By Court Boice

The U.S. Forest Service has published a Notice of Decision on the Chetco Bar Fire Salvage Environmental Assessment, allowing salvage operations on “up to 4,080 acres.”

Sadly, this effort was doomed from the start when the decision to base the planning effort on lands designated as matrix was made. Another poor decision by an agency that has lost the trust of the people it was intended to serve.

While I have consistently worked hard and literally begged for more burned salvage, again the environmental community has dictated our future. A future at risk from thousands of acres of dead trees, ready to burn again.

Our hope for the future is in new management at the forest management level. The environmental assessment that new Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest Supervisor Merv George inherited started off track, so the decision he signed was the best we could have hoped for considering that the other alternatives available in the EA offered less acres or no harvest at all.

I call on George to continue with another phase of salvage focused on the LSR lands. This would likely require a supplemental analysis and while unlikely to happen, all I can do is continue the fight.

These slow moving processes, constant obstruction from a radical minority and an agency mired in its own bureaucracy have added insult to injury after insufficient suppression action last summer resulted in the loss of treasures we will never recover. Now, we are insulted again by a miniscule salvage effort. Thousands of acres of burned timber left to rot and the forest left to regenerate naturally, certain to become overrun by hardwoods.

The CBF salvage EA decision was signed just shy of a year from the discovery of the Chetco Bar Fire. South Coast Lumber was hauling black logs from their land before the smoke had even cleared, while the Forest Service spent nearly a year making a plan; a woefully deficient plan.

These processes must change and the Forest Service must regain the will to stand up to this constant environmental obstruction. Promises of litigation by well-funded environmental groups is the reason all those trees will rot on the ground.

At this very moment, firefighters are hard at work on a fast moving, wind-driven fire in the Lobster Creek and Fall Creek drainages. Fire season is here. Thankfully, because the L.C. fire is on private lands, the road access will be much better than if it were on federal lands. This is another significant topic we’ll be communicating to George.

Road access throughout national forest lands is critical for many reasons; including fire suppression, law enforcement and recreation use. Historically maintained to haul timber, many are now deemed unnecessary by the Forest Service. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Stay vigilant people, and involved. It’s not easy to participate and keep up on these planning processes and other decision topics. They are slow moving, difficult to understand and frequently defy logic. But if we don’t stay vigilant, we stand to lose it all.


Court Boice is a Curry County commissioner.