Full effects of tragic fire will be felt by future generations
by Lee Juillerat, Herald and News Sept. 23, 2012
LAKEVIEW - It was the wrong place at the wrong time.
There's never a convenient place or time for a large-scale forest fire, but the timing and location of the 93,000-acre Barry Point fire was unusually devastating.
The lightning-caused blaze, which began the afternoon of Aug. 6 at Barry Point, about 22 miles southwest of Lakeview, burned nearly half of a planned timber sale and impacted a series of timber sales scheduled through 2017.
Along with short-term repercussions over the next five years, Fred Way, Fremont-Winema National Forest supervisor, said the full impact of the devastating fire will be felt by future generations.
“Most of us in our lifetimes aren’t going to see what we want to see,” Way said. What he wants to see is a healthy, functioning forest. Now that goal is even more distant. “We’re probably looking at 80 to 100 years,” he said.
“There isn’t a person in this county it will not affect,” said Paul Harlan, vice president of resources for The Collins Companies, which owns the Fremont Sawmill, Lake County’s only mill. More than 24,000 acres of Collins’ lands in Oregon and California were burned by the blaze, which wasn’t controlled until Aug. 28.
“There is not the ability to do everything that needs to be done,” Harlan said. “This is triage. This is a train wreck.”
Collins was expected to buy timber to be offered in a sale next month, and planning had progressed for sales in several other areas now charred by the fire. Collins was expected to be the buyer for most or all the future sales, too.
Sales under contract included the Fremont-Winema’s Hay Timber sale for 10 million board feet (MMBF). Because about half the sale was burned, environmental studies required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) must be rewritten.
The fire also impacted most of the Fremont-Winema lands included in three other timber sales totaling 35 to 40 MMBF. The NEPA-related documents for those sales were scheduled to be completed this winter.
“A large portion of this planning area is within the fire perimeter,” said Rachell Huddleston-Lorton, acting district ranger for the Lakeview and Bly Ranger Districts. “The project has been scoped to the public and we were in the process of completing the draft environmental assessment this winter with a decision expected in early 2013. Because so much of the planning has been burned, and the conditions on the ground changed so dramatically in place, we will essentially need to start over.”
Also impacted were the Wild Dry Rock, a 12 MMBF sale planned for 2016, and the 14 MMBF East Grizzly/West Grizzly Beaver Dam sale on the Modoc was planned for 2015-2017.
“It boggles the mind how much is out there to deal with,” Harlan said.