Critics of a thinning project on the Deschutes National Forest west of La Pine said Wednesday they unfurled banners on Bend roads and a stack of logs in the woods, accusing the U.S. Forest Service of a "rampage" and "liquidating" the forest's last old-growth stands.
But forest officials fired back, disputing that the trees involved were of old-growth age and saying their work will boost forest health and leave the area more resilient to drought. reduce their susceptibility to insects and cut the risk of significant loss from wildfire.
Here, in full is a statement received by NewsChannel 21 and other organizations, and the full response from Forest Service officials:
Forest Service is on a rampage to log old growth forests in the Deschutes national forest.
Concerned citizens of Oregon drop banners around Bend to tell the forest service to stop logging the last intact old growth forests in the Deschutes. “We are appalled by the forest service’s elimination of the last intact old growth forests in the Deschutes and the hypocrisy of calling this an experiment. Science has shown for decades that thinning does in fact increase radial growth in trees. However in this area of Lookout Mountain there are already the kinds of trees such thinning is usually intended to create.” said concerned citizen Jeffrie Kingsley from Milton-freewater, Oregon.
We are doing this to inform the citizens of Bend and all of Oregon that the Deschutes is exterminating old growth trees there for wildlife habitat and recreational values. All the legal possibilities of saving this sale were exhausted and logging had already started so we wanted to inform the public about what is going on right in our back yard. There have been numerous timber sales just in the Deschutes such as Five Buttes, EXF which are currently being logged or have already been logged, Popper, West Bend, Ogden, Rocket, and Rim-Paunina and there will be many more to come. As concerned citizens from Oregon this action intends to pressure the Deschutes forest service to stop the extermination of old growth trees on the eastside of the cascades.
As the first experimental forest in the northwest Pringle Falls was established in 1931 and Lookout Mountain, a 3,535 acre unit, was added in 1937. This area of the forest is maintained and administered by the Pacific Northwest Research Station in cooperation with the Deschutes National Forest. In 1845 a stand replacement fire resulted in the establishment of mostly ponderosa pine forest at lower elevations and mixed conifer (Douglas fir, grand fir, sugar pine, western white pine, and mountain hemlock) forest at higher elevations. Small portions of Lookout Mountain was thinned in the 1970’s and 80’s. This part of the experimental forest is located about 25 miles southwest of Bend.
The Deschutes National Forest is currently liquidating approximately 2,554 acres of healthy old growth ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forest in the Lookout Mountain unit. This means removing 72% of the old growth tree, over 2/3rds of the Lookout Mountain unit, under the guise of an experiment. 1,840 acres will resemble a clear cut with only widely spaced seed trees with little to no ground cover. Of the total sale only 342 acres are to be left alone for future research, intact wildlife habitat and natural forest recreational use.
The Lookout Mountain timber sale (EXF) will affect nesting and foraging habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, potential habitat for the Pacific fisher and California wolverine, as well as existing habitat for the white-headed woodpecker, the Lewis’ woodpecker, neo-tropical song birds and the Johnson’s hairstreak butterfly. Many of these animals require mixed conifer forest, old growth logs, snags, and down wood to protect their livelihood. These species are all threatened by the EXF timber sales.
“Going up to Lookout after logging operations started was devastating. The forest service claims to be worried about fires but let logging crews leave piles of slash two stories high along with other debris strewn throughout the area creating much more fire risk than the intact forest we saw there before. You can see huge log decks of old growth trees cut to line the pockets of industry at the expense of recreation, wildlife, and the last intact scenic ponderosa pine forests.” said Kingsley.
Response from Forest Service spokeswoman Jean Nelson Dean:
The simplest response is that this is not old-growth that is being removed.
Response to Specific Items in the Press Release
· This is not old-growth forest. The stands on Lookout Mountain are relatively young at 165 years compared to the potential 600 years that ponderosa pine can survive.
· The Forest is thinning trees to reduce density and the risk of large-scale loss that is currently present. The stands are showing signs of stress from overcrowding such as reduced growth, and the stands are not sustainable in this condition. Entomologist research shows that the stands, in their current condition, are susceptible to mountain pine beetle.
· Thinning will remove the smallest trees first to reach the desired tree density; the vast majority of trees removed will be less than 21” in diameter. The project will remove on average 9 trees per acre that measure over 21” dbh.
· There is no clearcutting proposed, only thinning.
· The 342 acres of “control” are part of the experimental design for this study. The entire Experimental Forest is available for future research, which is the objective of the area.
· The EXF Thinning, Fuels Reduction and Research Project is a collaborative effort between the Deschutes National Forest and the Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service. The project site, in the Lookout Mountain Unit of the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest, is located west of La Pine and about three miles east of Crane Prairie Reservoir.
· The Lookout Mountain Unit of the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest was established in 1937 as a center for forest silviculture, management, and insect and disease research in ponderosa pine forests east of the Cascade Range. Today’s dense forests on Lookout Mountain were established primarily after two stand-replacement wildfires that occurred around 1845 and 1900. The road system was constructed in the 1960s. Over the last 35 years, vegetation research treatments have occurred on 2,534 of the 3,535 acres within the Lookout Mountain Unit.
· Planned research will improve our understanding of how management actions influence forest structure and dynamics over time, including the effects of thinning and fuels reduction treatments on forest resiliency during a period of potential climatic change.
· Planned management actions will maintain growth of trees through thinning, leave forests more resilient to drought, reduce their susceptibility to forest insects, and reduce the risk of significant loss from wildfire.
· Research will compare over time the effects of forest thinning and fuels reduction on the development of large residual trees and their physiology, the development of large shrubs, changes in forest microclimates, white-headed woodpecker and small mammal populations dynamics, and the role and function of forest insects stands dominated by ponderosa pine. Pre-treatment data collection began in April 2011.
· The first timber sale, named Extra, will harvest an estimated 9.5 million board feet of timber from 493 acres. Additional timber sales will be used to complete the thinning of smaller trees across the total of 2,554 acres. Hazardous fuels will be reduced by piling large slash at log landings, scattering the remaining slash outside of log landings, mowing shrubs, and underburning after the fuels have dried. Associated actions include a total of one mile of temporary road construction, 35 miles of road maintenance, and eventual road closures to protect the research plots.