By Russell Huntington
President, KH2A Engineering
On a recent business trip to Brookings, I got to travel into the Chetco Fire area and observe the salvage operations on privately-owned land.
This land is being logged prematurely because of the fire but nonetheless the dead trees are being removed. Some of this dead timber is too small to be sold but is being removed and the ground prepared for replanting.
Adjacent to this private land stands the charred remains of U.S. Forest Service timber (my land, your land, my trees) where the dead trees that are merchantable are still standing, waiting for bugs to render them worthless.
The loggers are there: why have we not contracted them to salvage our timber? The private landowner is paying the salaries of all the loggers I saw on this mountain and paying for all the equipment costs. Why is he doing this? Because there’s value in that burned timber and value in returning the land it stands on to production.
On this same visit I encountered five forest service trucks, three with at least eight forest service employees. How are we paying for those people and equipment? After returning to Brookings, I read an article in the Curry Coastal Pilot titled Chetco Bar Fire — Forest Service seeks tree salvage comments.
The following is my understanding of the information provided and my comments and questions:
•Chetco Bar Fire, 191,125 acres burned;
•Private timberland, 14,000 acres burned;
•Public land, 177,125 acres burned.
Current regulations allow 25,386 acres to be harvested of which 13,626 acres experienced severe canopy loss.
For discussion purposes I am leaving the remaining (177,235 — 25,386) 151,739 acres out of this discussion.
The newspaper also states the following by U.S. Forest Supervisor Rob MacWhorter: The Siskiyou National Forest Land and resource Management Plan requires they maintain a “sustainable supply of timber to help maintain the stability of local economies on a predictable and long-term basis.”
It is also important, he said, to get trees removed quickly to capture the value of the timber and establish the forest. “This is a serious concern for future forests in this area,” MacWhorter said. “Planting conifers would be an important strategy to promote tree diversity.”
“It is also important for the local timber economy to get the process started,” he added. “Getting the next cohort of forest growing quickly is important to future timber production, developing wildlife habitats and creating resilient forest conditions.”
We recognize “a short operating window, unknown weather variables and further wood deterioration would reduce the likelihood of successfully selling and removing wood to avoid a loss of (its) value.”
MacWhorter said he plans to submit and request an emergency situation determination (ESD) from the chief of the forest service to expedite the process. “If the ESD is determined warranted, the (work) will be exempt from the objection process,” he said. “Rapid implementation would allow us to capture enough value from the trees and in turn, re-establish the forest.”
Private industry completely agrees with these statements and their logs are being cut and delivered to their mill, and have been for the past two months. When will those who are employed by the public (the owners of public timbers) act on what they know is the correct solution? As an owner of these public lands I am appalled at the lack of urgency in implementing the salvage of this valuable resource.
To leave this burn’s timber to rot, provide food for bugs and fuel for future fires is criminal.
Not only do we waste the funds that could be used for replanting by not harvesting, we continue to tax the public to pay forest management personnel to waste our natural resource.
Today’s logging methods and care taken by industry personnel can return these public lands to a productive and healthy forest for all to enjoy. The cost of this effort can be greatly mitigated by the sale of timber declared dead by fire. This should have been initiated at the same time the private industry started. Please don’t allow any more time to be wasted.