The Klamath National Forest is going forward with a massive post-fire logging effort, totaling 6,770 acres of clearcuts—around 5,570 net acres of “salvage” and another 1,200 acres of “roadside hazard” abatement. The Forest Service is practically giving timber away. Early logging units are being advertised for $6 to $10 per thousand board feet, practically the lowest amount EPIC has ever encountered. As a common sense metric, a fully loaded logging truck pulling out of the Klamath National Forest might cost a timber company less than $20!
Severe Wildlife Impacts Expected
From wild salmon to endangered owls, the Westside Project would harm some of the region’s most beloved creatures.
Coho salmon are hanging on by a thread. The Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast coho are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act as the species is close to extinction. In listing the coho, the National Marine Fisheries Service highlighted sediment pollution as one of the major culprits. Sediment pollution, among other things, has contributed to the decline of salmon by smothering eggs and preventing emergence, interfering with the fish’s ability to hunt, and reducing prey availability. The number one vector of sediment pollution is logging and logging related infrastructure, such as roads and landings.
The Westside Project would further degrade the Klamath River and its clear cold tributaries, impacting coho and its habitat. The project runs along the Wild and Scenic Klamath, Scott and North Fork Salmon Rivers. Many fish-bearing tributaries would be inundated with sediment pollution, particularly from 2,000 acres of clearcuts proposed on steep and unstable slopes. Roadwork and the construction of 75 new logging landings will expose bare dirt and create new sources of sediment. Logging would greatly increase the already high risk of landslides, disturb soils, and hinder the natural regeneration that is already occurring.
Like coho salmon, the northern spotted owl is not doing well—the most recent study estimates that the owl is declining four percent a year and the rate of decline is increasing. One of the main causes of the owl’s decline is loss of habitat.
The Westside Project would remove thousands of acres of owl habitat. The project would further delay the development of future habitat by removing the “legacy” structures that contribute to the complexity of regenerating forests. All told, the damage is shocking. The USFWS recently added up the total effects of the project: up to 103 owls may be “taken” from the project—an amount totaling two percent of the total owl population left on Earth.
EPIC and Allies File Litigation
The impacts to wildlife are not only unconscionable, they are also illegal. On March 3, 2016, EPIC and allies filed suit in federal court. EPIC’s lawsuit aims to challenge the illegal project features and arbitrary decisions that have plagued the Westside Project.
Filing a lawsuit is always the last step and one that is not taken lightly. EPIC and allies have worked tirelessly for over a year to provide the Klamath National Forest with scientific rationale to reform the project. Over 13,000 people from across the country wrote to the Klamath National Forest to express their concern.
The Westside Project area is within Karuk Ancestral Territory. The Tribe provided the agency with the Karuk Alternative—far more protective of fisheries, water quality, and communities at risk of wildfire, and with only 33 percent of the logging that the US Forest Service proposed. The Tribe’s alternative considers a long-term fire strategy to be healthy for the environment and safe for local residents. The Forest Service did not analyze the Karuk Alternative because the environmental review process was rushed under the pretense of a “public emergency.”
Another Way Forward
Six Rivers National Forest has shown that there is another way forward. Following the fires of summer 2015, Six Rivers National Forest has partnered with stakeholders to develop a project that would create fuel breaks in the recent wildfire footprint. Unlike Westside, this strategy focuses on main roads and would not cut living trees, open old roads or build new ones. For example, Six Rivers National Forest is leading by considering what is best for our forests, fish, water, wildlife and communities.
For more info visit www.wildcalifornia. org