The Forest Service released another egregious timber sale in Mount Hood National Forest, and this time convienently over the holiday season when the public was unlikely to notice. Public pressure early in the process has forced the Forest Service to drop much of the sale, but there are still many problems remaining that need to be addressed. BARK has been working on this sale from the inception and are calling upon the local community to help stop this sale and preserve our heritage.
Bearknoll Timber Sale is 531 acres and located in the White River watershed. Bearknoll is very diverse, with 12 species of conifers in the planning area, more than in most areas of Mount Hood. Bearknoll is located on the transition between Eastern and Western forest habitats and rests between low and middle elevations, with even Ponderosa Pine and Pacific Yew growing a few feet apart.
The Bush administration claims we need to cut down our forests to help them survive fire. When in fact, thinning opens up the forest to hotter, drier conditions and leaves small diameter wood on the forest floor which increases the risk of fire. Most thinning operations take the largest flame retardant trees and leave the smaller, more flamable trees behind. Even the Environmental Analysis (EA) for Bearknoll states that timber harvesting is the primary reason for the increase in fire. And as maps from the Biscuit fire in the Siskiyous show, areas that had been logged experienced more devestating fires than areas left intact. The Bearknoll planning area has already had 2,802 acres cut in the last twenty years and has coincidentally experienced ten fires in the last ten years. Yet, ironicaly it is stated in the EA that this action will help prevent fires.
The Bearknoll Timber Sale is directly adjacent to the Osprey, Diablo, Juncrock, and Hilynx Sales and in total would be a loss of 5,134 acres, but the Forest Service failed to consider the effects of these other sales when planning Bearknoll. With all these actions occurring in the same area, the Forest Service should perform a more detailed analysis - what is known as an Environmental Impact Statement - to truly assess the impact of all these proposals to the forest as a whole.
The timber sale is located in a watershed that is a source for high quality water, and any action taken should have no negative impacts to these streams. A primary detriment to water quality is the amount of roads per square mile. This area already exceeds the Forest Service's own directives. These roads cause erosion, increased run-off and sedimentation which can severely diminish the water quality. Any action taken should remove these excess roads.
The threatened Northern Spotted Owl is a resident in the area and much of the area slated to be logged is considered suitable owl habitat. The EA notes that these activities are likely to "provide opportunities for competitors and predators (e.g. barred owl) to the spotted owl" (EA 91). Other Sensitive species such as Redband Trout, Wolverine, and Lynx will be adversely affected by this proposal. In regard to Deer and Elk, the EA states that the proposal will eliminate ALL the optimal cover for Deer and Elk. Optimal cover is important because it provides winter protection, offers forage, and is very limited in the area.
So what can you do to help preserve our National Forests? Visit the area and see for yourself what is slated to be lost. Take Highway 26 west through the town of Government Camp to where the road splits between Highways 35 and 26. Stay on Highway 26, now heading south for approximately 10 miles until you reach Forest Service Road 43. You can also check out bark-out.org to learn more about this sale and the 48 others currently in the works in Mount Hood National Forest. And most importantly at this time, please take a moment to write the Forest Service and let them know how you feel about the destruction of the Bearknoll Timber Sale. Comments are due on January 20th. They can be sent to:Becky Nelson, Project Manager, Hood River Ranger District, 6780 Highway 35, Mount Hood/Parkdale, OR 97041. Or can be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org