The U.S. Forest Service announced in a report last week that its environmental assessment for its proposed 13,000-acre salvage operation in the Chetco Bar Fire scar should be done by June — almost a year after the wildfire started and far too late to get many salvageable logs, many contend.
By then, it might be too late, many local foresters have said in fire-recovery meetings.
Private companies have been scrambling to cut what they can of their trees before insects and rot get to them. Depending on the size of the snag left behind, that usually gives them about a year, foresters have said.
And even during quiet days in January, they reported, one could hear the insects munching on the trees in the backcountry east of Brookings.
The forest service said in its report that it received about 1,000 comments from the public about how to address the salvage operations. The forest service characterized comments as roughly split between people wanting more acreage harvested and people wanting less.
Requests for bids will be issued in about two weeks for the first of a three-phase contract to harvest dangerous, burned trees along more than 200 miles of forest service roads.
The report also indicated replanting the burned area could be delayed by up to five years due to a “severe” shortage of Douglas fir seedlings because numerous other reforestation projects are going on in the region.
A major concern in Curry County is that tanoak is among the dominant species expected to immediately return, and some of the area burned in the 191,125-acre Chetco Bar Fire was in the Sudden Oak Death (SOD) quarantine area. The tanoak could easily outcompete the fir and spread SOD, which plant officials from numerous agencies are working to prevent from expanding to other parts of the state.
“And you can’t use just any Douglas fir seed,” said Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman, who attended the recovery meeting last week. “Seeds need to be appropriate for the climate zone and soil conditions.”
Typically, seedlings are ordered from nurseries two years in advance of planting. The Oregon Department of Forestry said the legal requirement is to plant 200 seedlings per acre, but they plant about 400 seedlings per acre to ensure a 50 percent survival rate. Even the forest service is behind in its seedling production.
•The Siskiyou Mountain Club received money from the forest service to restore 16 trails identified in the post-fire report.
•The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has reported a “good number” of deer and bear have been observed returning to the burn area. Information regarding fish is not yet available.
•The state has allocated $500,000 to the Local Economic Opportunity Fund for statewide fire recovery efforts; the program will be administered by Business Oregon, which is currently writing rules.
•Only a small part of the recovery council’s recommendations to the governor ultimately received funding from the Legislature.
•Milliman has suggested one of the state agencies establish a website to keep the public updated on recovery activity.
Reach Jane Stebbins at email@example.com .