Fire safe forest toured by Herger

Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong, left, speaks to the group during a tour with Congressman Wally Herger, right, of the Hartshorn property held up as a model of a managed healthy forest. Photo by John Diehm




HORSE CREEK - An example of how the Hartshorn family made their 55 acres of forested land fire safe was viewed by Congressman Wally Herger and about 50 county residents on Friday during a tour sponsored by the Klamath River Fire Safe Council.

The Hartshorns have been managing their property to keep it cleared of unwanted underbrush for about 20 years. Located on Middle Creek north of Highway 96 near Horse Creek on the Klamath River, most of the acres are on steep rugged terrain.

The father, Richard Hartshorn, and son, Nephi Hartshorn, as a team are proud of their accomplishment and offer it to others as an example of what property owners should do as responsible managers of their land.

"If we can do it, anyone can," Richard Hartshorn said. "We have provided a fire resistant forest that will protect our homes and our neighbors."


The Klamath River Fire Safe Council agrees and arranged a public tour of the Hartshorn property on Friday, attended by many community members and Congressman Wally Herger and his field assistant Dave Meurer.

The tour began at the Horse Creek bridge along Highway 96 where people then carpooled in four-wheel drive vehicles about four miles up Middle Creek to the top of the Hartshorn property.

Parking on a narrow jeep road, tour leaders Richard Hartshorn and Steve Fisher from the Fire Safe Council led the group through dense underbrush on National Forest Service property onto the Hartshorn property cleared of underbrush with well spaced trimmed trees. The contrast was stunning.

"As a firefighter, would you rather fight a fire in the dense growth in the National Forest or in this cleared space," Hartshorn said. "How would you even create a fire break in the dense underbrush? You can't."

The group lingered long to talk about forest issues at the edge of the dense Forest Service property and the top of the managed Hartshorn property. The group walked down the hill to the Hartshorn's homes on the creek for the conclusion of the three hour tour.

Congressman Herger said the efforts of the Fire Safe Council to convince him about the need to manage public property was like "singing to the choir."

"It is a political thing," Herger said. "When forests burn in Northern California no one cares, but when 3,000 homes burn in Southern California then legislation gets passed."

Herger said some legislation has been passed to make it easier for the U.S. Forest Service to manage its land but the battle is like a war between philosophical opinions about the definition of good management. He associated radical environmentalists in the category of terrorists.

"They believe so firmly in what they are doing there is no way to communicate with them," Herger said. "It is like 'Holy War' for them; how do you fight it?"

During the discussion, the Hartshorn property was held up as one example of forest management that meets the family's objectives of fire safe conditions and maximum yield of conifer trees.

Happy Camp District Ranger Alan Vandiver said management policies are needed for different conditions and objectives. The Hartshorn management example is very costly on a large scale.

"Litigation is very frustrating and limits my ability to manage the National Forest," Vandiver said. "I am in favor of giving more management control to the local people. I am not sued by anyone local."

Hartshorn said that nature tends to do things by extreme. "To do nothing, the forest will change. We just hope it will not be catastrophic. Our goal is a feasible balance."

"We want a common sense balance," Herger said.

Dale Novo from the Fire Safe Council said people need to be educated about fire safe conditions.

"We will never make the forest fire safe, only safer," Novo said. "We need people with an open minds who are willing to take care of their own property. We can't count on grants or others to do it for us."

Seiad neighbor Walt Robinson said he has 65 acres he has spent the last 15 years making fire safe by clearing brush and thinning trees.

"This area has a natural 10 year fire history but fire has been suppressed here for the last 80 years," Robinson said. "You must clean up your property because when a fire is coming at you it is too late."

Nephi Hartshorn said he and his father work during the winter months cleaning brush out of their property because they love the woods.

"It is a way we can protect our homes and our neighbors," Nephi Hartshorn said. "Yes, it could still burn, but not as a catastrophic fire; the larger trees would survive."

Hartshorn said fire safe land management is a continual process because the brush keeps growing.

Richard Hartshorn said he believes what they are doing with the property is also better for the wildlife. He provided many stories of wildlife sightings in his property.

"The birds love the thinned out forest as do the other animals," he said.

By John Diehm



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