Action Alert! Please comment on the Austin timber sale!

This Forest Service map shows the commercial logging units (in grey-blue) in the northern half of the Austin timber sale. Other categories of proposed logging, such as streamside logging and logging conifers in areas that have aspen, may also include heavy logging and logging in mature and old forests.

Please speak up for forests and wildlife! 

Scoping Comments Due By August 7th for the “Austin Project” Massive Timber Sale 

The Malheur National Forest Staff are planning to very aggressively log over 28,000 acres. The Forest Service would log these acres down to only 25 to 75 square feet of basal area, which means the entire area would range from essentially a clear cut with a few leave trees per acre to very heavy logging of naturally denser moist mixed conifer forest.

The Forest Service is planning to violate their own existing Forest Plan standards which are designed to protect old growth forest, last large trees, elk and deer forest cover, and wildlife connectivity corridors. The Forest Plan standards the Forest Service is planning to violate are necessary to protect wildlife species such as lynx, marten, wolves, and elk while they are migrating to find forage in winter cover, dispersing for genetic diversity, or to find appropriate habitat as extreme climate change makes existing habitat unsuitable. In order to violate their own Forest Plan regulations, the Forest Service is planning to use four illegitimate Forest Plan amendments. Their repeated use of Forest Plan amendments in large timber sales across the region essentially moots their own Forest Plan and undermines the ecological protections the Plan was meant to offer.

This Forest Service map shows the commercial logging units (in grey-blue) in the southern half of the Austin timber sale. Other categories of proposed logging, such as streamside logging and logging conifers in areas that have aspen, may also include heavy logging and logging in mature and old forests.

The Austin timber sale forest area has already been degraded by multiple recent timber sales over the last 25 years, including the Clear Creek Sale, the Dry Fork sale, the Crawford sale, and plantation thinning. A lot of the sale area has already been logged recently and the agency is now planning to log the last large trees, old growth, elk and deer security habitat, wildlife connectivity corridors, and other forest cover that they promised to leave intact for wildlife, ecological integrity, and recreational values to the public. The area already has only patchy mature tree canopy cover, very few large and old trees, and small residual fragments of original old growth habitat remaining.

The Austin timber sale is one of several very large back-to-back sales across the Malheur National Forest, including the Galena, Ragged Ruby, Camp Lick, and Big Mosquito timber sales. These sales range from between 5,900 to approximately 12,400 acres of commercial logging.

Wildlife species at risk from such widespread intensive logging include lynx, marten, mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, Pileated woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Great Gray owl, Northern goshawk, and other species dependent on old growth forest, large trees, and denser forest habitat.

Many of the sale units are on very steep slopes over streams with easily displaced ash soils that could cause excessive sedimentation in the streams below to the detriment of fish species. Some of these sale units are directly over the Clear Creek “no logging” buffer and could potentially adversely affect the threatened listed fish species there, including Bull trout, Chinook salmon, and Steelhead trout. This is especially the case as the Forest Service is also planning to commercially log in some streamside areas (called “Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas”).

The Forest Service is trying to pass this off as a “restoration” project but most of the planning area is planned for heavy commercial logging. This includes commercial logging within streamside Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas that would reduce stand density to between 50 to 75% of “full stocking” (i.e. naturally denser forest in moist forest types), with “thinning, skips, and created openings” (mini clearcuts) along perennial and seasonally flowing streams, including those that are habitat for anadromous (ocean-going) threatened fish species. Some proposed logging sale units have never been logged. 

*Please help us stop or significantly scale down and modify this huge timber sale to protect old growth habitat, large trees, creeks, fish, and wildlife habitat by writing scoping comments and sending them to the Forest Service by or before August 7th!

If you share our concerns, it is helpful to ask the Forest Service to:

– significantly scale down or drop this sale

– greatly increase the basal area (tree area) per acre wherever they do log so that the forest still has structural integrity and looks like a forest rather than a glorified clearcut or even-age plantation

– drop the Forest Plan amendments that would log large trees (greater than or equal to 21″ dbh), log old growth habitat, reduce elk and deer cover below Forest Plan standards, and eliminate (through logging) wildlife connectivity corridors between patches of old growth habitat

– not log areas that have never been logged (We have field surveyed areas between old clearcuts that have never been logged and are now planned for heavy logging–they’re beautiful and much better old growth and mature habitat for wildlife than logged areas)

– Drop all logging on steep slopes

– Drop all commercial logging, thinning, and “opening” creation within Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas along creeks and streams

It is also helpful to suggest other alternatives to the huge timber sale proposed, such as a “Restoration only” alternative with no commercial logging, or only using small tree thinning up to 9″ dbh (diameter at breast height) by hand to lessen competition between trees for water and light, as most density inteh already logged sale unites is only small trees. You can also suggest key issues you’d like them to analyze in depth such as the contribution of such logging to climate change, cumulative impacts from many sales across the forest, logging large trees and old growth habitat, and effects to particular species.

Please mail comments by August 7th to:

Blue Mountains Ranger District, c/o Kate Cuneo, 431 Patterson Bridge Road/P.O. Box 909, John Day, OR 97845

or email comments to: comments-pacificnorthwest-malheur-bluemountain@fs.fed.us

Comments must include:

your name, address, email address if possible, telephone number if possible, organization represented (if any), title of the document for which the comments are submitted (“Austin Project Scoping Package”), specific comments and supporting reasons, and a written or scanned signature.

You can also check out the Forest Services scoping letter and scoping package with details on the project. For further information, call Kate Cuneo at 541-575-3031 or email her at katherine.cuneo@usda.gov or Beth Parker at 541-575-3187 or bethany.parker@usda.gov

Thank you for helping us show public concerns about this sale.

We are still field surveying this sale in August. Call us if you would like to be a volunteer field surveyor of timbers sales or cattle allotments. Leave a message for Karen at 541-385-9167. Or send donations of money, field gear (cameras, binoculars, dbh measuring tapes), or non-perishable food for volunteers to:

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, 27803 Williams Lane, Fossil, OR 97830

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