Action Alert!: Ellis Timber Sale

Help us fight the extreme Ellis timber sale: More than 56,960 acres of heavy logging in one sale!

We need help to defeat the largest timber sale proposed so far in Eastern Oregon under the guise of “restoration” for resiliency and reducing future wild fire severity. The picture below was taken elsewhere in the Umatilla, and we plan on surveying the Ellis sale this summer.

Volunteers surveying Upper Touchet Timber Sale in Umatilla National Forest, July 2018

The proposed action would take place in the Umatilla National Forest 7 miles west of Ukiah, OR. Commercial logging would additionally occur on up to 33, 730 acres (283 miles) of road and trail corridors 300 to 500 feet from either side of the roads or trails, along with small diameter thinning, burning, and pruning. So the timber sale would cover about 60% to 90% of the 114,834 acre project area.

The term basal area in forestry is used to describe the average amount of an area (usually an acre) occupied by tree stems. It is defined as the total cross-sectional area of all stems in a stand measured at breast height, and expressed as per unit of land area (typically square feet per acre). Read more about basal area here, but the main idea is it measures forest density. 40 to 60 square feet of basal area after logging looks like a clearcut with only widely spaced mature seed trees or a “shelterwood” clearcut with small clumps of mostly small trees. The Ellis timber sale would take forest removal even further by proposing “dry” forest retention rates of only 30 to 60 square feet of basal area; with the lower range down to only 20 square feet of basal area retained for naturally denser cold forest in a range of 20-80 square feet of basal area per acre; and with the astonishingly low retention down to only 10 square feet of basal area for naturally more productive, denser cool moist forest in a range of 10 to 90 square feet of basal area per acre. The Forest Service does not guarantee that any mid-range number of square feet of basal area would be retained overall for any of these forest types, so overall forest retention could be extremely low.

The Ellis sale area overlaps multiple timber sales that were logged within the last 27 years, a very short rotation for commercial logging that is not supported by ecological science.

The Ellis sale also proposes an undefined acreage of clearcutting.

The Ellis project includes a variety of more acceptable kinds of management but based on the high acreage of heavy commercial logging proposed, it is clear that the real over-riding purpose is not restoration or wild fire reduction, but forest structure removal for private corporate profit. The Blue Mountains National Forests, including the Umatilla, are being directed by the Trump, Inc. administration in Washington, D.C. to at least double the logging volume.

The commercial logging is claimed to “improve culturally significant resources” such as by theoretically improving forest health and vigor and improving wildlife habitat. Commercial logging is also being justified as reducing the “risk” of “undesirable” wildfire, despite growing scientific evidence to the contrary.

Please help us show public opposition to this disastrous timber sale. The USFS materials about this sale, including maps, can be reviewed here.

We are making the following comments and invite you to consider these points for your comments, due by January 4th:

We are opposed to:

-such an enormous timber sale

-such heavy logging down to very low basal areas

-any clearcutting

-any logging or roading in roadless and undeveloped lands

-such intensive management of nearly the entire project area

-any logging in late and old forest structure, including designated Dedicated Old Growth Areas and Replacement Old Growth Areas

-any logging of trees equal to or greater than 15” dbh

-any use of Forest Plan amendments to effectively violate Forest Plan standards

-any logging within Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas *

-any new road construction

-any opening of closed roads not being maintained for motorized use

-toxic herbicide use on Ventenata grass (which is proposed), as it could likely poison other native grasses where it grows

-such big fuel breaks along roads and trails

We are concerned by potential impacts of the Ellis project to:

-ecological integrity and biodiversity

-forest structural complexity

-the already great deficit in mature and large trees in the area compared to historical conditions

-Pileated woodpecker and American marten suitable habitat

-possible Pacific Fisher habitat

-suitable habitat for Lewis’ woodpecker and White-headed woodpecker (old wild fire burned forest) and Blackbacked woodpecker (recent wild fire burns)

-suitable habitat for Three-toed woodpecker (mature Lodgepole pine forest)

-carbon sequestration to slow or lessen climate change impacts

-aquatic and riparian habitat, including impacts to fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act, Sensitive Redband trout, Sensitive Columbia Spotted frog, and Sensitive salamander, mussel, and macroinvertebrate species

-elk and deer security cover, including forest thermal and hiding cover

-Sensitive and rare plants

-recreational values

-Neotropical migratory songbirds

-Soil productivity and integrity

We suggest scrapping this over-management project entirely or adopting a “restoration only” action alternative with no commercial logging.

Written comments on the Ellis Integrated Vegetation Project can be:

-submitted by fax: (541) 676-2105

-mailed to: Brandon Houck, ATTN: Leslie Taylor, P.O. Box 7, Heppner, OR 97836

-be submitted electronically on the Umatilla National Forest’s project webpage here

For a copy of the scoping letter, call or email Elizabeth Berkley (Forest Service) at 541-278-3814 or or check the Umatilla National Forest website for the “Ellis Integrated Vegetation Project Proposal.”

Comments due by January 4th!

For more thorough talking points and ideas for comments, we have provided Karen’s longer write up on the Ellis Timber Sale as a pdf below:

Ellis sale action alert-long version