FOREST SERVICE PROPOSING TO RAVAGE BURNED AREAS
Please comment on both projects by December 20, 2021.
In the summer of 2021, our Wild Clearwater Country experienced fires. Not huge and highly destructive of homes and communities, which happened elsewhere in western states. Rather, they mostly burned in forested wildlands as fire has burned for eons, playing its vital ecological role.
Now, on the Palouse Ranger District, the U.S. Forest Service is poised to clearcut over a thousand acres of this fragile and valuable post-fire forest ecosystem. The Forest Service is proposing the Johnson Creek Fire Salvage and Sand Mountain Fire Salvage timber sales, with comments due December 20. (Click on the sale names to link to the Forest Service proposals for more information about them.)
Friends of the Clearwater staff visited both of these proposed logging areas early December 2021. On the left of the page is the Johnson Creek fire area and proposed salvage logging. To the right is the Sand Mountain fire area and proposed salvage logging.
The Forest Service is quite fond of justifying most of the timber sales it proposes for the Wild Clearwater Country as “restoring” a forest starved of natural wildland fire. But now that restoration has happened naturally, the agency doesn’t see trees transforming into important wildlife habitat components or soil elements, which is characteristic of an ecologically functioning forest. Instead it sees mainly the opportunity to “recover the economic value of the timber.”
Furthermore, they are asking the Chief to declare an “emergency situation,” even though there is no real emergency here. That would authorize them to bypass the normal public objection process, in fear that trees might too quickly lose their timber value if the public has the full opportunity to advocate for wildlife and other things you value about the forest.
University of Montana researcher Richard Hutto says of fires, “We talk about forest restoration after a fire, but it just got restored. That’s what fire does.” He has spent decades doing research about fires, discovering that many wildlife and plant species not only thrive in burned forest, but many actually need fires—even severe fires—to create conditions for their very survival.
From our view, the only possible emergency situation was caused by fire suppression actions that bulldozed firelines, sometimes as wide as 40-feet, into steep forested slopes such as these:
Please contact District Ranger Stefani Spencer at the email link below, by December 20. Request that she appreciate the ongoing beneficial effects of the fires and protect wildlife and watersheds by cancelling the Johnson Creek Fire Salvage and Sand Mountain Fire Salvage timber sales. Also ask her to prioritize the restoration of the bulldozed firelines as the only “emergency” action now needed.
The following are some problems we have identified for these salvage sales, which you might consider talking points for your comments.
* For Sand Mountain salvage logging, approximately 560 acres of logging would be “regeneration harvest,” which means the Forest Service proposes logging most of these trees, including trees that survived this fire. Supersized clearcuts are openings over 40, which are so large that the district ranger needs to seek regional permission. This project would have two of these supersized clearcuts, one 199 acres and the other 322 acres.
* For Johnson Creek salvage logging, approximately 735 acres would be “regeneration harvest.” So in this project, too, the Forest Service proposes logging most of the trees, including the trees that survived this fire. This project would also have two supersized clearcuts, one 573 acres large and one 123 acres large.
* For both projects, there would be cumulative effects on wildlife and vegetation as a result of the several logging activities on this ranger district in recent years, in addition to the surrounding state and private land in the immediate region, which has been predominantly been deforested and fragmented through intensive logging.
* The Forest Service constantly discusses the positive role that fire can play, and this is an opportunity to allow the unburned trees to remain and regenerate the area naturally.
Please personalize your comments if using the comment boxes below–the Forest Service will take personalized comments more seriously, so add to and edit the comment boxes below!
To comment on the Johnson Creek salvage logging, email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Johnson Creek Fire Salvage and Reforestation Project” in the subject line, or use the comment form below. Don’t forget to sign before you hit the “comment now” button. Please note that if you use the below comment form, browsers or browser settings can sometimes interfere with the submission. We recommend that you bcc yourself; if you receive the email, you will know that the agency did, too.
Johnson Creek salvage loggingRead or Edit the Petition
To comment on the Sand Mountain salvage logging, email email@example.com with “Sand Mountain Fire Salvage and Reforestation Project” in the subject line, or use the comment form below. Don’t forget to sign this one, too, before you hit the “comment now” button. Please note that if you use the below comment form, browsers or browser settings can sometimes interfere with the submission. We recommend that you bcc yourself; if you receive the email, you will know that the agency did, too.
Sand Mountain salvage loggingRead or Edit the Petition