Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
By Siskiyou County Commissioner Marcia Armstrong, District 5, 10/31/06
Why don't we have more forest management on our local National Forests? On the western side of the county, stands are unhealthy, overstocked, diseased and dying. Communities surrounded by forest are in danger of fire. Mills have closed. Even local veneer mills can't rely on federal forests for the stream of small-medium diameter timber feed stock they need. Unemployment in Klamath River communities is as high as 19%.
I am told management is a matter of dollars and cents.
The Klamath National Forest (KNF) has a standing inventory of 13.5 million board feet (mbf) of timber. Each year, another 654 mbf of new growth is added. In 1989, the KNF harvested 320 mbf of timber. Every year since the Northwest Forest Plan (northwest spotted owl,) an Allowable Sales Quantity (ASQ) has been established for each National Forest in accordance with its long-term management plan. Last fiscal year, that figure was 40.5 mbf. This year, it is 44 mbf. But Congress does not appropriate enough money in the budget to reach the ASQ. Last year, the budget allowed for harvest of only 18 mbf, but less than that was actually harvested. This year, the total National Forest budget will be $4.86 billion - $182.6 million (3.6%) smaller than last year's. Funding for harvest on the Klamath is anticipated for only about 14 mbf. That means that we are harvesting less than 3% of the growth and leaving
97% to accumulate each year, creating a health and safety crisis for our local communities.
(Every west side community in Siskiyou County was named as a Community at Risk of fire in an August
17, 2001 Federal Register notice.)
Why don't we have more of a slice of the budget pie? A recent GAO Audit Report (08601-6-AT) on hazardous fuels reduction projects under the Healthy Forests Initiative points to one part of the problem, while southern states had 1,038,920 acres treated for fuels, (about 58 % of all acres treated,) the Pacific Northwest had only 157,216 and our Pacific Southwest - 107, 882 acres.
About four years back, a report was issued on the equitable apportionment of budgetary monies among the seven National Forest regions. It was concluded that Region 5 (us) and 6 needed to have their allocations reduced by two percent each year for three years. So now Region 5 gets less of the national budget pie. In addition, emergency firefighting used to be a separate budgetary item, now it has been folded into the national budget pie. Money is transferred from other Forest Service programs to fund firefighting costs - now taking about 43% of the total budget. As Forests are neglected and fire costs escalate, less is available to be allocated to the seven Regions.
On the Region 5 level, much of the budget is spoken for off the top before it gets apportioned to the KNF and Shasta-Trinity (STNF.) After the Southern California fires, the San Bernardino National Forest receives an ear-marked allocation for hazardous fuels treatment. In addition, H.R.
858--Quincy Library Group--Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of 1997 directs funding to the Lassen and Plumas National Forests. As a result, although the Shasta Trinity has more communities at risk of 15 National Forests in the region, it is 13th on the list for the fuel reduction budget.
So why doesn't western Siskiyou County have a greater share of the 14 mbf to be harvested off the KNF? Some of the reason is bottom line-costs. Western Siskiyou is mountainous, so it is harder to do mechanical treatment of fuels. Hand treatment is extremely expensive. The western KNF requires "survey and manage" under the Northwest Forest Plan, special water quality treatments and considerations for endangered species such as northern spotted owls and coho salmon. The unit cost of timber management is much greater in western Siskiyou county than on Goosenest, (or McCloud Flats,) which is where most of the harvest now occurs. Also, not to be forgotten is a history of lawsuits by environmentalists and resultant costs for almost every major timber management project attempted on the west side.
The bottom line is that western Siskiyou forest communities and families are left up the proverbial creek without much of a paddle
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