but as Labor Day passes, not a single tree in the 500,000 acre Biscuit area has fallen under the extreme Bush Biscuit logging project. The campaign is fraught with peril and damage has been done, but this is a time to breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate a job well done so far and a forest well into its third year of natural recovery.
The most diverse National Forest in the American West still faces the largest timber sale in modern history, but the rivers, rare plants and serpentine forests of the Biscuit will remain largely intact for another winter.
The Early Hot Days |
The summer has been dominated by bureaucratic machinations, legal wrangling and boots in the woods. On July 8 the Bush administration announced its final plan along with two tricky maneuvers. Claiming that some types of ancient forest logging are controversial and other types non-controversial, the Siskiyou National Forest divided the Biscuit logging plan into three separate projects. One covers about 7000 acres of inventoried roadless areas. A second seeks to log in about 8000 acres of ancient forest reserves (known as late-successional reserves or LSR) supposedly protected from logging under Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan. The third project, the so-called non-controversial one, would chew up 4500 acres of ancient forest designated as "matrix," areas set aside as part of the "timber base."
After two years of Forest Service study and preparation for this project the second maneuver was just a bit ironic. On the day the plan came out the Forest Service declared the first eleven timber sales "emergencies" and made them immune from the standard citizen appeals process to try to get them logged fast. These emergency sales included ancient forest in both the matrix and the LSR.
Sweltering at High Noon
So far a total of twelve timber sales have been put up for auction at Biscuit in the last two months. One of the "emergency" sales was split making twelve. Eleven of these twelve timber sales have been auctioned plus one additional sale in the 9,000 acre Bureau of Land Management (BLM) portion of the Burn. Two of the twelve did not receive the minimum bid making ten sales sold.
It is interesting to dissect these ten sales that received bids. There is a suggestion that a good ol' boy network may be in play. Nine of the ten sales went for the minimum bid or a price very close to the minimum bid. Those same nine sales all went to just three logging companies: South Coast out of Brookings (four sales), Silver Creek out of Glendale (three sales) and Greg Liles out of Medford (two sales). These same three companies were the three in the room last month when the Forest Service rejected bids and suspended the bidding process because bidders were having an illegal conversation during the oral auction. The Forest Service had an easy solution to the problem though. They repeated the process a week later, eliminating the oral auction. South Coast and Silver Creek got the sales for just above minimum.
How cheap are these sales going? Well the record so far is at an LSR sale called Hobson. Ancient forest reserve was sold off for logging at $250 per acre. Astonishing.
There are a couple of points to note about the companies involved so far, but first some explanation of "hazard tree" logging is required. The first step toward logging in the Biscuit Burn happened almost two years ago, soon after the fire went out. The Forest Service figured out a quick way to move a lot of timber. When a dead tree is leaning over a popular road the Forest Service will often cut it before it falls across the road. They skip the environmental planning process for a small job like this. In the Biscuit, the Siskiyou National Forest decided that a whole lot of trees might fall across a whole lot of roads, popular or otherwise. They skipped the environmental process, started painting trees blue and selling the rights to log them.
http://o2collective.org/archives/Cnv0004.bmpDepending on who you talk to, as much as 29 million board-feet (mmbf) of timber has been taken out of the Biscuit as "hazard trees." No environmental laws applied, no impacts assessed, no lawsuits filed. As a way of figuring out the magnitude of 29 mmbf it is interesting to note that the entire Siskiyou National Forest (SNF) has averaged 17 mmbf of total logging per year for the last 12 years. The Biscuit Burn covers about half of the SNF.
As mentioned above, Silver Creek has been high bidder on three Biscuit sales so far and also bought the contract to log the "hazard trees" at a place called Flat Top. This company was suspended in July for illegally logging "hazard trees" across the border in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. In addition, activists found unmarked stumps throughout the Flat Top hazard sale area. After reporting the crime, a federal investigator has marked 70 such stumps of stolen trees although activists have identified more than 100. The ongoing federal criminal investigation likely centers on Silver Creek. But this same company continues hazard tree logging elsewhere in the Biscuit and this same company continues to bid on and to buy Biscuit timber sale contracts.
The Dog Days
Proponents of Biscuit logging promised that thousands of local jobs would flow from the project. The track record says otherwise. Of the ten sales sold so far, only four have gone to Curry County and none to Josephine, the two counties where the Burn is located. All four of those went to what was already the largest employer in the area, South Coast of Brookings.
But that's not all. The Forest Service decided a while back that it didn't have the human resources to actually go out and mark all these timber sales on the ground. They instead spent $56,000 on a contract to drop fluorescent orange paint out of helicopters to mark unit boundaries. That contract went to a company in Maine. Not so local. The contract to plant baby trees in the areas where loggers destroy natural regrowth while cutting and yarding went out-of-state to California. Even Forest Service employees are being brought in from places like Montana to work on the project.
Sometimes the Forest Service (FS) has just tried to pass off its work altogether. For example, the FS decided that it would just let the timber companies decide how to apply environmental law when marking trees that are required by law to be left unlogged. Even logger-friendly Federal Judge Michael Hogan of Eugene couldn't swallow that one. He slapped an injunction on the "emergency" sales until the FS marked trees like the law says they must.
(That injunction has now been lifted. Environmental groups vow to take their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to get an injunction reinstated.)
Tree marking by the Forest Service has now taken place in perhaps half of the "emergency" sale areas. It is interesting to note how green trees are being handled in this process. The Siskiyou National Forest swears that only black trees will be cut in every press statement they make. Therefore they are not bothering to mark green trees. Their documents however tell a different story.
Green trees can actually be legally cut at Biscuit for two reasons. They can be cut if they are a safety concern. A logger explained this: you hang a black tree you're cutting in the branches of a green tree, then you get to cut the green tree too.
Also, green trees can be cut if they are "obstructions to logging." That refers primarily to units that are to be cable-yarded, that is where the trees are brought from the forest to the road by long cables. The FS estimates that cable-yarding could eliminate 12% of the green trees in each cable-yarded unit, a total of 140 acres of ancient forest green tree logging, not counting the trees cut for "safety."
http://o2collective.org/archives/Cnv0003.bmpIn LSR-ancient forest reserves those green trees can be cut but not removed. In the matrix, green trees can be removed. This explains why many of the matrix units in sales like Indi and Horse are mostly or almost completely green. Yet another fix is in. By way of proof, travel the Biscuit and you will find areas where hazard tree logging includes blue-marked, now-logged green trees. The fresh, green bows are on the ground. Timber grab, pure and simple.
Falling Fast (the Rain and Snow, Not the Trees)
Despite all the shenanigans, all Biscuit timber sales remain unlogged. In fact on only two sales have contracts been signed thus far. Further, it is only these two sales where contracts have even been awarded by the FS, for signing by high bidders. These two sales, however, are under immediate threat. They are called Indi and Berry and are both located in the North Kalmiopsis wildlands area. Indi is about 6 mmbf of matrix logging in a mosaic burn that includes a great deal of green trees. East Fork of Myrtle Point wants to log this ancient forest. Berry is about 12 mmbf of ancient forest reserve. It is just up the road from Agness and has been sold to South Coast.
So far Indi has drawn a great deal of activist attention. An ongoing campaign of phone calling is asking Bob Sproul, President of East Fork to give up the sale. The sale was the site of last month's elaborate ropes blockade that saw four arrests. Also, the road to Indi has been dug up. An Earth First! Rendezvous was held there and if you believe Bob Sproul, Indi has also been tree-spiked.
Several dates upcoming should be marked on the calendars of anyone following Biscuit. September 16-17 are days that Judge Hogan is going to call together the timber industry, the Forest Service and environmentalists and try to strong-arm a deal through court-appointed mediation.
For those in or near Portland, a large rally for public lands will happen in Pioneer Square on September 24.
October 4 may well be the date of the largest forest protest in recent history. People from all over the West are coming to the Selma Oregon Community Center south of Grants Pass on highway 199. Meet at 7am sharp for a rally and protest that will number in the hundreds or more. There is camping at the Center on Sunday night for out-of-towners, as well as action prep and non-violent civil disobedience trainings starting Sunday at noon.
October 1-3 is the National Forest Protection Alliance annual convention, this year in Cave Junction. See http://www.forestadvocate.org for more details.
October 31 is the official end of logging season. Companies are frequently given an extension beyond this date. But if a company has not yet begun logging by the middle of October, it is difficult to imagine them starting any later.
Letters to the editors and to politicians about the Biscuit are always needed. But if there is just one action you can take for the Biscuit, it would have to be to go and visit the Burn. It amazes everyone that travels there. The size and wildness are without compare. The beauty of natural recovery is just shocking. And the rivers are quite simply some of the most outstanding wild rivers left in the world.
Great thanks to all who have helped thus far. Let us enjoy this success for now and be ready to act immediately if they move on Biscuit in the coming weeks.
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