Biscuit fire salvage numbers drop
The final EIS calls for harvest of 370
million board feet and the addition of
64,000 acres of wilderness
By PAUL FATTIG
The U.S. Forest Service plans to
salvage 370 million board feet of timber
killed by the Biscuit fire in the Siskiyou
In its final environmental impact
statement released Tuesday, the agency
axed its preferred alternative in its
draft proposal from 518 million board feet
on 29,000 acres to the smaller cut on
about 19,400 acres. A half-million acres
were burned by the lightning-sparked 2002
fire largely within the Siskiyou National
In addition, the agency eliminated any
salvage within 174 feet of streams and
proposed to increase the Kalmiopsis
Wilderness Area by 64,000 acres. No
management would occur in the areas
proposed for wilderness.
"We are only proposing to harvest dead
trees ó no green trees," said Scott
Conroy, supervisor of the Rogue River and
Siskiyou national forests. "And we are
proposing to harvest on only 4 percent of
the acreage (burned). On the flip side,
that means 96 percent of the acreage will
be left to recover naturally.
"I view this as a very protective
alternative," he added. "Weíre meeting all
the water quality standards."
The agency has determined the proposed
harvest will not likely adversely impact
native fish species or listed wildlife
Of the land to be salvaged, 4,500 acres
are on matrix areas which are set aside
for timber management, 6,750 are on late
successional reserves set aside for
old-growth dependent habitat and 8,150 are
in inventoried roadless areas.
No roads will be constructed in the
roadless areas and helicopters will be
used to salvage logs there.
In the entire project, helicopters will
be used to log some 78 percent of the
timber. Skyline cable yarding will be used
on 22 percent of the salvage.
The salvage would raise about $12.9
million for Uncle Sam, enough to pay for
half the estimated reforestation costs of
some $26 million, Conroy said.
Environmentalists say the project will
cost taxpayers millions.
Conroy estimated the proposal would
provide wood to build 24,000 moderately
sized homes, creating some 6,900 jobs and
generating up to $240 million in income.
But the proposal was met with concern
by both the environmental community and
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who has
supported expanding the wilderness area.
Dominick DellaSala, director of the
World Wildlife Fundís Klamath-Siskiyou
Regional Program, called the decision
"It continues to put forth an extreme
logging plan," DellaSala said.
The agency should consider first how to
protect biodiversity in the region and how
to lower the wildfire threat to rural
communities before deciding how much
timber to log, he said.
The environmental community will
continue to push for a forest restoration
plan that would stay out of roadless
areas, restore watersheds and reduce the
threat of wildfires near rural
communities, he said.
The proposal to expand the wilderness
doesnít change anything, he said.
"Itís too little too late," he said,
then added, "Itís unfortunate the Forest
Service wants to treat this whole area as
a logging plan. They are putting the
economic cart in front of the ecological
horse on this one."
In a statement released Tuesday,
Kulongoski, while noting he supports
salvage as part of ecological restoration
in matrix areas and late-successional
reserves, expressed disappointment at the
64,000 acres proposed for wilderness.
"The unique character of this area
warrants a significantly larger addition,"
the governor said.
He also opposed intrusion into roadless
areas. "The final success of this project
cannot be measured in just board feet, but
also in the degree to which it supports
healthy watersheds and healthy
communities," he said. "We must balance
the need for economic growth with the need
to protect Oregonís natural resources and
I believe this proposal does not go far
enough to achieve that balance."
Conroy has asked the agencyís northwest
regional forester to grant the project
emergency status, thus allowing logging to
begin as soon as the timber is sold,
probably next month.
"It means we would wait 30 days from
the issuance of the final environmental
impact statement, then harvesting could
begin soon after," he said. "At the same
time, we could still follow our appeals
process if the project or decisions are
Emergency status would not stop
litigation, he said.
About 100 million board feet could be
harvested this summer and fall, he said.
The project has been split into three
records of decision expected to be signed
July 6.The plan calls for building 300
miles of fuel management zones to protect
wildlife habitat and rural communities,
reforest 31,000 acres, restore 700 acres
of meadows, allow 83,000 acres of
prescribed burns, and close, decommission
or stabilize 70 miles of roads.
As part of the salvage package, the
Bureau of Land Managementís Medford
District proposed to salvage about 4
million board feet of fire-killed timber
on about 700 acres.
That timber is also expected to be sold
next month, said Mary Smelcer of the BLM.